Its been a very very long since I wrote a blog. Now that I have been at some horribly beautiful place in past 15 days; I am here to pen down the ecstatic experience I had; simply because it deserves to be marked as a life event.
What is Sar Pass ?
YHAI (Youth hostel Association of India) have lots of trekking programs out of which Sar Pass is the most difficult & widely known. Its 13,800 Feet High area on peaceful snowy mountains of Himalayas. Sar, in 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. [Source: Wiki].
Preparing for the trek
Since I already mentioned its the most difficult trek of YHAI. You must make yourself prepared for the upcoming challenge ! Preparation is for both physical & mental health as well as things to carry. Since we group of 5 friends were going, we planned out accordingly on excel sheet all 1 month before the trekking date and started to buy things. Let me know in comments if you are planning to go in future and want our handy items list for reference :)
To prepare physically and mentally, I started to run & walk nonstop for about 5 kms in the morning so as to get comfortable for more to come. And believe me that helped a lot.
Journey: Get set Go !
Our trekking date was from May 26 to June 4. We left on 22nd Evening from Ahmedabad to Delhi to Chandigarh on 23rd night. Stayed at one of the friends house. Had dinner at Pal Dhaba then went to very beautiful Sukhna Lake & then Watched Tanu weds Manu 2 at night. Fun was already started ! Next day on the very morning 4AM we left for Kalka on Riksha :D. Then Got on a toy train at 6AM which was real slow passing from beautiful Himachal terrains and tunnels & finally reached Simla. Simla is cool city to see, beautiful mountains around & Hanging buildings all around. There from across the city, one can see Hanuman temple (Jakkhu temple) high on the peak of the mountain. We decided to climb to there. And I can say that was hell of a great decision because it turned out to be good warmup for the upcoming trek. It was highly tiring but very fulfilling feeling after having climbed to the temple. We stayed for 2 days in Simla which are more than enough to see each and every street of Simla. We didn't go for any off site scenary or sports because we knew trekking was gonna be more than sufficient for that purpose.
On 26th early we left for Bhuntur in a bus. From there Kasol is about 1.5 hours. Kasol is where our base camp was. We were to start trekking from there. Its a small beautiful town also known as Mini Israel located near Manikaran (5Kms) hot springs. Its in a Parvati Valley having Parvati River flowing alongside.
So we reached Kasol YHAI base camp where we submitted our Medical certificate & Membership form to get our ID card & tent number to dwell in. It was a cool cloudy weather & one can see snow covered mountain right from the camp place. It was great feeling to see ice mountain from a large distance knowing, one of the day while trekking we'll be actually be playing on top of such mountain. The schedule of every day was perfectly planned. Lunch, breakfast, tea, dinner everything was just perfect. You don't even need an extra packet of wafer with you because they provide incredibly awesome food at such place. Next 2 days were acclimatization & Rock climbing/rappling along with morning exercise. I must say, first 2 days are really needed & absolutely worth it to get prepared for trekking to the higher camps.
On 3rd day, we left in the morning for our next camp Grahan. The best thing about higher camps were they kept on giving wow feeling of the sight of the natural scenary they were surrounded with. The journey was tiring as it was first day but not exhausting because of our acclimatization climb on first 2 days. We were real tired & someone came with an idea of circle massaging. we around 15 people sat in a circular line, giving massage on shoulders and neck.
Also, I forgot to mention, we had few physiotherapist group members ! Thanks to them they showed us a mini how to guide for the neck massage. That was really relieving exercise. Then we played a name memory game. Which got us remember the names of our group members real quick. We had our camp leader kansingh sir from Rajesthan at Grahan ! Day was over.
Next day we left at about 8 AM to next higher camp location, Padri. There we had a beautiful site for lunch point. Also started raining at that time. Everyone started taking out Poncho & Rain Jackets. At around 4PM we reached Padri where our Camp leader Varun Sharma (Almost all girls were delighted to see him) was there to welcome us. Again we had a more wow feeling than Grahan. Absolutely Amazing natural beauty with Green hilly land.
We were warned to not go beyond some boundaries as it was bear prone zone. We also saw a skeleton of a cow nearby as they say bear had it killed a week before we went. There were few shepherds living there saw cute little little lambs. Cows were realy terrifying as they had very sharp horns. It was perfect site for amazing photography.
Next day we left for another higher camp, Minthach. The most difficult and tiring day it was supposed to be as we had heard. And indeed it was. Around 14 Kms we had to walk & climb to reach Minthach. The fun thing about trek is, you see lots of scenary & natural beauty while being on the way to next camp. You see different kinds of flora & fauna. Its not about how fast you walk & climb to your next destination. Its about how much you enjoy the process of going there. You are not alone but have group of 50 people with you. So if you feel down, you get energized by seeing their energy to move forward or sometimes you do inspire other people to move ahead when they are really willing to sit there permanently. You set your small milestones for climbing; like once I reach near that tiny rock, I'll have some rest but soon when you reach there; you have another milestone ready to be achieved. Bit by bit, you walk & climb up & high so much that you really get surprised when you look back thinking if you really climbed that high !
The lunch point was the real beauty we hadn't ever seen before. We were surrounded by icy mountains & clouds passing around us. Weather was changing in fractions of minutes. In a minute there may be rain & soon after that, that can be stormy cool wind & immediately sun light ! And that would keep happening very fast. We were actually between the clouds. We already had walked so much to lunch point that we thought soon we'll be reaching Minthach. But no way ! we were just only half way. At every lunch point there used to be canteens where they sell tea / Maggie / Omlet. We can't forget everytime we used to have dispute for their claim having not paid money for all the Maggie orders. After lunch point when we left, in the way was an area with beautiful rhododendron flowers. Well not sure we were allowed to touch because some species of rhododendrons are poisonous. So better stay away from that. While going through those plants, you feel like you landed on some heavenly planet. There also came some rock climbing area which was slippery and we needed help of a guide to give us a hand. Finally after 1 stop, we reached Minthach. It really felt like accomplishing. Tomato + flowers (edible rhododendrons) Soup was ready to be served as a welcome drink.
This was the place, where you really start getting sense of intense cold. We had been at some around 1-5 degree celcius temperature. And scenary was again wonderful. Even more beautiful than Padri ! Most of the people were feeling so cold that once dinner was over at around 7PM, they went into tents and never did came outside. I sat around some place witnessing beauty God have created. Even in that extreme cold, I chose to remove my hand gloves & try playing flute. Oh did I tell ? I had my flute & harmonica with me to the trek. Everytime I felt like, I used to play it. Finally we got BornVita at around 9PM & then we went to sleep.
Next morning was to leave for Nagaro camp. One can clearly see the Nagaro camp from Minthach (. Its way high, on snow covered mountains but is visible from Minthach. When we reached Minthach, we were welcome by the shouts of people who had reached Nagaro on that day. Well it looked like that it was near, but no. It was almost 7-8 kms walk+climb. We left for Nagaro at around 9AM. This time, we knew the destination, so could estimate how high we'd be climbing. If I would have randomly seen such high destination without any trekking of previous days, I simply would give up. But now that I knew I can because I have done it in past few days, It never really felt like difficult destination. In Minthach, 1 girl from our group was feeling nauseated. Feeling such was normal due to mountain sickness at higher altitudes. But it was not advisable to move forward with this feeling as Nagaroo was at even more height (12500 foot). Her friend, courageously decided to stay with her & to take care of her. It was really hard decision to take for staying back and sacrificing the dream to finish Sarpass so as to help a friend. He already won my and everyone's respect. The way was very steep and high. The end point was way too steep, but guides were really helpful to make us all climb safely. And We reached Nagaro. Feeling was unmatched. Never felt so good about myself that I ever achieved what seemed very difficult. And what we could see all around was snow. We were on the snow ! We had to be careful though as just a slip of foot, and we're gone. Gone to nowhere's land. Would never be found. That was the heaven.
We could see the peaks of other mountains all around. No water ! It was so cold, they say minus temperature. We didn't have water to drink as it was just snow. They put snow on stove to make water & then we could drink it ! Had lots of photographs clicked as everyone was waiting for place like this with full snow. When sunlight came, it wasn't feeling very cold so I could remove hand gloves & guess what ? Yes Flute again. See a small video captured by Mahesh (MB Photography).
The feeling of playing flute on snow covered Himalayan mountains is something I can't describe on words. Ultimate peace ! We had to sleep early at around 7PM so as to wake up at 3AM in the morning for bed tea & leaving Nagaro for crossing Sarpass next day at 4AM. That night was full moon Day ! It was snow, Moon & us. No distraction. Photographers had wonderful opportunities to capture their masterpiece.
Next day 4AM in the morning we left for even higher, Sarpass (13,800 ft). This was the day, we all had been waiting for. Once we crossed Sarpass. We could say our trek was a success ! We started climbing through snow. Well it was the most difficult path we had been going on. Once you step on a hard snow, you're sure to slip. And you have to have full focus on your each step. And verifying that its a firm grip, you take next step. After we reached to the flat ice land on the top. We took a break to see the beauty around. Now there was just snow. No mitti. Then we marched ahead on snow. Walking on snow seemed very dangerous. As it was sloppy and we were not really sure, where we'd reach if slipped. step by step, slowly slowly, we kept marching forward, playing with snow. walking on snow is not difficult but climbing a slope is. You need to hit snow with your foot and make firm grip and then to climb forward. Also, if you slip, most probably your next person is likely to slip due to your jerk. After around 2 hours of walking on snow, we had the last snow mountain to climb. We could see Indian flag waving high on the mountain. That was the toughest part to climb in the whole trek. I was really very terrified in between the climbing part of the last peak. I had to call guide to pull me up or I was gonna give up. I had reached to Zero confidence at that point. And guide at that time was in fun mood joking me up. One thing I learned about myself, even at the life & death situation & negative confidence, I was laughing. Guide came and helped me to climb up, ahd whola ! I was with the Indian flag up on the highest peak of the trek, 13800 ft. And we could say, we had crossed the sarpass. Then going 20 minutes forward was fun point. We had to now actually sit on the snow and slide down to the bottom on the snow without a break, with all the luggage of 6kg and stick with us. The most thrilling and amazingly relieving point this was. The ice sliding removed all the pain we had while crossing Sarpass. Then there was a lunch point just after the slide. We had lunch there and it started raining. As soon as the raining stopped we started to move forward to our destination camp Biskeri. And as we started there was a snow fall. First time in life, I saw and experienced snow fall. It was like God wanted us to congratulate us on crossing Sarpass by making beautiful snow falling quitely on us and around. The rain had caused the path become muddy. But it was just nothing as we had already seen worst. And then we reached Biskeri. Another pretty land ! Where you can Almost see Major famous mountains and the cities from there. We were relieved to see the mountains around having feeling that we had successfully crossed one of those. Played a flute there as well while still surrounded by natural wonders all around.
Next day we had to leave for our last camp site called Bhandakthach at around 10 PM. We were told that it'd be very easy. But believe me we set our expectation of it being easy but it wasn't ! But the way we took so many breaks for our last campsite made it easy and fun filled. Clicked so many photographs because now we didn't have a destination to be achieved on specific time. We already had crossed Sarpass. So this time we were slow while going and capturing all the beautiful moments we could on the way to last camp. Bhandakthach is also knowns as switzerland of the trek. And it is. The most beautiful place I had ever seen. So much of greenary on the land and surrounded by clouds and mountains. Mules, Horses & Cows on the green land, one only would have seen on the photographs.
When I reached the fast trekking friends already had started playing cricket there. Then we all joined and enjoyed together. I hadn't played cricket in recent past but wow I hit a six on my first hit. It was raining then and also had some network zone to make calls to our homes. Oh then as we were playing, our 2 friends who had stayed back at Minthach, came back to meet us. We were so surprised to see them and when we asked, how they came Bhandakthatch; they had crossed Sarpass and from there to Biskeri & then to Bhandakthatch in a single day! They had come along to meet our group Special 26! Salute to them. We had an amazingly superb group. We then played mafia till 9:30 PM in our tent and then fell asleep.
Next day was last day, we had to go without a guide down from the hills. Enjoyed a lot while on the way to the village named basraini where we were supposed to catch a bus to Kasol or Manikaran. We took a bus to Manikaran and took a hot shower bath there, had a lunch and then left for kasol (just 5 kms). We reached kasol at around 4 PM. We then had a dinner at Little Italy restaurant. And were given certificates in the campfire at night. We then planned to go for river rafting near Bhuntur in Vyas river. We went near Bhuntur via bus and then from there stood on a mini-carriage open jeaps to go the rafting site.
From where we did 14KM rafting where we enjoyed a lot having cold water waves splashed upon us while rafting.
And then we all departed from there to respective homes. We 3 friends left for Manali to relax for 2 days. Watched "Dil Dhadakne do" movie at Piccodaily theator. And then went to delhi on volvo & then back to home.
In a nutshell !
The trek was the life long experience, the most beautiful days I ever had on vacation. Before leaving for higher camps, one of the guide had said in orientation that "You'll meet yourself somewhere in this journey". I absolutely agree to what she said, and I really met myself. I found out more about myself as I days passed by on a trek. I also overcame acrophobia I had ! I am up for the next treks to uncover more beauty the God has created which my eyes haven't ever witnessed & my mind haven't ever imagined. Let me know your thoughts in comments :)
Images source: M B Photography