Saturday, November 05, 2016

Pin Parvati Pass Trek

On that particular day almost an year back when I fell down on the football field with a cuff muscle tear and followed it up with collapsing multiple times on the squash court, a thought was coming to mind that probably it is the end of my sports activity and will have to rest my boots. Even after resting for months there was no improvement and couple of doctors even suggested of a ligament tear and needs to be operated. However when my friend Diwakar suggested the Himalayan trek - Pin Parvati Pass it was an offer I couldn't resist, it was an opportunity to revisit the Himalayas after a gap of almost 10 Years. But I had my own doubts about my fitness and to follow it up, just 20 days before the trek I fell down again from the stairs and had a swollen ankle for at least a week. So over all until I started for the trek I had one or the other kind of injury and both my mind and body was not ready for such a tough trek, but I wanted to push and stretch myself and wanted to believe in myself to prove myself that I could recover and come back fresh. And that is exactly what happened, after one of the toughest treks I have ever done I have come back fitter and stronger both mentally and physically. All of sudden I feel all my injuries are gone and I am back again capable to play around.

Jul - 22 Day 1:

My only preparation for the trek was walking back from office to home for almost 10 days before the trek, that was approximately around 100 Kms. I just had the confidence that I could walk long distances now mentally I was prepared to take on the challenges of inclination and high altitude.

We were a group of 8 people from Bangalore mostly who had known each other for some time and we all met at Bangalore airport around 7am. We had a direct flight to Chandigarh. We landed in Chandigarh at around 12, we managed to get a tempo traveller which could accommodate all  our luggage comfortably. We stopped at a Dhaba on the outskirts of Chandigarh and had the luxury of experiencing the royal Punjabi food. However the drive to Kullu was one hell of an experience to remember. We had a crazy driver who had no respect for the person driving from ahead was all I can say. We reached Kullu around midnight and no one had any energy left after the long day which started around 4am. We just booked rooms and retired for the rest of the day.

Jul 23 -- Day 2:

Neeraj our trek guide and coordinator had informed to meet and pick us up around 8am. We all had a good breakfast and were ready by 8am. Neeraj came along with 2 vehicles as we had to travel from Kullu to a place few Kms ahead of Manikaran. For the first time we met 4 people from Bengal who happened to be our trek mates and ended up as friends for ever.

We reached Manikaran after probably an hours drive, this is a holy place for the sikh community and has a shrine on the sides of a flashy river. They have those natural hot water springs inside the shrine which is mixed with cold water and they have a huge natural spa for all the devotees. After spending some time looking around we again started back to the last motorable place near a dam from where the trek begins.

After preparing our bag packs to begin the trek, we started at around 11am. First day of the trek was very easy, probably the idea was to acclimatise. We just trekked for around 2 kms and we reached the camping site of Pulga village. The day was too short probably we could have spent some more time exploring Manikaran or Kasol or Malana (famous for the worlds best Hashish) and their custom of untouchability considering them to be the direct descendants of Alexander and a superior race. If you google out we can get quite a few interesting places around here with lots of western travellers hanging out mostly for the easy availability of worlds best cream.

Pulga was not bad either, tried to move around the apple orchids and met quite a few locals. Finally got to attend a music show at night arranged in one of the guest houses in the forest and I was quite impressed.

Jul 24 -- Day 3:

You can actually say the trek begins from here. Our target was to reach Kheer Ganga which was around 7 Kms. This is quite a decent trek, you get a wonderful waterfall on the way as well. A lot of people trek till Kheer Ganga and there are quite a few camps at the place. Kheer Ganga is a beautiful place with huge mountains in front of the camping site, you can relax in the beautiful hot water springs near the temple. One thing which was still troubling me was, we were in the Himalayas.. day 3 and yet we were still seeing a lot of humans all around... I was  expecting that isolation, well the great thing was this was last place from were we could communicate with our family, from here all along the trek all your phones lie dead with no network until you reach the end. Also the number of people who continue is very few, only who are on the pin parvati trek continue from here and that number is very very low. So you can say you will hardly get to see any humans from here until the end other than any other teams doing the trek.

We spent significant time relaxing the hot water springs of Kheer Ganga, our body was rejuvenated from all the body pain we had from constant travelling. They have kind of natural spa mixing the hot water with the cold and the open mountain view in the front makes it very refreshing even for the mind.

Jul 25 -- Day 4:

Both our body and mind were completely rejuvenated from the holy dip at Kheer Ganga and  the entire team was in good spirits and ready for the challenge. But the trek from here starts opening up both distance wise, adventure wise and also you start gaining significant altitude almost like a 1000ft every day.

The target for the day was to camp at Thunda Bhuj which was around 9 Kms from Kheer Ganga. Until the last 2-3 Kms most of the trail was pretty much flat with abundant growth of Hashish/Cannabis all around the trail, but was not sure if it had grown naturally in the habitat or was cultivated. Our porters said most of them were cultivated but there are no one to take care of such cultivation in mountains. You don't get to see any humans other than few travellers (if you are lucky) after Kheer Ganga.

KheerGanga is the last place you are will be in contact with the civilisation, after Kheer Ganga you are completely isolated and disconnected from rest of the world until you finish the trek. The last stretch of the day gets tough with some steep climb. Also just around 2 Kms before the camp site, there is small house which sell some of the best and fresh Kova (dairy product).

We reached Thunda Bhuj around 11 and camped next to the huge rock. There is a small hut few meters away from the rock where a baba lives, he said he has been living there for the last 20 years. Few us spoke to him for few minutes and he also offered us with Ganja.

Even though river and streams flow all around you, this day we couldn't find any source of fresh water. The water from streams and river were filled with fine grains of sand. We were forced to use the same water after boiling and filtering for cooking and drinking. But still we could feel the presence of fine grains of sand even in our food. Few of them opted for the bottled water available with the Baba for a price, however most of us decided to experience the wilderness.

Jul 26 -- Day 5:

The target for the day was Pandu Bhuj which was around 11 Kms. To me this was one of the toughest day of the entire trek. Not because of the distance but some of the places are really scary and life threatening.

After first few Kms of the day, we get to see a broken bridge. I heard this bridge had broken very recently and has not been fixed and hence we had to take a more adventurous route of  rock climbing vertically with a flashy river flowing below. It was very risky to climb those slippery rocks with small stream of water flowing over the rocks.

Once this vertical climb over the rock was covered, for most part of the day we kind of walked along smaller ups and downs of different mountains. I guess it was from this day, the team which walked together till here started to split based on one's fitness. Few of the guys who were fit were like 45 min ahead and few were around 45 min behind me. Most part of the trek from here I kind of walked alone since I was kind of in the middle, it was an awesome experience just to walk alone surrounded by huge mountains all around you.

Towards the end of the day, it was something that would remain as one of the toughest challenge of the entire trek. First we walked through the slippery soil of a land slide and followed it up with the crossing over the flashy river sliding on top of a rock. It was one experience of its kind, very scary. A few minutes later we have the Pandu Bhuj, the story goes that the pandavas dropped this huge rock onto the river to cross the flashy river. This huge rock kind of acts like a bridge but walking on this is very risky, slippery and scary. You slip and I doubt anybody would be able to find the body, the river below the huge rock flows ferociously.

I managed to climb the rock without much hiccups, but from the top of the rock when I saw the river I lost the confidence to go further and felt dizzy, I just sat down on top of the rock for a couple of minutes to breath slowly and get back some lost confidence, by that time I could see a couple of porters to help me with my bag. I managed to get down without much fuss, but soon after crossing over the river there is very steep cliff to climb before we reach the camping site. The day was very tiring and every body was kind of exhausted. Just like me most of them equally scared to cross the flashy river on top of the rock.

Jul 27 -- Day 6:

Just when I thought Day 5 was toughest, well the trek was just opening up and it was getting tougher and tougher by day. Day 6 the target was to reach Mantali lake, we were given packed food in the morning which was an indication of a long walk. Mantali Lake was around 14 Kms from Pandu Bhuj.

We started early, but this day the weather was not very supportive. It kept raining all the day. Even though we had rain gears, it gets pretty irritating to trek in rain especially in the Himalayas. Rocks become very slippery, it becomes really cold and the landscapes kind of get covered with fog to rob you off the opportunity to view the wilderness.

We passed through Thakur Kaun and Odi Tach, now if you are a photo enthusiasts make sure you don't miss an opportunity to camp here on a day with some good weather. I can say we missed the opportunity to spend some quality time taking some wonder pictures here because of the bad weather with persistent rains. Odi Tach I felt resembled a bit to valley of flowers.

Other than the huge distance of 14 Kms, most part of the day until the last couple of Kms was more like a normal walk on the mountains. Other than couple of places we didn't have much to climb. However towards end of the day the trail becomes really narrow and we will be walking on the edge of the flashy river, you slip and you would be gone. The best thing to do in such a situation I felt was to just focus on the trail and not to watch the river, so scary it was.

Just before the Mantali Lake, the river Parvathi flows like gushing out of a dam gate, very ferocious and scary. We would be walking next to it to reach the camp site.

Jul 28 -- Day 7:

We were already ahead by a day, we could have gone ahead but quite a few of them were tired and our trek guide decided to camp and rest for a day in Mantali lake. Mantali lake is not actually a lake, the flow of the river parvati melting down from the glaciers above are actually blocked by natural mountain dam. As a result of which the river spreads out to give the feel of a lake. However towards one end of the blockade it open ups like a dam gate and the water gushes out very ferociously. It was exactly the place we had come by the previous day. Behind the natural dam the river spreads like backwaters and hence the name Mantali Lake.

Since Day 7 was bright and sunny, we dried all our wet clothes, shoes from the previous rain day. Most of the day we spent roaming around the lake crossing small stream, playing Frisbee, taking some pictures around the area. We recharged ourselves for the tough days ahead.

Jul 29 -- Day 8:

Today the target was to reach the Parvati Upper base camp which was about 9Kms trek. But difficulty wise I would rate this day as the toughest day of the entire trek, for 2 reasons, one, we climb almost vertically gaining around 3000ft on a single day and 2nd, lack of oxygen at the higher altitude challenges your fitness. I was kind of forced to take a break almost every alternate step, such was the difficulty level. Also since you climb almost vertically I kind of felt dizzy couple of times when I looked back. We almost took close to 9+ hrs to reach the base camp, such was the difficulty.

The upper parvati base camp is at around 16500ft above sea level, once we reached the base camp we could feel the difficulty in breathing also it was pretty cold to venture out of tent. I was literally drained walking on the huge rocks on this particular day. And probably I was slowly getting uncomfortable with the altitude, I was not very hungry that day and couldn't eat much just forced myself with some food to keep going. Most of us were inside our tent for rest of the day, it was very cloudy and misty as well. We couldn't see anything outside the tent.

Our team leader had told we had to start very early in the morning around 5am to reach the Pin-Parvati Pass, but that night I was not sure what happened but I couldn't sleep properly, I was waking up after every hour. Probably since we closed and packed the tent completely to avoid the cold, it created a blockade for proper ventilation and that could be the cause for my discomfort.

Jul 30 -- Day 9:

As planned we got up at 4 am, got ready with the packed breakfast. This was the big day where in we climb the final ascent of Pin-Parvathi, switching over from Parvathi valley to Pin Valley. The initial destination was to climb the peak and get down at Pin Valley and camp at Pin base camp, but in order to reduce the total distance on the final day we decided to camp around 7 Kms from the pin base camp.

We started trekking towards the peak on the glaciers and ice, it was very slippery and we were walking with our regular shoes without spikes. Adding to that walking on ice and jumping over crevasse was very risky, you slip into one of those and there is no coming back. The summit was around 2 hours away from the Parvathi upper base camp, but with altitude and ice we were really struggling to walk. We took almost 2+ hrs to cover a distance of around 2kms from the camping site.

At around 7am we all managed to reach the summit which was around 17500ft above sea level. We all rested for few minutes and started taking some pics on the summit, it was a great feeling. A feeling of accomplishment, a sense of happiness that the tough part is over and we would getting in touch with the family soon, it was a lot of confidence booster for our capability to do something like that.

Soon our trek guide informed us to start walking down towards the pin base camp, it was very important to get down at the earliest since we need to cross a crazy river the level of which raises as the day progress, the crossing point is the place where the ice melts and starts flowing as Pin river. When we crossed the river the water was already near to our hips and it was freezing cold water, a few steps into the water and we felt like we were completely numb, it was really tough to cross the river, so i can assume how difficult it would be once the water level raises.

Once we crossed the river we had our breakfast and started walking along the river side on the Pin Valley. Unlike the green Parvathi Valley, Pin Valley is a complete dessert. We were walking along side the flashy Pin river and some places we were walking on the land slides which was very risky. You lose focus and you would end up in ice cold Pin river. Since Pin valley is a desert, we started to feel the heat of the sun and dryness in the air.

On this day we covered a total distance of around 16Kms non stop walking. By the end of day we had a feel of great accomplishment, great satisfaction of crossing the summit and every body was very eager to talk to their families which was just a day away. But everybody was completely exhausted after a long day of walking.

Jul 31 -- Day 10:

This was the final day of our trek, the target was to reach the Mudh village and from there take a cab to Kaza (Spiti Valley). It had almost been a week since we saw humans other than our own trek mates, every body wanted to finish the trek and started early. But the last day had its own surprise, we had to cross the Pagal nala, it was called pagal nala because the water level can change any moment. Other than early few kms most part of the day's trek was completely flat. But walking on the flat desert with hot sun was getting harder, especially with limited water source.

We walked a total of 22Kms on the final day, it was more like the walk was never ending. Finally we get to see the Village Mud from the distance of probably around 7-8kms. This was the most tricky part, once we saw the village we felt like we have almost reached but after the first view walking for another 7-8kms was the most difficult part, was almost kind of impossible.

Finally around 12 almost all of us made to the village Mud, it was the end of our great journey and end of our "Pin Parvathi Trek". We had cabs booked to take from Mud to Khaza which was around 2 hours drive. We had our final group pic at Mud and boarded our Cabs. It was great to see humans after almost 7 days.

We reached Khaza around 4pm and all of us very hungry after the long day, we unloaded our luggage in the rooms and headed for the Tibetan restaurant, I had the best ever momos here. I tried momos many times after wards but yet to find something even closer to what I had in Khaza. Khaza looks to be a very silent town, but what was most surprising for me was the presence of only one SBI ATM which was also out of order in such a tourist place. If you are visiting Khaza carry enough money not much of ATMs or Cards will help.

We all called up our families and spoke in length about our trek, we took hot shower to releive ourselves of the body pain from the tough trek. Finally we rested early since we had to start early next day to reach Manali.

Aug 1 -- Day 11:

We started at around 6am and started in 2 Cabs with our bengali friends in one and our team in other. The plan was to visit Chandratal and head towards Manali at the earliest. I felt the valley or the Journey from Khaza to Manali is very hard, rough with beautiful landscape. I felt its perfect for the bike riders. Now that Manali to Leh is kind of travelled by almost every body, this journey from Manali to Khaza is lot more wilder and adventurous for bikers. The landscape as well is better I guess.

It was not a good day, since the 2nd cab in which our Bengali friends were travelling experienced a break down and we had to spend time to make some workaround to push as much as possible. We reached Chandratal around afternoon and spent some time around the pristine lake. I could see enough camps near the Chandratal and looks like its a pretty popular tourist spot, away from the busy streets of Manali.

An hour or two before the Routang Pass, the 2nd cab in which our Bengali friends were travelling finally gave up and they had to hop on to a truck for a lift to Manali. We had really tough time driving on the Routang Pass with very low visibility and making it worse the Cab we were travelling had very bad head lights with no fog lights. Diwi had to run in front of the Car, so that the driver could visualise the road. You can just imagine how difficult the journey was, the total distance travelled by Car for the day was around 195Kms and we took around 18 hours to complete the same. Every body was completely exhausted by the time we reached Manali at around 12 at midnight. We just logged into a hotel and slept.

Aug 2 -- Day 12 :

This was our buffer day, since we had booked our flight back to Bangalore from Chandigarh on Aug 3, we decided to spend the day in Manali instead of going to Chandigarh. Most part of the day we spent sleeping and ended it with some shopping for our families back home from the Manali Mall road.

We booked a Cab to reach Chandigarh early next day.

Aug 3 -- Day 13:

We started around 4am and reached just in time before our flight. Finally we boarded the flight around afternoon and reached Bangalore by evening.

Over all it was an awesome experience, testing our fitness both mentally and physically to the core. I believe since you are cut off from your loved ones for a longer duration you need to be mentally strong in such treks. I believe that matters more than physical strength, but physical fitness is very important as well. Lot of learning from the Trek, experienced the long isolation from human civilisation for the first time. Now the plan to do one trek every year in the Himalayas.

Sustaining the 10 day long trek with a backpack can tire even the strongest trekker, crossing of Pin and Parvathi river has to be attempted with utmost care, ropes might be of help. Also crossing Parvathi glacier which has lots of hidden crevasse is of high risk. There is lot of boulder climbing so walk safe, one wrong foot and you are in trouble.

To end it, we covered a total of around 100+ kms in 10 days.

A video on the trek:

The GPS tag from our trek: