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Old 8th January 2016, 02:33   #1
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Default Into the abode of Shiva

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"The mountains of the spirit are no less real than physical mountains, and the meeting of the two makes that special mountain experience." Aspie Moddie

They say mountains are addictive and it is so true, being born and bought up in the mountains most of my vacations are spent trekking or riding in the Himalayas. In September 2014 I did the Kugti Pass trek with two of my friends and avid trekker's Vineet Gautam and Guruashish.

Kugti Pass (16,600 F/5059.68 M ) lies between the Chamba and Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh in the Kugti Sanctuary (Wiki). The sanctuary is rich in flora and fauna one can expect to bump into leopards and even Himalayan brown bear (wiki) .The pass in itself is pretty remote at the top you are at least two to three days away from the nearest memorable road. The trek leads one through some very stunning landscape including apple orchards, pine forests, miles of green meadows and some spectacular waterfalls and Glaciers. The camp sites are lush green complimented by ever flowing streams. On the higher reaches one climbs through a huge glaciers surrounded by ice falls. Though the pass has been used by shepherds and locals travelling between Lahaul and Chamba for centuries I would not recommend the trek for first time explorers specially without a good guide, one has to be conscious on the glacier and the last stretch to the pass is rocky and steep at an altitude of 5K meters.

Route : Shimla > Dharamsala > Chamba > Bharmaur >Hadsar > Dharol > Kugti Village > Kugti Temple > Dughi > Alyas > Kugti Pass > Khodlu > Jobrung > Trilokinath >Manali > Shimla.

It was time to get the gear ready as the trek is pretty harsh and one spends more than a week in the mountains so one needs good equipment. Here is the list of things I bought:Trekking Boots (Quechua Forclaz 600) ,Walking Stick,Rain Coat,Trekking pants,Medicines,Head torch this was apart from all the gear like tent trekking clothes and rucksack that I have collected in the past. I tried to be conservative while packing still I had a 17+kg rucksack on my back.

The start : Home sweet home : Living in the city takes up most of our lives, we stay in air conditioned apartments with all sorts of comforts but with an emptiness inside. The feeling called home comes once you are where you belong home for me is Shimla, I can go an bragging about the town more on that later. Took the night Volvo from Delhi to Shimla and was in heaven the next morning. Spent the next two days with family and friends.

D Day : Woke up early morning and packed my stuff. While Vineet and I were in Shimla Guruashish was travelling from Delhi, we had planned to reach Dharamsala that day and stay at our guides house for the night. The guide Mr Jang Ram (better known as Jango and deserves one full article) is one of the best in the business, he knows every nick and corner of Himachal and has led numerous treks in the Himalaya. We booked a taxi from Shimla to Dharamsala and reached in the evening met Jango, Guruashish and Suresh (our kitchen porter/cook for the trip)after resting for some time and tasting some home made brew we had dinner. To save a day and rush at the Manimahesh fair we started from Dharamsala by 11:00 PM. Jango Ji arranged for a Tata Sumo and we were off to Bharmaur. Time flew fast catching up with friends and listing to stories coming from Jango Ji. We were greeted by a big traffic jam at Hudsar which is the starting point for the Manimahesh yatra. Looking at the rush of people we gave Manimahesh a miss and headed straight to Dharol.

Trek Day 1 Dharol to Kugti Village : Dharol is the last point till the Sumo could drop us, the road is really narrow and not yet tarred. Dharol is the start of the trek and consists of three houses. We stopped to rest for sometime as all of us had been travelling for more than 24 hours. There is one dhaba at Dharol and he started cooking breakfast for us after having breakfast we headed towards Kugti village. The walk was easy the landscape lush green and beautiful with the Budhi stream flowing on the side. I enjoyed the climb as this was after almost one year I was venturing into the mountains. I took leisure breaks catching up with the landscape and myself.

On the way to Kugti Village
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We reached Kugti in the afternoon and settled in the veranda of the PWD guest house just before the village waiting for the caretaker who never showed up. The village is beautiful with its friendly people and all wooden houses the kind of place you never want to leave.

Kugti Village
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We went to the village to stock up on supplies for the coming days and made phone calls back home from one of the houses,the house owners were more than happy to oblige as this is the last time you can touch base with the rest of the world for days to come. The village does not have a wired phone line the phones run on a WLL(wireless in local loop) system which was interesting to see. Himachal is miles ahead in terms of communication compared to many other states in the country. At this time the feeling started to sink in that we were finally in the mountains, the happy feeling was settling in mixed with the excitement of the days to come. The feeling of being away from the material world and into the wild takes a while to settle but puts into a trance of your own.

To be continued...

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Old 8th January 2016, 10:29   #2
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Wow so finally we get to read your Kugti Pass trek-logue.

Great start with some breathtaking pictures.

I'm hooked on to this one, bring it on !
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Old 12th January 2016, 16:47   #3
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Day 2 : Kugti to Duggi Leaving the tree line behind: One of the best day on the trek, we crossed lush green fields, apple orchards and witnessed some of the most beautiful meadows with the sun shining right on our heads.

Leaving Kugti Village.
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We had a small reunion party the last night and we slept like rocks till seven in the morning. By the time I woke up Suresh was already cooking breakfast,by 8:30 AM we were all set to roll. We crossed the beautiful Kugti village and bid goodbye to human habitation for the next four days. This being the month of Manimahesh fair a lot of devotees cross Kugti Pass from Lahaul and reach Manimehesh lake also there is a ritual of doing a parikrama of the Kailash which in itself takes a couple of days. Few minutes after crossing the village we were greeted by a Sadhu to have tea , offering tea and food to travellers and devotees is a norm for holy men and locals at this time of the year.

Baba ji ki kutia.
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The real beauty of the Kailash unfolds from here, it was a much better site that we got from crowded Bharmor or Hudsar. After having refreshing tea and shouting slogans in praise of Lord Shiva we headed towards out destination for the day. We crossed a big stream over a wooden bridge after which the trail turns into a steep climb. The landscapes kept on improving as we climbed higher.
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On the way there were herds of shepherds. As we gained altitude the sun was hard and we were sweating while climbing, at times like these you curse yourself for carrying those extra clothes that you could have done without, I was thinking I could have done without a SLR and saved at least one kg of load carrying. Resting in the shade I felt the earth move with a slight thunder noise as I stood up I saw a heard of sheep headed right towards me, it is an experience seeing the sheep run down hill they are fast and pretty dangerous if you are in the way (now I know where does the phrase "Bhar Chal " comes from ). Calling it a heard would be an understatement as there were atleast five hundred of them. I managed to grab my rucksack and climb up out of their way. Jango was looking at me from some distace and then shouted that the sheep own the mountain and we are using there trail.

Sheep running downhill.
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After about two hours of uphill climb there was a small downhill and we stopped for a breather. As we rested in the shade Jango Ji took the Ice axe and went looking for rations, came back with some saag ( kind of spinach) and hell lot of wild potatos. This is the best part about travelling with a experienced guide like Jango Ji rather than hiring a professional trekking company. The man keeps things as simple as he can feeds you right from the source, has all the authority that is needed to keep everyone in check and treats you like a younger brother with his never ending stories about the mountains treks and gods.

Jango Ji
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After resting for a while we headed towards the the Kelang Temple. The trail once again climbs sharply and we start loosing the tree line. Just below the temple there is a stream of water with reddish water running, this is due to presence of iron in the water. The water is considered nutrential and the locals believe it can cure variety of diseases. From here one can the another temple about 2500 feet above which is dedicated to Mata Marala.

Marla Mata on the top.
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Kingal temple is dedicated to Lord Kartik son of Lord Shiva and has a very mystic feel to it. Iron Trishuls and Sothus (rods) and chains are offered to lord Kartik and the temple premessis is filled with them. Inside of the temple has a lot of trishuls and iron chains. We sat inside the temple and meditated for some time. Not sure itís the power of Shiva, all the iron or our faith but one can feel the energy inside the temple and it is calming yet mesmerizing at the same time. Jango ji and Suresh cooked lunch in the temple premises while we enjoyed the place. Sadhus are not always men with orange or black clothes, we met a gentleman not very cleanly dressed and possible high on marijuana but had a typical vibe around himself. He looked at us and asked where we were headed, after thinking for a few seconds he said he felt we will be going to Trilokinath by the end of the journey. We had no plans of visiting Trilokinath but it eventually happened after crossing the pass.

Kingal Temple
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After lunch we headed forward the trail rose for some time and then descended into the Duggi plain. Duggi @ 11000 feet is a T shaped meadow with lush green grass and the river flowing on one side.

Towards Duggi:
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We set up camp, fetched water and wood for coking. This was one of the most beautiful campsites I had ever seen. As we set up camp Jango Ji pointed towards the bush forest on the other side of the stream and informed that the area is inhabited by Himalayan Brown Bear but we should not worry about them with his witty smile, well that did make me change the direction of my tent and I pointed it back towards the other tent being shared by Guruashish and Vineet . The evening was spent eating and singing local pahari songs by 7:30 pm we were all wrapped in our sleeping bags inside our tents. The feeling of being alone in a tent away from the world is enchanting, somehow I manage to get better sleep in the mountains than I get to in the comfort of my house.

Duggi Camp
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To be continued..

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Old 1st February 2016, 00:20   #4
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Day Three : Duggi to Alyas (place to haunt after or before the pass) :- when the going gets tough the tough get going.

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The third day of the trek takes you up from 10500 feet to 13900 feet a gain of more than a kilometer in a day, we actually went up from Alyas and camped higher to save time the next day. Our camp for the day was right below the final assent to the pass and we must have been as high as 14300 feet that night . This day has its own beauty as we leave the tree line behind and climb much higher, the vistas are simply out of the world.

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The day started early as we dismantled the camp had breakfast and started for the day. We crossed a few streams before crossing the main stream over a log bridge and then the terrain started to climb we left the Budhi stream below and saw the first glacier frozen over the stream. As we left the river behind the landscape changed as we were going up the valley.

After walking for almost three hours we came across a group of shepherds and spent quite some time with them. It is quite amazing to see the shepherds live a nomadic life firsthand, how they go on everyday taking care of their livestock without any creature comfort available in the mountains. They eat, cook, sleep all in the open with just a few utensil and a temporary plastic sheet to cover them from hail and snow. Looking at their dogs is another experience. The shepherd dogs look like any other local breed resting under the sun but they are highly trained, on one whistle by the owner they can gather a heard of hundreds of sheep in a few minutes making sure no member is left behind, they also guard the heard from predators like leopards and brown bear.

Resting with the shepherds.
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After a rest of about thirty minutes we started climbing again, the gradient got steeper as we approached noon and the sun was killing. After crossing what one can call a landslide area next to a waterfall we were rounded by Jango Ji and told to rest for a while and fill up our water bottles as we had two big mountain sides to climb before we could make it to Alyas. The gain of altitude was pretty eminent by now, the water was so cold that it was difficult to fill up the steel water bottle as one could not keep their hands underwater for a few seconds, the bagpacks started feeling heavier and we had to rest more often than normal but the beautiful landscape and contemplation of reaching Alyas (flat meadow at 13000 feet) kept us going.

The tough climb..
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After an hour or so we reached the first rickle by now the afternoon wind had started to get chilly and the weather was windy. The rickle was one of the toughest terrain we had encountered so far, half way up it was all most impossible climbing as the wind was blowing against the body and the bagpack felt like it had stones filled up. Moments like these awaken a part in you that questions what are you doing in the mountain, did you come here to carry heavy loads leaving a comfortable life behind ? But then the voice inside tells you to keep on going and that the results are going to be worth. The result was indeed worth as I climbed the last few steps there was a flat meadow as big as at least eight football fields luch green and beautiful. I put down my rucksack and clicked some pictures. Most of the meadow was being used by locals to dry hearbs that they collected over time before being carried down the mountain, though it is not legal to collect herbs in the area but there is hardly any check and it is a good earnings for the locals from villages down the valley. Most of the trekking groups setup camp here but we still had some daylight to spare so we carried forward to get closer to the pass the next day.

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After Alyas we climbed another rickel which was easier than the first one, we finally reached our campsite and got the first clear view of the submit. The pass was still more than 700 meters above us and as the evening approached there was a thick cloud cover over the pass. Jango ji anticipated snow overnight and the decision of whether to climb the pass next day was put to the first morning light, with the dilemma in mind we spent the evening exploring the area with Guru trying some night photography, though there were partial clouds the night was beautiful we could see the sky full of stars and the Milky Way was visible with all its mysteries. The night was chilly and finally by nine we were all wrapped up in our sleeping bags as I entered the tent I could hear thunder which was exiting and scary at the same time. Hoping that the weather clears up by the morning I tried to sleep but the altitude and cold made it difficult, after turning and twisting in the sleeping bag and thinking about the past, present, future and what not I was finally able to catch some sleep after eleven.

Camp for the night.
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Old 1st February 2016, 00:48   #5
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Day Four : Alyas to Kodlu : The Adrenalin shot

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We woke up early by 5:30 am the weather was still gloomy, we could see some clouds over the pass and it was evident that there was some precipitation last night. Jango Ji gave his word that we can climp the pass today. The pass seemed a lot far away in the morning light than it appeared last evening .

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We packed up, had breakfast and set for the climb. With the dawn breaking we crossed the first stream and climbed on its side till reached the first snow patch. After crossing the snow patch we descended a little and reached the start of the glacier.
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We had an ice axe and snow clamps for our boots but as we reached the glacier we saw that there was fresh snow hence the grip was good and we were able to climb without using any support our walking sticks were good enough. We had to wait for some time as there was a Shepheard coming down along with a group of devotees going to Manimahesh. It is advisable to stop as sheep and people may tumble down stones which can be dangerous in the situation hence the pass is a one way traffic situation. The glacier was a tough climb we crossed some crevasses in between and the altitude was taking its toll though the sheer adrenalin rush kept us going. After an hour or so we were at the point where we had to leave the glacier and climb the loose rocks on the left side with the pass right above our heads. Climbing the rocks was the toughest part as there was hardly any place to keep your feet and the gradient was more than 75 degree. Huffing and puffing taking small breaks after about another hour we were few steps away from the pass.

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What differentiates boys from men :
Vineet was ahead of me and the rest were following, we were almost ten meters before the pass when Vineet stopped and said all of us should get to the pass together. We waited for the rest and climbed to the top together. It was such a good gesture from our old lad which left me thinking how mountains change people, no one of us had a point to prove around who made it to the top first it was a team effort and all of us were a part of it. The whole incident gave me a new prospective about friendship and personality.
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The top of the pass has a temple with some prayer flags and some Trishuls and Sothus left by shepherds and travelers as an offering to the gods as a gesture of successfully crossing the pass. The pass itself is a narrow ridge though broader that Inderhaar that I had crossed earlier. Jango Ji offered his prayers to the gods at the top and gave us Prasad after which we clicked photographs and had the customary Indian flag hosting, we had achieved what we had been dreaming of so many days. The landscape on the other side is completely different from the Chamba side Lahaul is dry with big rocks and look spretty barren from the top. We wanted to stay longer but the wind was becoming chilly and the weather was coming in so with loud praises to the Lord Shiva we started our decent into the Lahaul valley.

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The decent was not any easy than coming up the gradient is steep with loose soil and rocks. The decent is made with the help of ropes over snow most of the time but this being September the snow was gone making things difficult. As we descended there were loud roars once in a while coming from the moving glacier with stones falling once in a while. After about an hour and a half of struggling and our knees paining we finally made it down to the valley and soaked some sun at the bottom. Lahaul is a different game all together there are no given paths or trails it’s a big rock slide with boulders as big as three storied buildings navigating them was challenging and taxing on both body and mind. After another two hours or so we met another shepherds and a young couple from Lahaul going towards Manimehesh. Soon after we reached a small glacier lake we stopped by the side washed our sunburnt faces and hands while Suresh cooked Maggie. The terrain started to improve from here and by late afternoon we reached our camp site at Alyak Kodlu. This was another beautiful campsite with a concrete shelter, while Suresh and Jango Ji set up kitchen in the shelter we set up out tents for the last time on this trip. The evening was spent appreciating the beauty of the place and sharing experiences from the day. We were tired to the bone and crashed in our tents by nine.

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Here is a video from the final climb..

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Old 1st February 2016, 01:15   #6
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Day Five : Kodlu to Trilokinath (Lord of the Three Worlds) : Destiny or the word of the holy men.

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Next day was supposed to be an easy decent down to the nearest road to Rappe. We woke up had a lazy breakfast some of thought of taking care of our grown beards 

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As we started walking the green pasture once again turned into a rocky hill side with a lot of landslide areas. At one point Suresh had to take his shoes off to cross the mudslide. It was a little scary as a fall here would take you down hundreds of meters to the Kodlu Nala.

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As we descended it started to drizzle it was a good sign for Lahaul as there is very scanty rainfall in the area and rain is always welcome. We crossed Kodlu nala on a small wooden bridge and then walked on the side of a small irrigation channel that takes water from the higher stream to the villages below. We finally made it to an orchard and back to habitation.

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As we approached the main road we had team and momos in a dhaba waiting for the bus to arrive, for some reason the bus did not arrive and we were looking for alternatives. At this time I remembered the holy man we had met at the Kingle temple, not sure if it was his wisdom or I wanted to keep his work we hired a sumo and headed towards Trilokinath. It was like a call from the lord to visit the temple.

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Heaven on earth : Trilokinath :- I have traveled a lot in the mountains but have never seen a village like this before, the temple in itself is amazing having significance for both Buddhists and Hindus. We sat in the premises and it was like cleansing of the soul the calmness and the energy was beyond felling, you can definitely understand why the place is called "Lord of the Three Worlds" .My father server in the area back in the 70ís and I had heard stories about the two pillars inside the temple that you cannot cross if you have a bad conscious, luckily I was able to get through both of them . Trilokinath is the kind of a place where you can spend a lifetime, a small town with a few people with very open hearts the place has some energy of its own. I can go back and just stare at the mountains around for the rest of my life. We checked into a guest house and settled for the evening.

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Day Six: Back to the Jungle..

Next day we caught the bus to Manali by the evening we were in the hustle and bustle of the town took a bath at Vashist and next day it was back to Shimla.

Thanks for reading 

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Old 1st February 2016, 06:01   #7
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Note from Support: Thread moved to the Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 2nd February 2016, 01:23   #8
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A very well written travelogue with excellent pictures, was hooked from start to end. Kugti trek has been on my bucket list for years, now I really want to try it after reading about your attempt
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Old 2nd February 2016, 09:46   #9
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Wonderful read Rajnish.

Your experience of walking on the glacier would have been one amazing experience I'm sure. With my limited trekking experience in the Himalayas, I can relate to what you mean by backpack-felt-full-of-stones-with-the-wind-blowing-in-the-opposite-direction. Glad you all were able to make it to the Pass and back successfully, having an experience guide really helps !

Sadly 2016 is full of other commitments, else I would have attempted Stok Kangri this season. But next year surely it will be either Stok kangri or Goecha La or both.
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Old 2nd February 2016, 10:01   #10
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That is a wonderful read Rajnish!

Having lived in the south my entire life, I actually made it to the Himalayas in 2015 and it was a life changing experience and I just so fell in love with it; the mountains, clear rivers and the snow.

Thank you for sharing the details of your trek. It truly must have been a soul enriching experience! I would also love to do it in the future.
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Old 2nd February 2016, 16:11   #11
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Superb pictures and narrantion Rajnish. I can judge by the photgrahs that you guys had some great time there on the trek.
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Old 2nd February 2016, 19:02   #12
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Excellent thread and great pictures! I was almost transported. Kudos to you for trying out and succeeding in something of this scale. There is something about mountains that is enchanting and transforms you. Like you said, they do make an impact on your personality. The memory of even a small walk in the mountains stays with you for months. You have done something more and are likely to cherish it for years to come!
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Old 3rd February 2016, 10:58   #13
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Sir, please take a bow from my side. What you have achieved is just a dream for most of us. The place just looks out of the world once. Very well written travelogue full with most intricate details and pictures are a delight to watch.

Thanks to you for writing an excellent travelogue and sharing with all of us.

Thanks to Team-BHP for providing such a great forum where people can share and read travel experiences of others.
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Old 3rd February 2016, 12:41   #14
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OMG, this was exactly what I was looking for! Lovely pictures to boot. Many congrats.

Question: Does this place need a special Inner line permit. Especially if you are accompanying foreigners (Chinese/Hong Kong). Thanks in advance.
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Old 3rd February 2016, 19:21   #15
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Thanks a lot //M,

I will attempt Deo Tiba (6001 M) this year, may be we can plan Stok Kangri next year..

Originally Posted by //M View Post
Wonderful read Rajnish.

Your experience of walking on the glacier would have been one amazing experience I'm sure. With my limited trekking experience in the Himalayas, I can relate to what you mean by backpack-felt-full-of-stones-with-the-wind-blowing-in-the-opposite-direction. Glad you all were able to make it to the Pass and back successfully, having an experience guide really helps !

Sadly 2016 is full of other commitments, else I would have attempted Stok Kangri this season. But next year surely it will be either Stok kangri or Goecha La or both.
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