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Milam Story Part II

Milam Glacier Trek
Part II

The destination of the day had been reached. The sun was shining and it was great. I was feeling great and Ghulia had just taken bath and I also though of having bath in the sun. Soon with a hot bucket of water I was enjoying. Bath over and change into new clothes brought freshness and cleanliness to the body, but something seemed to be missing. Well, I was feeling a bit lost and my breath was irregular and quite fast. It was the effect of having bath immediately on my arrival at the camp. It took nearly three hours of rest to get back my breath and I swear not to indulge in this activity any time in future. As the sun went down the cold wind started to blow and kept us confined in the camp. A walk to the tea shop was the only activity we had in the evening. The Gori was flowing quite below with all the calmness a river can have in mountains. Rilkot is supposed to be in rain shadow zone.

Previous evening we had been told that the trail climbed up to the old Rilkot which was located right on top of the hill in front and over looking the river and thereafter it was a straight trail. Well taking it with a pinch of salt, we left the camp and moved along the good trail before sun hit it. It was pleasant going and we reached the waterfall from where the trail turned towards the river and climbed up steadily. As we moved higher the hills got closer and it was moving into an enclosed space. Another group of sheep and goat came down and I waited them to pass before moving up again. Finally I reached the top and from here the new Rilkot seemed quite far and the old Rilkot ruins stood at the end of the hill overlooking the river and the trails on both sides. It was located at a strategy location to warn off the villagers about the enemy movement. Now no more enemy threats and the village has moved to its new and more comfortable location. After this climb the trail did flatten out and it was easy going, though the height had increased.  A short distance later the trail was split into two and I took the one going down as the upper one was going to the famous village of Martoli. Sometime later, I could see some horse movement on the upper trail which now seemed quite high, where as the trail I was walking on was going towards the river. Across the Gori river stood the Tola village, where the trail from Ralam across the Birjeganj pass to Burphu village passes. Sometime later the murky waters of Gori were met by the clear waters of the nala coming from my left. I had reached the Lwan gad which comes from the Nanda Khat glacier. The gad had two log bridges one after the other with a big stone in the center of the stream, which we reached without any problem. A trail was climbing up before we crossed the gad in steep zigzag fashion and was going to the Martoli village which was located just above on the hill. We were not able to see it from our present location.  As the trail rose, so rose the Martoli peak behind us. This peak stands towering above the Martoli village and is quite tempting. The Martoli village did not come into view. The trail continued above the right bank of Gori, first passing a narrow section where stone and mud tower stood as if guarding the valley beyond, then the valley opened up and the trail was more or less flat. A big stream coming from right joined the Gori on its left bank and beyond it the stone houses of Burphu came into site. The stream was coming from Burphu glacier beyond the village and had a bridge over it. Far away a bridge on Gori also came into site. As I neared it a hut along the trail also was sited. It brought an inkling for tea and so I thought of having tea there. But it was not to be so, as the shop was locked and I had no choice but to keep moving. The trail continued straight and was going to the villages of Panchhu and Ganghar, but I went down to the bridge and crossed over to the left bank of Gori. The trail again split into two with one rising towards the village and other following the valley along the river, which need to be followed if you want to bypass the village of Burphu. I took the trail going to the village and a steep climb took me to the fields of the Burphu village, where the trail became flat. Here, it stuck to me that I was looking at a ghost village. No movement and not a man in view. The houses were in broken down condition and are mere ruins. As I moved in some activity was seen and soon I reached the shop run by Shri Gokaran Singh where rest of the team was seating. Only few houses of this village are now occupied and rest have no roof and one with roofs are locked. It gives a erring feeling to the complete scene and one can feel the impact of trade stoppage with Tibet on the local economy and on the villages of the valley. This was the first such village we entered on our way in towards Milam glacier. Shri Gokaran Singh's house was running properly and he had the only shop of the village. The meat pieces of a recently slaughtered sheep were hanging in neat lines next to the door for sun drying. We had our maggi at his place and soon Mrs Singh got the caps made of Angora wool, which she had got from Munsiyari. Though the place itself does not breed the rabbits it made good business sense for Mrs Singh to get wool and make caps for sale. We all could not but buy a cap each and I must admit that it is good light and warm cap.

Looking back we saw the houses of Martoli village which we had not been able to see from the trail. They also seemed to be in ruined condition. The Martoli peak stood above the village like a sentry. The trail coming down the Birjeganj pass to the Tola village was clearly visible on the snow covered slopes of the mountain. Though there were snow covered peaks behind the Burphu village, we were told only few had visited that area and people mainly stick to the regular trail. Having had rested and done justice to our stomachs we shouldered our packs and moved off towards our destination.

We kept looking back as the sight of the village in ruins was quite saddening and gave much to think about. Our trail met the trail coming straight from the bridge at the boundary of the village which was marked by two shall broad pillars. We moved at an easy pace and reached the stream coming from our right. Went down to it and crossed over by jumping over the boulders and then a steep climb took us to the Biljhu village. Again a village in shambles and only few families staying there. One family runs a tea shop along the trail and we sat there for a cup of tea and some small talk. A big peak was looming at the end of the valley and on enquiry were told that it was the famous Trishuli peak. The other nearby  famous peaks were not in view from this village. Also, till now we had not got any view of the Nanda Devi and Shri Singh who runs the shop told us that fifteen minutes of walk shall take us to the spot from where the peak will be in full view. So saying our byes we turned to the trail and moved out of the ruined village to look at something more bright. The trail was more or less flat and on the other side of the Gori river houses of Panchhu village could be seen and then there was a stream flowing from Panchhu glacier to meet Gori on its right bank, then was the last village of Ganghar on that side of the river. From there one can go to the higher reaches to have a closer view of the Nanda Dev peaks and is known as the Panchhu glacier trek. We were told that its a one day trek. Well, we were on the other side of the river and were looking forward to have a view of the peaks from far itself. As we came parallel to the village of Panchhu the peaks started to come into view in all its magnificence. We looked for the vantage point and it was directly opposite to the stream flowing through the two villages. Oh, what a view, but for the clouds had come by the time we had reached the place. Still we could not stop clicking the peaks. Though I did not want to leave, I had to as others had left and I did not want to be alone on the trail as there was no movement on it. The Nanda Devi was left behind and I continued on the trail which was flat and easy going. Far in the distance a village and some tin shinning in the sun came into view. I did not want  my body to relax and so pretended as if it was some other way side village, though what I was seeing was the Milam village.  Finally the trail  moved away from the Gori river and entered a small side valley where another big stream was flowing. We moved on its left bank and this was the Gunkha gad coming from Unta dhura pass. It was gushing out of a small gorge and we crossed over to the right bank over a bridge. A steep climb took us to the top where a number of memorials stood in memory of the people who had lost their life's in maintaining these trails and the place. Paying our respect to the departed soles we moved to the Milam village. A PWD guest house stood on our right and then the check post of ITBP. A lone man stood guard and we entered our names in the register. You need to deposit your cell phone and cameras at this post as they are not allowed beyond this point. Why cell, because they may have camera. So no photos of the Milam village and the Milam glacier are permitted, why, well instructions from the Home ministry. Well its a big shock but may be some one wants everyone to come and see the place for themselves and not to carry the photos of the glacier and the peaks of Trishuli and Hardeol which stand at the head of the glacier. So you trek all this way only to see around and turn around. Quite a pity. Anyway, we had lots of time on our hand and so after dropping our bags at the PWD guest house we setoff for the Milam glacier, which is five km from the village. The village is a hundred meters behind the post and again its a village in ruins with only 10-15 families staying hear during the summer months. An old man set under a tree chatting with a jawan from the post. I think that the past time of the jawan's is to visit the village and pass time chatting and bargaining with the villagers. Milam is a huge village but now in ruins. One can imagine the position it must have held during the trading days with Tibet. As we wanted to be back before dark from the snout of the glacier we moved off on the trail leading to the glacier. A fine trail leads to it. The Gori was flowing down below and there was a bridge on it by which one can go to the Ganghar village directly from Milam. However, the condition of the bridge seemed to be bad and it was tilting to one side and was of use to a desperate person only. We moved fast towards the snout and passed the sign board which gave the height of the place. Well Dewan and Ghulia moved fast and soon were much ahead and we two decided to follow their progress from the highest point, as there was not much to achieve by reaching the black snout ice walls. The Hardeol were standing at the head in all its might in the shining armour. Sitting here we thought about the ban on the photography of the place and how it was helping anyone or causing any problem. As we saw Dewan and Ghulia turning back we also started to move back and soon were on the good trail. The wind had picked up and it was getting cold too. As we reached the village we saw a group of persons standing and talking and we also went there. The old man Shri Uttam Singh Sayana was the head man of the village and had been to Tibet on a number of trading trips. Well he had seen a vibrant village turning into a ghost village. As the Hydro Electric Projects are moving into the valley hopefully the road will also come and may be again the villages will once again boom with activity and prosperity, so I hope. He also told us that the route from Milam to Garhwal was good one as it is maintained by the PWD teams during  Jun to Aug every year and we were a bit late as the passes had closed down due to the unexpected rain and snow during the first week of Sep. When we asked as to why workers from Munsiyari went for keeping the route open till Lapthal, Shri Sayana informed that the jurisdiction of the DM of Pithoragarh ran till that place and beyond it was the jurisdiction of DM Chamoli. Only the security establishments beyond Dung are different. We had a cup of tea while chatting and discussing plans for the next year crossing of the Unta dhura pass. In the meantime Dewan and Ghulia also returned and together we walked back to the Guest house. We had seen that the KMVN is actively constructing TRHs along the trail and so in the year to come trekkers would have decent places to stay.   

As the high passes towards Garhwal had closed down we had no choice but to turn back. It was quite sad for us to turn back as we had carried food and camping equipment for the crossing over to the other side and had prepared for the trek for quite some time now. The night passed off without any problem in the guest house and early morning we were ready for the trek back. Now with our aim gone for the six, we were all in a hurry to return back to our homes. So with heavy hearts we turned back. As we moved a little from the Guest house, Pande wanted to take a group photo and took out his camera and the small tripod. As he set the camera and moved to join us the camera tripped and broke. So Pande had double setback and we moved back with much heavier hearts. The sky was blue with not a speck of cloud in the sky. What a clear weather and we were turning back just because of the previous week's rain and snow. The Gunkha nala was crossed soon and we were out in the open and did not stop till we reached the vintage point for the pics of the Nanda Devi. I spent quite sometime there and even Pande left me as this time he did not have his camera. I had my hearts content of photos and then only left. The trail was all mine. I reached the Biljhu village and stopped there for tea. Others had preferred not to stop there. From the village got down to the stream coming from left and climbed up to the trail leading to Burphu village. Again at the junction I took the trail leading straight to the bridge and thus bypassed the Burphu village. Reaching the bridge was not much of a problem as we were moving down hill and in no time we were across it. The shop was still locked and this time we did not require it, so no problem. We continued on our way and reached the Lwan gad. Ghulia had vanished from the trail and Dewan was at the end of climb to the Martoli village. Pande had just reached the bridge and soon I caught up with him. Slowly with our heads down we started  to climb, with frequent stops. A porter came down the trail and told us that he was with the team which had crossed the Birjeganj pass and they had come to the village for provisions. The members of the team were seen on the trail high up the slope on the other side of the Gori. They were on their way to Burphu village. As we moved up more porters came running down and we could only see them vanishing down the slope and as we reached the top the porters were already climbing up the other side slope. At the top it was fun walking on the flat and the ruined village of Martoli stood some distance away from us. We entered it and taking pictures moved to the other side of the village where we could see some movement. I saw Ghulia and Dewan up at the temple and so I also moved towards the temple, which was located high above the village and below the Martoli peak. Dewan and Ghulia came back and I went to the temple and had superb view of the Nanda Devi. Also behind us was the Trishuli as if watching our progress down the valley. I went round the deserted temple taking as many photos as possible. The temple dedicated to Nanda Devi had large number of bells of various sizes hanging in a row in front of the main entrance. Having had looked around to my hearts content, I came down to the hotel where the others were sitting. Here, I came to know the reason of Ghulia's vanishing act. He missed the climb up and continued on the way we had taken while moving into the valley and only some time later he realised that he had missed the climbing point and so climbed up the slope where he got this realisation. Still he reached the village before all of us. We sat at the hotel and had tea there before moving on with the days trek. The trail was still long but it was flat and so we moved fast on it. The sighting of the old Rilkot was a welcome sight and also gave us an opportunity to take the photos an important and strategically located village, which is now deserted and in ruins. The new Rilkot was shinning in sun and slowly we moved to the camping place. We called it a day as reaching Bog Udiyar would have been a very long affair.

The night passed off peacefully. It dawned clear and quite cold, but as decided we were ready before sun hit the place and moved onto the trail after some tea and horlicks. We decided to have breakfast at Nahar Devi and set out on the trail. The stream crossing was simple this time since water was less during early morning and then we were on good trail. As we were moving back on the same route we were not stopping for many photos. The flat section was over soon and the trail dropped to the hut and from there it again climbed to the high point. Half the food stuff had been consumed at Rilkot and so the bags were also somewhat light. The climb did not pose any problem and soon we were getting down on the other side through the narrow section with some water falling on the trek. The Gori was there in all its might giving us company and we reached the trail under the cut rock and then reached the temple under the cliffs. A small prayer and then a short climb later we were at the ??? hotel. The hotel owner said, we told you so, it is too much snow on the passes. This time you were a bit late. Come in Aug if you want to cross the passes. Well, we had not seen any snow but then we had not gone high also and may be next time we find out what we missed this time. We had our breakfast without hurry and then again hit the trail. The steps took us to the flat section and then again the trail moved along the river though at a height. As the trail passed through dense jungle on both sides and half an hour latter Bog Udiyar was sited. It took another twenty minutes to reach the PWD guest house and then again we sat there for tea. The goats were spread out on the slope through which the trail to Poting glacier goes. Envying the Bakriwallas for their wandering in these mountains, I thought of visiting the place on my next visit.

The tea refreshed us and again we set out on the trail passing through the enclosed valley with jungles on both sides. The signs of survey work for the Hydro Electric Power were everywhere along the trail. Though sun was beating down, but it was good in the shade and we moved slowly enjoying the scenery. The trail reached the place where the nala was coming down from our right to meet the Gori. While we were going up into the valley lot of work was going on at this place, however, now it was deserted as the job had been completed and we crossed the nala on the new bridge which had been constructed. Great, it was beyond imagination that we will walk back on such a good bridge on our way back. The PWD was really working. Soon walking level with Gori, we were at Rargari and stopped there for having some food, as it was lunch time.

Just after Rargari are two waterfalls right next to the trail and view of Rargari is good from there. So I took some photos and moved on. The trail still was moving through the jungle and was up and down. The big landslide zone came and as I started to climb down a group of NOLS students climbed up. These students come from far and visit this valley which very less Indian students must be visiting. What an irony. Giving way to the up coming traffic I waited for the last person to pass and then dashed down. Some more up and down and then I reached the big stones under which the trail passes. The Ralam river also came in sight and it was just jumping into Gori. At quite an angle it met Gori, and Gori was also happy to meet and moved with great sound and furry. The trail turned and was passing through long valley at the end of which was the hotel where I had not stopped after the fall. This time I wanted to sit there and enjoy the trail . A short climb took me to the hotel and Pande was waiting there, with the other two having left without stopping. We relaxed there and had biscuits and tea. Next was the challenge of passing through the water fall. Challenge was in avoiding to get wet. The trail climbed up a bit and then leveled off and in fifteen minutes we were in sight of the waterfall and it was thundering down on the trail with all its force. We crossed it without getting much wet and continued down the trail. Now the trail was either level or going down all the way to the PWD guest house at Lilam. Pande rushed off and I followed him at a slow pace trying to see as much as possible. Turning a corner I came across a black sheep left behind from the herd. It was bleating and was undecided as to which direction it should head. Seeing me it started to move away from me. So I had this bleating sheep in front which looked back time and again as if to see that I was not in a position to harm her. I was maintaining my distance as I did not want her to run back and ram into me. This went on for ten minutes, and as the trail moved through less steep mountain slopes, I heard another bleat from high above. Few bleats latter I saw the other sheep high above calling the one on the trail and it just dashed off in that direction and I moved along the silent trail. Crossed a hut where a family sat and then the trail climbed down all the way to the guest house. A long day on the trail was over and road was not much far.

The next day dawned clear but we were lazy in getting up as the distance to be covered was very less. This thinking was our undoing. We sat foot on the trail quite late with the sun beating down with all its might. We were sweating to the core and got dehydrated by the time we reached Jimmy ghat. The trod to the next village started and finally the climb up. I had my hearts content of water at the water point at the beginning of the climb and this gave me enough energy to reach the road head. Others were sitting there as there was nothing to do except wait for the vehicle. We had to wait for an hour before a jeep arrived and took us to the PWD guest house. After good bath and lunch we roamed around the Munsiyari town gathering more info about the treks in the region and were amazed at the number and variety of treks available in this region, though most of them require an inner line permit, which is again not a big issue. The evening gave us an opportunity to witness the Panchchuli peaks lighting up as the sun set, a view for which Munsiyari is known. We were told that this view is best during winter months when the sky is clear and the peaks remain red for more time. Next day early morning we took a Jeep to Haldwani and reached it via Almora by evening. Overnight train brought us to Delhi and thus ended another visit to the mountains.


Milam Photos Part I

Milam Photos Part II

Milam Photos Part III

Milam Photos Part IV

Milam Trek Plan

Milam Top Story First Part



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Published on: 2009-05-12 (1383 reads)

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