JUST GO — SAR PASS TREK
Life is too short to simply walk the beaten path. Adventure inspires us to reveal our fears and hesitations so we can grow beyond them.
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” — Tim Cahill
I have a story to tell of a camping trip through probably the most gorgeous stretch in India. With all its twists and turns, I am glad it happened. For every hurdle through the treacherous weather, there was a beautiful camp site waiting for us, for every time, health tested us, there was something new to experience, for every time I asked myself as to how on earth did I decide on doing this trek, there was a beautiful trail to be followed. Our batch faced it all — sub freezing temperatures, hailstorm, crazy rain, snowfall, sunburns and days of bad health. When I look back, I think it was better this way. Every time we thought the worst was over, nature threw something new at us and we handled it with lots of laughter, a bit inhibition and small moments of breakdowns.
After stumbling upon YHAI (Youth Hostels Association of India) about this wonderful and awesome trek, the Journey started with seventeen of us who have just finished with bachelors in engineering.
An incredibly beautiful place blessed by nature. Snow capped peaks, people playing, loving and living with snow, posing calm with fully covered warm clothes, melting glaciers, snowing, hard striving climber on a rock to reach a peak etc, we get to feel all these in real. Hilly roads and Remote towns that can get disconnected any moment in case of landslides. Was really amazed by the way they handle the vehicles in the mountain roads. Undoubtedly, they have some of the best and most skilled drivers in the world.
The river streams are so fierce and strong and looks dangerous. We were headed Kasol, a village which is situated in Parvathi valley of Himachal Pradesh. This is located in Kullu district and people speak pahari language over this place.
Base camp - Kasol:
This is located in Parvathi valley on the banks of loud and cold running Parvati waters . All YHAI camps maintain a discipline and strict timings to keep up the regime as they handle masses. Our day starts with early morning exercises , awesome and timely food, Acclimatization hike on the second day, rappelling and Rock climbing training on the third day. You can go to Kasol market for some last-minute shopping, sit through a round of instructions from the camp leader, have your tea, soup and prepare for the camp fire night which is a pretty good time to socialise.
This was the only camp with proper sanitation, power facilities and had the most comfortable stay relative to other camps. We started to higher camps from here on Day four.
There is one other big task you have to do before you start the 7 day camping expedition. You have to be efficient in packing bagpack as it includes all the stuff you would require on this trek and you would be the only one to carry on the whole trek.
For the rest of the trekking days our journey starts by 8:30 am with a packed box of lunch. There were six higher camps and a single indispensable guide joins us throughout the trek, only one who knew what trail to be taken on that day. Lunch was somewhere in between where we could find some plain or semi plain land to get seated. Routes change every year because of landslides and floods.
The paths were into deep forests crossing ridges with each valley giving a better visual than previous one. Those streams, and villagers moving around with herds at lower altitudes give a very pleasant feel. The vegetation kept decreasing with altitude and there was nothing but only snow at the top. Himalayan weather is highly unpredictable. Windy rain any time and hailstorms at higher altitudes.
We get a Welcome drink, Soup, Tea as soon as we reach the next camp at the end of the day. In hours gap dinner will is served before sunset as there was no power in any higher camps.
Streams were our only source of water for all its usages. Also we used them to cool the drinks, one of the cool stuff we have encountered.
At higher camps with freezing temperatures, warm sleeping bags were provided at each camp for the night sleep. You can also experience the sun set time increasing with the altitude.
Our first higher camp trek to ~8000ft . The only camp which is close to a village. Overall a manageable trek with steep at some places. After this, there are no human settlements. Loved the view from the tent. We had enough time to walk around the camp area and look around.
We found this beautiful waterfalls to hang out near this camp. The water is pure and chill cold surrounding the calm and lush green covers. A green camp with snowclad mountains in the background, Grahan was a great start to Sar Pass.
Our second higher camp at about ~9500ft. Trek was a bit hard coz we descended most height that we climbed the previous day and ascended again. This is the second best campsite of Sar Pass. Padri is the base of a valley with beautiful mountains all around. Walking around this camp is a beautiful experience as it is gorgeous wherever you look. The camp also acted as a ground for all of us to play lots of games. Camp fire kept us warm and we sang for hours. In terms of bonding as a group, this probably was the best camp site.
Min Thatch Camp:
The route becomes increasingly beautiful as we are gaining height. The flora has started changing again and there are flowers of different kind now. We are almost at the snowline. It has also started raining. We called our homes to inform our parents that we are doing well as this is the last camp where you get network connectivity.
Our fourth and highest camp at 12500 ft. Thrilling route with steep and deadly ice covered valleys. It was almost full on ice trek. 4–6 ft ice was digged out to make tent space. We faced hail storm with really spine chilling thunders followed by a calm snow mixed rain fall. The camp leader gave us our higher altitude sleeping bags.
We could spot horses on way to this camp and this is the only animal we could see further up.
It was just milky white snow everywhere around to play with. The sun set was by ~8pm. We got drinking water by melting ice. Sky colors, cloud movements and surroundings were surreal to feed the eyes and cameras like anything.
The D-day trek to 13800 feet, started early morning before sunrise which was at 4.30 am!! Steep ice climbs and some plain walk over the glacier. We crossed an avalanche that happened a day back.
Snow and only snow till the horizon all sides and the look is just breathtaking.
At a point by 8am, there were no other high peaks around.
YES! WE WERE ON THE TOP! OVER THE HIMALAYAN SHIVALIK RANGE!
It was pricking ice cold wind, a peculiar weather. Was able to feel the thin oxygen and the weak atmosphere with frequent gasp. Exhausting snow walk cheered up by the Himachali song by guide ended at a really steep ascent and fully descending from there on.
Snow slide :
Now comes the Fun and most exciting part of the trek which I was a bit afraid of before. One of the best experiences of my life. It was a steep descend on snow that one can not manage to walk down.Mandatory slide on snow at a great speed without any effort. Though instructions were given for a safe slide, it was fun to topple, turn around slide in weird postures :D
It was an ultimate Childish feel and amusement for 2–3kms split slide. We had covered a day’s descend in hours by sliding directly to the camp site at Biskeri.
The fear of snow was fully gone and I was wantedly finding slopes to slide wherever possible. Happened to see the few glacier melting places too.
This is called the royal campsite of the Sar Pass trek. The small flat land of campsite is surrounded by snow covered peaks in a distance. The stream that we used for drinking purposes and cleaning had small flowers all around it, yellow and red. The setting sun would give glowing colors to the peaks.
Final descent :
With one more camp named Bhandak thatch, a vast and beautiful grassland and a colorful camp on it, I decided to skip it directly and descend further directly to base camp.
Somewhere in the descent we have to cross this water jet stream and do some rappelling at the other end but it was easy after all. We have descended more than 4000 ft in a day with five more friends without a camp leader and reached the base camp a day before. Reaching Base camp again looked like a palace for the comfort it offered.
There were days in between where we got frustrated by the fact that our day only only includes a tough trek that too for long 7 days instead we could have gone to Thailand or so. But in the end, everyone of us are happy and proud of what we have surpassed enjoying the awesomeness of Himalayan adventures. Whatever I have completed a Himalayan Trek :)
Breathtaking view of Himalayan ranges.
‘It's not the Mountain we Conquer, but Ourselves’