Visiting Kinnaur and spending some time with the locals was high on my bucket list for a long time. Finally, I got a chance to check out the Chitkul village in Sangla valley before our Lamkhaga Pass trek in May 2017, thanks to the impeccable planning of Gautam Baliga ji. On the 18th of May, Gautam, Aashish and I boarded the only Shimla to Sangla(altitude 2300m) direct bus to reach our destination for the day – the Sangla valley.
After an 8 to 9-hour journey on the HRTC bus, we reached Sangla at 5 pm. Tucked in the lower Himalayas in the district of Kinnaur, the Sangla valley is one of the most picturesque valleys in Himachal, located around 25 km away from the Indo-Tibet border. Sangla derives its names from a Tibetan word Sangala which means “passage of light”.
We checked into Baspa guest house in the valley and after a few minutes of break, we headed out to explore the Sangla valley. After 10-15 minutes of walk, we reached the Bairing Nag temple.
After reaching there, we came to know that outsiders are not allowed inside the temple. But it’s still worth a visit for the amazing exteriors of the temple and the peaceful surroundings.
A few hours into Sangla, I could feel that the best thing about this place is not just the beauty of it, but also the most friendly and amazing locals in this place. We had a great time in the Bairing Nag temple playing a game of volleyball with the kids and clicking pictures with the locals visiting the temple.
The next day, we visited the Sangla Buddha temple/monastery. One of the monks in the monastery had done a part of his monk studies in Bylakuppe, and he got immersed into a long chat with us after he came to know that Gautam and Aashish were from Bangalore. With our visit to Sangla happening just after the release of Baahubali-2, it was evident from our conversation with monks that the Sangla valley was no exception to the bahubali fever that had gripped the entire nation that time. The monks in Sangla told me how several locals in Sangla had traveled to Shimla to watch this movie as there were no theaters in Kinnaur.
If you are one of those traveling to Kinnaur. no matter how much packed your itinerary may be, you must take a day off to explore the beauty of Sangla and Kamru. Sangla is undoubtedly one of the most idyllic spots I have visited in Kinnaur, thanks to the natural beauty and the super amazing locals there.
Places to visit:
Bairing Nag Temple Sangla Buddhist Monastery Kamru
Reaching Sangla Valley
Sangla is 360 km from Chandigarh and the travel may take 15 to 16 hours. Delhi to Sangla is approx 580 km. Below is the approach route for Sangla: Shimla ⇒ Kufri ⇒ Fagu ⇒ Narkanda ⇒ Rampur ⇒ Jeori ⇒ Tapri ⇒ Karcham ⇒ Sangla Public transport: There is a Chandigarh-Shimla-Sangla daily direct bus that starts from Shimla at 6 am. 2-3 buses also start from Reckong Peo for commuting within Kinnaur that stops at Sangla.
Day #4: Gundar to Lamkhaga advance base camp (Kinnaur side) (One may break this climb till base camp 1 and next day to advance base camp…….we skipped)
Day #5: Advance base camp to Upper Kyarkoti after crossing Lamkhaga pass (Again, you may camp at Lamkhaga pass base camp of Gangotri side followed by trek till Kyarkoti…….we decided to continue beyond base camp and camp at upper Kyarkoti)
Day #7: Upper Kyarkoti to Kyarkoti
Day #8: Kyarkoti to Gangnani
Day #9: Gangnani to Harsil
This is a remote pass and very few groups have finished this. Thus it could be a good option for all those who love to visit the under-explored!
The amount of fresh, deep snow made hiking at higher altitudes extremely difficult. Spending two complete days navigating through knee level snow (& sometimes till the waist) was a gruesome process, but it’s the stunning mountain views that were truly the highlight of the trek!
Otherwise called Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama, this trek is circumambulation(parikrama) around holy Kinnaur Kailash Range. Kinnaur Kailash is one of the 5 Kailash a Shiv Bhakt must-visit (others being Shrikhand Mahadev, Manimahesh Kailash, Adi Kailash, and Kailash Mansarovar).
Kinnaur Kailash itself has two important routes from the pilgrimage perspective. 1) Kinnaur Kailash Shivling – Which is around 4500M ASL, approachable in a 10 day period only in August. This is a state-sponsored Yatra.
2) Kinnaur Kailash Parikrama aka Charang-La pass which is around 5200 Meters, which this album is all about. This is a very difficult pass crossing in June snow and scree conditions.
It is said the spirits of the dead walk amidst Rangrik peak in the vicinity of Kinnaur Kailash peak. Kinnaur Kailash itself is winter abode to Lord Shiva who conducts darbar for a class of mythological people called Kinnaurs (one who is proficient in music in Hindu Mythology
And apart from the importance of Hinduism, this trek also provides an opportunity to visit the Charang Monastery one of the oldest Buddhist Monasteries in the Himalayas. Unlike the Male Lamas of Ladakh, this particular monastery is inhabited by Buddha Bikshinis (Female Buddha monks)
Charang La is probably tougher than any other treks and yatra‘s including Kailash itself. The reason being the remoteness of this trek, steepness of Charang-La pass and streams (Nala) to cross are at least 3. In the early season (June/July), snow will ease out boulder hopping, but pass itself will be under thick snow. I would easily reckon the day of CharangLa pass traverse (in June) is difficult than the day of Lamkagha pass traverse.
Since this expedition comes very close to the international border with Tibet, a written permit from SDM Reckong poo is a must and will be verified by Shurting and Charang ITBP. So plan this without fail. This is a unique trek that starts from a rocky desert-like environment and ends up in the absolute beauty of greenery at Chitkul. So in 5 days’ time, we can experience the change every day. And tents/provisions are a must for at least 3 days after Charang.
To do this trek, one has to take a Jeep Safari (I am not sure about the availability of Bus) from Reckong Peo to Thangi/Lumbar which will cost anywhere from Rs.2500 to 3000 and henceforth trek the next 5 days. This Jeep safari is along Reckong Poo-Pooh-Nako-Kaza (Spiti) highway which is in full grandeur on an ancient mountain system to the Himalayas. Geologists claim this to be the confluence of Himalayas, Dhauladar, and Zanskar mountain systems. Very rugged mountains and the moon-like landscape (read cold dry rocky dusty).
Bordering along western Himalaya with Tibet and Garhwal, the Baspa valley of Kinnaur has been open to visitors since the early nineties. The valley got its name from the Baspa river which originates from Chung Sakhago pass and meanders for around 30 km before meeting Satluj on its left bank near Karcham.
Baspa valley, Kinnaur:
Unlike the Spiti valley and Hangrang region of Kinnaur, the Baspa valley is green paradise in largely barren mountains. Baspa valley or Sangla valley is known for fruit-laden orchards, cedar covered slopes and flower crusted meadows. Bhojpatra tree is abundantly found in the Chitkul region.
A land of blue skies, buzzing Baspa river, soaring peaks, deep valleys, apple orchards, and syncretic culture — Baspa valley a place for people who are seeking genuine peace and soul-calming solitude far, far from the madding crowd.
The fort of Kamru is another landmark in Baspa valley. As Gandhi once remarked that ‘the soul of India lies in its villages’— villages like Chitkul, Rackcham, Sangla, Kamru and Chansu are the soul of Baspa valley.
The lush green valley, snow-capped mountains of Kinnaur-Garhwal region and melodically flowing Baspa river are the hallmark of Baspa valley. There are many trekking routes that lead to or end up in the Baspa Valley. Some of the prominent ones are the following.
It is a fairly remote trek and is now regarded as the classic route from Gangotri to Kinnaur, which was first crossed by Marco Pallis in 1933. The trek is also known as Chitkul to Gangotri trek or Harsil to Chitkul trek. It trek can be done from either side. The beautiful route takes you through some of the most remote areas of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, like the Jalandhari valley that is covered with flowers post monsoon. The snow in the early season could impede your progress. Harsil is famous for Wilson’s Cottage built in 1864. Gangotri is a short drive from Harsil, while Chitkul is the last village in the Baspa valley
Borasu Pass at a height of 5450 meters (17880 feet) above sea level is a high mountain pass connecting the Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and is located at the border of the two states. This trek goes through the famous Har-ki-Dun valley and we witness the beautiful glacial lakes of MorindaTaal and Zhupkia Glacier. The trail for this trek passes through a glacier, narrow ridges, vertical show slopes, meadows, and boulders. Overall a very adventurous experience not to mention the unforgettable views of the mountains.
Mount Kinner Kailash is located in Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. The trail provides a panoramic view of the whole range of Kinner Kailash mountain peaks. This region is located on the Indo-Tibet border and gives a wonderful introduction to the confluence of Hinduism and Buddhism. The landscape of the area varies from the lush green scenic valley of Sangla Valley to the snow-clad mountains of the Kinner ranges. This trek is packed not only with some of the best views of the mountains but also provides an insight into the rich history of trade, religion, and diverse ethnic groups, the experience of which leaves one enchanted.
5. Khimloga pass trek
It is a trade route mostly frequented by Sheppard from either side of Baspa of Supin valley of Uttrakhand.
6. Rupin pass trek
Rupin Pass is a high altitude pass across the Himalaya mountain range in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It lies on a traditional shepherd and hiking route which starts from Dhaula in Uttarakhand and ends in Sangla in Himachal Pradesh. The path itself is located across mostly uninhabited areas in the Himalayan ranges at an elevation of 15,250 ft (4,650M) above sea level
7. Yamrang la pass (5570 m) & Gugairang La
These two passes connect Baspa valley to Tibet.
Easy to moderate trails in Baspa valley:
1. Karcham to Barua
Karcham is a small town on National Highway 5 at the confluence of the Satluj and Baspa river. The trail passes through Sapni village (Visit to snake god temple is recommended) and ends up a Brua Village.
2.Brua to Chansu trail
After a gradual descend one needs to negotiate Brua Nallah and then Climb up to Chansu village.
3. Sangla to Kamru fort trail
Kamru village was the capital of the erstwhile principality of Bushahr. The Kamru Fort, a 15-minute walk from the Sangla town, houses quintessential wood-and-stone buildings with curved, peaked roofs. On the way up is the Badrinath Temple, a classic example of Kinnauri religious syncretism with both Hindu and Buddhist shrines. There are several folklores associated with it and according to one legend, there are crores of devi- devta residing inside the fort. Entry inside the fort is restricted – only into the courtyard in front of it – but the views of the surrounding mountains are good, anyway.
Sangla serves as a base to hike to nearby villages like Kamru, Batseri, Rackham, and Chitkul. It offers an uninhibited rendezvous with nature — walks, treks and strolling in narrow alleys of Himalayan hamlets, lively bonfires by the river. If you’re an angling enthusiast, the swirling current of the Baspa is home to both the Rainbow and Brown Trout.
Sangla village of Kinnaur is a scenic & heavenly Himalayan village revered by travelers and backpackers alike. It is the largest village of the Sangla valley aka Baspa valley and one of the largest in Kinnaur. Located at the middle of the valley and about 18km from the nearest highway i.e NH 05, it has found a place in an itinerary of every traveller or backpacker for its spellbinding attractions like Kamru, Basteri, Rackham, Chitkul village and Rankanda meadows.
The weather remains cold to bitterly cold from November to March. May to September are pleasant days So better to visit Sangla is in the months of April to October. If you want to experience the snow, then December to early March is the best time.
The Weather of Sangla village:
Sangla is located in the temperate zone. The average yearly temperature of Sangla hovers around 17°C. It peaks in the months of May and June when it reaches 30°C but the weather remains pleasant.
In July, August and September the average rainfall reach its apex point. It crosses the 300mm mark in the month of July. After July it starts decreasing and the average rainfall plummets to less than 100 mm in September month. In October it barely rains. With dwindling rains temperature graph also takes a nose dive and it crosses below 5°C mark in December month.
How to reach Sangla?
It is well connected from Shimla – The Capital of Himachal Pradesh. Once you reach Shimla, There are HRTC Buses available from the Shimla ISBT Tutikandi bus stand, Chandigarh and Delhi.
Mostly the buses leave from Chandigarh in the night, then reach Shimla in the morning. An HRTC bus will leave for Sangla or Rakchham in the morning around 7:00 AM from the Shimla Bus stand. The long 12-hour bus ride is an adventurous one!
There is a Bus with number HP 25 A 3043 which runs every alternate day from Shimla around 7:00 – 7:15 AM from Shimla Bus stand to Sangla. One can call Shimla Bus Depo Control Room for details on Bus timings, they will help you. For us, Shimla to Sangla HRTC Bus road journey cost just Rs. 354
Note: There is a 25% concession for Women in HRTC Bus ticket fares. Please check with the conductor once you board the bus if you are a woman or a lady traveler.
The helpline number of Shimla Bus Depo Control Room is 01772656326.
If you are visiting Sangla with friends or family, try to take or book Innova, XUV, Tata Sumo or Tempo Traveler from Shimla. This will help you to stop & spend enough time en-route Sangla. The journey from Shimla to Sangla is Epic & Deadly dangerous one with Breathtaking views of Sutlej River, High Mountains, Mountain Villages, Lovely Bridges, Some Beautiful Towns of Kinnaur Valley.
Distance from different cities:
If you are traveling from the different States of India, it is better to reach Delhi or Chandigarh by Flight, Train or other transport options then plan accordingly in advance. This will help to reach Sangla without any transport issues.
From Delhi: Around 590 Kms. via NH44 and NH5 (Delhi to Sangla)
From Chandigarh: Around 354 Kms. via NH5 (Chandigarh to Sangla)
Altitude: Altitude of Sangla Valley, Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh comes to around 3000 Mtr.
Bucketlist Places To See Around Sangla Village
Kamru village is around a 2-kilometer easy hike from the Sangla Town. It is famous for its Kamru Fort & Temple. Please don’t miss to explore these Ancient Buddhist architectures while exploring Sangla. It is must visit when you are in Sangla!
Kamru Temple: Kamru Temple is situated just below Kamru Fort. This temple is called Shree Badri Vishal Ji Temple of Kamru Village which is also a 15th Century shrine of Lord Badrinath, which hosts a light every three years.
Kamru Fort is one of the Oldest Fort’s located in Sangla valley of Kinnaur District, Himachal Pradesh. Kamru Fort is the main historical place of the Valley. After 2 Kms. walk from Sangla Town, there lies the tower-like fort of Kamru at an altitude of 2600 Mtrs above sea level.
An exotic Image of Lord Buddha on the Fort’s Main Gate and an Image of Kamkhya Devi are the unique features of this fort. The image of Kamkhya Devi supposed to have been brought from Assam is installed on the third floor.
The fort seems like being placed overpacking of dressed stone that acts as a pedestal for an exalted piece of art. The tower possesses an elegant wooden balcony. There are a number of interesting myths attached to this fort. This fort is ruled by 100 plus dynasties of Himachal. Other parts of the fort are restricted for general public viewing including local Kinnaur’s except Kamkhya Devi Idol which is situated near tower-like Fort.
Only ancestors of Himachal Royal families get to go further inside the fort. Virbhadra Singh, CM of Himachal Pradesh belongs to one of the royal families of Himachal visited recently to this fort for family function as informed to us by Watch-woman of Kamru Fort Chandru Negi during our visit on 19th May 2017 mornings.
Sangla Buddhist Monastery
There is a Buddhist Monastery situated in the heart of Sangla Town. As per the monks of Monastery, this monastery is recently built and it is a very good place to meditate & relax. Don’t miss to explore this monastery of Sangla!
View of Kinner Kailash from Sangla
The back-side view of Kinner Kailash is clearly visible from Kamru Village & surroundings of Sangla where the front-side can be seen from Kalpa or Reckong Peo. This is how I captured the back-side of Kinner Kailash from the Sangla Buddhist Monastery. A classic view indeed!
Baspa Valley belongs to the Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh. It lies at Indo-Tibet Border. This valley is famous for Baspa River, Rani Kanda Meadows, Dumti Meadows, Karu Devta Temple at Dumti, ITBP Camps & Check-posts, Nagdum River, Mighty Baspa Glacier, Moraine Stretches, Snowfields & Snow-slopes of Upper Baspa Valley, Gateway to many High Altitude Himalayan Treks like Lamkhaga Pass, Borasu Pass & Many more…
India’s last village – Chitkul
Chitkul is India ‘s last village from Tibet side which can be reached via Road. The distance from Sangla to Chitkul is 22 Kilometer and people throng into this place to experience the beauty of mother nature which is famous for the Snow-capped Mountains, Baspa River & Many more. Potatoes grown at Chitkul are one of the best in the world and are very costly.
Treks around Sangla
Sangla Valley of Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh is Gateway to many High Altitude Himalayan Treks like Lamkhaga Pass, Rupin Pass, Borasu Pass & Many more. These treks can either start or end from Himachal Pradesh or Uttrakhand.
Final Words: Sangla Valley is a must-visit place for Adventure Seekers, Tourists & Travelers across the world. I will rate this valley 8 out of 10. Please don’t miss to explore this place if you plan an Adventure Trip around Kinnaur & Spiti. Must visit the region of Himachal Pradesh indeed!!!
“How will you know the way, the weather is bad, there is a lot of snow,” the senior officer said. “I’ve hiked all over the Himalayas, I hiked the Pin-Paravati pass in a snowstorm,” I retorted. “Ok, I’ll give you permission if you write a statement that you take responsibility for your safety.” And that’s how I got the permission to hike the Kinnaur Kailash Parikarma on my own.
Although, Kinner Kailash circuit route is a traditional pilgrimage route around the sacred mountain of Kinnaur Kailash, technically foreigners are either supposed to have a group of four or be guided.
I got off to a bit of a slow start jumping on a bus to Lambar where I would start the trek with a bus driver who loved taking his time, stopping the bus and shaking hands with everyone he knew. Then he decided he really didn’t want to finish is route so he turned around about 4 km before Thangi and 10 km before Lambar under the pretext that there was a landslide blocking the road ahead. There was no landslide, so much for my theory that bus drivers in India are the only government employees who do their jobs the way they are supposed to be done. Maybe this guy had previously been a postal worker, for whatever reason he dumped me and the other passengers alongside the road. I walked for about 15 minutes before managing to get a ride in a jeep to Lambar with some of the other locals from the bus. After a lunch of rice and dhal in Lambar, I headed off a bit later than I would have liked. But not before a local advised me that not to go over the Charang La, “too much snow” he said. “So I keep hearing,” I replied as I walk off towards the Charang La.
My map showed Charang village (my attempted destination for the day) on the north side of the river so when a bridge went to the south side of the river I stayed on the north bank about a half-hour later I passed the Indo-Tibetan Border Police checkpoint which was on the opposite side of the river. The men at the check post told me I had to cross the knee-deep ice-cold river to sign in. I said they could bring the book to me but I didn’t want to walk through the icy river. I showed my permission across the river. After a semi audible discussion across the rushing river, one of the officers crossed to my side, a man from Meru who spoke the best English of the lot. It turned out I was on the wrong side of the river heading to a village I wasn’t supposed to go to. I reluctantly crossed the river to the side of the camp. By the time I finished tea with the officers and signed in it was about a half-hour away from darkness. I decided I didn’t have enough time to make it to Charang. They invited me to stay at camp for the night, an accommodation that included a nice hot meal and several glasses of whiskey and water.
The following day I visited the friendly and picturesque village of Charang. After an hour of looking around and some tea with the locals, I headed over the ridge above town up the steep-sided valley towards the Charang La. The valley widened as I approached the snow line. It was mid-afternoon and I decided to camp just before the snow line knowing the snowfields would be difficult to cross in the heat of the afternoon. I found a small patch of grass and a nearby spring suitable for the purpose and pitched my tent.
Early the next morning I headed out across the snow towards the pass. I got my first view of the “pass” known as the Charang La. I had heard the pass was difficult but this wasn’t a pass it was a cliff. A steep snow-covered slope leads up to a notch between the mountains. I reached the base of the pass before noon. Any path that had existed was completely obscured by the snow. I decided it would be best to attempt the pass the following morning, but hiking up the steep snow-covered slope with my full pack would be extremely difficult. I set up camp on the snow beneath the pass. I figured if I carved out a path in the afternoon it would firm up overnight making the climb much easier the following morning. It took me two hours to climb the pass making footholds along the way.
While the view was great, my campsite was less than ideal, it was a cold night sleeping on snow at around 5,000 m. Furthermore, there was no water at my campsite, but lots of snow which take a surprisingly long time to melt even in the bright sun. What water I had managed to melt was frozen by the morning. A bigger problem was that it had entered in my shoes. They were frozen solid and I couldn’t get my feet into them. I had to delay my start until they had thawed out enough from the morning sun so that I could at least put them on. The footholds that I had made the previous day made the hike over the pass much easier. I reached the top in about an hour loaded down with all of my gear. I couldn’t have asked for clearer weather to enjoy the view atop the 5,266 m (17,275 ft) Charang La over the snow-covered landscape. I spent a good hour enjoying the fruits of my effort before descending the steep slope down to the pleasant village of Chitkul four hours away.
The village of Chitkul is an idyllic place at the end of the road that winds its way up the Baspa Valley. I would have stayed longer than the two days I spent there had I not left most of my things back in Kalpa. In the interest of reducing weight for the trek, I had only one set of clothes with me, a set of clothes that I was anxious to change out of after 4 days of trekking. But as it was I had time to explore the village a bit and hike up above the village before catching a bus back to Kalpa. Read Pawan Ranta‘s answer to What is the best time to visit Chitkul? on Quora
Baspa River originates near the Indo-Tibetan and Himachal-Uttarakhand border. The valley of Baspa is named after this river. It is also known as the Sangla Valley – one of the most scenic valleys in the Himachal Pradesh. The Chung Sakhago Pass lies at the head of the valley. Baspa river is fed by the perennial Chung Sakhago glacier and shares the catchment area with a tributary of the Bhagirathi river, Uttarakhand.
After a cakewalk on the first two days, we geared up for adventurous things lying ahead for us. With extreme cold conditions leading to dry skin, some wheatish faces in our group had started changing to white faces coated with layers of sunscreens by the start of day 3.
After a 2km walk from our campsite, we arrived at the Karu Devta temple. Karu Devta is the presiding deity of Dumti. A small Shivling and Karu devta is present in this temple.
Happy ji was telling us that even ITBP had been following the traditions and practices of locals to offer a prasad in this temple every morning before starting to cook for that day. He added that if any villager is taking his goat or sheep beyond this point, the villager would sacrifice one of his goats/sheep here before proceeding further.
The trail beyond Dumti had given us some wallpaper views, however, the reality hit me as we stepped into the rocky trails. A mild pain had started in my ankle after we crossed the flat surfaces and started walking into the rock patches. However, it was very mild pain and I was confident of finishing off the day’s walk and was hoping for late-night magic for much steeper ascents waiting for us near the Lamkhaga pass trek.
We came across herds of thick-skinned cows chilling out and grazing in the valleys of snow-capped peaks. The cows that had been left near Nagasthi had traveled to this point.
Happy ji was telling us that the thick-skinned cows cannot survive the slightly hot weather after winters, hence it’s left to graze on its own in the high hills for 3 to 4 months.
He added that the villagers manage their living with one cow for a few months till the winter and would go on search of the herd during the beginning of winter. It was interesting to hear from him that no wild animals roamed in this part of Kinnaur and the herd of cows left to graze here would usually be found in its full count by the villagers.
We were also joined in the trail by ITBP jawans who had to camp at Nithal tach. The ITBP jawans were reminding us every now and then to hydrate ourselves, protect ourselves with the monkeys’ caps instead of exposing our ears to the heavy winds of these hills in our yet another long walk along the river. And, there started the second round of conversations with ITBP jawans.
From current affairs to experience in the Indian army, we had talked about almost everything that had flashed into our minds then. Then the conversation drifted to Gundar Nala crossing that lay ahead of Nithal Tach. ITBP jawans passed us some energy drinks to us and we had stopped for a short break. The commander of Dumti started describing how the ITBP personnel crosses the Gundar Nala if the situation demands them to do so. He said every time when someone in ITBP needed to reach Gundar, they would apply mustard oil all over their body, walk through the super cold waters and then cross it as the water level may sometimes even reach their shoulders.
With our trek happening in the last week of May, he added that we might just get a little lucky as water levels may not be that high in May. Having had a long break here, it was time to move ahead.
After a walk of a few minutes, the Yamrang peaks were just in front of us. After an uneven patch, we had finally come down to the valley and the flat river beds greeted us. Time just flew away as we walked along the river bed hearing out the adventures of few ITBP jawans.
It started to snow as we were just a few minutes behind Nithal. Few of us moving in the mountain trail with ITBP could see the dwarfed figures of the rest of our trek group crossing the Dumti meadows from a slightly higher inclination. Nature keeps reminding us that humans and their problems are so tiny in front of Mother Nature. However, despite our tiny size, we, humans continue to use too many of our natural resources at an alarming pace ignoring the warning signs from every other natural disaster.
Cheerfully schlepping our groceries, tents and sleeping bags, few porters got past us in the mild snow as they had to rush through and set up the campsite before the weather becomes worse.
Camping in high hills, far far away from the human habitation and yet experiencing the luxury of tasty cooked food and some good sleep in thick sleeping bags/tents is an inevitable dream without the support of the porters, who carry heavy loads of groceries and other items just for a few hundred rupees a day. The physical support provided by the porters to fulfill the dreams of a few trekkers despite the challenging weather conditions is often overlooked. They are the indisputable guardian angels of a mountain expedition.
Our trek group had our lunch amidst the mild snow in Nithal, while Sonu Negi ji was helping the porters cross the river beyond Nithal. It was the same sight that the commander of Dumti had described us. From the top, we could see the porters removing their layers and crossing the river with the luggage on top of their heads.
Just after the snow intensified, the commander of Dumti came to us and announced that they have worked out a jugaad for us to cross the river. As he had to immediately head back to Dumti, we bid him goodbye with some final handshakes and wondered what was in store at the river crossing.
Luckily, the water levels in the spot chosen for us to cross the Gundar nala wasn’t that high as we had imagined. After hopping through a stretch of rocks and crossing a proper bridge, we were standing in front of the two more water crossing points.
Water was flowing in its full force. Happy ji and some more support staff brought a ladder and positioned it for us to cross the river. We realized this was the jugaad that the commander of Dumti had mentioned to us back in Nithal.
With the ladder in its position, it was time for an initial load test. Happy ji and a support staff hopped and jumped crazily over the ladder to check if it could withstand our weight. Chetan Phalke from our group captured a small part of Happy ji’s crazy hoping to reach the other side.
Then, it was our time to cross the river with the ladders. With the first one done with ease, we had one more water crossing lying ahead.
There hasn’t been a day that has passed without me lamenting to people on my inability to put on weight despite my hearty appetite. However, my less weight proves to be a great blessing when it comes to climbing or jumping over boulders and rocks. This time a river crossing with a ladder was done and dusted with ease :)
After the river crossing and some slow walk along with the uneven patches, we finally arrived at the Gundar campsite. The ankle pain had intensified on the third day and reduced my pace. After campfire and a tasty dinner, it was time to hit the bed.
In every walk of nature, we receive far more than what we seek. We have blessed with some mesmerizing views of snow-peaked mountains as we hopped over some more rocks to cross the rivers.
The trails had turned uneven after Nithal and we came to a screeching halt near the Baspa river crossing, about 2 km from Gundar. We had to cross the river to get to the other side and about 3 feet of water was flowing in its full force. A walk in the super cold water was on the cards.
First Gautham ji and Kohinoor removed off some of their layers and went to the other side. Then, Happy and Rajeev along with three of us held each other’s hands and we formed a chain and crossed the river. Thanks to the lovely capture by Gautham ji (view video in above FB post), this memory (me, Chetan and Hiren crossing Baspa river) is as fresh as it just happened yesterday.
After some hiking beyond the Baspa glacier, we had finally reached the lower basecamp of Lamkhaga pass by 12 noon.
After a long halt of lunch and some tutorials from Happy and Rajeev on snow sliding, we moved further ahead. With a major part of the day still left, it was indeed a sensible decision to skip camping in the lower basecamp and go further ahead. The path beyond Baspa glacier has been steep and the path ahead wasn’t going to be an easy hike.
With the legs washing off my pain killers, my legs literally went on a toss walking over the rocks and uneven surface. The treacherous uphill climb was like adding fuel to fire to an exhausted and injured ankle.
But I wasn’t the only one doing the zombie walk. Almost the entire group had become tired few meters up. It was like a never-ending hike.
All of us in the group had become completely exhausted. We were counting our steps and taking a break after every 30 to 50 steps. We had been walking, and walking.. and walking.. but the campsite was nowhere near sight. The thought of hiking up with an injured ankle is always easier said than done. With ankle pain turning deadly with every step, I was unsure if I could even make it to the campsite and just hoped I don’t crash or faint somewhere in the snow.