The Pin Parvati Pass Trek is a magnificent adventure in trekking. The stunning scenery itself would have been enough to make this a journey of a lifetime, but, the experience was even more heightened by the lively company of our colleagues. Our porters and guide, many thanks must go to them for their hard work and insatiable sense of humor through the most difficult part. Let us relive this extraordinary journey in letter and spirit.
We started our journey from Delhi. A night ride by Volvo bus to Manali was booked. The bus started at 20:26 hours from Kashmiri Gate on 19th of September 2013. After about 12 hours, we alighted at Bhuntar on the morning of 20th, and took SUVs to Manikaran from there.
Manikaran, at an altitude of about 1760 meters, has the distinction of being a pilgrimage for both Hindus and Sikhs. We enjoyed the hot spring baths and the langars over there, as we stayed there for the night of 20th to arrange for porters and a guide.
Barshaini, a small village 15 km away from Manikaran, is the place from where the trek really starts. There is a place called Unchdhar, in between Manikaran and Barshaini, where we located our porters and guide. Barshaini is a happening place now, as it is the dam site for the 800 MW Parvati II hydroelectric project. We chanced upon NHPC’s and Patel Engg.’s executives there. Thus, it was on 21st September, that our trek really started.
Day 1 – 3 (21st, 22nd, and 23rd September): Barshaini to Khirganga to Tunda Bhuz to Pandu Pul
After stuffing ourselves with paranthas at Barshaini, we started our trek which was through the lush green valley alongside river Parvati. The zigzag walkway was a gradual climb until Khirganga (2720m). Khirganga had a few restaurants, and a hot sulfur-water spring. The water had traces of white sulfur strands, making the pool resemble ‘Khir’ possibly giving the place its name. We reached the place in the late afternoon, bathed at the pool, and spent the evening with DDA officials who were camping at the site. We also had to search for a plastic bucket as our plastic can leaked profusely. With the help of kind DDA officials we could get the bucket from their tour organizer. The night of 21st was spent at Khirganga.
Next morning, we bathed again at the sulfur-pool, knowing that it was going to be our last on the trek, and marched towards our second camp at Tunda Bhuj (3250m). It was a combination of small ascends and descends passing along the bank of the river. We found a large wooden hut at the campsite. We camped there for the night of 22nd.
On 23rd, we decided to stretch ourselves so that we reach beyond Pandu Pul, in order to save one day in the trek. We decided to stay on the left side of river (while going upstream) in order to avoid the perilous Pandu Pul. As we climbed, the mountains started to shed large trees, and were mostly covered with the grasslands. It was a remarkable transformation of landscape over the distance of a few kilometers. We crossed Thakur Kuan (3410m), and Pandu Pul, and were on our way to Udi Thaach (3645 m). We camped at beautiful flat-out plains, surrounded by huge mountains, just ahead of Pandu Pul.
Right now, we do not have photos for this first leg of journey; we will cover this aspect later. We will attempt to cover with photos from day 4 onwards here.
Day 4 (24 September): Pandu Pul to Mantalai 4140 mtrs
In the morning, the weather was beautiful, blue and sunny. So we started with great enthusiasm. Some of us started feeling weary, but the prospects of crossing the pass gave everybody the strength to endure.
Up to now the river was flowing deep in the valley with gushing sound, but now we were almost walking along the bank. Riverbed was wide with smooth flowing water. We were twisting and turning through the valley. We used to cross one stream followed by a large meadow ….. ad infinitum. It was a long and treacherous walk as we reached the glorious Mantalai lake. We decided to trek a kilometer or two ahead of Mantalai’s small temple so that we could have a head-start the next day.
As some of us reached the campsite, and others were approaching, the unexpected heavy rain and snow in the late afternoon caught us all unawares. One of our tents started to cave in against the onslaught of heavy snow. Some of us were standing outside in order to toss away the snow that had accumulated over the tents. We all started to have doubts about whether it would be prudent to continue our trek if the climate remained so treacherous. For a while, it was snow interlaced by rain, which took the center-stage.
The dry weather from the last week of September to the first week of October is generally considered good for this trek. While a little bit of cold weather is expected at the tops, the possibility of rains and river overflowing, otherwise very common during August and first half of September, remains at low. So, it was likely that if we waited out the inclement weather for a day or two, if needed, the chances of sunshine were to be greatly increased.
After a lot of deliberations, each team member in the group thought long and decided his own course of journey.
A Czech couple arrived from the other side of glacier along with two dogs. Together, they became our muse.
Day 5 (25 September): Mantalai to Base camp
Energy sapping day!!
In the high mountains timing is very crucial. After the noon, weather can change within moments. We started very late, around noon, and went along the valley for about 30 minutes and then were confronted by a very steep uphill climb. It was probably 400 m vertical uphill, but, boy O boy, it seemed like a kilometer! Straight up to the pearly gates!
We started quickly, and in a couple of hours exhausted ourselves completely. The gradient never seemed to ease up, and climbing was tougher than ever. In fact, we were just clumsily clambering and were somehow keeping ourselves up.
It was then that we witnessed amazing strength of Room Singh, the agility and swiftness of Khem Singh, aka Van Damme, resilience of our chef Keshav, and calm and poise of our guide Mahendra. Not only they reached the top effortlessly, they also encouraged and assisted us whenever required.
It is rather difficult
and muddy to recollect what went on during the next two hours till we reached the final ridge. Such was the exhaustion that we had no strength left to take any pictures. Finally, we gained about 600 meter in a day and we reached about 4800 meters.It was only through the tea and Maggi of Keshav that we overcame our shivering. We had to wind up early; we knew we had to start very early the next day if we had to have any chance of crossing the glacier.
Day 6 (26 September): Crossing the glacier- the dooms day!
This was the day we were waiting for. In order to cross the glacier before it started melting, we started our day at 4:30 am in the morning. After having a bowl of Maggi, we started at around 5:30 am. We had another climb up our sleeve, and after struggling through it, we reached a flat ground strewn with many streams. By this time, we had wasted around two and a half hours, Mahendra and Room Singh were getting jittery.
Around 8:30 am, we hit the snow line, and steadily marched towards the pass.
Mudh was a calm serene, Buddhist village. From the first impression, we observed prosperity and peace everywhere. It seemed more picturesque than some of the villages in France and Switzerland. It was a sleeping beauty.
From Mudh, we hired a taxi to Manali in the evening of 27th; it is a twelve hour extremely dangerous drive. 40 km from Mudh is the Kaza. It is a happening town, and is the headquarters of the Spiti valley. Kaza is situated along the Spiti river at an elevation of 3,650 metres, and has the distinction of being the coldest inhabited place in India (-37 degree Celsius in winters).
Our Porters had a great time at Kaza. They dined and wined there. Room Singh’s spirits were especially elated, and together with Keshav, the duo offered a spree of songs for most of the night. Room had a heavy basal voice and had a natural instinct for musical notes. Keshav’s role was of a catalyst. Khem and Mahendra pitched in wherever required, and the taxi driver/owner Rinzin had a superb sense of humor to add to the intoxicating milieu. Each one of us wanted to cling to the adrenaline rush for as long as possible, and therefore, we sang at the top of our voices.
During the drive to Manali, one has to cross Kunzum la at 4590 m and Rohtang pass at 3979 m. We all paid our respects at the Kunzum Devi temple, as we reached it shortly after midnight. The diyas were burning brightly, and prayer flags were flying high in a strong, cold breeze. At Rohtang Pass, we had to wait for about two hours as one of the carrier trucks coming from the opposite direction swerved heavily toward the ridge in an overambitious zeal to overtake. It was raining intermittently too. Cautiously, we trudged along, and reached Manali on 28th Morning.
From Manali, as there were no direct buses to Delhi, we took one for Kullu. From Kullu, we took a direct bus back to Delhi. This part of the journey is largely nondescript.
The scenes everywhere were breathtaking, but our cameras were mediocre. A more lively feel can be had from the videos that we have captured; they are available at the following link:
From the lush green valley at Khirganga and Tunda Bhuj, to the meadows of Udi Thaach, to the snow
-filled Mantalai and the magnificent Pin Parvati glacier, to the barren landscape of Spiti valley, the trek was journey both in the physical as well as the spiritual world. There were highs and lows, rain and sunshine, snow and breeze, but with each passing day, the trek became a pilgrimage to our own souls.