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Sar Pass: A White Bowl of Wanderlust Served in Parvati Valley

DO YOU REMEMBER HOW WE WERE ASKED TO DRAW A LANDSCAPE BACK WHEN WE WERE KIDS? IDEALLY, THE NOTION WOULD BE TOWERING PEAKS, A RIVER FLOWING THROUGH, SUN RISING THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS, GRASSY PASTURES, BIRDS FLYING BETWEEN VALLEYS AND FLOWERS, WHICH ALWAYS ADDED TO THE ESSENCE. HOW OFTEN DOES A PLACE, WHICH SO PERFECTLY ACCUMULATES MEANING TO YOUR DEFINITION OF SERENE INVITE YOU TO WEAVE A PRETTY BAND WITH IT, AND HENCE BIND YOU TO THAT PLACE, FOREVER?

A photographers delight

About Sar Pass

The Sar Pass is in Parvati Valley of Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, a state of India.

Sar, in the local dialect, means a lake. While trekking, across the path from Tila Lotni to Biskeri Ridge, one has to pass by a small, (normally) frozen lake (Sar) and hence the name Sar Pass Trek. The real joy of the trek is the 100ft long snow slides.

DIfficulty: Moderate
Altitude:13,800 ft.
Base Camp: Kasol Base Camp
Airport: Bhuntar Airport
Railway Station: Pathankot Railway Station

It was a snowy start to summers

How to reach

Air

The nearest airport Bhuntar Airport (IATA code KUU) is at Bhuntar town, situated on NH21 about 32.3 km (20.1 mi) south of Rumsu and 10 km (6.2 mi) south of Kullu town. The airport is also known as Kullu-Manali airport and has more than a kilometre long runway. Air India and some private airlines have regular flights to the airport. Recently Himalayan Bulls in collaboration with Deccan Charters have started flights on Kullu-Chandigarh-Kullu sector three times a day. Daily flight service (except Tuesday) has been started by 15 May 2013 at Bhunter airport by Air India from Delhi to Bhuntar and vice versa. Chandigarh Airport is the nearest international airport.

Road

Kasol is 30 km from Bhunter, and Bhunter can be reached from Delhi by national highway NH 1 up to Ambala and from there NH 22 to Chandigarh and from there by national highway NH21 that passes through BilaspurSundernagarMandi and Kullu towns. The road distance from Chandigarh to Manali is 316 km (196 mi), and the total distance from Delhi to Manali is 566 km (352 mi). Buses (including Volvo and Mercedes Benz) on this route are available from all major bus terminals.

Rail

Kasol is not easily approachable by rail. The nearest broad gauge railheads are at Chandigarh (275 km (171 mi)), Pathankot (325 km (202 mi)) and Kalka (310 km (193 mi)). The nearest narrow gauge railhead is at Joginder Nagar (135 kilometres (84 mi)).

Source- Wikipedia

A brief itinerary

Day 1 – Reach Kasol and trek to Grahan village ( 4-5 hours)

Day 2 – Grahan to Myn Thach ( 4-5 hours)

Day 3 – Myn Thach to Nagaru (4-6 hours)

Day 4 – Nagaru to Biskeri Thach via Sar Pass ( 6-8 hours)

Day 5 – Biskeri Thach to Barshaini and drive back to Kasol. (4-5 hours)

A lucid affair

Over the last four years, I’ve been lucky enough to occasionally hit the road to be able to experience the life of a super tramp. Now, I don’t actually consider myself one but from what I’ve learned about a certain super tramp, I can at least check a few boxes. Being born in Himachal Pradesh, one at some point of his/her life does feel envious about the life in a metro. But trust me, very few would trade their winter wonderland with over populated cities.


LIVE. LOVE. TRAVEL.

The definition of life may vary with different people. To some the sole meaning of life may be just existing but to some, (including me) life is to love, to travel and hence, to live. For, what could give more joy than exploring different places, to be somewhere no one even knows your name and to be as carefree as you want? What could be more pure than to love and be loved? And finally, what could be more satisfying that the fact that you did not just exist, but live.

Last summer, Parvati Valley gave me this call and it was one I couldn’t resist or ignore.

The entire district of Kullu has always had a special place in my heart, be it for the humble souls around the place or the culture which duplicates to mine or reasons I most honestly still am unaware of. This time around I was knocking on the doors of the mighty Sar Pass I always drooled reading about. And so without any second thoughts, I assembled the crew and on we went.

Allow me to take you on this journey of a lifetime, of twisted tales and of rushing adrenaline.

Day 1- Kasol to Nagaru (9-10 hours)

Now, this is in contradiction to the itinerary mentioned above which indeed is the right one to follow. In fact, I personally recommend to follow the standard protocol. But being a bunch of engineering students, we had just the weekend off and we had to complete the entire trek in that time constraint. What made us set Nagaru as the(only) camping destination was the availability of mobile network and we got to know that a few groups were camping there as well.

Bridges are easy to come by between Kasol and Grahan

Part I of day 1- Kasol to Grahan Village

May 5, 2018 | 8:00 AM

Grahan is a small village, located North of the hippie town of Kasol and I personally consider it a better escape than Kasol. The trail to the village goes through a thick forest mostly on the left bank of the stream with a chance to cross it on a couple of times on beautiful bridges like this one. Although we did not get a chance to stay here but I would recommend at least a night’s stay in this less explored wonderland. 
We started from Kasol at 8:00 AM and reached Grahan sometime between 10:30-11:00 AM. The trail to Grahan is an easy one with one third of it on a newly constructed road on right side of the stream. And the final third of the trail being an easy ascent. 

This is the point where half of the distance to Grahan is covered. 

History

Grahan houses can only be spotted towards the last 150 metres of the hike and once in the village, travellers will be greeted by a flock of small children who are found playing every where in the village with the temple complex being their  main playing area. A good 95% of the houses in Grahan are still traditional​. Some houses are over 200 years old.

The history of the village is very unique and interesting, the local legend goes that Grahan was first located near the village of taboos, Malana some 500 years ago, till a few elders decided to migrate to their current location deep inside the Parvati Valley tributaries. The villagers from Grahan are the only outsiders who the Malana locals consider equals. So much so, that they permit them to enter their houses and temples.

Grahan village

Consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Grahan and defying the same can lead to a heavy fine. The villagers claim that all of them one night got a vision of their local deity Yagya Maharishi who demanded that all of them should give up on alcohol the very same day and also forbade the existence of alcohol in the village.

Part II of day 1- Grahan Village to Nagaru Top via Myn Thach

May 5,2018 | 5:30 PM
Nagaru Top

en route Nagaru Top

Distance covered- 22 kms
Kasol to Grahan- 9 kms (2.5 hours) 
Grahan to Myn Thach- 7 kms (2 hours) 
Myn Thach to Nagaru- 6 kms (1.5 hours)

Having left Grahan at 1:30 in the afternoon, the villagers advised us to spend the night at Myn Thach. Myn Thach is a 7 km steep ascent from Grahan that goes through a dense forest. We made it to Myn Thach by 4:00 – 4:15 in the evening. Thankfully, with no source of water between Grahan and Myn Thach, we finally got to refill our water bottles here.

Now, the only doubt we had in our minds was whether to continue walking and reach Nagaru or to pitch our tents in Myn Thach itself. Improved weather conditions made it easy for us to select the former.

We left Myn Thach at around 4:30 PM, having rested for a good 15 minutes and in spite the distance being only 6 kms reached Nagaru Top by 6:00 PM. 
Myn Thach to Nagaru has to be one of the hardest parts of any trek that I’ve been on till date. Trust me when I say that those 6 kilometers seem never ending. The tree line vanishes a little above Myn Thach and so does any source of water. Luckily, we found three bottles of water at what seemed like a canteen.

Nagaru Top- Pure visual treat

Exhausted and tired, we reached Nagaru but what awaited there was nothing less than a treat. The Pir Panjal right in front of us with the breath taking views of the Parvati Valley and the Sar Pass right above us hit us, it hit us right in the feels. To add to that, it started snowing and within no time we pitched our tents, soaked the beauty of the place and cooked Maggi and fried rice (somehow) and finally had a good night’s sleep.

Indeed, the best view comes after the hardest climb.

Day 2- Nagaru Top to Pulga via Sar Pass (6-7 hours)

May 6, 2018 | 9:30 AM
Sar Pass Top

An uphill battle

After staying in Nagaru for the night, we woke up at 7 in the morning only to be haunted by overcast weather conditions. We packed all our stuff and started walking towards Sar Pass Top at 8:00 AM.

The trek from Nagaru to Sar Pass is almost a 70° hike uphill on snow. Although the distance being only about 500-700 meters, it takes double effort to cover this patch.

Sar Pass top

The trail was clearly visible on snow but thinking I don’t know what in the world, we decided to walk on extreme right side of the slope, where there was no trail marked. Almost 5 minutes in to the trek and it started snowing, it started snowing really heavy. It’s harder to walk on fresh snow than the snow already settled. That made it hard for us to cover the distance. It took us an hour or more to reach the top. We took a minute to catch our breath and another to admire the view that unfolded right in front of us.


In the picture you can see trekkers from Kailash Rath approaching the slide. The trail is so narrow that only one person can walk at a time, also making way for the ones following him.

If school did not teach you discipline, mountains sure will.

The next stop on the Sar Pass Trek is the Biskeri Slide. The trail to the slide is an easy one but mostly on snow. With every step the picturesque view changes, asking for the cameras to come out. Biskeri Slide hosted us with the heaviest snowfall I’ve experienced in my life (being a resident of Shimla). Sar Pass Top to Biskeri Thach is the easiest and the most thrilling part of the entire trek. First part of which is through slopes where you have to slide your way down on snow for about 500-700 feet. Biskeri Thach is another beautiful campsite, which is just an hour’s walk downhill from the top. Talking about the slide, as soon as you step foot beyond the pass, you land on the slide straight away. It is one of those experiences that makes adrenaline rush through your veins. Something you just cannot forget and something that I recommend considering in your to do list.

Approaching Biskeri Thach

The path from Biskeri to Pulga goes through thick pine forests, majestic mountains and the lovely grasslands in Biskeri. From Biskeri, it is a steep descent down towards Pulga with fencing all around. After reaching Pulga, walk to Brashaini where you could fetch a ride to Kasol or Bhuntar.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t carry liquor in Grahan.
  • Do not offend the local villagers in any way .
  • Respect the traditions, culture and dialect of the place.
  • Start early in the morning to avoid extreme weather conditions.
  • Carry all basic necessities and wear warm clothes.
  • Don’t go out at night, wild animals could be lurking.

Original article by Gaurav Thakur

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