Monday, 15 April 2013 19:00
Reaching the trailhead
23rd - 25th July : Blr-Delhi & Chandigarh by Train
25th - 26th July : Chandigarh to Rampur by Bus. By Bus from Rampur to Wangtu and Wangtu to Kafnu
Pin Bhaba Pass Trek
26th July afternoon : Kafnu to Selti (Trek)
27th July : Selti to Kara (Trek)
28th July : Kara to Phustirang & recce of Pin-Bhaba pass (Trek)
29th July : Phustirang to Baldar over Pin-Bhabha Pass (Trek)
30th July : Baldar to Mudh (Trek) & rest at Mudh
Pin Parvati Pass Trek
Parang La Trek
Returning from trail end (roadhead)
Pin Bhaba Pass Trek Maps :
Survey of India Maps (Scale 1:50000) : OSM Sheet Nos H44A2, H43F14, H43F13, H44A1
Leoman Map (Scale 1:200000) : Sheet 6
Pin Parvati Pass Trek Maps :
Survey of India Maps (Scale 1:50000) : OSM Sheet Nos H44A1, H43F13
Leoman Map (Scale 1:200000) : Sheet 6
Parang La Trek Maps :
Survey of India Maps (Scale 1:50000) : OSM Sheet Nos I44S3, I44S2. Though one would need I44S6 it is not available (updated)
Leoman Map (Scale 1:200000) : Sheet 6 and Sheet 9
Pin Bhaba Pass Trek
After an arduous train & bus/car journeys to Kafnu I started late on 26th July afternoon (2;30 p.m) from Kafnu. By late evening (6:00 p.m) I was at Selti. Others who want to travel may choose to camp at Homti. On 27th July reached Kara in the afternoon (around 2:30 p.m) after 5-6 hour walk, which involved crossing the normal campsite at Muling. The well laid out route continues along the Wagnar Gad (or Bhaba Gad) and one can find shepherds along the way. There are shepherd camps at Kara where one can stay. As it started drizzling I pitched my camp early. Early the next day (28th July) I crossed the Wagnar Gad towards Pasha (where one can camp). There is a gentle ascent towards Phustirang (~4200 M), which one reaches after crossing numerous side streams. I reached Phustirang, the base camp for Pin-bhaba pass at around 11:30 a.m, after 3 hours of walking. Since I was not sure of the route to the pass I decided to recce it. Leaving my 30kg backpact at Phustirang Campsite, I walked up the steep climb. For an hour or so one can see some cairns and a mule track. After an hour or so one gets into boulder zone and the tracks are no longer visible. After checking my bearings multiple times (with my maps,compass,GPS) I was fairly convinced I was on the right track. So, I headed back to the idyllic campsite and pitched my tent around 2:00 p.m with the intention of getting a good half-day's rest before the pass crossing the next day. The early start on 29th July marked the beginning of an arduous 3.5 hour steep climb (with a heavy backpack) to reach the pass by around 11:00 a.m. As one approaches the pass one has to cross some snow clad stretches. From the top of the pass one can get a clear idea of the route for the descent. The initial descent is on snow for about an hour. Then one enters glacial moraines, marking the origin of the Tariya khad, which eventually feeds into the Pin River. After the initial descent across snow, glacial moraines the path follows the Tariya Khad. I followed the "true left" of the Tariya Khad for about 3 hours on rocky boulders. I crossed the Tariya Khad as it levels out towards its confluence with Kamesh Khad, which feeds into Pin river. The crossing can be avoided if one decides to be on the "true right" of the Tariya Khad upstream after the glacial moraine crossing. After the river crossing, at about 4 pm, the track traverses the mountain side high above the Pin river (varying between 30-40M in height) till it reaches the green pastures of Paldar. One can see the "unmetalled road" on the other side of the river. It was about 6 pm by the time I camped at Paldar, which had a small trickle of potable water, from a pipe brought down from the hills. On 30th July after a late (and lazy) start of around 9:30 a.m I walked along the "true right bank" of Pin river to Mudh Village, which I reached by 1 p.m. The multi-hued mountain vista, the barren landscape of this Pin valley is a stark contrast to the greenery of the Bhaba Valley. Mudh Village, with a huge mountain in its backdrop is a sight to behold.
Pin Parvati Pass Trek
The decision to stay in Mud after the Bhabha pass trek was a wise one as it enabled me to get refreshed, call up home, and most importantly reduce the weight of my backpack as I could leave some of the dead weight in my rucksack back at Mud. The next day on 31st July after an early breakfast I started towards the Pin Parvati Pass on the "unmetalled road" from Mud along the "true right" bank of the Pin River. For about 3 hours I was witness to the same spectacular scenery as I had seen the previous day, albeit in the opposite direction. "Larang Nala" would have been a tough one to cross, had it not been for the 2 narrow, 15ft long iron beams spanning it. As the "unmettalled road" ends the track veers off to the right traversing the mountains high above the "true left" bank of the Pin river. There are several Khads, nullahs one has to cross along the way. It was about 2:30 p.m by the time I reached "Khadarch Khad". The "khad" was flowing in such a steep downslope, that though the crossing was not too wide the ferocious flow made it impossible for me to cross it. I scoured upstream (and uphill) for about an hour trying to find a spot to ford the stream but gave up the futile effort after an hour. Had to retreat 30 mins to find a campsite by the river where there was a spring. Got up early next morning (1st Aug) and was able to ford the "Khadarch Khad" with considerable ease. Reached Chakchi campsite by about 10:00 a.m after a couple of hours of walking. After this one either has to ford the Pin river or go further upstream towards the glacier (where the Pin river originates ??) and cross over the glacier and retrace the route on the other side. Initially, I decided to cross the stream but after going half way I realized that the force of the current was high and it might be dangerous. So had to retreat and cross the glacier and retrace my route on the other side till I reached a steep "nullah", which is clearly visible from the Chakchi campsite. The "nullah/khad" originates at the base of the glacier of the "Pin Parvati Pass" as 3 smaller streams which merge into this raging torrent of a "khad". One has to ascend steeply along the "khad" to reach the base of the "Pin Parvati Pass". There are 2 routes. One along the "true left" of the khad. this route is more clearly marked but if one takes this one would have to do more of a glacial traverse towards the top. The advantage being one does not have to ford the "khad". The other route is along the "true right" of the khad but then one would have to ford the "khad", though this reduces the glacial traverse on snow/ice towards the pass. I forded the "khad" near the junction where it meets the Pin river as the "khad" eases out a bit here as it evens out a bit before merging with the Pin river. It is a nearly 600M-700M climb along the khad from the "Pin river" to the "base camp of Pin Parvati Pass (5000-5100M)". Reached there about 3 p.m. As there seemed to be a "whiteout" closer towards the Pass I camped here. Had to walk/climb on the side of the mountains to fetch water. After late lunch decided to recce the pass. Though the pass should not have been more than a couple of hours away (about 200 M) I could not ascertain the route because of "whiteout" conditions. The next day, 2nd Aug, I was up early and started my ascent to the "Pin Parvati Pass". I t was about an hour and half of ascent. I ended up about 50M-100M to the left of the pass and consequently about 100 M higher than the pass. Consequently I had better views than from the pass. The Pass is on a bow shaped ridge and is obviously on the trough of the bow. I also traversed further up the ridge to gain better views. Finally, I walked back along the ridge towards the pass, took some snaps and headed back. There is a mix of snow (towards the higher elevation) and ice (or harder surface snow) slightly lower so one has to be careful. The views, both from my camp and the pass, towards the pin valley side are spectacular. One can see magnificient glacial ice views. On the parvati side the views were slightly more obscure by the cloud cover. Though I could catch good views towards the Parvati valley as the clouds opened up intermittently. The descent to the Parvati valley, which I did not do, would have been over a large snow covered field. Having explored the Parvati valley a month before (read my previous blog entry) and having now reached the Pin Pass I felt I had the satisfaction of completing the Pin Parvati Trek (except for the descent from Pin Pass towards the glacial moraines after Mantalai). With that satisfaction I descended to the basecamp, had a late breakfast at around 11:00 a.m and packed up my tent and descended to Chakchi campsite by 3:00 p.m. Here, I decided to spend the night in the "dera" of the local shepherd instead of pitching my tent. He cooked a delicious fare of "roti" with "bakri ki doodh ki kadi" which I hogged. The next morning on 3rd July, I bid adieu to the shepherd at around 7:30 a.m and was on my way back. At around 11:00 a.m I met another shepherd and he asked me to accompany him for lunch, which I happily obliged. As his friend from the "dera" had gone to Mud, he was alone and wanted company for having lunch. After a wholesome "dal bhat" lunch I trudged my way back to Mud by 3:00 p.m. All the way back from Chakchi campsite a "bhutia-dog" was my companion all the way back to Mudh. The most interesting part of the return was to see this "bhutia-dog's" circus act, of crossing the "Larang Nala" across the "15-feet long" twin iron beams. Such is life in the mountains.
Parang-La Pass Trek
On my return to Mud (from the Pin-Parvati trek) I was surprised to find Simon, a traveller from UK (Birmingham), still @ Mud. He was there for the past 10 days. The next day, 4th Aug, after an early breakfast caught the 7 a.m bus (along with Simon) from Mud to Kaza. After about a 2 - 2.5 hr journey we landed at Kaza.
I had been informed that we need a permit to be made for the Parang-la trek. So after dumping my rucksack in Simon's room, both of us went to the SDM office. I was told to procure the form I had to fill from the "Xerox" shop opposite the SDM office building. Once I got the form (and a few spare copies for benefit of others) I realized that it asked for "Passport information". On asking the courteous and helpful lady (at the SDM office) who was issuing the permits, on whether a driving license would do she said a passport would be preferable. Luckily I had a copy of the passport in my rucksack. So went back to the hotel and got the copy of the passport and filled the form with relevant details. BTW, one needs 2-3 passport sized photographs too, so have it handy. After that I was given a file with my permit and was told to go to the SDM office and get my permit signed. So, with due respect I went to the next building, & got the signature from th e SDM. After returning the file to the lady - I came back victorious with permit in hand. Mind you the permit is issued with a validity period for 2 weeks. After lunch and replenishment of my rations I caught the 4:30 p.m bus from Kaza to Kibber.
While staying at the Serkong homestay in Kibber that evening I got chatting with the cook, Ved. He was a lad from Kullu and a mountaineer himself (basic/advance/moi from ABVIMAS manali). He was also very keen on trekking. When I told him about my trekking plans to Parang la he got interested. However, he was on a month contract (had completed 25 days) with the owner of the homestay (Mr Dorjee). I told him that all he needed to get was his sleeping mat, sleeping bag and mug/plate and he could join me for the trip. The next morning (5th Aug) after consulting with Mr Dorjee he decided to accompany me on the trek. Mr Dorjee provided him a sleeping bag and a mat. Thus I found a companion for the Parang-la trek.
We (Ved and I) started off on 5th Aug around 9:00 a.m from Kibber. Reached the village of Dumla in about an hour and a half. This looks a nice and quaint village with a spattering of green in stark contrast to the barren brown mountain ranges surrounding it. This is also the last village you will find on the trek. En route to Dumla one can see some massive gorges and one can see a trolley that is really high above the gorge. Even the sight of it looks scary - just imagine crossing on it. From Dumla it is a steady ascent and traverse across the hills to Thaltak, which we reached by 1:30 p.m. We were both famished and decided to have lunch. Suddenly my MSR stove started giving me problems - the fuel pump was stuck. It took me about an hour to figure that all it needed was to oil (Lubricate) the washer inside. However, by 3 p.m it started raining and so we decided to pitch tent and have our lunch & coffee here. Meanwhile we noticed that another group had its tent about 100m or so above us. As the rain subsided we walked up to their tents to have a chat. It was a ladakhi and surprisingly very unlike ladakhis they were not very warm or welcoming (though still by no means rude). We got so put off that we decided that let us pack up (around 4 pm) and walk a bit further - in hindsight a wise decision. From Thaltak there is a steep descent to the Rug Lungpa and then for the next few hours one walks amidst deep gorges along the river. Reminded me of stretch of my trek along Tsarap river from Phugtal to Tantak last year (2011). After a couple of hours of walking the track ascends very very steeply along the remains of some old glacial moraine. Looking at the terrain and the time we decided that it was highly unlikely that we would find water anywhere above so we filled about 3.5 litres of water in the river and started the tiring ascent, with the additional 3.5 kg weight. After an hour and half of ascent, it was getting dark and looking forward the relentless ascent seemed to continue. Luckily for us there was a piece of flat land large enough to accomodate a tent. So we camped here. I must say that the view from the tent overlooking the gorge was awesome. This cam
On 6th Aug we resumed our tiring ascent. In about 2 hours, around 10:30 a.m, we reached a campground called Boroglen (5200 M). Here there was an army camp who were also trying to cross the pass. After a quick stop for tea, courtesy the army, we continued our ascent towards the pass. It took us about 2.5-3 hours (around 1.30 pm) to get to the Parang-la pass (~5600 M), marked by cairns and prayer flags. There were spectacular views from the pass of numerous peaks. After trying to capture the beauty in the camera we were off in by 2 p.m. On either side we were flanked by snow covered glaciers and walls of ice. We had judged based on footmarks that the path must be through the snow-covered central area. We veered off to the right which was covered with glacier as we thought we saw a track there. I later on saw a track to the left flank and so we decided to traverse the glacier all the way to the left. Crossing this snow covered glacier is a dangerous affair. We had to cross which was flowing in a fairly wide ice-walled gully. The gully was so wide that jumping across it seemed too risky. One slip and we would slip to our death (no kidding or exaggeration). Ved was slightly ahead of me and I noticed that he had jumped across at one point. Not wanting to take the risk (with a much heavier backpack) I scoured up the slope to check if there was anypoint I could cross without jumping. Having failed to find such a spot I kept walking along the ice-walled gully till I found a point that was just about 1 feet wide. Weighing the risks I decided to jump across. Had to be a really long jump, just to account for the margin that the snow at the edge of the gully might give way. That hurdle crossed, I descended further along the snow covered glacier. Meanwhile I had lost sight of Ved and knowing that he was jumping across these snow covered gullies I was fearing the worst. With this fear in mind I still kept descending after about 15 -20 mins I saw him waving from down below, having crossed the glacier. I heaved a sigh of relief. Later in the evening he too confessed that not having seen me for 20-30 mins he too was extremely worried and anxious (fearing the worst). It is difficult to capture the feelings one experiences at such times in words. Nevertheless, a burden off my chest, I descended further. The last stretch of the glacier is covered in hard ice and before reaching the rock-strewn area I slithered down several feet on this hard ice. Finally, one could spot the trail (with cairns) among the rock strewn banks of Parang (Pare Chu) river, which was formed by the confluence of the several ice-cold streams emanating from the glacier. On the banks of the river where it started flattening out we decided to pause & have some coffee/maggi to reinvigorate ourselves after the experience of the past 2-3 hours. Around 5 p.m we decided to walk to Kharsa Goma the next campsite. After an hour, when we near Kharsa Goma we met a solo trekker from New Zealand carrying a backpack bigger than mine (almost 1.5 - 2 times) and he had been trekking from Rumtse and had reached here on the 8th day - not bad at all -:). He mentioned that "just round the corner" there was another group camping. So, instead of camping at Kharsa Goma we decided to walk "just round the corner" and that took us another hour and involved crossing the Pare Chu river. We reached the campsite of Tosang Gongma by 7 p.m where we camped beside this group of Italians and Ladakhis.
The next day on 7th Aug we started along with this group at 8:30 a.m. There was a retired ladakhi Colonel in this group, who was trekking along with his son. He was passing on the legacy and showing the beauty of the Ladakhi landscape to his son through this trek. The colonel kept me entertained with some very interesting stories, experiences till noon whilst I walked along with him. Today was going to be a long day and since we had not eaten a very heavy breakfast we were feeling tired. Overall there had been slight undulations in the terrain today but there were no major ascents/descents. The trail continued to wind its way along the banks of the Pare Chu river. The lack of packed lunch (unlike the accompanying group) did take a toll on our body. However, we still managed to soldier on and reached the Racho Lamo campsite by 4:30-5 p.m. I would leave the photographs to convey the beauty of mesmerizing landscape as opposed to the words.
Leaving early morning the next day we marched ahead. After about 3 hours of walking at around 11:00 a.m we had to cross the Pare Chu river and into the Ladakh area (first time leaving Himachal and entering J&K). The Pare Chu continues onto Tibet and then re-enters India feeding into Tso Moriri. Crossing the Pare Chu river is not easy. For a couple of steps we had to battle strong currents in thigh high water. The rest was pretty crossable. Once we got across the Pare Chu we stopped to rest our icy cold feet and change our wet socks before marching on. In about an hours time we were at the campsite of Chumik Sale. This is where the other group were going to rest. Beyond Chumik Sale the terrain is flat as a pancake and strewn with rocks/pebbles and flanked by mountains on both sides. One can see the silver lining of Tso Moriri in the distance. This is almost like a mirage for it takes a good 3-3.5 hours of walking before you are actually close to Tso Moriri. Every 10 mins the silver lining of the lake seems to increase in width and you can see a bit more of the lake and one thinks the lake is very near - but alas that is not to be. This one is really deceptive in terms of distance. Around 4:30 p.m, when we were still about 15-30 mins from the shores of the lake we stopped to rejuvenate ourselves with some coffee/maggi. This place is a lovely campsite called KiangDom. As per the name one can see Kiangs or wild-asses in this area. These are a rare species of animals endemic to this area. After our coffee we marched on alongside the banks of the Tso Moriri, for an hour and a half, spellbound and captivated by its beauty till we reached Sanchanlung, where we camped. Tso Moriri is the most beautiful lake I have seen thus far. I would say it is even more beautiful than Pangong (or Gokyo).
On 9th Aug we continued our walk along the Tso Moriri for another 3 hours till we reached the village of Korzok around 1 p.m.
Overall we managed the journey from Kibber to Korzok in 4.5 days (and could have possibly done it in 4 days). But for those reading this blog and planning please note that the normal itinerary, which most trekking companies would give, would be for 7 days. Even when you are planning please plan for 7 days for this trek.
Also it is much easier to do this trek from Korzok to Kibber as there are no major ascents, except just before the pass. Even this ascent to the pass is much lesser from Korzok side as opposed to from Kibber side.
Return journey from Korzok to Bangalore
Unless you have pre-booked a cab from Leh finding a vehicle (to take you to leh) at Korzok is very difficult and if you find one be prepared to shell a thousand (or few thousands). The buses from Leh to Korzok comes every 10 days (10th / 20th / 30th of the month) and reaches Korzok in the evening. The same bus leaves the following morning to Leh (on 11, 21st, 31st of the month). Due to some confusion (miscommunication) we missed hitching a ride in the truck leaving from Korzok on the 10th morning. We deliberated on whether we should continue our trek to Tso kar / Rumtse but then thought we would be better off just walking the road. We started walking at 10:00 a.m on the road. After about 30-45 mins of walking a dumper truck carrying grills of iron (the ones used to prevent landslide on the road) gave us a lift. We sat on the iron grills on the bumpy iron road. The truck dropped us off at the end of Tso Moriri lake as he was headed to Chumar (the last village on the other side of the tso moriri lake bordering tibet). Though battered, we resumed our walk. We would have walked about 10 mins when we saw a few dumper trucks. We tried to thumb a ride but a few passed us before 1 noble soul stopped and let us hop in. We requested him to drop us to Sumdo but since he did not where Sumdo village was he took us all the way to Mahe bridge. Now if we wanted to get to Tso Kar by road we had to get back to Sumdo, which was 12 kms away. WE tried hitching a ride in a truck in the opposite direction but the trucks went only a km or 2. So, we hitched a ride and came back to Mahe bridge and decided to go to Upshi (en route to Leh). The TCP officer helped us in getting a ride on the back of a government pick-up vehicle all the way to Upshi, via the captivating Chumthang region. One of the most enjoyable and scenic mountain rides (in a natural AC environment on the rear of a pick-up truck) I have ever been on.
The next morning (4:00 a.m) we hitched a ride on 2 trucks going back towards Manali. This was faster & cheaper than the bus and far more comfortable. It was faster because the truck drivers dont stop at Keylong for an overnight halt like the bus drivers. We crossed Rohtang that night after 8 p.m. There was a traffic jam as "a Nano car" got stuck in the mud/slush on the Rohtang pass, the GREF vehicles (Earthmovers) came in the opposite direction and inched its way through the mud/slush, and a "drunk/obstinate" truck driver came and stopped head-on in front off the truck and refused to budge/back-up for over half an hour in the middle of the night (and we could not back out as there were 4 trucks behind us). Overcoming all these obstacles we reached Manali around 1 pm in the night and as it was raining we decided to sleep in the truck, instead of hunting for the hotel. The next morning after bathing in a hot spring and breakfast, we resumed our truck journey to be dropped at Bhuntar. A bus journey from Bhuntar to Mandi was followed by bus journey to Chandigarh. We were delayed an hour on the bus journey to chandigarh as a truck had toppled over and blocked the road after bilaspur. On 12the evening I boarded the HRTC bus to Delhi from Chandigarh, but about an hour into the journey both the rear tires on the left were flat. I then flagged down a truck (yet again) and was on my way to delhi. Around midnight the truck driver, decided to stop, have dinner (which I shared with him on his truck), and decided to go off to sleep leaving me stranded in the middle of nowhere. Anyway I decided to walk on the highway (with my heavy rucksack) after half an hour flagged down another HRTC bus, which dropped me off at Delhi, thankfully with any incidents at 3:00 a.m well in time to catch the 6:30 a.m Sampark Kranti express to Bangalore.