Originally uploaded by Anthroponym.
The last 2 weeks I was in the Kullu valley, trekking across the Saurkundi Pass in the Pirpanjal range. Atop the Saur mountain, 13000 feet above sea level is the Saurkund lake. And the pass that goes beside it is the Saurkundi pass.
The trek was organised by the Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI). The base camp is located at Babeli village along the banks of the Beas river, which is the lifeline of the Kullu valley.
The first day of the 7 day trek took us to Segli camp at 7100 feet. A climb of 3000 feet. Phew!! The camp was in an apple orchard, and not too far from the Segli village. Next day, next camp at Hora Thatch, 9200 feet, in the middle of a forest. Unfortunately no animals or wild forest people. Day 3 took us to Maylee Thatch at 10000+ feet. We hit small patches of snow and had to walk across them. The more experienced trekkers giving advice to us first timers how to place the leg on the snow so as to get a firm grip and not slide down the mountain face into the ravine below. Day 4 ended with the group reaching Dhavra @ 11000+ feet. This was the highest camp where we spent the night. On the way one smart alec tried something stupid and ended up sliding down the snow a good 100-150 feet before the guides (luckily) caught him and prevented him from going further. That was scary. Dhavra was lashed by heavy rain, hail and winds so strong, one of the tents broke in the middle of the night and the occupants had to be accommodated in the remaining tents.
It was adventurous all right. The greatest 'adventure' was to get up early every morning and go to find a place for egestion. Strict instructions, nothing to be done near water or near the path that the locals took to go up & down the mountains. The worst was at camp Dhavra, where we had to walk across a glacier for 10 mins to get to the place. I pity the groups that reported for the trek on later days.
The water was numbingly cold. One contact and hands would go numb. We had abandoned all hopes of washing our hands, feet, even our lunch boxes and plates. Even thinking of taking a bath was an act of bravery. This was the time I understood the importance of the paper "A greedy approach towards optimizing usage of externally intangible resources". The motto in the tent was to "Share (the antifungal powder, the deo, the talcum powder, the cold cream) and share alike".
We woke up on day 5 to find a fresh layer of snow glowing in the morning light. We left camp to cross Saurkundi pass. Steep climb on the snow took us to the top of the Saur mountain. The view from atop is a sight for Saur eyes. Snow capped peaks all round and the hill town of Manali down below.
The fun part was after crossing the pass. We had to slide down on the snow, 300 feet or so. From the point where the slide started, we could see 4 feet of snow ahead, and the people who had slid down already standing down below. In between was a steep drop. End of day 5, we reach Longa Thatch.
The last 2 days of the trek were the toughest. Descending the mountains on a narrow path takes a heavy toll on your legs and back. Especially the ankles and knees. Day 6, we camped at Lekhni village, in a pomogranete orchard. Day 7, back to base camp, followed by a well deserved bath. Still in cold water.
A bunch of us visited Manikaran, piligrimage spot for both Sikhs and Hindus, located on the banks of the Parvati river. Our main motivation was that we could take bath in the hot water springs. They say it is the journey to the destination and not the destination itself that is more important. Defenitely!! Sitting atop the bus, going on a narrow road, one side you can drop down a precipice, on the other side you can get hit by a large stone protruding from the mountain face. End result...
The field director at the base camp had said 'You are going to Saurkundi pass. Koi mazaak nahin hai. You must always be in discipline'. And I must say, crossing Saurkundi, koi mazaak nahin tha!!!