By Babu CK
One Saturday evening met my running buddies, during the discussion one guy suggested for high altitude trek plan instead of Satara run this year. Curiosity kills the cat, started listing to his previous trek experience and without any knowledge of trek, I signed in for difficult High altitude Himalayas trek.
I simply compared trekking challenges with marathon (both are different skill altogether), since I’ve done several half marathons, hill marathon now ready to test trekking endurance so excited with the new expedition, a group was formed, we invited our other friends, shortlisted “Pin Parvati Pass” all I know was this is not easy trek. Most of the folks in the group are first-time trekkers, as per advisory this is not a recommended trek for beginners, but decided to take this risk.
Almost 12 people signed in for this trek but later 7 folks showed up, the trek was planned between 13 Sep to 24 Sep 2018. Landed in Decathlon with my friends for shopping, the list is big couldn’t complete in a single day. Rejoined my running group (Joints & Motions) to improve fitness level.
Day 1: 13 Sep 2018 [Mumbai – Chandigarh – Rumsu Village, near Manali]
Finally, the day has come, couldn’t sleep well prior night, was thinking about next 11 days (atleast known challenges) no communication with family, absolutely no network for 9 days, no comfort sleep at camp, no washroom etc. Prepared to face such challenges, got up at 4 AM without alarm, reached airport, flew to Chandigarh along with Mumbai running buddies (Sushant, Manish and Vivek). After reaching Chandigarh airport met three other friends TT (expert trekker in our group), Saurab and Ganesh. Around 12.30 PM Started toward Rumsu village near Manali in Tempo traveler (roller coaster drive to Rumsu), had some fun break at English Bar:), dinner break at high way Dhaba, food was delicious. Its never ending drive finally reached Rumsu village at 12.30 AM (mid night), checked into Kailash Rath Base camp.
Day 2: 14 Sep 2018 [Rumsu Village to Kasol at 2280M]
Acclimatization day, Morning got up around 6, walked around the site enjoyed beautiful weather and place. Had nice breakfast Aloo Paratha and butter with Tea and decided to go down to Nugger village for small shopping/explore. Returned during lunch time, after lunch all of them ready for an acclimatization walk around 3 PM and trust me that walk isn’t easy:). We met one new member that time Harsheel (one and only iron women) in the group, hats off to her willpower, she is an experienced high altitude trekker. Later one more guy called Latesh joined our team from Mumbai, he is very cool and interactive champ. The team knows each other now and ready to start the trek on following day.
Trek Induction started at 6.30: Our trek lead Prakash Ji, he is a perfect lead like military major started his speech. Its not a color-coded, sweet talk. He shared the plan and risk involved in following days. I heard about risky rock climbing above Parvati river and frozen there:) He insisted on one thing thats “Discipline” (listening to lead instruction, following timings etc). Made up my mind and ready for the mission, packed things in a backpack and went to bed, so many folks started snoring its like perfect car and bike sound at my ear, prepared to live with this challenge as well for next 8 days:)
Day 3: 15 Sep 2018 [ Khirganga at 2820 M]
Started from Rumsu village in a Tata SUMO, it was another awesome roller coaster drive (8+1) for 3.5 hours. Reached Manikaran last civilization area, stopped to pick up few things at medicals, then reached the starting point, had one nice chai and Maggi, bought one walking wooden stick from the tea shop for 30 INR. That was the savior for me during the entire trek, I wanted to get this stick back home for memory but unfortunately, i couldn’t. Started our trek, headed towards Khir Ganga, en route were beautiful waterfalls, greenery and we saw lot of day trekkers to Khir Ganga. It was a long trek reached Khir Ganga around 2 pm. There were few tea shops, we had tea and then reached our first camp. My agenda at Khir Ganga was to visit and take bath in hot spring. That was achieved, it was a great experience and felt very fresh. Back to camp, had dinner and spent some good time post dinner talks before bed. That was my first camping experience, we didn’t close the tent properly so the next day morning we saw a big dog inside our tent sleeping nicely. We were so lucky there was no other wild animal inside the tent that night.:)
Day 4: 16 Sep 2018 [ Tunda Bhuj at 3330 M]
Every day we start our day with a group photo, today we were heading towards Tunda Bhuj at the altitude of 3330 M. After good breakfast (Dalia a constant BF item during the trek), our team was ready to leave Khir Ganga and started toward Tunda Bhuj, its long and beautiful trek. The entire trek was almost along the side of Parvati river, lovely stream noise and beautiful trees and small stream everywhere. Most of the time it was hard to move forward or crossing such beautiful places. Clicking pictures everywhere and chatting with buddies, trek leads (Vicky and Prakash Ji) and reached our campsite. Overall pace of the team was good, most of the days the last person himself reached 1 hour prior to estimated time and there are few expected members who generally reach before porters:) After reaching the camp I walked around the campsite with my friends and we happened to see a team installing a tower to measure wind, temp etc for some research institute.
Day 5: 17 Sep 2018 [Thakur Kuan at 3600 M]
Ready to leave Tunda Bhuj and started heading toward Thakur Kuan (3600M). This is not an easy day, the biggest challenge on this day was rock climbing and inclined steps. It’s not an easy climb, no grip to place feet or hold my hands and there is no option to put rope. Just one wrong step will cost your life but no option I had to proceed. With 12-13 KG of backpack crossing, this rock was not an easy task for a person without mountaineering skill. While crossing took a pause and saw down its almost 200 to 300 feet deep below with aggressive Parvati river. I was blackout for 10 to 20 seconds then moved on gradually and crossed, immediately after that step mountain climbing for 1 hour made the trek more difficult on this day. Finally, we found a flat terrain close to the camping area, break for lunch most of them are exhausted (pics say it all). Then finally reached a beautiful campsite at Thakkur Kuan. I loved this place very much. The shepherd we met, the plain ground campsite beside the river and mountain made the best memories at this site. An evening spent very well at this site, walked around with friends, sat on the river side of the camp, many people interviewed shepherd and his life. I observed one thing with shepherds, they are the ones who were not using Decathlon gears:), but of course, they had woolen warm clothing with open tents, they are simply good and love to answer all our questions.
|Shepherd at Thakur Kuan|
Day 6: 18 Sep 2018 [ Odi Thach at 3800 M]
All set and ready to leave Thakur Kuan by 7.30 AM. Our schedule is to wake up within 5.30 am, get ready by 7.30 with packed lunch. As per instruction by trek team, I concentrated on every meal and hydrated by drinking almost 4 liters of water every day.
Started heading toward Odi Thach at 3800M. Another challenging day, need to cross two difficult bridge called Pandav bridge. Name bridge sound common but here its different. The bridge is nothing but a very big rock put on top of the river. Crossing bridge is climb the big rock from one side to another side, again there is no proper grip and was difficult for people without mountaineering skill. This time advantage is trek lead provide rope gave some support. It was a very long (too long) walk after crossing the bridge to reach Odi Thach. Campsite was just below one big mountain and of course no doubt it was beautiful.
Everyone was talking about the coldest day ahead at Mantalai, Parvati and Pin side camps. The most thrilling part is from Mantalai to Parvati is gain of 860M (2,600 FT) in a day. My strategy is to keep slow and calm to avoid altitude sickness but no clue how body will reach to such places. This is a bit of a mental block not just for me but for most of us in the group.
|Trek lead on duty|
|Vicky our trek Guide|
Day 7: 19 Sep 2018 [Mantalai at 4100 M]
Another wonderful day, left Odi Thach and headed towards Mantalai at 4100 M. Its a long walk and gradual gain. We took a break for lunch near Siva temple near Mantalai lake. Reached Mantalai camp, it was freezing cold with strong wind, went out for short walk. Lake was frozen a bit and water was too cold here. Rested well at campsite and prepared mentally for next day’s big challenge.
|Ready for the mission|
|Himalayas water for free|
Day 8: 20 Sep 2018 [Paravati at 4960 M]
Left Mantalai to Paravati camp at 4,960 M, need to cross the river (semi-frozen stage) at the start of the day. Thats was tough to cross in a barefoot. Started climbing toward Parvati camp, its long and tough climb. Oxygen level is very low, too cold and windy. Its amazing movement after reaching Parvati camp, started clicking picks, first time saw snow and glacier close to me. Bonus was started snowing at Parvati camp. Enjoyed walking around and rested well for final summit/Pass day. Next day the plan was to start at 6 AM as we needed to trek in the glacier for almost 4 hours before the sunshine.
Day 9: 21 Sep 2018 [Pass at 5334 M and Pin at 4280 M]
Amazing experience to start the trek in the glacier heard about hidden crevasses, listened to trek lead and followed them. After a long trek for 4 hours saw a mountain, Yes, that was the pass from Pravati side to Pin side. As general rules for long distance runner is to save energy for a powerful finish, saved all my energy for this day. I couldn’t simply climb and reach the pass, very excited, saw the mountain from down, my mind said,’ Its 100M to finish line, go sprint!’ But conscious that the altitude is 5300 M above sea level and the trek is not over, I kept moving bit by bit and reached the pass at 21 Sep 2018, 9.20 AM. That was a different feel, what a day it was! We did it after 9 days, faced several risks, without network and separated from the whole world. We started greeting each other and moved down towards Pin base camp. It was a great descent and we needed to cross Pin river and depending upon the water level campsite would be decided. We were lucky that day water level was low, crossed the river and reached Pin camp.Its a celebration time, everyone looked very relaxed and cool and on that day. It was a sunny evening, walked around with my friends, went near riverside with a great view discussing the trek experience and way to Kaza for celebration. During night time we continuously heard some noise but ignored it.
|Prakash Ji our trek lead, man behind the successful trek|
We are so lucky to have Prakesh Ji and Vicky as trek leads from Kailash Rath group. Both of them did a wonderful full job through out the trek and handled an emergencies very well. Thank you!
Day 10: 22 Sep 2018 [Pin Camp to Mud at 3800 M]
Later around 4 AM we heard a big noise, trek lead hitting camp from outside, then realized it heavy snowfall during the night time, the tent was covered with snow. Came out and saw the entire surrounding was full of snow mountains. No one knew the biggest challenge of the trek lied on last day due to heavy snowfall. Instead of 8 AM started trek started at 6.45 AM, no clear path, entire path and mountains covered with snow which made it very risky to walk and it was snowing continuously. Few of them were ahead and few were behind us but no one was visible. I was trekking with two people, simply following footsteps of people who went ahead but it was a never ending walk. very risky, slippery snow mountain, 200 feet valley downside. We three of us kept motivating each other and moved on, around 1 PM finally we found a road without any vehicle. Again a very long walk, few stones and rocks were falling from the mountain, we were losing hope whether we’ll reach Mud village by evening or not. Unfortunately, there was no guide or porter with us. And we couldn’t stop as it was snowing heavily, we kept moving, Finally, we saw one small van waiting for us at Pagal Nala. That was a life-saving moment, we were trekking since 6.45 AM, we reached this place at 3.30 PM all this time trekking in heaving snowfall and glacier. This was the toughest day in the entire trek, hands and legs frozen. All of them were on survival mode this day. Backpack and jackets are wet, crossed the Pagal nala bridge, two saviors waiting for us from Kailash Rath team, offered us to sit inside the car and they calm us down. Then the rest of the people behind us reached started from Pagal nala to Kaza. We saw first civilization after 15 Sep (7 days later). The game was not over, now the drive. A lot of landslides all the way, pilot and co-pilot of the car are simply awesome, they had guts to clear the landslide and move on. 3.5 hours drive to Kaza. Finally reached home stays, it was a 5 star hotel for us after 7 days of camping life, yes it was party time and everyone deserved the big bash. Next day plan is to start at 3pm from Kaza and reach Manali by 4 PM. But due to heavy snow and rain fall, Manali roads was closed, most part of Himachal roads were closed.
Day 11: 23 Sep 2018 [Kaza to Shimla]
Still, the thrill was on, but the Pilot and co-pilot of the van were superheroes, they are very confident to move out of Kaza and drop us near Shimla. it took almost 24 hours to reach Shimla from Kaza, this time it was (9+1) in Tata Sumo, I was completely exhausted. From Shimla took another cab and reach Chandigarh at 2 AM then headed to the airport for Mumbai.
Day 12: 24 Sep 2018 [Chandigarh to Mumbai]
This was last day of the trek, we had a final surprise at the airport. Due to bad weather lot of flights got canceled and delayed significantly. Luckily my flight was delayed not canceled. But after last 11 days of experience, not bothered much simply waited for airline announcement and excited to see my family. Conclusion:Pin Parvati Pass covers almost all kind of mountain nature, it is beautiful but very tough terrain. This trek is not at all recommended for a first-timer or even experience trekkers, the trek is for 120 KM for 9 days, if anyone falls sick after 50 KM or closer to pass then they have to return thats the only option. One cannot be rescued using structure and there is no network or satellite phone. We cannot call this as adventures trek, rather this is a plain risk, anything can happen to anyone. So unless you are an experienced mountaineer, I won’t recommend this trek to someone based on my personal experience. Instead, select a trek with more network coverage and option to handle any emergency.
Original Article by BABU CK