Monday, 15 April 2013 18:40
Reaching the trailhead
Chanderkhani Pass trek
Most of the trail is well marked so one can do without the maps. Ask the locals. However, a compass and gps are very handy to be used with the SOI maps
Summary : Overall this is a scenic trek and a good trek for folks wanting an introduction to trekking in the himalayas.
On 18th Nov I met my fellow trekkers Karan and Prayag at Manali. After breakfast at Manali we took a bus to Nagar (1840 M). From Nagar it was a walk along a jeepable track to Rumsu (2135 M). From Rumsu we continued on a well marked trail to Puling and beyond it to a place where there is a good flat clearing amidst the tall trees which was suitable for camping, with a good water source close by. We decided to camp here at around 3 p.m. With plenty of dry wood we could even light a bonfire for the night.
Though most of the trail is well marked we initially lost the way from Camp after Puling. Instead of going "straight up" after Puling we took a trail which veered to the left. We then met a person along the way who told us to return. During our return we met another person who told us to climb "straight up" so that we can intersect the "main trail". The climb "straight up" was a steep one and it took about 3-4 hours, especially after losing our way in the forests for 2-3 hours. We reached the base of the camp at around 5:00 p.m after walking for about 7-8 hours. However, at this time of the year we were not able to find any water source there. There was a bit of snow and we melted it for water that evening. During the season there would be a canteen at the place where we camped. However, in November all the "gaddis" had all returned and the canteen had wound up and there was not a soul to be seen during the trek.
The next day after walking about 10-mins further on the trail we found a water spot -:( en route to the Chanderkhani pass (3541 M) which we reached in about an hour. Chanderkhani pass (3541 M), marked by several cairns and a small temple, stretches along the ridgeline for a few hundred metres. This is a place where we decided to rest for an hour savouring the 360 degrees views of the mountain ranges. Towards the south one gets to see the valleys in the distance and how the settlements have developed in the foothills of the mountains. It is really a heartwarming experience. After offering our prayers we decided to head down to Malana. Continue on the well marked route, which gets on to the eastern face of the ridge line and continue till one sees a clearly marked trail which descends steeply for about 4 km to reach Malana, which is in a south easterly direction from here. One can see prominent cairns (atop small hills) marking this route. IF one looks towards the north (before the descent) one can see the Chandarkhani Dhar extending all the way north, with the Malana Nala emanating from the Malana Glacier, flowing like a silvery streak at the base of the Chandarkhani Dhar. The descent, through thickly wooded forests, would take 3-4 hours. There is a prominent "nala" which one can see on your "right" which will accompany you through the descent. As it was November, the local folks had started collecting wood from the forests to last them through the winter and also to build houses. It is an impressive sight to see how the huge logs of wood are thrown/rolled down the steep hillsides, to be transported to Malana. While you descend the village of Malana is not visible, and it comes into visibility only in the last 10-15 mins as the trail crosses the nala and veers to the right, exiting from the valley. The village is a cluster of 200 houses or so set on the side of the hill high above the Malana River. We reached the "Hotel Dragon" guesthouse at Malana (2652 M) about 5 p.m
If you scour the net a lot has been written about Malana and its unique customs. I will just recount a few. Malana is pretty isolated and the folks of the village still believe in caste system. One is not supposed to touch anyone from the village. If you do touch them they go and "wash their hands" to cleanse themselves. The story is that the villagers of Malana are direct descendants of Alexander. Well, the facial features of the Malana villagers are very different from that of other locals. Maybe there is some credence to the theory. Also, there is a temple dedicated to Jamadagni rishi. Outsiders are not allowed to photograph or touch the temple. This elicits a substantial fine (Rs 2500) and the visitors are advised to stick to the stone roads. However, what Malana is most famous for is "Malana Cream" - hashish and is supposed to be the "Best in the world". One is freely approached by villagers selling "hashish" as soon as you reach there. That is why this place is a have for backpackers and one would see a lot of Israelis (and other westerners) here during the season. Also, as a cautionary note a number of tourists have gone missing in the Malana-Parvati region (around Kasol and Manikaran) - so please be careful.
The next morning my friends decided to head back to Kasol & then back to Delhi while I decided to push forward towards Malana Glacier. Malana village is about an hours walk (climb) from the road. After exiting Malana Village, I descended further for some time. Then there is a fork in the path. The right path goes all the way down to the bridge across Malana Nala while the left one traverses high above the nala and gradually descends down to the Dam construction site, which is nearly a km upstream. The emerald green water accumulated behind the dam is a pretty sight. It takes about an hour to reach the dam. The route continues further along the left bank of the Malana Nala, often traversing about 50M above it. For the first hour or so (from the dam) of walk one can see a few huts distantly spaced but after that there are none. The trail sometimes passes through thick forests and sometimes through "thaches" and undulates a bit. The camping site I was supposed to reach was called "Chota Grahan" thach (3355 M). However, I went beyond it to where the trail descended to beside the river. Though I reached here by about 2.30 p.m I decided to camp early today.
One of the realities of trekking in winter is that the first light is very late, after 6:30 a.m and by the time one crawls out of the sleeping bag to brave the cold it is 7:00 a.m. Cooking, cleaning and wrapping up camp takes about 2 hours. It is usually around 9:30 a.m before I start trekking. From my campsite the path ascended for about 1 hour and then it gradually veered away from the Nala, gaining height. It is a good 3-4 hour climb before one reaches Khiksa Thach (3660 M). This is an excellent campsite with numerous water sources. As one climbs further along the trail beyond Khiksa Thach towards Malana Glacier (3840 M), one is completely surrounded by peaks on all sides. Khiksa Thach has plenty of lovely campsite. This is a place where one should camp and explore the region further. During the season there would be plenty of "gaddis" (shepherds) all over this region. However, all of them had returned to their villages by now. Once I reached the top of the ridge I decided to take of my backpack and explore the area towards Malana Glacier for the next hour or so. In addition to the close-up views of the glaciers, peaks surrounding you the look back into the valley (Where I had just come from) is also very picturesque. As it was bound to become very cold at night I decided to head back. One can go further to a place called "Girvo Koti" but that would involve walking on glaciers or walking on unmarked trails. Beyond "Khiksa Thach' the route is stony/bouldery. The descent back was relatively easy and by 5 pm I had crossed "Khiksa thach" and was about an hour away from the place I had camped yesterday. As it was getting dark I camped on a small "thach" right beside the stream.
On 23rd Nov I headed back leisurely to Malana and reached "Hotel Dragon" for a warm shower, and comfort of a bed, rajai and heater. Most of the hotels in Malana had shut down as it was likely to snow anytime. As if on cue, it snowed that night (though not much). But that light snow was enough to cover the rooftops with a nice white sheet. Even the "Dragon guest house" owner was planning to close shop in a day or 2 and return before the snowfall. When snow falls here it might snow about 4-6 feet according to him and the roads get blocked and even getting out becomes difficult. I was contemplating whether to trek to Kasol over "Rashol Jot" the next. However, with the snowfall I decided that it might be better to head back to Jari.
On 24th Nov I trekked back to Jari. This involves a steep descent from Malana Village, taking the route towards the right from the Malana public school. After that it is a 2-3 hour walk, along the road, crossing the security checkpost of the Malana Electric project and onto the village of Jari. From here one can get a bus to Kullu.
On 25th Nov, along with my friend Amar , I walked to Bijli Mahadev temple (2438 M) from Kullu town. Started from my friends home at around 10:30 a.m and was back by 5:00 p.m. It is a nice day trek through beautiful forests. The views from the Bijli Mahadev temple are spellbinding. One has unhindered views of the Parvati and Kullu Valleys. If one searches on the net one can find interesting stories regarding the Bijli Mahadev temple.