Yes, its about the Sarpass trek. The planning for this trip started almost a year back, when Mani sent me the YHAI site link and kept asking me to look and plan for some trek. He had always been insisting on Sarpass trek (he had known this from fellow trekkers during one of his earlier treks). Then we forgot to look at the site for few days and one fine day we could see that there was no seats left out. We consoled ourselves saying we could definitely make it the next year. Somedays later Mani found that they have extended it for few more batches and wanted to register immediately. I was little reluctant since it was a 10 days trek, but finally agreed and booked our seats in the last batch of this year on June 10. Then we booked our flight tickets to Delhi on June 9 and bus ticket to Kullu. Luckily, Veera moved to Delhi just 20 days ahead of our journey. I had already informed him about our visit and arranged for our stay in Delhi. Then Spicejet changed their schedules for both onward and return flights and now that our stay was arranged we decided to reach Delhi early in the morning. The day before our flight, I had to finish some office work and take a direct cab to Mani’s house. The next day we got a cab and reached airport by 5, uploaded a selfie “himalayan trip begins” and boarded the flight.
We landed in Delhi around 9, took a prepaid taxi to Jasola and reached Veera’s place. We enquired about auto fare for tour around Delhi. Then Veera suggested to use metro service and rickshaw service alternatively to commute between different places. Then he showed us the place for breakfast and left for his office. Before leaving he turned towards Mani and added “Veiyyil le nadakkavachu saavadikka poraan unna, paathukko”. We took a cycle rickshaw to nearest metro and boarded the metro towards Kalkaji Mandir station. This was my first time in rickshaw and also in the metro. I started liking everything about Delhi metro, its very frequent, neat, and is the cheapest mode of transport within Delhi. Our first destination was Qutub minar. Here, I thought it should take a very little time to cover this monument, but it took sometime, since it was not a very small place as I had assumed, perhaps Mani was right, it took more than an hour. Here I did not have my memory card and I could not pull my micro SD from my phone, since I could not get a safety pin. Took some good photos there with my mobile and Mani’s. By the time we started from there it was about lunch time already and as Veera had instructed us we liked to visit the famous Karim’s Kabab near Jama Masjid. We had a nice lunch there, but felt it was slightly costlier and then purchased lunch boxes, water can, slippers for the trek, and micro SD in the shops in that street and left to Jama Masjid. This was seriously good and it gave a special feeling of the ancient Mughal colours and art. Now that I had bought the SD card, it was a feast for my cam. I could also get one of my favourite shots (of pigeons flying in the background of the monument.) It was already 5.30 there and we had to give up on Redfort plan. We started towards Delhi gate, clicked some pics there, got a coolers for 130 rupees and left to Jasola. it was 7:30pm, still it appeared as if some 6’o clock. Then we booked a cab to Kashmiri gate and luckily we got a Tamil driver and we reached 20 mins before the start time(9:30pm), we took some bread and biscuits and boarded the bus, only later we realised that it was unnecessary. We poor guys had assumed that we will reach Kullu by 7 in the morning. When I woke up it was around 8 and we could see boards like 150+ kms to Kullu, and worse, they were stopping for breakfast. We were like “dey madhyaanathukkullayaavathu kondu poi saethungada”. To make things worse, bus engine got over-heated because of changing non-AC to AC bus. Then a mechanic from near by shop came in an auto and they got it ready temporarily and after some 30-40 kms the bus broke down again and then we took another local bus and we reached Buntar at around 3 after travelling through a tunnel on the way. In the bus we were looking for people joining the trek and were able to find one guy, Rahul from Kerala and we got introduced to each other. After taking lunch there, we left to Kasol base camp. As we reached, it started drizzling and we were welcomed with tea and were asked to fill the forms only after taking tea. We were alloted to tent no.14. From then on, our tent ppl were a group in the whole group, me,Mani,Clinton, Sanjoy sir, Rahul, Chaitanya, Ketul,other 2 Rahuls, and three musketeers (Kshitiz, Shrey and Raghav) . Sanjoy and Clinton were the most talkative of the group in that order, Mani was the only non-hindi-understanding-guy of the entire SP41 batch, Clinton was the most adventurous/mischievous , 3 musketeers were first yr college guys often referred as kids by Chaitanya. Chaitanya, Ketul, Rahul, me, Mani were of same age and were in same wavelength.
The second day started with jogging followed by exercises and then acclimatization walk for 3 km. Then we got introduced to each other in the group.
The 3rd day started with jogging followed by exercises and then rock climbing and rapelling. Rock climbing was optional and initially I did not want to try, but after seeing few people do it and few people fail, but still not hurt much, I wanted to try and banked on my upper body strength to reach the top and I was able to climb it, I could feel I was well supported by the guide pulling the rope up once I put 80% effort on my hands. After reaching the top I was breathing heavily and had to wait for some 5 mins before I could get down, still my heart was beating heavily.
Day 4 was easy trek to Grahan village, It was very slow trek, with more stoppages than actual trek, it drizzled slightly after lunch , but we managed to reach the camp at around 3- 3:30. A group of 5 dogs also accompanied us from the kasol base camp through the trek. Of all these one black dog came all the way, till the end of the trek. It was named ‘Sheru’ by our group. I am actually scared of dogs and never liked the idea of growing dogs as pets, but on the final day of the trek I infact ended up taking photo with that dog. It was so faithful and was guarding all of us through out the trek. Then we went to the village and took some good candid shots of the people and played cricket with children there. All these days we had good cell phone signals but we had no signal from here on.
Day 5. This was sunday. We had thought we could not bath from day4, but since this was a village we found a guest house and had bath and also there was a BSNL phone in that house which we had to carry to a ledge nearby where we would get signal and we could call our home. When I tried this, I could not get connected, but then there was a village lady who offered to make a call from her phone and we were glad to inform our house members that we were on track to trek and we were good. Though we insisted, the lady refused to take money from us for the call. We tried to convince her saying it could be useful for her recharge atleast, but she did not budge and she said “why are you doing this, I am like your sister”. One girl rightly said “Hum suna hai ki pahado ki log achchi hothi hai , abhi hum dekha hai”. we started our trek towards Padree. Here again it started drizzling after lunch, in fact it started pouring and we had to wear our rain coats and ponchos and luckily it rained just after lunch and so we all stood under the tent at the lunch-point . After the rain stopped we were able to reach our camp within an hour. This campsite was very beautiful and here it was really cold and it was from here on I started to wear those monkey caps. The campsite was beautiful, but just opposite to our camp lay a dead cow. We heard one of the guides saying, it was gang-raped by 5-6 bulls and we could see a bull was still trying to enter the dead cow through the evening till the next day. It was here the dog accompanied Mani to wherever he went and barked away the bulls and cows that were grazing on and around his way and accompanied him back to the tent and he took a vow to feed the dog with full packet of Parle-G
Day 6, this was a real trek. We had to climb down for few meters and then had to gain an altitude of 600 meters and this day we were supposed to cross the 3000 m mark where the oxygen levels were supposed to reduce to 9/10th or something. This was challenging. It had drizzled the previous day and it was all slippery and we had to climb down carefully to avoid getting drenched in muddy soil. Then we reached the lunch point at Ratanpani, this place was like western ghats , all green flat top. It was drizzling slightly here. We had a good photo session here. It was here we shot that smoking-clouds shot and I decided right there it would be my profile pic and got the caption ready already. It was with Chaitanya’s cam and finally I had to wait 2 more weeks to get it from him :P . After that we had to climb another hour to reach Mingtach, our campsite. From here we could see the next campsite, Nagaroo.
Day 7, this was supposed to be and was an acclimatization walk since we had crossed 3000m. It was slow with many stoppages and rightly so. Luckily it did not rain after day 7 and there was no trace of rain or rain clouds and we thanked God for that. We could see mountain lambs here and we had out first sight of snow this day, but Mani was saying its dirty snow and guides were saying don’t touch this snow, you will walk in snow all through next day till you are tired of snow. This was a short day of trek and was quite understandable since the next day, we were supposed to start early around 3 and it was going to be a long walk in snow before we slide and then trek down :). The camp leader here was strict and he maintained timings very strictly. we were on the top and enjoying the sun, and there was great difference in temperature between when sun went into the clouds and when it was out. We took a variety of pics and then we hit the bed early to get ready for the big day
Day 8, this was the longest day of the trek. We started early in the morning around 4:30, light was just showing up and we started towards the snow. I had very little breakfast and little water and also forgot to re-fill my water can. This was the first time I am gonna see snow. I was excited and after 1km of ascent, it was fully bright and white everywhere, “engum panimazhai pozhigiradhu..” , finally we all saw snow. We spent more than an hour taking photos, walking around the snow etc, then we took tea there for 40 rupees and then we had to climb up through the snow. This was a slow-long-slippery walk. After this we had to take an ascent of 1/2 km and reached the other peak, the highest point in Sar pass about 4200m. By the time we reached here I was de-hydrated and also my eyes were tired because of bright reflections from the snow everywhere. We had reached the main spot of the sar-pass trek, the snow slide. Though I was excited I was feeling so involved because of being tired and de-hydrated. Also I started to feel head-ache. This time I wanted Mani to go before me and we were just before the last few to slide. I was listening to the instructions well even as they were said to Mani. “Hold the stick in both hands, use elbow to break and lean on your back to accelerate”. This was my first slide and initially had butterflies in my stomach, but as soon as I started, I was in control and slided like a pro. In fact I helped some one who slided right next after me to come down with control, as I took the responsibility of braking for both of us. After the slide was another gentle slope of snow. I again slided and we all completely lost fear of skating in snow. Right after the slide, I started to feel better and all dehydration and tiredness are gone. These 2 slides and a bit of walk was around 1km and we reached our lunch point. I was almost the first to reach along with the guide as I skated though the snow and had a good technique of climbing down along with the stick. The sun was up, so I put all my clothes to dry, washed my head from the stream near by(from the melting of snow) and finished morning duties and drank as much water as possible and had a nap before everyone arrived, and I was feeling better. Then we set off to Biskeri-tatch. It was a 2km descent and I climbed down very fast and got a good place in the tent. The camp leader congratulated on finishing sarpass trek and gave a warm welcome. Once we had seen the snow and descended, I was already feeling home sick, now that Sarpass is over I wanted to get back to the civilization as soon as possible. Me and Chaitanya thought about reaching the Kasol base camp the next day skipping Biskeri-tatch. Then after giving it an other thought, we felt anyway that night we may need to be in Kasol and only leave to Kullu the next day. So we continued with actual trek plan.
Day9, The next day was fully descent to Biskeri-tatch, and I was walking along with the guide and was accompanying him. Then there was a steep climb down. He asked the 2 of us who were walking right behind him to climb down , cross the bridge and climb on the other side. He was actually going to get a rope down to help climb down. We 2 did not see that coming and we already started to climb down. I was the first of the 2 and went close to the steep rock and was looking for the grips. The black dog that was accompanying us, went ahead and showed me the path. Half way through that path was muddy and seemed slippery, so I stopped half the way to look for alternate route, the dog again climbed up and went through the route. Then I somehow managed to get down though I slipped some few inches close to the ground as my bag hit the rock behind while getting down. I managed to get down only with some scratch on my left glute muscle. Then we climbed up after crossing the wooden bridge over the stream. This was an unofficial lunch point after this was like a walk in the park and we reached our campsite around 2:30. This place was really awesome and was of course like mini-switzerland (mind you I “also” have’nt seen swtizerland). we could see some herd of buffaloes all around the place and I was telling Mani “dey Switzerland le pooraa eruma maadu maeikira pasanga thaan pola”. Then we played tennis ball cricket here, with all guides on one side and SP41 on the other. I played for the guides side, I got only 3 balls to face and could not immediately adjust to the pitch and I had to retire, yet we lost. The second game was a draw as we lost the ball.
The next day was a climb down and we were supposed to reach Kasol base camp atleast by 3, so that we can get bus to Kullu and leave to Delhi. This was a climb down and as usual I was on my pace down. Initially I waited for people now and then after few steps. Then Saurabh gave me company and we two reached Barshaini road in 21/2 hours since start. that was close to about 9:45. The group that started before breakfast also was there, seems they had missed the bus while they were having breakfast. Then I waited for Mani, Sanjoy and Rahul and had to miss a bus just by 10 mins. Then the next bus was supposed to come only at 12:30 or so. So we took a cab which charged 700 for 4. We tried to bargain but they would not budge. Finally we reached Kasol by 1 or so, packed our things ,took bath and me, Chaitanya and Rahul decided that we are done with rice and wheat and we should have pure chicken for lunch. Mani alone had lunch in the camp, he was satisfied with moarkolambu in the camp. Then we took our bags, and had pure chicken lunch at little italy restaurant. Few of the guys had beer as well. Then we got bus to Kullu at 3:45, just beneath the hotel and we reached there around 6.30. Our bus to Delhi was at 7. We got some water bottles and boarded the bus.
The next day we reached Veera’s place around 11 and he was happy to skip his team outing, it seemed like he was searching for a reason to skip and we were there to help him out. Initially I had plans to visit Agra, but all the AC buses were full and Veera advised me not to go in non-AC bus that long, especially after a long trek. He seemed right and also it would take a day to travel to and fro and visit Taj Mahal. Also there were few places yet to be covered in Delhi. So we deiced that me and Veera will roam around in Delhi that day and Mani was happy to stay in Ac room and take rest to avoid further damage to his knee. We visited Humayun’s tomb and Redfort . And then we visited Paalika bazaar and bought a speaker for my bro, a sony headset for myself and a sony mp3 player for my sister. We roamed around in metro all the day and had good food at a Tamil kaiyendhi and reached home and slept.
The next day was sunday. Both were asleep . I got ready by 9 and left for church. I had googled and found a church the day before. It was drizzling when I reached Jasola Apollo metro in rickshaw. Then I reached Green park metro and asked for GautamNagar IPA church. Two of them asked me to get into their vehicle. I picked one, but later found that he did not know the church. Then he finally dropped me near Green park free church at 9.45. By the time I reached the first service was over and second service was supposed to start at 10. I took coffee and then went into the hall and found a big Keyboard(7 octaves) and positioned myself on the first row near the keyboard end such that I can get view of how they play in that church. I was praying and getting myself for God’s presence. I heard the sound of keyboard and opened my eyes to see what’s being played. There was beautiful girl playing the keys with notes beautifully. She was good-looking as well as talented. There was only one instrument , the keyboard and all the songs were played with organ tone, and she was playing complete notes for all songs reading from the music note book. Then after the service, I again took coffee and left to Veera’s place. Then we downloaded Game of thrones season 5 last episode, watched it and then me and Mani left to airport at around 4pm in metro. Metro to airport was slightly different and it was express metro( I forgot the actual name I guess). Met Nalini and her child at airport, had dinner at KFC and boarded flight at 9:15 ( it was late by half an hour) and reached Chennai at 12. Reached Mani’s place and slept at 1. Then reached office the next day at 10 and started posting pictures. I was completely tanned because of the sunbath at the peak and it took almost 2 weeks to return to normal ;)