Friday, May 30, 2008

Sar pass Trek

I had been checking the YHA website since last december to see when they are going to put up their 2008 Himalayan trekking schedule, Last year we had missed going for the trek just due to sheer laziness, This year I had made up my mind to go, come what may. When the schedule appeared in January, I didn't loose anytime in applying for the requisite leave at office and booking the trek. At final count we were a group of 6 (Me, Satish, Radhesh, Krishna, Chethan, Pramod), All set for the expedition.
The trek was for 11 days and our reporting date was May-2 at YHA base camp in Kasol. We had booked flight tickets in Jet airways from Bangalore till Delhi, This being my first visit to the capital I was really excited, but all the excitement evaporated when we came out of the plane, The heat was sapping. The situation was similar to that of walking in a frying pan. Till we got into the AC Taxi there was no relief. I then realized that I was literally living in a natures AC in Bangalore. We then went to Radhesh's cousins place and after spending some time in front of the cooler and after sufficient acclimatisation, decided to check out the Metro and I have to say that all of us were really impressed by it. After coming back we had a wonderful meal of paneer parathas and Veg pulao again at Radhesh's cousins place.
After the meal we were on our way to Cannought place in Delhi from where we had to catch our 5 pm Volvo bus to manali. The bus was filled with honeymooners, though most of them looked very young(just out of college kind), somehow I kind of felt sorry for them though don't know why. We also met a group from Maharashtra going to Kasol for the same trek. They in fact turned out to be our tent mates at the base camp. In the bus we had to endure a major torcher of watching the hindi movie Naqab. The twists and turns in the story was stomach churning and all of us were mentally exhausted after the experience.
Finally at day break we had a wonderful glimpse of the Beas river flowing down in the valley. The Maharashtra group got down at Bhuntar, which is the nearest place to Kasol with all the buses from Kullu or Manali going through this place. We unfortunately were unaware of this fact hence got down at Kullu and booked a hotel room to freshen up. After a not so quick brunch we packed ourselves and got into a bus going to Manikaran. The journey took us more than 3 hours and finally we were dropped at the camp which is situated about a 100 meters before Kasol village. After the joining formalities were done up with we were assigned our tents, To our surprise we found that the tent was already filled up, so thinking some mistake has happened we went back to the lady in the reception. But she said that no mistake was made and 16 of us had to stay in one tent, this was a shock to us, but somehow accepted our fate and stormed into the tent and conquered some part of it for ourselves. We were in for another shock, as we found out that our group consisted of 68 people. Though we came to terms with it after some time, and the possibility of going with the first group where there were only 46 was also open to us. Then from that time onwards the blow of the whistle never stopped to haunt us, for tea, food, blankets, soup, assembling all of them pee-pee was the sound and that sound never used to allow any of us to relax even for a moment. The dinner that was served was pretty good, except for the fact that at the end of the trek you and Aloo(Potato) won't be good loving friends. The whistle blew again after the dinner and everyone was dragged out of their tents for the camp fire. The dancing lights in the middle of the camp was supposed to be the camp fire as burning of wood is banned due to some archaic rules of YHA, Though in the kitchens they burned tons of them. After some Darde Disco and other item songs we retired to our tents. Just before the lights were to go out, there was an atomic explosion in our tent which threw all of us out in a matter of seconds, this goes to show that aloo mix can be as powerful as dynamite. To our surprise we found that the tent behind us was empty and here we were 16 struggling in one tent. After some talk with the organising lady some of us were unofficially allowed to sleep in it. So 8 of us in the original tent had a good nights sleep.

Day 2(3/05/2008)
All of us were up before 5 in the morning itself and completed our daily ablutions quickly. And then with the pee-pee sound we assembled for our morning exercisers in a nearby field. While coming back I decided to buy a few water bottles for the acclimatization trek later in the day, but unfortunately for me while climbing down the stairs of the shop, I sprained my ankle after loosing my footing. After reaching the base camp the pain had increased and I was not finding it easy to even walk. So went to the camp docter, who gave me some pain killers and tied the crape bandaid. She told me to take 2 days complete rest and to go for the trek directly. We had orientation after that which included some pretty good advise on what to do and not to do in the mountains. I then gave a miss the acclimatization trek and went and sat down near the river parvati. That was really a quite moment and enjoyed two hours of it, till the others came back from the trek.
With my leg twisted, the idea of going with first batch was dropped as I was not willing to take any chances. So it was the batch of 68 we were destined to be with. This group had some interesting people from different fields including teachers, Goverment officers, ex-Armymen, docters, Naturists, School and college students and our group made up for the software engineers. In the afternoon we were free and sat in our tents and talked. Satish a yoga expert spent some considerable amount of time on my leg. In the YHA base camp in two days we learned how life in a refugee camp can be, Though we enjoyed this experience thoroughly.
After dinner With the usual camp fire and bournvita we were back in the tent, though thankfully no explosion occurred tonight.
Day 3 (04/05/2008)

On this day after the morning breakfast we were taken out for rappelling, Once there it became clear that it will take at least 3 hours for the whole exercise to be completed, so we decided to give it a skip and roam around. In any case I couldn't have done it because of my leg. In the afternoon we had rock climbing, which was again a repeat story so we gave this one also a skip and went around roaming. So on this day we did pretty much nothing.

Day 4(05/05/2008)

This was the day we were waiting for, to gain freedom from the camp. We didn't have any exercise session today and after having breakfast and packed lunch of alloos, we were on our way. The first part of the journey was a bus ride, through the beautiful parvati valley and after an hour or so of bus journey we came to unch dhar, this was the starting point for the trek. Here we bought sticks at 10Rs each. These sticks turned out to be our life savers for the next 8 days. From this point the trek was a steep climb down and after crossing the river over a bridge the route took a steep upward turn. The climate was a touch cloudy and cool and with the view of far off snow capped mountains, some kind of a nostalgia was setting in on me. By the time we had reached shila village we had settled into a good rhythm, but the guide accompanying us decided to give us a long break and sell his goods of maggi, frooti etc. More than 45 minutes was wasted here.
After Shila village which consisted of paddy fields and full of care free children, we continued our trek to Guna paani. The later part of the trek was an upward climb along a small waterfall. The clouds had closed in and soon it started raining, we didn't get the chance to have our lunch. We walked quickly through a forest of pines and reached the camp of guna paani by 2 in the afternoon. Here there were only four tents and two got occupied by girls so our group which was coming in last were left in the lurch, Our camp leader then showed us into the blanket tent where we had our lunch. The tent was a leaky bucket phenomenon and we just hoped it will not rain in the night. At around 3 the skies cleared and the sun was out and provided us with the view of the surrounding area. I and pramod decided to explore the next hill and set off. The surrounding woods were filled with chirping of birds, but it was very difficult to spot them. After jumping over a few fences and following some unknown path we came to a place where the view was really fantastic, after taking some photos we were back in the camp by 5:30, just in time for the tomato soup. The dinner was served out before night fall and then we had the last of our camp fire here with torch lights.Day 5(06/05/2008)

This was a unique day, because this was the first time I was going for Nature's call in the open. I was up by 5:00, and found that other guys had already gone to book their spots. With toilet paper and a mug of water I set out. The day was already breaking out and finding out a sufficiently secluded spot was becoming difficult. Finally after quite a bit of a search found a decent spot near a pine tree. Went back and had bed tea. Today the trek was to the Faul paani camp situated at 9500 ft. The trek started with a gradual climb around the bend of the mountain that we were in and then opened out in to a panoramic view of 270 degrees at the bend. After the bend the path gradually sloped down and along this path we found a good variety of Himalayan flowers. Even at this height people had built their two story stone houses and practiced farming. Then we encountered a small glacier, this was the snow that was coming down from the mountains and was getting converted to a stream down below. This was my first encounter with snow, but it was nothing more than powdered ice. Here several people encountered difficulty in walking on the snow. After some effort, all of the group were safely across. The trek from the glacier crossing was through a pine forest and gradually sloped up. At the glacier crossing we had crossed into the next mountain. Finally near a water falls, lunch break was taken. The Maggi shop was already present at this spot. While washing my lunch box at the water fall I got my shoes wet, this was a major misfortune and I had to trudge in wet shoes that whole day.
After the lunch break the climb took a serious upward turn, climbing steep slopes after lunch and after long rests is always a difficult proposition but we had to push on. As yesterday after lunch the clouds were collecting over head and suddenly rain started. This pushed us into jog mode over the steep slopes. Luckily for me my leg was holding up pretty well up till this point. Finally we reached Faul paani camp, to our surprise this camp was not located on a plain field, but inside the pine forest on the slopes. The advantage of this spot was there was no wind, maybe this was the reason they selected the camping spot. This time some enterprising guys from our group had gone first and got hold of a tent, so the girls this time got the blanket tent. Again I and Pramod set out to explore the area around. We found a woodcutter who was cooking his meal over a fire. We sat around and enjoyed the warmth of a real camp fire before coming back. Having dinner at this camp turned out to be a great adventure in itself, there was no plain patch of ground to stand at all. From this camp onwards we started getting sleeping bags and no camp fires. Bournvita was sent to our tents at night.

Day 6 (07/05/2008)

Answering nature's call turned out to be a severe balancing act here as we had to climb down the slopes and find a spot. Afterwards climbing back was quite an effort as the body doesn't respond to such acts of trekking just after getting up. After a breakfast of chole bature we set out for the next camp. Just when we were a few meters from Faul paani, a herd of goats started overtaking us from all directions. The frightened goats were running helter skelter rolling down stones of all sizes. We stopped and waited to see the last of the goats pass. This took a good part of half an hour. The trek route this day was quite pleasent with slow upward slope and great views. The blue sky, the far off snow, the calm were so endearing, maybe this is the reason why sadhu's choose the himalayas for their penance, The calm and quiet and the beauty of the nature can put you into a trance in no time. Today we encountered patches of snow in shaded parts. The lunch point was near a snow patch and lot of us had fun playing on it. The final climb though as usual turned out to be quite steep. After a steep climb of an hour or so we reached Zirmi thatch camp. The camp is set on the grass lands. We were now at 11000 ft and the trees at this place had started giving way to plain grass and snow. This camp was surrounded by snow capped mountains and we had a superb view.

Day 7(08/05/2008)

The day before sarpass, We were to trek to the highest camp Tila lotni, The trek started with some amazing picture perfect views of the grasslands and the surrounding mountains. The meadows and the flowers were simply amazing. This part of the trek was also pretty easy with a few steep points in between. As we moved on, the frequency of snow crossing started increasing and after some time, we were more or less walking on snow only. I was wearing woodland shoes and they did a pretty decent job of keeping me standing on my legs. The technique of walking on the snow required kicking it hard enough to get a sufficient grip, I was not quite doing it because I feared, reoccurence of the pain in my leg. Walking on snow is quite a different experience altogether and the risk of slipping is always high. The lunch spot was surrounded by ice and the final stretch after lunch was an ice breaking experience. This was when we were taking our baby steps on Ice walking. Finally after slipping quite a number of times we reached tilla lotni, This camp was surrounded by ice and was a beautiful site. Suddenly after the welcome drink the clouds opened up and it started snowing, Though in fact it was not complete snow maybe a mixture of snow and rain. The cold was bone chilling, Getting out of the tent for food was also something everyone wanted to skip. After a small and quick dinner in the snow fall we quickly moved back to our tent. The tent was not exactly air proof and there were many open spots in the sides through which the cold winds were not showing any mercy. That night I had some serious thoughts of why I came to this trek, but before going to sleep I thought of my comfortable bed at home and was lulled into a sound sleep.

Day 8(09/05/2008)

This was the D-day. Today I skipped the routine nature's call program because of lack of tree cover and the cold. Instead of the roti-sabzi we were handed biscuits and frooti. Today we started the trek at 6:00 in the morning rather than the usual time of 9:00. There was snow all around and the initial part of the trek was a steep climb. The climb was for about an hour and at the end of it we had reached Sarpass. This was nothing but a broad ridge between two valleys. We walked along it for about an hour or so. We were now at more or less the tallest point of the surrounding mountains. All directions were decked with snow and their shimmering light can just blind anyone. Luckily we were wearing sun glasses that helped us in preventing the glare but somehow I was not comfortable wearing it as it was recoloring the whole view. After the walk on the ridge the great slides started. The slides were more than 300-400 meters long and there were 4 in total. But after the first slide, we had to again climb up to a ridge which was called as the biskeri ridge. The distance was more than 2 Km's and walking on snow for this length is not so easy. To top it all suddenly the sun went out and it started snowing. We were walking on a mountain slope with a precarious slope on one side, any slide would have taken us down for quite some distance. After a great effort we crossed over the ridge and from there the rest of the slides began. The snowing stopped after the second slide, but the weather was still cloudy and maybe it robbed us of a good view but we were lucky to have encountered a snow fall. The sceneries even with very less visibility was beautiful none the less. From this point onwards for the rest of the trek, we were either climbing or sliding down. The camp of biskeri was beautifully located just below the snow line with flowers growing all around it.

Day 9(10/05/2008)

Even though the town of biskeri was visible from this camp, we had to spend another day at Bandak thatch camp which was located on the grassy meadows. For most of the day we climbed down and at one particular spot did rapelling and after lunch the route took a steep upward turn. The camp was beautiful situated on grassy meadows and plenty of space to run around if you have the energy. By this time my leg had started to complain again, so didn't participate in the games that were played there.


On this day of the trek there as nothing but a steep climb down through the pine forests. All parts of the legs were trying to console each other. And finally by noon reached Barsheni. From there sitting on the top of the bus we had another glimpse of the beauty surrounding us and got down at Manikaran. After a superb bath at the hot springs of the Gurudwara we went into the langar. The food was simply amazing, especially the rice and Kadi. After the fullfilling lunch we boarded a bus back to kasol camp for a warm welcome from the other group members yet to start their trek. Since we had enough of sleeping in the tents we decided to check out off the camp on that day itself. After returning, the trek bags and sleeping bags, we collected the certificates and went to the holiday home in Kasol which had decent rooms.

Finally at the end of it all, the trek was a great fulfilling experience and the mountains are such that they will keep pulling you back.


Krishna said...

Crisply written kano...and you have amazing recollection, I have already forgotten most of the seem to have edited out lots of stuff ;-)

Pramod said...

Super aagi barediddeeya kano! As krishna says, it's crispy and straight. Actually, naanu ivattE odiddu. I somehow postponed reading it indefinitely as it looked lengthy at the first look and i was busy(rather i thought that i was busy which cannot be somuch true haha! :) ). Anyway, thumba chennaagide. cheers :-)

Mithun Uliyar said...

Thanks Pramod, you took out some time to read all my posts and commented on it too. Thumba santhosha aithu.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Nicely written . Able to understand the experience.

Anonymous said...

I unerstand two trekkers to sarpass died due to hypothermia during first week of May,09. The medical care during trekking has to be improved a lot to avoid such untoward incidents.

Anonymous said...

nice article.. It wll surely help people

Anonymous said...

I have attended Sar pass trekking 2009. Marvelous experience. I was looking for experiences before my trek. But I feel great to read your article after passing through such great moments. Hats Off to you really. You have great memory and recollection of it. Now I feel like and would surely write my feelings.

Mithun U said...

Thank you, all the Anonymous. Yes heard about the tragic incident this year, Proper preparation before going on a trek is very important. In the lady's case I heard that she was not wearing proper shoes.