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Old 28th March 2015, 19:26   #1
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Default Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Part 1 - The journey begins

This is a travelogue of the Sar Pass trek that I did in 2011. It was my first Himalayan trek and since then, I have fallen in love with the Himalayas. Looking back now, I regret starting so late.

Disclaimer: This is not an instruction on how to do a Sar Pass trek. This is more about the experience of doing it. Each group and each member of each group has their own memories. These are mine.

Flashback: I guess it was a year and a half back(from the day of this trek) when Orkut was still used in India(lol), one day when I logged in to my account, the updates showed photos uploaded by a friend. They seemed pretty interesting and before I knew it I was seeing each of them. They looked simply superb. The name of the album was Sarpass. That was when I first learnt of this word(I did not know what it was then).
A quick talk with my friend told me all about it and I was excited. In the next 15 minutes I made a decision that I will go there soon. Did the bookings for that year but due to some reason could not go(Viral conjunctivitis and change of job being the prominent ones). I was disappointed.

Then came December and I learnt of Dalhousie trek. Due to some other reasons, I had to cancel going there too. *Boohoo*
End of flashback

Delhi:
So here I was uncertain whether I will finally be able to go for the famed Sar Pass trek this year. Had a lot of issues(with which I am not going to bore you) and when my flight took off for Delhi only then did I feel that "Yes I am finally going to do this".

Now enters the 1st character in this tale – N1… needless to say I’m the protagonist. What did you expect, this is my travelogue after all :P. N1 had just finished her exams a couple of days back and I was supposed to meet her in Delhi from where we had a bus booked for Bhunter. As I was waiting to board the flight, N1 called me and asked “Is your flight delayed? The weather here is really bad”. I checked the schedule. So far my flight was in time and I hoped it didn’t get delayed for obvious reasons. Everything was going as planned so far until I was 100 nautical miles from Delhi. Due to bad weather, a landing terminal was not available. And we circled for an hour in the air. Anyways, we landed in Delhi with a delay and finally met N who had come to receive me with her friend M. We then boarded the Delhi metro and went to her hostel, chit chatted, ate maggi (the 1st of this trip though I didn't know it then) and finally went to Cougnaught place to catch our bus. After a lot of searching, found it and saw that our fellow travelers were mostly honeymoon couples!!!

N1 had trouble sleeping throughout the journey. I initially could not either due to the super crap movie being played. It was such a crappy movie that I think its IMDB rating would be -1. LuckilyI don’t remember the movie name so I cant verify this fact. But I did sleep through and the bus drivers to Kullu drive the bus too rashly that at times I was scared that this is the end. It wasn’t though and I absolutely loved the drive. I also remember the super cool long tunnel through which we went in the morning( I woke up the finally asleep N1 to show her the tunnel)

There was a slight rain in the morning and as we neared Bhunter, I caught glimpse of my 1st Snow-peaked mountain.

Kasol(Day 1):
YHAI Sar Pass trek starts at a beautiful picturesque town of Kasol. To reach Kasol, we have to get down at Bhunter and take a bus/SUV to reasch Kasol.
After reaching Bhunter, we got into a white coloured Jeep type vehicle in which was one of our fellow batchmates – V1. We behaved like total strangers throughout the journey but got talking after reaching the base camp. The scenic beauty throughout was mesmerizing. Most of the times, next to us was the roaring Parvati river. Finally reaching the base camp, we saw it was located at a beautiful location(You are gonna hear this a lot now on), completed the formalities and went to our tents. We were dirty from the ride and it was bright and sunny but we were told we cant take a bath that day as we had come up 6000 feet in a day and our body is not acclimatized to it . Little did we know that this is just the trailer. Picture abhi baki hai mere dost!!

This is where the base camp is located in Kasol
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The road next to the base camp:
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The beautiful village of Kasol:
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YHAI base camp top view:
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Kasol:
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Last edited by SwatiS : 29th March 2015 at 09:22. Reason: Adding more images
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Old 29th March 2015, 09:46   #2
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Default re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Part 2 - Kasol

Kasol(Day 1) - Contd:

N1 and I were among the first girls to arrive at the base camp. All the girls were assigned to tent 11. We were soon joined by next character in this trekking tale: A1. N1 and I had planned to go river rafting or para-gliding that day as the first day consists only of reporting. But since river rafting involved dipping in water and as we were prohibited from doing that that day, it had to be cancelled. Since we had crossed breakfast time, we had some weird parathas in a small inn next door and A1 set off to Manikaren. N1 and I were still deciding what to do and finally set off to Manikaren too. We went in a govt tourist bus and the conductor didn’t take any money from us. One thing I regret is missing out sitting on the roof of the buses. Hopefully will do that on the future. The roads of Kasol are very narrow as it is at a height of 6500 feet in Himalayas. Most of the times only one HTV can pass through it. The people driving through there do a superb job with a untold mutual understanding of stopping and letting others pass. Only once did I see a traffic blockage there but more on that later. Anyways, we reached Manikaren and saw the Gurudwara. It was pretty crowded. We clicked some pictures of the surroundings, of each other and a dog.

Kasol has many Israelis visiting and many of the boards here are in Hebrew:
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A bookshop in Kasol:
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Menu in one of the cafes
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As we waited to board a bus to return back, it started raining. I don’t remember how heavy it was but we saw on reaching the base camp that the snow on the Pin Parvati mountain peak(We learnt its name the next day) had considerably increased in the evening. We could see some snow capped mountain from our Base camp. In the bus we met A1 and we got down at Kasol market where we went to a bookstall ‘coz the shop name was in Hebrew. Kasol has a lot of Hebrew written all over for the loads of Israelis who come there. I think after we reached base camp it rained heavily and in the evening, we saw the increased snow on the Pin Parvati mountain top. The temperature dropped and I wore a sweater after years( I hate sweaters). That evening we participated in the electronic camp fire of the SP 21 batch by chanting “Fire fire camp fire”(We were the SP22 batch). This was the only thing that was a bit lame. After having hot cups of bournvita, we went to bed. We had earlier collected rugs, inner sheet and a rucksack.As we tried to sleep on the bumpy ground covered in socks and gloves, we were joined at night by some more tent mates from Mumbai. BTW they follow army like timing and the bulb in the tent goes off at 10. So you can imagine what a mess it was for everyone to settle sown in torch lights. The other members of the girls’ tent was a [Bengali] aunty (I still don’t know her name ) who always occupied the corner and 3 [Gujarati] Bhabhis(I don't know their names. They had come together with their husbands and called each other Bhabhi, so N1, A1 and I started referring to them as Bhabhis as well).

Kasol - Day 2:

Woke up early, maybe 5.30 with sounds of a trumpet blowing(No pun, seriously they blow one to wake people in the camp, lol). We ran (mostly walked) half a kilometer to the exercise ground. Here we did some exercises with the SP 21 group. Among the guys who taught exercises was L1 Sir whom we saw directing the blocked traffic once. We learnt that he was in the traffic police there. After that we had breakfast and we bid farewell to the SP 20 batch. I took the video of the group leaving for a uncle, who had asked me to do so. He had spoken to me at the mobile charging point. The charging point was where people told stories and rumours they had heard about the trek. I heard of a story where 1 guy of SP14 batch fell in Nagaru(a camp that would come in later) after reaching the top due to his stupidity and they wasted 6 hours searching him in the snow. The returning batches gave tips too.

Base camp with Pin Parvati mountain range in background
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So back to what we did. We went for the acclimatization walk in a single file with the girls leading the way. Two dogs accompanied us of which one (whom we later named Pintya- charater 4) was to accompany us throughout the trek. The dogs knew the way and guided the ones at a loss for direction.
For the acclimatization walk, we had to put 2 rugs and 1 bottle water in the rucksack and carry it with us. In the beginning when I had seen the schedule, I wondered why did the trekking start on day 4, why were we wasting 3 days? But now I am wiser and realize how important acclimatization is

The acclimatization walk:
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Enter two more characters who introduced themselves as S1 and S2.(They were later renamed Pradeep(S1) and Chatur(S2) LOL, don’t ask me why). In the end, we all had nicknames! After we reached the resting point, A1 took a nice nap on a stone while N1 and I went to the river. Now when I remember it, it makes me laugh. En route we got confused with the way as we saw some mules grazing. So we turned back, and we were joined by some other people from our batch. Taking a long route, we reached the river. While coming back, took the shorter route where the mules were and by then one of the Sirs came to see where we were lost. Hehehe.

We started back towards the base camp. Reaching back to base camp, we had lunch (The food there was so much more delicious than what we get in our cafeteria in office). The water there was ice cold and taking a shower felt like the water was taken out of the freezer. It leaves you numb! Later that day, we had the orientation where the Field director told us all we needed to know. He said we would not be taking a bath now from the time we went to higher camp to the time we came back to Kasol i.e., 6 days . Our jaws dropped to the ground and due to the non-concrete ground went an inch or so deep in the earth! He also told some interesting tales of Malana and the history of Manikaren and about Pin Parvati mountain, its 2 peaks being Paap and Punya. The story was that Punya peak was higher, but these days, the Paap peak is growing higher as the paap in the world is increasing. The story of Malana(which was near by) was that its inhabitants are supposed to be the descendants of the army of Alexander the great. They consider themselves to be superior to us and they have a law onto themselves. They have their own democracy and they do not come in the Indian constitution. No one is supposed to touch them. I liked the story and thought that maybe some day I will visit the place
OT: In another trip to Manali, I asked our taxi guy about Malana and he told me that there is a legend that if anyone says they want to go there, the God of Malana will wait for that person for 7 years.

Back to topic:
We all introduced ourselves and I remembered very few names in the end(we were 54). But atleast now the faces of our batchmates were known. We had 2 guys with name K1 in our batch. Funny thing I remember about that was at the end N1 said to me “Both K1’s look so similar” and I said “Which 2 K1s? There is only 1 K1”. I did not know then what a superb photographer he is nor did I have any idea how difficult it would be to get photos from him later.
(Note: Not all photos posted here are clicked by me. Some are clicked by amateur photographers - K1 and S3(To be introduced later).

At tea time, K2(who would be renamed Culprit) who was earlier chosen as the cultural leader along with A2 came along asking if we knew to sing. I told N1 was a good singer and these guys asked me to sing as well. I told them if I sing, people are gonna jump in the Parvati river next to the base camp, I after all have such superb singing talents.
In the evening, we went out to Kasol village to buy some stuff. I had no idea then how much I was gonna love that place. It’s a beautiful village. We met some more batch mates then and after dinner it was our turn to perform the cultural event(fire fire camp fire). Along with N1’s solo, we sang a group song in which I did lip sync. K1 began the event with a nice classical song and Chatur told some PJs one of which was on the field director.

During the acclimatization walk:
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Pintya taking rest:
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Kasol (Day 3):
After the exercise with SP23 batch, we had rock climbing session in the morning. I was terrible at it but it gave us time to know our batch mates better who were now our friends. By now we knew S3 who would later become Sherpa, N2 who we later saw was as good as a mountain goat while climbing, N3 who became Ghajini, J1, R1 uncle, P1, M1, S4, Y1, the Mumbai gang, the group from Gujarat etc. Now we had lunch in groups with the new friends we made and one of us kept watch whenever we got hold of a charging point at the base camp. No charging point in higher camps. In the afternoon, we had Rappelling which I loved. Evening again was spent in Kasol buying poncho and stuff after we handed extra luggage. I struggled to reduce my rucksack weight (I had taken too much stuff).
After dinner was camp fire organized by SP 23 batch.

We went to bed that night thinking that tomorrow we are leaving for higher camp.

Last edited by GTO : 30th March 2015 at 10:17. Reason: Removing extra smilie
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Old 29th March 2015, 13:16   #3
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Default re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Part 3 - Grahan, here we come

Next Destination: Grahan, the first higher camp.

Day 4:
Our rucksack consisted of just a pair of extra clothes (I was shocked when I was told that that was all the extra clothes one needs to carry for 6 days. I had packed some 6-7 pairs of clothes for the 11 day trek), the inner sheet to be put in sleeping bags which we would get in each of the camp sites, poncho, loads of sweaters and woolens, water bottle, torch, lunch box, deo, sanitizer, face wash etc.The field director called this a Five star trek as all we have to carry are our rucksacks. We need not carry tents, sleeping bags, utensils etc.The experienced trekkers called it a trek of level way above medium and a little below difficult. At that time. I had taken their word for it, but now I am not so sure.

So here we were all set to go to the higher camp. The 1st destination being Grahan which is at a height of 7700 feet. The Field director had told us a fun fact of Grahan (which means eclipse) that the residents of Grahan have never seen an eclipse (grahan). With hopes in our eyes, we set off in a single file while SP23 and SP24 batches cheered us. There was no guide available and all we had to do was follow the single path on reaching the outskirts of Kasol village. It passed through the rock climbing and rappelling venue. If there were any forks in the path, YHAI had made sure to mark the right path with a red arrow and in many cases a YHAI was also painted. We set about getting to know our new friends and chit chatting with them. YHAI always assigned some strong trekker of the group to come at last. The idea was that the weaker ones would not be left behind. Sometimes it was the other K1 who had earlier done the Sarpass trek, other times it was S3 or S4 or M1.

We had a view of the Parvati river many times. The taste of the water of the river is simply delicious. All those people who claim that water is something that is tasteless ought to have a sip of this water!
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A small wooden bridge that we had to cross
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As this was a first big major trek for N1 and me, we were initially at the start of the group along with A1. We were soon joined by Culprit, P1, Chatur, S1 and others while S3 who had skills of a Sherpa in trekking joined us and leisurely walked at our pace, helping us in the difficult parts and did some super cool photography in the meantime. I had just one rechargeable battery for my camera (Don't make this mistake, carry some extra batteries.The cold drains the batteries super fast.) The earlier returned trekkers of the earlier batches had given us advice at the recharge-chit-chat joint in the base camp to wrap the batteries in a woolen sock and to put it in the sleeping bag at night. Since S3 was doing such a superb job at photography, I decided to use my camera on the day we threaded Sar Pass(I had not experienced snow before) and put my camera away and wrapped the battery in a NEW sock. We had had a early breakfast at 6.30 that day and had set off with a packed lunch of parathas and aloo or chana gravy.

We saw these peacefully sitting on the way(I kept thinking these are peaceful but I would be proved wrong in a couple of days)
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We stopped for lunch before the lunch point and even though I was not hungry I had half my lunch. We had been warned that we may not feel hungry due to the climatic changes but had to eat nonetheless(Listen to the advice of the field director). We set off again and at times were struck by rain. The rain lasted just 5 minutes or so that day and after a break would come again. This involved wearing and taking off the ponchos. Never wear a raincoat while trekking because it is suffocating. When we reached the lunch point, some people had maggi and I had a tea. Its amazing that the people who served maggi and tea came there and stayed there in those conditions. As someone said that day, paying 40 rupees for a maggi was truely worth it for the conditions in which it was served. We would be meeting these people every day now. After the short break we set off again and finally came to the beautiful village of Grahan. I remember there was a Krishna temple there with intricately carved wooden work.

Grahan village - told you it is beautiful, didn't I?
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As we passed through the village, we met many some locals. Our camp site was on the other end of the village. They were nice, friendly people who gave us directions. I was surprised to see a Tata sky dish here and there. As we moved through the narrow way we met a lady whom we asked how far it was. She said 10 minutes and I asked her "Aapke liye ya hamare liye?" She gave me a very sweet smile and said "Bas 10 minute". After that whenever we met the locals and asked how far it was, I always asked whether it was with respect to them or us, after all the distance we covered in 5 minutes they covered in a minute or 2. As we passed through the village, I realized that this was the only way to reach it(on foot). There were no roads for transportation by vehicles. I wondered why do people live here and almost instantly I realized the reason- they are happy here free from the hustle of the city. And they get snowfall in winter(Last year the snowfall there was 4 feet which I learnt next day). I have always wished since I was a kid that it would snow in my hometown. Alas that wont happen ever!

At last, after crossing Grahan we could see out camp site with the tents waiting for us
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Finally after climbing down, crossing the river and climbing up we reached the campsite! Phew!!! I think it rained again heavily. After the rains stopped, we came out to see the beautiful(told you, you would be hearing this word a lot) climate. It was soooooo good, so refreshing, so fresh, so nice and again so beautiful. This was the last campsite where we had concrete toilets. If you ask me what did we do for nature's calls from next day on, the answer is nature's calls have to be answered in nature :P.

I remember having tea and some snacks on arriving there and soon by 7.30 or so it was dinner time. V1 and some others had gone to the village after tea to recharge their mobiles and camera batteries for a charge (I missed out coz I reached late) and he told us later that the people are really nice. At dinner time we sat on a rock and had food in torch light. Now I got to know N2 and K1 better. Both of them were from Bangalore too and infact N2 worked in the same MNC as me.

Our camp site with Grahan village in the background
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We probably had bournvita after that. Throughout the trek we were given a lot of food to eat. I was actually tired of eating. There was 1 small pipe that gave water from the river and we used it for cleaning the dabbas, shivering throughout while using the chilled water. It was time to snuggle in the sleeping bags each of us had got earlier. N1 hated the bags but I liked them as they were comfortable though it restrains movement. By now I had become an expert in securing the tent door flap tightly and it became my job for doing it to the girls' tent. And off we went to sleep thinking about the destination next day - Padri
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Old 29th March 2015, 13:36   #4
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Default re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Part 4 - Padri at 8900 ft

Next Destination : Padri - Ht. 8900 ft. (10 kms)
Day 5:
When I completed writing about Grahan(Ht. 7700 ft., distance 09 kms), I thought the post on Padri would be small, that nothing extraordinary had happened that day. But I had forgotten the most unexpected event that happened that evening. I will come to that when time comes.

By now, we were accustomed to sleeping in the tents and woke up the next day feeling fresh. After doing the default activities of the day, we had tea and handed over the sleeping bags and the rugs, then had breakfast (Forced to eat, c’mon you can’t feel hungry so early but have to eat to have the energy). One of the Bhabhis of our tent was suffering from fever the previous day and as she was unwell, she and her husband decided to go back to Kasol with a guide and withdrew from the trek. So we were reduced from 52 to 50. The two [Sardar] uncles (guess I haven’t mentioned them before) and another guy decided to hire guides to carry their rucksacks for them. We formed the usual lines (rest of us carrying our own rucksacks), counts were taken and we set off again.

The guide(I think his name was Ramlal) was a nice uncle and we chatted with him as we started. The distance to Padri is scheduled to be covered in 5 hours though we always exceed it. I asked the guide how much time would he take and he said climbing up would be 2 hours and coming back down 1 hour. Now the distance to Padri was 10 kms but it involved going downwards a kilometer and a half before we start rising up again. It had rained heavily the previous day and the muddy ground was just too slippery. Walking became pretty slow as the people in front moved over the more slippery places more cautiously. As we waited for the line to move, K1 and N2 called me and asked “Do you want a red bull?”. I knew it was some joke and when I turned, they pointed to a bull that was coming running.

I slipped a lot of times as we went downwards due to the muddy path and was unsure of my footing. Finally S3 came to the rescue and saved me from falling numerous times. By the next day, he got nicknamed as Sherpa. Finally we reached the river below and had a refreshing drink and filled our bottles. The water of Parvati river is delicious. It is so sweet (not the sugary sweet, you know what I mean) and pure and unadulterated. It tastes just awesome. Off we went again following the guide’s path, talking, joking, discussing random things, photographing, taking short breaks, having glucose (Its very important to carry glucose) and at last reached the lunch point.

At lunch point, we could see a distant mountain partially covered in snow. The amazing thing was that half the mountain had snow and from one point downwards the snow melted and flew down as water. There were a few trees struck by lightning. There was 1 tree which was hollowed on 1 side because it was struck by lightning but it was still alive and had his branches green filled with leaves. A1, N1 and I set off again but after covering a distance I realized that I had forgotten my wooden stick(A stick is a life line here). So I told A1 and N1 to carry on and I went back for my stick. After getting the stick, I set off again with S1, V1 and S3. As the campsite was only a little distance away, we hoped to reach it before it started raining again. Alas that didn’t happen but the rain we were caught in was not as much as yesterday when we were trekking and soon reached the campsite. We got into our respective tents and soon heavy rains started pouring.

Do you see the snow and the water?
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The lightening struck trees
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The rains in the mountains are fast and hard and accompanied at that height and above by hailstones. From my tent door flap I saw the rains and the hailstone. When it soon stopped raining, N1 and A1 along with the some other girls chose to remain inside the tent due to the cold(They would come out soon though) and I felt just the opposite. I wanted to be outside as much as possible enjoying the mesmerizing beauty of the mighty Himalayas. If it was beautiful before, after the rains it looked even more beautiful. There were some mules grazing away and the view of the mountains looked majestic. It was larger than life. Any words I use to describe it would do it injustice. The image is still stuck in my mind, so beautiful, so mighty, partially covered in cloud, oh yeah the clouds are at the same level as peak of mountains or below. The simplest comparison I can give is this: I had only seen snow capped mountains in movies before so imagine sitting in a theater and the movie screen multiplied by 100 in height and by 100 in width and imagine the mountains on it. But more real and more beautiful and you are there smelling it, seeing it for real.

Hailstones from my tent
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Padri campsite with the mighty mountains in the background
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The mules grazing
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The incredible bull fight
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I turned and I saw P1 sitting on a rock, writing something in a notebook (Probably a love letter to Pintya :P, that was a different joke), there was S3 clicking some snaps and further were N2, K1 and M1. K1 with his 2 kg tripod was capturing the mountains(I still didn’t know then about his craze and talent for photography then). As we stood there watching and talking, soon we saw a white bull coming in our camp site and a black bull which belonged to the camp site started fighting with it. It caught all our attention. By now N1 and A1 had come out too and we witnessed this awesome bull fight. It was incredible, it went on for a while, watched by us and other bulls some of which were kid bulls. M1 went dangerously close to a rock near where the bulls were fighting, clicking away and K1 was lost in photography too. Meanwhile, P1 who had K1's mobile bet the mobile(without K1’s knowledge) saying that the black bull will win. The camp leader told us that whenever the white bull came, the black bull would drive it away, it was possessive of the camp site. Finally the incredible fight was over and the black bull won. BTW we also saw some skulls of bulls there.

Sunset there is quite late - usually 7.30pm and it becomes bright early morning by 4.30am or so. We had a debate on that whether this was due to altitude or longitude and from there the topic turned to camp fire that day. P1 and I had a bet and it finally turned out that I had to give 50 Parle G wrappers to these guys. Weird I know!

The camp leader had told us not to cross a certain point beyond which were the natives who didn’t like interference and they didn’t want us to step on their stones as they considered the stones to be God. He also pointed out the Nagaru (Camp 4) campsite which was atop the vast mountains we could see to the left. He showed us how to locate it with reference to the lunch point which was prominently visible. With the help of camera lens we could locate it and saw most of the campsite was covered in clouds! We were awestruck to learn that this huge distance, scaling to the top of that mountain would be covered in just 2 days!!

The SP20 batch which was in Nagaru that day flashed green laser lights at us and we responded in same. The camp leader warned us that if anyone wanted to answer any calls at night we should go towards our respective wooded area with a companion to lookout for wild animals and also whistle or sing. After this it was time to get in the sleeping bags. That day I slept at the end of the tent near the door flap. At around 4 in the morning I awoke with a start feeling something against the tent pole. I was scared (what if it was a wild bear, what was I supposed to do? Everyone was zipped in sleeping bags asleep) but later realized it was a mule grazing the grass nearby . Phew!!!

Calvin says, ‘if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life’, these were the days of my life where my knees were literally green and I did not need to re-examine my life one bit .
Soon we would be starting towards Ratapani, the most strenuous climb of the trek.
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Old 30th March 2015, 10:19   #5
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 30th March 2015, 12:57   #6
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Amazingly detailed write-up!

Gives a very clear understanding of the trek. Thanks for taking us along!

My lifetime YHAI membership is rusting since long. I guess need to get going on it soon. Thanks for showing the way.

Glued and waiting eagerly for more.
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Old 30th March 2015, 18:27   #7
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

I enjoyed the narration.

A quick question: did you write a daily log in a diary or do you just have the memory of an elephant? It is quite hard to believe that this is a 2011 trip as you seem to have penned down smaller details too.
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Old 30th March 2015, 18:59   #8
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

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Originally Posted by vinayrathore View Post
Amazingly detailed write-up!

Gives a very clear understanding of the trek. Thanks for taking us along!

My lifetime YHAI membership is rusting since long. I guess need to get going on it soon. Thanks for showing the way.

Glued and waiting eagerly for more.
Thanks Vinay. Use your membership card soon. YHAI trekking is one of the best trekking experiences out there


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Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post
I enjoyed the narration.

A quick question: did you write a daily log in a diary or do you just have the memory of an elephant? It is quite hard to believe that this is a 2011 trip as you seem to have penned down smaller details too.
Thanks S2! I did not maintain a daily log. I would be too tired just reaching the next camp to maintain one. But around 2-3 months after coming back, I had written my blog with the trek experience. I have taken most of the write-up from my own blog, but with some editing.
And to quote Calvin: "I just have a command of thoroughly useless information", so I always remember a lot of small and unimportant stuff that happened ages back!
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Old 30th March 2015, 20:50   #9
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Part 5 - Camping at 10700 ft

Next destination: Ratapani – Ht. 10700 ft.(12 km)
Day6:

Though the YHAI website mentions the trek on this day to be 7km, the information is wrong. The field director at base camp had informed us that it is 12 (or 13 km). So, after the usual morning activities of handing in the sleeping bags and forming a line, we set off to see what that day had to offer. Off we went, knowing that today’s climb was the longest and the most strenuous; hoping to catch some snow (It would be dirty of course, but I got excited all the same; which later got me in trouble. Sigh!!!). The day started as usual - walking, slipping, talking, joking, teasing each other, we went up and down, taking breaks and starting again. We had our usual beauty of the surroundings, pine trees, the roaring Parvati river and glimpses of snow capped mountains. Sometimes, I felt that, after a while all mountains start looking the same but that’s not true. Each view is amazing.

After the long and treacherous walk, we finally reached the lunch point - 2 yellow tents propped up. It had just started to rain by the time we reached there and got into one of the over-crowded tents for cover, none too soon. We got in and it started raining hard, hitting hailstones all the while. Not having had lunch yet, we gulped down hot maggi which those amazing people staying at that point provided. It’s a wonder how they manage to live there in those conditions - because they stayed in a tarpaulin-like tent. It rained our usual hailstones, hard for almost an hour or so. We sat there barely able to move and finally when it stopped raining, we came out. It was cold. We were after all nearing 10000 ft. At a particular position in the other tent, N2 had got a single line of network on his mobile. When N1 told me about it, I went to give a call to my mom and dad. The last mobile signal I had got was at Kasol base camp. Poor N2 was sitting in a particular position and he couldn't move an inch, else he would have lost network. So using his headphones, all of us made the calls while he didn't move a muscle. A hot glass of tea later, all of us set off again towards Ratapani.

En route, we finally found our 1st small patch of snow at a side. It was dirty and those before us had struck their wooden sticks in it as they passed. I couldn’t help but do the same. We had been warned about the birds that fly at this height. And we saw eagles flying at our level or below us. The climb was mostly uphill today and we moved on until we came to a stretch of land. We had to cross this land, climb up on the rocks and climb down to reach the campsite. I am not an animal lover nor do I hate them. But by today, I too had started liking our dog Pintya. She was our guide. As we walked across the stretch of land, another shepherd dog came towards us. The guys already loved Pintya(Weird name for a dog I know) and they petted this new comer too. As soon as I saw him I petted him as well, he was so rich, so beautiful, so handsome, a shining black dog.

To our right about half a km away was a huge triangular patch of snow at the foot of the mountain. This was probably the patch of snow we had seen from Padri camp. I wanted to touch it even though I knew next day we would hit a lot more snow. N1 had developed a cough that day due to the cold and it was irritating her like hell. So she waited with S3 while I ran towards the snow. Near the snow were around 20 sheep grazing the grass. I passed them and reached the snow and trod on it. I touched the snow, and it made me happier to touch it. I took a fistful of snow and threw it up in the air and turned back reluctantly to continue on. When I had reached the snow, I had seen about 10 sheep grazing above in the mountains. I turned back and started walking towards towards N1 and S3. As I was walking, I heard the “meih meih” of sheep. The sounds increased in volume and I turned and saw more sheep coming out of the mountain, from the plain land and all of them started running towards me. I too started running, as more sheep joined in(I don’t know where they were hidden before this) and they were all running towards me. I didn't know what to do, I panicked a bit (what if they all come and surround me and knock me over???) and at the same time I was feeling very funny and so I was laughing as I ran away from them. So there we were, running as if in a 100 meter dash!

Some of my trekking friends; who had started climbing had stopped to see me being chased by sheep (I learnt later that they were cheering me on, though I didn't hear it). N1 and S3 were howling with laughter when I reached them. I was relieved, but I was laughing hard too. By then, a shepherd lady had come and she was taking the sheep back towards the mountains. She did give me dagger looks though! From then on, along with being nicknamed Hit List, I also got named as The Sheep Girl. I was probably the 1st person in history to be chased by a 100 sheep; I was the villain who had disturbed their snow. Amid laughter and talks, we started walking again again and joined V1 who was climbing up. From here on, we had to climb up the steep rocky surface and then get down on other side to reach the camp.

One particular thing I remember about this is that the rocks were very strenuous to climb and there was high chance of slippage. S3, the sherpa offered to help me cross it as we were very tired after the long walk, but I wanted to try it on my own. I told him let me try first, if I cannot then you help. To this, he replied: "Saath samundar paar karne ke baad, ghar ke saamne wale naale main matt giro madam" (After crossing seven seas, dont fall in the gutter in front of the house)

Finally, on reaching the top, we met the camp leader who greeted us and directed us to go down towards the camp site. By this time, 2 more of our batch mates who were behind us were surrounded by the sheep I had brought. We reached the campsite and after throwing our rucksacks in our tents, came out to have tea and some snacks. S1 had come earlier to have oxygen from the oxygen cylinder, lol. The camp leader gave us the usual tips and told us that after the long trek that day, next day’s trek to Nagaru would be the shortest one. He warned us to be careful at night because sometimes bears or snow leopards would come. We saw none of these though(I was secretly hoping to see one). He also told us that we were supposed to receive paneer pakodas that day but didn't because the supply had not come (Told you they give too much food to eat). We all sat and saw the awesome sunset. It was ‘possessing beauty; aesthetically pleasing’ (I used a thesaurus to stop using the word beautiful). As I said before, any words used to describe it, any picture used to capture it will not do it full justice. You have to be there to see and experience it. We sat there, lost in the beauty of nature and we all did a jump on the mountains.

Soon, we had dinner with the usual talks and jokes. By now, we recognized people not only by names but also clothes (c’mon people are wearing the same clothes for 3 days...eeewww). And off we went to get zipped in our sleeping bags, at a height of 10700 feet. Wearing thermals was a must in addition to the usual woolen socks, gloves and caps.

Next day was one of the most awaited days (each day was awaited) as we would be reaching the famed Nagaru camp which had snow and about which we had heard some funny yet somewhat alarming stories.

All the below pics are clicked by K1 and S3.

Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-r_img_7789.jpg

Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-r_img_7841.jpg

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Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-r_p1030473.jpg

Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-r_p1030472.jpg

Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-sheep.jpg
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Old 30th March 2015, 22:59   #10
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Quote:
Originally Posted by SwatiS View Post
Part 5 - Camping at 10700 ft

Next destination: Ratapani – Ht. 10700 ft.(12 km)
Day6:
Enjoyed every bit of your 'treklogue'. More so because I have myself been to such treks many times and I am missing them alot. Keep it coming

BTW, just last year a close friend went to this same trek.

-Bhargav
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Old 30th March 2015, 23:33   #11
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Thumbs up Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

What a narration my friend! This reminds me of my trekking trips to Bageshwar range in Kausani & Teerhtan valley. Do share some more pics, especially of the summit. I'm glued to this thread to hear the rest of the journey experience. Rated 5 stars!!
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Old 31st March 2015, 00:22   #12
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Thumbs up Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

naice..
keep it coming.. i did this trek back in 2008 [SP13] . it was an amazing experience. also this year i visited Kullu. it was all nostalgic !


here is my passport
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Last edited by somspaple : 31st March 2015 at 00:27. Reason: year n pic
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Old 31st March 2015, 20:17   #13
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Part 6 - Reaching for the clouds

Next Destination: Nagaru - Ht. 12500 ft. (09 kms)
Day 7:

I used to usually wake up early and so I did that day too. There was a small stone on which I could sit and enjoy the beauty of nature. I sat there mesmerized for a while. I turned around and saw some other early risers, a couple of them sitting and chatting; there was K1 photographing with his camera mounted on his tripod, he and A1 did night outs and captured some photographs of the stars; there was N2 peeping out of his tent, lying down and capturing photos from his lazy point. Soon, some more people came there, we talked about for a while and then it was time to go again. We formed the lines, took the counts and started off climbing again.

One of the guides carrying the luggage was a very pretty lady and her outfit was very cute. She carried atleast 4 times the load we carried yet walked faster than us. As I chatted with her, she said it was her 1st time through this route too. I asked her how does she manage to walk so fast with all this load. I asked her “Aap thakte nahi hai kya?”(Don't you get tired?). She gave me a very sweet answer, she said “Aap bhi toh padhai karne se nahi thakte”(Even you don't get tired of studying). But I feel people in these mountains really enjoy life more. Today’s climb though short, was steep and the degree of the mountain was 70 degree to 80 degrees. The climb was mostly zig-zag and we soon reached the lunch point. Here, N1 caught some signal on her mobile. We had heard that at Nagaru we would get network (after all its at 12500 feet) and so we did. After some maggi (oh yeah those people were there here too), we set off again.

We climbed and climbed, getting small dirty patches of snow here and there. Finally, reached the camp site - we reached early by 3 or 4. Sunset is early at Nagaru and the scheduled sleeping time there is 6PM. We had heard some alarming stories about this camp site that due to high winds, sometimes the tents fly away and people are left holding on to tent poles :O. Someone had advised not to sleep near the end of the tent towards the mountain as the wind is more there (There were some other censored jokes regarding this). You had to be careful when you went to do any activities since there were more chances of slipping and falling on the slopes and the snow. We had our usual roll call and one of the guys came a bit late as he was attending a call (you know which). The camp leader here was a little strict and he almost told this late comer to return back to base camp... whoaa!!!. Things got normal after that(i.e., if you call shivering in the cold normal) and he gave us the usual instructions. Here, the water was available only as long as sunlight was available since it was melted snow(under sunlight). So he told us to stay away from the snow for certain activities. We were now covered in clouds (Who said you cannot touch the clouds :P) which we had expected ever since seeing this from Padri camp.

We wanted to play in the snow and make a snowman. So S1 , K1 , Culprit and I went to make a snowman while P1 watched from a side. As I was making it, I remembered all the awesome snowmen Calvin makes. We had hardly done anything when the camp leader called us off. Then Chatur got stuck in snow because he went in with slippers and Cuprit and P1 pulled him out, lol.
This is how P1 describes it:
"are woh gaya tha ghumne (aisa usne bola) aur kahi bich me jaake atak gaya, due to his CHAPPAL.
and so he called for (little) help.
somehow, we managed tht. becoz we were all working on our SNOW-MAN
hum (as obvio.) shooe pehan ke gaye. extra lakdiyaan lekar. all was complete in clouds.. and giving him sticks, he finally came out."
(Translating this in english would lose its touch, but here it goes: He went to roam there (that is what he said) and got stuck somewhere in between due to his chappal , and so he called for little help. As we were working on our snowman and we obviously had shoes we pulled him out using a few sticks. All this was completely in clouds).

We came back and chatted with the camp leader. He told us that when SP1 and SP2 (Batches starting on May 1 and May 2, ours started on May 22) batches came, the Nagaru camp site was covered in snow completely and they had to turn back to base camp without going to Sarpass. Some other batch experienced snowfall (we didn’t *Boohoo* ). He also told that the next day a guide and 2 Nepali Sherpas would be accompanying us through Sarpass. The sherpas we learned were a very strong breed of Nepalis who could carry even 2 humans on their shoulders. Our Sherpa, S3 was very eager to meet the real sherpas. We went to bed early that night(shivering ofcourse) because we were scheduled to wake at 2 the next day, have breakfast at 3:00 AM(or 3:30 AM) and set off at 4:00 AM on the snow in torch lights!!!

So we got zipped up inside our sleeping bags(the temperature that night was 1 degree or 0 degree Celsius) awaiting the day we would cross Sarpass (as this trek was called), looking forward to the big adventure. Little did we know that there would be a misadventure awaiting someone too!!!


Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-n_img_4256.jpg

Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-n_img_4333.jpg

Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-n_img_4350.jpg

Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-n_p1030490.jpg
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Old 31st March 2015, 20:23   #14
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas



Quote:
Originally Posted by Octane_Power View Post
Enjoyed every bit of your 'treklogue'. More so because I have myself been to such treks many times and I am missing them alot. Keep it coming

BTW, just last year a close friend went to this same trek.

-Bhargav
Thanks Octane. Do share your trekking tales .

Quote:
Originally Posted by AstaAddict View Post
What a narration my friend! This reminds me of my trekking trips to Bageshwar range in Kausani & Teerhtan valley. Do share some more pics, especially of the summit. I'm glued to this thread to hear the rest of the journey experience. Rated 5 stars!!
Thanks Asta. Will surely attach more pics of the summit. Do share your trekking experiences. Would love to read them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by somspaple View Post
naice..
keep it coming.. i did this trek back in 2008 [SP13] . it was an amazing experience. also this year i visited Kullu. it was all nostalgic !


here is my passport
Wow this brings back memories!!! I have still got mine as well. But the route we took was different than yours. We did not go through Guna Pani and other places. Was considering redoing the trek this year as the route has changed again but couldn't get the bookings.
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Old 1st April 2015, 20:52   #15
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Default Re: Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas

Part 7 - Up above the world so high!

Via Sar Pass to Biskeri Thatch: (Highest 13800 ft.) (09 kms)
Day 8:

A misadventure awaits someone!

Finally the day(night actually) arrived where we were to set out on the Sar Pass. I woke up all dizzy and unsteady that day. Our tent was on a slope and all the blood had rushed to my head as I slept with my head in the downward side. Lesson learnt - don'e bother how the others sleep, always make sure that the head is at an equal or higher elevation. As I woke up, the world revolved around me. I went out and told the camp leader about it. He told me to have breakfast and then he would decide if I should continue. I was determined that come what may, I am going to continue going further. We all got ready and I walked along with N2 and K1(both of whom were strong trekkers). They were both extremely patient and walked slowly with me allowing me to rest as we set off at 4am that day, over-clothed to keep away the cold, with torch lights in hand, walking on the snow with the Sherpas(Original Nepali sherpas) leading the way. As we moved along, we got our feeling of snow and continued walked. Soon, we were slipping and sliding (atleast I was). The reason for the early start that day rather than the usual 8am(or 9am in case of the day we set off for Nagaru) was that we had to cover the snow before the sun came out. Because after that, the sun starts melting the snow and the foot slips.

We walked in a single file and we were instructed to put our footsteps in the same places where the guide had put his. They know the way best and it is important to follow this when walking on snow, since you cannot predict what was below you. As we walked, we were awestruck by the beauty. We saw the sky had some orange clouds(Cumulonimbus) and yeah, now we were above the clouds (Reminds me of the song - Aaj main upar, aasmaan neeche). The feeling is awesome, over-whelming. On and on we walked. Today S4, M1 and S3 had volunteered to come last. Soon people were slipping and falling on the snow and so did I. Each time one of the Sherpa guides helped me up and he was a really nice guy. I fell a lot of times that left certain parts of me numb and cold! We finally reached the part where it was all snow (clean snow) and the guides gave us some time to enjoy the beauty, photograph and play in it .

Some history before we continue: As per the local dialect, Sar means lake and while trekking across the route from Nagaru to Biskeri Ridge, we have to cross a small frozen lake known as Sar. Hence this destination named Sar Pass (which also happens to be the name of the trek).

So back to where we were. We clicked crazy photographs, Off we went again with hopes to cover maximum snow before 8 AM. As we walked, I slipped a lot of times and fell. I remarked to the guide that I was falling many times than others he said “Par barf pe girne mein toh maza aata hai na madam (Its fun to fall in the snow)”. Now when I look back, I am glad I fell so many times; it was a nice and different feeling (but numb too). And I enjoyed myself tremendously. As the guide helped me cross a particularly slippery bit of snow(I still hadn’t got my footing on snow) I said to him “Aap bhi sochte honge hum kahan se aate hain, hame toh barf pe chalna bhi nahi aata(You must be thinking from where do we come, we cannot even walk on snow)” to which he replied with a smile, “Aap log aate hai toh hame kaam milta hai(Since you come, we get work)”. Thus chatting with him, we reached the resting point where we had lunch(which was some of the rock found amidst the snow). Today’s lunch was something different – some biscuits and other high calorie snacks(The daily food was high in calories too. We were advised throughout the trek to have liquids and sweets a lot). You can’t expect to be given parathas at 4am in the morning. Maybe I haven’t mentioned this before – the camp leaders, sirs who teach rock climbing, cooks etc are volunteers. Hats off to these people, who stay there in the extreme cold so that we can enjoy the 5-star trek. All you pay for the trek is a mere 3050Rs!!! (The price this year is 4673)

After everyone reached the lunch point, we set off again eagerly to reach the sarpass sliding point. From here we would slide down 80 feet in the snow!!! Some of the first batches that year who had started in 1st week of may had a longer sliding distance due to the presence of more snow (A lot of snow had melted for our batch which was at the end of may). We heard that they had reached sliding to the maggi point which was probably 500 feet (Lucky guys!!!). I forgot to mention, before we had reached the resting point, S3 the Sherpa had climbed a small hill and slid down the mini slide. He told us it was awesome. As we went up, one of the guides came back to return the way we had come. He walked down the sloping mountain with 2 sticks

Trotting along we finally reached the sliding point, which was a 100 meter away to our right. As we sat and watched the other people slide off, we realized we were on the highest point of the sar pass trek,a freaking 13800Ft. One by one our group mates slid down. After a while, we set off to the place from where we slid. Soon it was my turn and I positioned myself. As the guide removed his foot, I started sliding down. It was an awesome, out-of-the-world experience(Gosh now as I write about it, I feel like doing it again right now!!!) . I slowed down as I reached where some of them stood to avoid crashing into them.

When I reached there, I saw a small crowd. One guy, A2 had got a dislocated shoulder as he slid down. R1 uncle asked me and everyone else who came down if anyone knew how to fix a dislocated shoulder. Unfortunately, no one knew and as luck would have it, there was no doctor in our group. By now N1 had come down and she had hurt her shoulder too(thankfully it wasn’t much in her case). A2 was in too much pain and R1 uncle, K1, N2, S4, M1, P1 were doing their best to help him in any way they could. They wrapped his arm in crape and did a sling for the shoulder. Meanwhile S3 was helping the other people who was behind us and he soon joined us. We still had a large distance to cover before reaching maggi point and even more distance to reach the Biskeri Thatch camp. It would soon start raining and also the snow was melting now. As these guys were helping out A2, R1 uncle told me, N1 and S1 to start moving along with him. The snow was slippery and soon it started raining. A rain the likes of which we had never experienced before. It was all hailstones hitting us hard(It hurts ouch!). I walked along with R1 uncle and S1 helped N1 whose shoulder was hurting. Walking in that hard hitting rain is horrible, especially on snow. The added hailstones make the surface even more slippery while the sun melts the snow. I half walked and where it was sloppy, I chose to slide since I found that easier than walking on the snow(even though I was wet and cold).

On and on we went, I still hadn't learnt how to walk on snow and was falling every few steps. At one point, I walked along holding someone’s hand so that I could cover the distance fast. We had taken a longer route (due to lack of directions) and reached the place where we could see the frozen lake while K1, N2, S3, M1, P1, Culprit and the guides came along the recommended route walking along with A2 who was walking in pain. They were giving him words of encouragement all the time because the only way out of there was walking. When it was raining hailstones and he was unable to walk due to the pain, they made him lie down as he was unable to walk and covered him in all tehir ponchos. Within a minute they saw that he was shivering like crazy and decided to make him walk instead else he would have become a victim to hypothermia. We finally reached the maggi point soaking wet and cold. It was almost 3 PM by the time we reached there because of the misadventure.

During our orientation, the Field Director had told us that our group will be like our family during the trek because there will be no one else on the mountains for anything. This is a fine example for this . Everyone was hungry and cold and tired, but they all focused on getting A2 safe to the maggi point where they hoped some medical help would be available. These guys had a tough time due to the hailstone filled rain and they had to constantly move slowly since they couldn’t carry him nor could they allow him to rest for fear of hypothermia. Someone had contacted ahead, and A2’s brother and his friends who had come ahead were waiting and they took over from there to the camp site and finally the rest of the guys along with R1 uncle(who was infact diabetic) could rest and we all sat down to eat maggi in the tent. We were all sooooo cold and drenched. I was shivering like anything and N1 tried rubbing my hands to stop me from shivering. K1 had a headache due to cold and hunger and I don’t remember who else was suffering from what. Finally we set off again, hoping not to hit any more rain. We had had enough of it.

N1's shoulder was still hurting and she still had the cough as we moved on from the maggi point to the camp site. She, S1, S3, P1, Culprit were all coming chatting while K1 made me run a lot as he, N2 and I went ahead chatting. We finally reached the campsite and got into our respective tents all wet and cold and had the delicious pakodas. It was very slippery due to the rain and many of us slipped and skidded on the mud as we went to collect water and stuff.

Off we went to sleep that day, tired; and thinking tomorrow we would be going to Bandak Thatch which is called the Switzerland of India, because of the beautiful meadows there.

Started walking at 4am torches in hand, and left Nagaru camp and clouds behind and below
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-s_p1030512.jpg

This particular cloud is called Cumulonimbus cloud. It is almost always associated with thunderstorms. We saw it as we left for Sarpass
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-244388_1746420580969_1252434174_1469733_6761446_o.jpg

We walked in single lines
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-s_img_8412.jpg

And we reach this beautiful spot:
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-s1.jpg

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View from lunch point after having walked this part(the faint line that you can see is made by our footsteps)
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-s_img_8345.jpg

Walking towards the sliding point
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-s_img_8341.jpg

Video of the slide(The quality is not very good though):


The frozen lake
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-s_img_8419.jpg

At last Biskeri thatch campsite:
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A night shot of the tents:
Miles to go before I sleep: Trekking & camping in the Sar Pass, Himalayas-simg_8376.jpg
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