Nanda Devi Outer Sanctuary Trek (Page-4) 

Lata - Lata (summer) - Belta Campsite - LataKharak - SainiKharak - Jhendidhar - DharasiPass - LataKharak - KhadiChaund - Tolma - Suraithota

Day-6: Lata-Kharak > Tolma & Suraithotha

20th June 2010 - Day-6: Last night it had rained heavily. But the morning was clear and sunny. So immediately after breakfast we started for Tolma and then Suraithotha on the road. It was to be the longest distance trek of all days. 

We set off at 7:30AM (after saying bye to the Gorkha Regiment Jawans) along the path beside the Annex Kitchen. The thick jungle, with mixed trees, but mostly low rhodendrons, started immediately. The path was wet, squeeky and slushy with overnight rains. Initial 300-400M was along the trail where the porters went to the stream to collect our water. But beyond that the path became unclear and soggy with thick undergrowth that made standing with balance, let alone walking, quite difficult. Somehow with helping hands of Sonu and Raghuveer we made pretty fast progress. They didn't give us time to stop and worry about the trail conditions! Raghuveer said it was the overnight rains that had made the walk so bad. Still he was cheerful and unworried - inspiring confidence in the two old men. 

After about 3 Kms walk we were out of that dreadful jungle but had to negotiate some precarious cliff trail climbs - up & down - for another 2 Kms. Here we came across some rare Himalayan Blue Poppies that Sonu said we were really lucky to see.

Himalayan Poppy (botanical name: Meconopsis Baileyi)

Around 9:45 we hit the regular high-level trail coming down from Jhendidhar to Tolma. And from here the trail was OK though still through thick pine forests often with trees fallen over the trail. We continued to see numerous wildflowers along the way. 

Many trees fallen along the trail to Tolma

After walking for another 3-4 Km and after steep descent we reached a Camping Site called Khadi Chaund at 11:10AM. We stopped here for rest and had our pack lunch.  We started soon and continued on to Tolma. 

Sonu found this at Khadi Chaund - a honeycomb like structure?

The trail goes down on and on ... luckily thro shaded forest mostly

Finally around 12:40AM we could see some clearing ahead and Tolma Village coming up. Raghuveer took us on adetour through the terranced fields of Tolma to show us the 2nd Biggest Cedra Tree in the world. It looked huge and all 7 of us could stand within its width.

  Huge Cedar tree at Tolma - all of us sitting at its base!

A Tolma village home 

Beautiful flowers (apiaceae family?)

We passed Tolma at 1:00pm but did not stop there. We continued going down to the road and it took us another hour thru some cemented walkways to reach the roadside at Suraithotha by 2:00PM. Fortunately we got a Maxx Jeep waiting there, and that too us to Joshimath by 3:30PM. We dropped Raghuveer and the two porters at Lata and bid them farewell with some extra tips for their wonderful service.  That day evening we settled account with Sonu and thanked him for making our NDOS treks such a memorable experience. As I had to get back home urgently, Sonu arranged our morning 4AM bus tickets to Haridwar with front 2 seats for relative comfort.  

My Highlight Impressions of the NDOS Trek: 

1. Lata-Kharak was truly, truly, an amazing place! You stand on this over-hanging ridge, outside that log-hut and look down (Northwest) and see Civilization, Lata Village, Hydroelectric Project, Road and at night Joshimath light-glow beyond that ridge. Just, turn around and look south and you see the awesome snow wilderness of Nanda-Devi Sanctuary, with its western rim of snow peaks in your face! Lata-Kharak is the place where two worlds meet - civilization & wilderness -  the ultimate junction-point!

2. As you climb the last 15-20M on a rising trail to the ridge-top of Jhendidhar, you come smack face-to-face with the huge snow-covered Dunagiri, in front of you. Its an amazing sight; to see this huge mountain without anything in between! [This was almost as good and as breath-taking as seeing Mt. Everest/Nuptse/Lhotse from Kalapathar across the Khumbu glacier]

3. The Tarzan-like Walk-Fly through the rain-sodden rhodendron-jungle (last day trek to Tolma) was so scary and thrilling that I can never forget it. I don't want this experience ever again - but I am glad we got it just this once; while we were in the good-hands of Sonu & Raghuveer. This culminating, last-day trek, surpassed the wonderful snow-peak views we got of Berthatoli, Trishul, Ronti, Devisthan and Nanda-Devi from Saini-Kharak.

4. And lastly, the unexpected bonus of a profusion of wildflowers, of all colors and hues, that we saw along the trails. For this we have to thank Sonu, our Guide, whose keen eye and interest in these flowers made us aware of them. Without him we may not have noticed many of these wildflowers. I have added a separate subpage "Wildflowers" showcasing these flowers and orchids in a Slideshow. Check it out in the last subpage.   

This is the thick jungle with hardly any visible trail ..... from Lata-Kharak a lower level shortcut that joins the Tolma trail from Jhendidhar about halfway (Pic by SK)

Still in the Tarzan jungle trail

More Wildflowers (Bergenia ligulata? )

Wild rose flower?

A huge six inch mushroom on the forest floor along the trail

Wildflower, against the blue sky

More wildflowers near Tolma

We could see Suraithota down there by 1:30PM 

****  End of file  ****

1. The Lata-Kharak ridge and the Log-Hut at its tip (click to enlarge) - where two worlds meet - Wilderness and Civilization! 

2. Dunagiri Massif in my face ... at Jhendidhar

3. The Tarzan-like jungle trek from Lata-Kharak to Tolma 

4. Wildflowers everywhere!