Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sarpass Returned: An adventurous journey to the Himalayas!

Readers note: I have tried my best to express to the fullest on our adventurous journey to Himalayas. It is my hope that I have covered most of the incidents of our journey just to make sure readers can also try experiencing a bit of what we have experienced just by reading. Happy reading!

Thanks to TS! As he was sitting on our heads until we register for the YHAI’s National Himalayan Trekking Expedition – 2009. It was our dream since many years that we need to touch the Himalayas once. Now we are proud to say that we did it and we lived our dream. I must also say that we had not dreamt the way we did it. ‘Sarpass Returned’ may look like an ordinary or normal statement; but you will realize the importance and the punch behind saying ‘Sarpass Returned’ only after you read this story.
The Gang (initially our gang size was 6 of us and you will see the gang size increasing throughout the story): Sujan, Divya, Raghu, TS, Shivu and I left on 30th April by train (Karnataka Express) to Delhi. Although we were enjoying throughout the train journey, we were regretting that we had not booked A/C coach. We reached the hot Delhi (45 C) on 2nd May morning at 10 Am and took the metro to Kashmere Gate station which is very near to the ISBT. We had booked our bus to Kullu which was scheduled to depart from ISBT at 20:30 hrs in the night. We dumped our rucksacks and came out of the room to return to the cool metro station. Every metro station had the Nirula’s corner - a cool place to hangout. Delhi was so hot that we could not stop eating ice creams and drinking at Nirula’s. Only thought coming to our mind was when are we getting into the TATA AC bus to Kullu? And when are we seeing the snow capped mountains?

As scheduled, our bus left at 20:30 hrs from ISBT station. And as expected we could only see the newly wedded couples in the bus except for us who were going there for the actual adventure. It was a 14 hour journey from Delhi to Kullu so we slept off as soon as the bus started from ISBT. As I opened my eyes in the morning, we were somewhere near Shimla and we were still 4 hours behind Kullu. The bus route was so wonderful that we could see the beautiful BEAS River all along the way and mighty mountains welcoming us to the state of Himachal Pradesh. Although we had seen many hill stations in South India, we had not seen this kind of mighty mountains and the bus route was looking very scary because of the curves and tunnels. All of us were looking at the window and trying hard to see if we can see any snow capped mountain.

Shivu was irritated by the way people live on these mountains because of the way they had constructed their houses; somewhere on top of the mountain where nobody can go. No human being will take the risk of staying at such heights and risk; but people in these mountain ranges were up to something in life.

We reached Kullu bus stand at 11 Am and enquired on how to reach Kasol (Our base camp). We realized we had to get down at the previous stop Bhuntar which is 10 km from Kullu. So we had to go back the same way again. But since we had to do some shopping, we thought of going around Kullu so we dumped our rucksacks in the bus stand and made one person to look after it and we went around seeing stuffs. We bought some woolen clothes in the mela at Kullu. We were all excited at the mela seeing wonderful woolen stuffs being sold at a very less price. Sujan and Divya were ready to buy the whole Mela! So this became our shopping place to come over after our trek.

We left Kullu at 16:00 hrs and took the bus to Bhuntar and from there the bus to Kasol was scheduled to leave at 17:00 hrs. Wow! Is the word to describe the bus route from Bhuntar to Kasol. It was such a fantastic and terrific drive we’ve ever experienced. All along the way we could see the Parbati River flowing towards Bhuntar and the white water rafters who were enjoying their turn in that chilly water. After reaching half way, we saw a Snow-Capped Mountain! Yes! We finally saw it and we were jumping on our seats which made driver lose his concentration often. TS was giving warnings to us not to shout or scream as driver might lose the concentration and we all will end up in the Parbati Valley. True! We were holding our breath while the driver was taking turns as we were at such a scary height from the valley. It was such a beautiful and scary drive which took off all the tiredness out of us.

Kasol – Heaven on Earth!

We reached beautiful Kasol at 19:00 hrs. It was actually our Day ZERO! Yeah! Our reporting date was on May 4th but we reached there on May 3rd in the evening. YHAI KASOL Base camp is situated at an altitude of 6500 ft and at the entrance of the KASOL. As we got down from the bus at the base camp, YHAI welcomed us with its banner of “Welcome to YHAI – SARPASS”. It was a spectacular view of the base camp and the tents pitched for us at the base camp. This base camp is situated along the mighty and turbulent Parbati River, surrounded by tall, old pine trees. As we entered the camp site, we saw many of our fellow trekkers drinking soup near the dining area and welcoming us. Since we had reached one day earlier, we had to go through approval from the field director Anil Pathak and we had to pay an extra amount of 200 Rs each for our accommodation and food. We did it without any second thought and got all that we wanted. We were given tent # 14 and it was our home for 3 more days. There were separate tents for girls and Divya got into the tent # 3. We dumped all our rucksacks inside the tents and quickly came up to the dining area. We saw a lot of people who were from Bengaluru and we spoke to few of them and started getting to know more and more people. The whole base camp had the same feeling and the same spirit which is “Mission Sarpass”. Every day new batch arrives and every day one batch will move to their higher camp. At base camp, our stay will be for 3 days which comprises of acclimatization activities and then on the 4th day we will move to the higher camp. We were lucky as we reached there on the day ZERO so that we can meet more people and feel the place for more time. The dinner is served at 19:30 hrs every day and at 20:30 there will be camp fire session before all the folks get back to their tents. We were the only odd ones out as we were the only 6 people from the 7th batch. But still we enjoyed being there and excited to see folks around who had similar tastes. We ended our day with the camp fire session and went back to our tents to sleep. The lights will be switched off exactly at 22:00 hrs everyday at the base camp.

Sarpass 2009: SP-7 reporting!

We entered day 1 and six of us were the sole owners of this day as we are the first ones from our batch. We were all prepared to see how many will join our batch. After hearing the ‘Har-ki-dun’ trek getting cancelled because of the poor registration, YHAI had decided to send those people to our batch. Our previous batch SP-6 size was 60 members. Boy! We were like our team should not be more than 50 please. It was a very chilly weather and since we were free to go anywhere today, we decided to walk up to Manikaran which is around 4 kms from our base camp. Yes! Day 1 is just a day to complete our reporting formalities which includes: submission of YHAI receipt, medical certificate and our original membership cards; receiving identity cards, rucksacks, blankets and sleeping sheets.

So after our formal reporting, we started our little trek up to Manikaran. Manikaran is a place which has the nature’s wonder of hot springs. It was tough to believe nature playing such things amidst the snow capped mountains, and there is even a place where you can see the hot springs of water! The view of Sarpass peak from our base camp was just awesome. My shooter could not stop taking photographs of the peak. It was like reaching the peak being at the base camp itself. And the birds and butterflies in this place were simply astounding. It was a real treat for my shooter to be in such a godly place. As we were walking to Manikaran, the snow capped mountains welcomed us along with the Parbati valley. And it was raining all along the way. We reached Manikaran pretty fast and could not believe even after seeing the hot springs that such a thing exists. It was simply astonishing to see the hot springs. Shivu insisted all of us to take bath in that hot springs inside the temple. Temple looked very different as there were lot of foreign visitors, newly wedded couples and many saints who were settled in this Himalayan region for their Moksha!

While we were at Manikaran, we met 3 of our batch mates Kowshik, Lakshmi and Kiran. All the three are from our Bengaluru and our potential gang mates! They first got down at Manikaran and then reached Kasol. Kowshik and Lakshmi were celebrating their 2nd wedding anniversary on this day. After the hot bath, we decided have our lunch in some restaurant at Kasol as the lunch time at our base camp was at 13:00 hrs. We reached Kasol at 14:30 hrs and went in to a cool restaurant alongside the river.

I must talk about the people of Kasol and the restaurants it has! Boy! This may look like a village but 90% of it is occupied by immigrants (more from Israel). They come here to enjoy the beauty of nature: White water rafting, Skiing, Climbing etc. Every street has an Italian / French cuisine restaurant and yes it is a little difficult to get the typical Indian food at Kasol. Every street has a Bullet Mechanic shop so you now know the most used bike in Kasol. Kasol is just like Goa pasted in Himalayas or much beautiful than that. This place is also famous for the easy availability of Cocaine and related stuffs so people here are always in the higher spirits! Kasol is also filled with artisans who make varieties of woolen clothes and designer woolen wears. You get good varieties of funky clothes here. You name anything related to fashion, you get it in Kasol. Kasol is absolutely colorful!

We were supposed to reach back our base camp anytime before 17:00 hrs. That was our deadline. While we were on the way Sandy called me to say that they are at the base camp and they were waiting to see us. Sandy, Sujay and Jagadish are from Bengaluru. We got in touch with them through a blog much before this trek happened so we were all waiting to meet. We were nearing the base camp and we saw two beautiful girls of Kasol village walking down the street with the big bamboo baskets to as their back pack filled with the grass and leaves (food for sheep). We all were fascinated looking at them and the bamboo baskets. They were looking at Shivu and laughing at his weird woolen cap. This gave us an opportunity to run into them and ask for the baskets to take photographs. Shivu went to them and asked for the baskets and we all one by one took the heavy baskets and posed at the camera. Both the girls were looking at the way we were jumping for the baskets and they would’ve thought how interesting people are! And not to our surprise, Shivu and TS took the baskets to the girls place and met her mom, had masala tea and came back to the base camp. I wish I had gone with them as I was bowled by Chinnu’s beauty. Yeah! Her name is Chinnu. There is much more to be added to this part of the story! Watch out!
We reached our base camp and we were happy to see many of our batch mates arrived and gathered at the venue. We met with many people and introduced ourselves and we finally met with Sandy, Sujay and Jaggi. Now the Karnataka team size in SP-7 has become 12. The potential gang again!

We were all set for the day and were looking forward for the camp fires session. Camp fire session is a pseudo camp fire session as one of the policies of YHAI is not to burn the firewood. So the Camp fire was an artificial arrangement made of colorful lights. Camp fire started at 20:30 hrs and the leader of the batch that was set to leave for the higher camp would switch on the camp fire lights. There were many entertaining items like songs, mono acting, and dance. Few of them performed and all of us cheered. May be our team was the nosiest team out of the three SP-5, SP-6 and SP-7. We also enjoyed the performances of Bengaluru folks and we were thinking of performing on our day 3. So the day 1 ended with lot of great excitements of rain, crazy walk, Kasol beauty and meeting our batch mates. And the total count of the SP-7 batch was 51.

Acclimatization at the base camp:

Day 2 and day 3 are the two most important days before the trek where we get acclimatized to the climate and climbing experience. Day 2 started at 6 Am where they take us for the morning walk for 2 kms to do the warm up exercises and there the instructor is so bad that we all will just try to get rid of doing the exercises that he wants us to do. It will be the most tiring session but still in a way it actually warms us up. We came back to the base camp from our morning exercise at 7 am and started getting ready for our next activity on the day 2 which is the Acclimatization walk. In this activity we are supposed to carry the rucksacks with two blankets inside it and a water bottle so that we will get the feel of how the trek to higher camps will be. In the mean while, SP-5 batch was ready to leave to their higher camps so we had to stand in a line to give them a clapped send-off. It is just a great feeling to get such send-offs while going to the higher camps. We were waiting for our turn as well. We started the acclimatization walk activity at 9 Am and there was a guide assigned to take us to the hill next to our base camp for a short trek. Throughout the trek, it was raining so we had to wear the rain sheets. Although the distance was very short, we were slow in climbing and hence we took lot of time to come back. It was a beautiful pine forest and astounding nature during the walk. This day we got to know Kowshik, Lakshmi and Kiran better and we all became good friends. They started sharing their experiences in life and how they got to know each other, Kowshik and Lakshmi’s wedding stories and lot of things. We really enjoyed being there and the acclimatization walk was really meaningful by the time we completed it. Lakshmi was saying funny Shayaris while returning for which we had to say Wah Wah! Her shayaris like: "Naditha naditha gottagutte bag bhara..!! Ninthkondre gottagutte mai Bhara..!! Wah wah!”

We came back to the base camp at around 12.45 and had our lunch at 13:15. Since it was raining and we were all tired, most of us went back to the tents and rested for some time. At 15:00 hrs we had to attend the orientation session by the field director so we had to go there. It was a pretty useful session as the field director spoke on safety measures and the climbing behavior. After listening to him we were like we need to be very careful during the climbing and we should not be very casual in the way we always be. Overall the session was enlightening. One should not miss such sessions is the take away for us. Chandu was named as our group leader.

After the orientation session, we thought of preparing for the camp fire session and I wrote one Hindi song and TS wrote a Kannada song. But we did not get enough time to sit and practice so we could not perform at the session. But the session was quite interesting as we could see the new batch folks (SP-8). Few of them were looking very interesting and our eyes could not stop rolling onto them. That was the end of day 2.

Last day at the base camp!

Yes! Day 3 was the last day at the base camp for us and we were the senior most in the base camp of the 3 groups. This day our schedule was very tight as we had to pack for the higher camps, we had to deposit the luggage that we are not taking to the higher camp, morning session of rappelling and afternoon session of rock climbing. As usual we started our day with the morning exercise and came back to the base camp to send off the entire 60 members SP-6 batch wishing them good luck. Every day one batch used to move to the higher camp, I used to look at the peak once! I don’t know why?

It was drizzling but still we left our camp site at 9 Am for the Rappelling activity. The rock was about 20 min walk from our base camp which is alongside the river amidst the beautiful pine forest. It was about 35-40 ft rock which we had to rappel down. There were two instructors with us and they gave a very good theoretical session before the practical session got started. Since I was an official photographer of our gang with my shooter in my neck, I had to wait for all our folks to rappel down so that I can take pictures of them and then I can do my turn. All of us did it and the whole activity got over by 12.30 and we came back to the base camp to have our lunch. Our rock climbing activity was scheduled at 15:00 hrs. Most of our batch mates backed out of the rock climbing the afternoon so only few of us we wanted to do it and we went there. Kowshik being a professional rock climber, he had got his climbing kit with him. The activity began on time and since there were only few people, it got over very soon. Kowshik’s climbing was brilliant to watch as he climbed like a spider man. We returned back to the base camp by 17:00 hrs.

The tragic twist!

Since it was our last day at the base camp, we decided to practice our group songs and we all took time to do the same and got ready for the camp fire session. By the time we came out of the tents, we could see the team members of SP-1 the first batch walking into the base camp. For some time we were all surprised to see them as it was not the day that they were supposed to complete their trek. We thought something was really wrong with this group. We finally got to know that two of their team members could not return alive! YES! 2 CASUALTIES in their team. Man! That was it… we were all shocked and we were looking at each other’s faces point blank. The reason they were giving was there was heavy snow storm at the peak and because of which both the ladies found it very difficult to walk and breath. Finally they had to literally drag both of them to the Biskere tents. Out of the two, one lady was with her husband and he had completed the Himalayan trek 5 times in his life. But it was very unfortunate for him to lose his wife in such a tragic way. Both the ladies were from Mumbai. With this shocking news, our entire team got scared as it was our turn to go to the higher camp the next day. There were lot of police enquires happening at the camp because of which all the organizers were busy. Our camp fire session got cancelled and depositing luggage also got cancelled. In the SP-1 batch, we heard few people talking in Kannada and we thought of going to them and get the entire story. We met Dr. Shashi from SP-1 who was from Bengaluru and asked him on what happened. He was so good that he spent good amount of time with us explaining every incident of what happened. He also went on to the extent of explaining us what to take and what not to take to the higher camps. The most critical thing to take care at the higher camps is to communicate with the camp leader on the problems that we may have on daily basis. It would help because camp leader will take the right decision on whether to send the person to the peak or not! We thanked him for his wonderful advice and went back to our tents.

Since there was no activity in the evening because of the shocking news, all of us were discussing and worried about only one thing which was none other than the tragic incident. We were also worried on what will happen to our trek? Whether it will be cancelled or postponed for a day? At 21:00 hrs, field director asked all of us to assemble at the camp fire place. All of us assembled there within few minutes and stood silent looking at the field director. Anil Pathak the FD formally disclosed the news of 2 casualties of the SP-1. He wanted all of us to observe 2 minutes of silence to wish their souls rest in peace. After the mourning, FD and the country director, spoke for sometime explain the safety measures one should take while climbing and also narrated the impressive way the YHAI guides helped the SP-1 batch to reach the Biskere tents. It was really unbelievable that YHAI guides climbed till the peak in the short cut routes in 6 hours as soon as they heard about this incident. 6 hours to reach the peak of 13800 ft is really mind blowing. Hats off to whoever did it to help them out. But at the end of the day this news gave us the shock for the life. Many of our batch mates started thinking on whether to move to the higher camps or not. Well! That’s how our last day at the base camp got ended.

Higher Camps: Guna Pani

I do not know how many of us slept properly having heard the news of SP-1, most of us for sure would’ve thought what kind of problems we might encounter at the peak? Anyway! We were asked to deposit the extra luggage in the morning at 7:30 and we all did it and got ready with our rucksacks. We had our breakfast and got ourselves the pack lunch for the afternoon as well. Like the usual way, we began with counting by standing in a line and the count was only 44. Yes! 7 of our batch mates had opted out of the climb because of what had happened to SP-1. So now it’s only the brave 44 who were ready to go to the higher camp. In the usual way, other batch people stood in the line to send off us and they all started clapping. It is just an awesome feeling while you were moving in between the two lines who were wishing you all the very best with a message asking us to successfully return. It was just great! You feel you are really great and you are going to achieve something really big in life. So as scheduled we left the base camp at 9:00 hrs and took the bus till Unch Dhaar. Yes, our trek begins from the village called Unch Dhaar and we had to take bus to reach this place. It was an awesome experience in the bus as all of us were on the bus top enjoying the scenic beauty, screaming and shouting just to let the world know that we are going to the Himalayan ranges!

We reached Unch Dhaar at 10:15 hrs and as we got down from the bus, villagers were selling the sticks (10 Rs each) which would help us to climb easily. YHAI guide received us at Unch Dhaar and he gave us some instructions asking us to maintain discipline while climbing as the route would pass through the villages. All of us started our trek with the same spirit and same feeling of conquering Sarpass. We were walking slowly and steadily enjoying nature and my shooter could not stop clicking photographs. Every step you move forward, it was a great feeling. We crossed a beautiful village called Shila village. We met lot of villagers on the way; some of them used to smile at us and some would’ve thought why on earth these guys doing it? As and when we meet local villagers, we used to click photographs of them. I have created a separate album in my Orkut for Himalayan expressions which is simply astounding. Every time I click their photograph and show it to them they used to feel very happy! And we were happy too! We reached our lunch point by 12:30 hrs and we took a 1 hour break eating and chatting. It was another 2 hours trek from the lunch point to the next camp so we were very slow; lazing and enjoying the nature. At every lunch point, villagers used to have their tea stall; they used to sell, eggs, Omelets, Maggi noodles and tea. So for our folks it was like a treat. Otherwise also the pack lunch we get every day used to be very delicious and we used to enjoy eating it. We had got good Parathas and veg grains for the first day which was too good. We left the lunch point at 14:00 hrs and reached our first higher camp site Guna Pani at 15:30 hrs. It was about 5km trek from Unch Dhaar.

It was a very beautiful camp site and the tents were looking just awesome. Guna Pani is in a grassy field and the view from our tents was too good as we could see only the snow capped mountains and the beautiful valley in front of us. It is at an altitude of 8000 ft. The camp leader at the site was Shyamji who welcomed us as we arrived and assigned us the tents. Now the Bengaluru Gang was in one tent. Divya and Lakshmi were in the girls’ tent. We dumped our rucksacks and came out to enjoy the nature. We took a lot of photographs and my shooter could catch many birds and butterflies here. We got the welcome drink as we came out of the tents and after 30 minutes we got tea with some hot pakodas. Again after 30 minutes we got to drink soup. Our dinner was at 19:00 hrs after that we collected our sleeping bags and went inside our tents. The only thing which was scary was to touch the water there as it was extremely chilly cold and all of us were happy not touching it. So imagine our daily morning activities without touching water! No wonder YHAI made it compulsory for us to get the toilet paper rolls. Shyamji was a little short tempered so many people got irritated by the way he used to talk; but anyway we had to follow the camp leader so we just did it. Sleeping bags were very good and we used to wear the sleeping sheet which we had got in the base camp and then get inside the sleeping bags. We chatted for a while and it was a load of funny talks and PJs. Kiran was at his best in cracking PJs and we really enjoyed Sandy, Sujay and Jaggi’s company. It was a feeling that we completed the first day successfully. But at the back of our mind, we had the SP-1 story at all the time. I guess we slept at 22:00 hrs. The temperature recorded here was 4o C.

Fual Panni – Camp in the steep!

Our 2nd day of trek started with a very awesome welcoming climate. We were told that the second day trek is the toughest one as the route was steep. We left Guna Pani at 8:30 hrs after having our breakfast at 8 and the pack lunch for the afternoon. As usual there was one guide who gave initial instructions and we started with full energy. As we were climbing we could see the beautiful view of our Guna Pani tents from top and it was just incredible amidst all the snow capped mountains. The route was indeed steep and we were slow in climbing. Bengaluru wale aage aao! Was the only repetitive dialogue we heard from other folks. So you now know that Bengaluru team was always at the last. Our strategy was to walk slowly and enjoy the nature. Also since we were not sure of coming back to this place again we used to take as many good shots as possible. This would have irritated other folks but we were at our own speed. And yes at places where it was required to be together, we used to walk as per their pace. I must say this route was like actual trek route and we were feeling that we are really up to something in life. We reached the lunch point at 13:00 hrs. This lunch point was just spectacular as we had to cross the valley and the place we chose to sit was too good. The river was flowing beautifully and it was a good treat to our eyes along with good food to our stomach. TS did some circus here to impress folks around; which was indeed good. Again there was a tea stall here as well and folks enjoyed maggi noodles and other stuffs.

The trek after our lunch was too good as we could see many shepherds with their sheep grazing on the field. Fual means Shepherd and this place proved it. We clicked many photographs of them and Shivu was at his best to prove himself a localaite. There comes Neetha! She was mind-blowing and absolutely beautiful. Neetha was a married woman from Shila Village. She had her tea stall on the way and her smile was just priceless. Every one of us clicked her photograph and not only us, every year whoever does the Sarpass trek, they will have her photograph. That beautiful she is. Shivu went and spoke to her and he took her address promising her that we would send her photograph which I am going to do in the next couple of days. I and Shivu took individual photographs with her which turned us delightfully ecstatic. I do not know how much I have irritated our folks with her photo. I must say only I got that photo which made all other folks to request for a copy. The expression was just superb!

After all the excitement of Neetha, we reached Fual Panni at 16:00 hrs. Fual Panni is at an altitude of 9500 ft and is a in a very dense forest where we cannot see anything but trees. Not even a ray of light will penetrate in such a dense forest. It was a 5 km trek from Guna Pani. The camp looked scary as well as the tents were pitched in the steep. They way they had pitched the tents was impressive. Camp Leader Nainus welcomed us to Fual Panni and formally introduced himself and gave some specific instructions on the camp site and the discipline we need to follow. We were all impressed with the kind of leadership he had and appreciated the fact that he had taken the responsibility of managing the camp. These camp leaders are all volunteers who come for a month and contribute this kind of service to YHAI. Bravo!

It was very scary to walk up to the kitchen and get us food. So we were there with our plates and coffee mugs so that we can complete everything once for all and come back to our tents. We did the same. It was a very good lychee shake followed by tea with some masala peanuts followed by wonderful Soup again. We were delighted by Nainus’s services and it was a good talk with him during the leisure. As we were waiting for our dinner, one of our batch mate Chirag shouted that he saw a big Squirrel and we all ran to watch that. While we were watching the beautiful squirrel, one more squirrel jumped on the tree and started climbing. We were happy watching both of them and we were just observing them and they went up the tall tree and started flying!!! Yeah!!! What we saw was a FLYING SQUIRREL! Wow! That was a treat to our eyes. We had not seen such a creation till then and we saw it and we could not believe what we have seen. All of us were shouting and screaming that we saw a flying squirrel. Wow it was just incredible. None of us had the camera as we were busy in observing them. But it was too good to miss what we encountered. Thanks to Chirag! Likewise we also saw an awesome Orange finch as well!

After our grand dinner, we all assembled in front of our tents for the camp fire session. Ofcourse the camp fire session was without the fire. And finally we could sing our songs that we had prepared and practiced. We got good appreciation and Sujan got individual appreciation for his solo folk song in Kannada. Everyone liked his song. Our camp leader was so impressive that even he sang a romantic English song for all of us. It was just awesome. We went back to our tents after the session and slept at 21:30 hrs. The temperature recorded here was 3-4o C.

Zirmi – The decisive point!

After all our regular routine, we had our breakfast and got our pack lunch to leave for the day. We left Fual Panni at around 8:45 hrs. And with the guide Yuvraj, we started moving towards our 3rd camp Zirmi. We were told that this route also is a very difficult and a steep path. Indeed this was a very scary trek as we took lot of time to climb up the steep. Because of the rains, it was very slippery too. It was a very tiring 3 hour stretch without any stop and we reached the lunch point at 13:00 hrs. Along with the pack lunch, we had Maggi noodles; luckily we got Mazza as well. Thanks to the villagers and their brave way of these income generation activities. Can you believe? We paid 25 Rs for the maggi noodles and 10 Rs for the tea at this point. Our journey from the lunch point to Zirmi was much more tiring than the previous routes as it was too steep and it was difficult to climb in that slippery slope. Almost the slope was 45o Angle. With all the great difficulty, we finally saw a banner which welcomed us to Zirmi. And we climbed about 1500 Ft within a very short distance. We reached Zirmi at 15:30 hrs.

Zirmi camp was a beautiful campsite of all that we had seen till this day as the snow capped mountains were getting nearer and nearer and it was only a day ahead for us to walk on the snow. So we were all excited and our tiredness went away as soon as we saw such a beautiful location. We got into our tents and unfortunately there was no camp leader at this camp. So there were only the cooking staff and guides with us who helped to get everything going in a smooth way. We were feeling very cold because of the chilly weather. We were at an altitude of 11000 ft and the temperature we recorded here was 1 C. we dumped all our rucksacks in our tent and came out to enjoy the beauty of the nature. We could see the glaciers nearer compared to our previous camp site. We took a lot of photographs and enjoyed the food server at this place. Since it was very chilly, we had our early dinner at 18:30 hrs and went inside the tent very early. Since we were at the higher altitude, we got a blanket extra along with the sleeping bag which was really helpful. Our tent was not very good and the chill air was coming through the gaps created so we had to take two additional blankets and tie it towards both the end which saved us from dying cold. Since I and TS had taken our high altitude Quechua sleeping bags with us, we were lucky we did not shiver much during the night. We were told that at the higher altitudes, people get bad and terrifying dreams and it turned out to be true with most of us which was unbelievable. None of us got good sleep; it was just bad dreams and a scary climate. Even if so far everything went on good, the story of SP-1 made us become cautious all the time. It is like once you are inside the tent; no one would go out alone nor would like to get out of the sleeping bags. It was scary to walk outside, scary to touch water, scary to breathe outside, scary to walk without the monkey caps and hand gloves! Phew! This is Himalayas….i do not know how these people live at such places. Also there were no villages after Guna Pani. So it is only us here at these tents. Anytime anything may happen kind of feelings!

Our eyes opened to our 4th day of the higher camp trek, and we did not get welcome from the Sun. It was a cloudy weather and we could see the other hills and peaks all covered with clouds. And those mountains which were rocky had turned into snow. That means there was heavy snowfall at the peak and other mountains. We all were getting worried about the same. We got ready quickly and had our breakfast at 7:30 and as we were getting ready in the tent, we saw the snowfall at Zirmi. Wow! It was an incredible experience that I am seeing and experiencing the snow fall for the first time in my life. It was a heavy snow fall and we took a lot of photographs and videos being inside the tent. Lot of our folks enjoying outside the tents and they were experiencing the snowfall which was just awesome. The whole mountain was getting covered with the clouds and it was just an awesome snowfall. After sometime, snowfall stopped and we could see all the trees on the mountain turned white and the entire plain grass field turned white. It was just a spectacular sight. After sometime it started snowing heavily and we could see the hailstones falling on us. And the whole camp site got covered with a layer of hailstones after sometime. We all were waiting for it to stop so that we can start our day. Luckily it stopped after sometime and we were all ready to leave to the next camp site. Our guides were shouting at us to leave the camp soon as it should not get late to reach the next camp and we had to walk a lot on the snow. Wow! Was our expression for that and started from Zirmi finally. As we were walking, it again started snowing, we took lot of pictures and videos of the snow turned green grass fields. It was just incredible and spectacular to watch. But we could also sense the challenge that we might encounter at the next camp.

After walking for some time, we could see more snow on the on the route we were going. We were enjoying the walk on the snow and there was no limit for the joy on our faces! The route was also very difficult to climb after a while as it was very steep, slippery and we took a lot of time to climb. All along the way, it was a snow fall. We reached a point where the snow fall becomes heavier. Guides gave us a shock for life that we cannot go further as there will be 4-5 ft of snow on the route which we are supposed to go. So we had to stop to take the right decision. To add to our disappointment, we saw the whole batch of SP-6 returning from Tila Lotni the next camp without seeing the peak. They were told that the weather is very bad and they cannot cross the Sarpass and sent back to the base camp. We saw them all disappointed and I was totally down after hearing this news and all our batch mates started praying for us not to return back. For that our team leader Chandu had to call our field director Anil Pathak and fortunately FD said we have to go to Tila Lotni today and see if we can go to the peak the next day if the climate is good. There is no point of returning back as they sent SP-6 back from that camp so that they can accommodate us for this day as scheduled. I was feeling happy about whatever he had told and all of us especially Bengaluru team said we are going up no matter what! Kiran started meditating for all of us and we all believed in his spirit.

15 of our team mates, after looking at SP-6 returning, decided to return back with them. They wanted all of us to go back with them as the climate was bad. But we refused. After all, we have come for Himalayan trekking and this is just the beginning of it so we will need to be brave enough to encounter all these conditions. So all of us got ready and we said we are not returning and luckily other than those 15, all of us got ready to go. So it was now the team of 29 who decided to trek up to Tila Lotni.

Tila Lotni – Highest camp site of Sarpass

We said bye-bye to the SP-6 batch and the folks of our batch who wanted to go back. They all cheered for us and wished us best of luck and they started climbing down. We with full of energy and confidence started our climb to Tila Lotni. Snowfall was still ON and we were all getting wet while we were climbing. The route was almost invisible and it was covered by the fresh snow. It was so bad that we were not able to recognize even the footsteps of the SP-6 batch that came down from Tila Lotni couple of hours ago. Steep climb and slippery way was too difficult to climb. Myself and Chirag, we followed the barely visible route, and started climbing faster. Chirag was climbing without a stick and he was finding it very difficult without it. I was with the stick and even then I was getting scared to climb on that snow path. After 20 minutes we turned back and saw no body following us. I got scared but Chirag was very sure that we are on the right way. I believed Chirag and we went ahead and we were just feeling when are we going to reach the lunch point? Where is the lunch point? After another 15 minutes of climb, we finally could see the yellow color tent pitched by the local villagers. It was barely visible but just by looking at it we felt better and started walking fast. The weather and snowing was so bad that I was not able to see Chirag properly. Finally we reached the tent and dumped our rucksacks. Villagers were making tea and we ordered it first and started rubbing our hands to warm ourselves. I was watching the way they prepared the tea by melting the snow. Wow! I never thought I would experience all these. Now we were getting worried as our team members were yet to reach to this place and it was almost 45 minutes from the time we reached this place. We were getting worried what if they have returned back because of the bad weather or what if they have taken some other route? Only confidence for us was the guides were with them. So we waited for them and after sometime we saw folks climbing near our tent one by one and felt happy seeing them.

All of them reached the lunch point and started hogging the maggi noodles and drinking the snow tea! We were not sure how the taste was but we wanted to drink something hot very badly. All of us were shivering and most of our folks were standing outside the tent as the tent was very small. After a few minutes, the snow storm got heavy and villagers asked everyone to get inside the tent somehow. Few people were still standing outside and I saw the villager blasting them asking them to get inside the tent otherwise they will die because of the snow storm. All of us got scared and somehow managed to pull in everybody. In a way it was good being together as we were feeling warm. After about 15 minutes of heavy snow storm, we saw the sky getting clear and sun rays coming on our tent. All of us jumped happily out of the tent and decided to move on and reach the camp site soon. Otherwise the weather may turn bad again. So most of the folks left from there and started climbing on the snow. From this point, we could not see anything but snow. And it was almost a 2 ft snow to walk on.

Here comes one more problem! Our team mate Shivu was shivering and he said he cannot walk. He said he will go back to the base camp from here with the help of villagers and asked us to proceed. But we refused. He was saying he does not have enough stamina to climb from this point and he is feeling very tired. Because he was feeling tired, he had the glucose by mistake which made him shiver like anything (he describes himself as Shake Abdulla) and he was not ready to go with us. We asked him to eat Maggi and he could not eat. Villagers blasted us and him for having glucose. They said it kills if you eat it here on snow. We got scared of Shivu and only Raghu, TS and I were there with him along with 2 villagers. After sometime he was feeling better and to feel better villagers asked him to smoke a cigarette and he did it. Guess it worked and he said lets go. A village guy offered to take his rucksack if we pay him 100 Rs; we said fine and he started walking with us. So we finally started climbing from there slowly. The weather was getting better and better and we were feeling confident to climb. We climbed for an hour in that heavy snow, and we reached a point where we could see the mighty Himalayan ranges from the top. This view was incredible and to add to our joy, we saw the banner of Tila Lotni welcoming us. Yes! We made it! Was the feeling within us. We reached the welcome point and all our tiredness went away. Shivu was jumping on the snow. We all played like anything and we took lot of cool photographs. We were feeling like we are in a desert full of snow. That good the snow was. Also it was the fresh snow which had happened on this day. And we were told this place was full of grass when SP-6 came here. So it was much happier moment for us and there was nobody to stop us from jumping on the snow. From this point we saw our Tila Lotni camp site which was totally covered by snow. All the tents were in the snow. We were feeling relieved as we looked at the tents and started walking to the camp site. By then our Bengaluru folks had gone and selected our tent. When we met the camp leader Mr. Tapas Roy Choudhary, first thing he did was he blasted all of us for having come to this place under such difficulty keeping our lives at risk. He had left with no other bad words to blast us! He said the climate is in a worse condition and we all should’ve gone back with our other team members who went back. But we said no we are ready to take risk. If the condition is good, we will go to the peak otherwise we will just listen to you. In his angry mood he said let’s see how it goes in the morning but it was most certain that we would go back to our base camp from here. It was a sense of disappointment that nature was playing at us but still for most of us, reaching Tila Lotni itself was an achievement and we would not mind even If we went back. We were just hoping for our best as the only difficulty will be to walk on the snow and the snow was 4-5 ft while walking and as per the group leader at some places on the peak the snow is 8 ft. Tila Lotni is at 12500 ft and the lowest temperature we recorded here was -5 o C.

We enjoyed the place and we took lots and lots of photographs. Our dinner was served at 18:00 hrs and we were issued sleeping bags and additional blankets. Since all our tents were covered in snow we decided to clean the tents and we thoroughly enjoyed doing it. Rather we were feeling warm after doing it. We could not touch the water at this place as it was very chilly and it leaves burning sensation after touching it. Before we slept, the thought in our mind was on how to manage our early morning formalities? And we were almost sure that we will not be able to make it to the peak! But with the greatest difficulty, reaching Tila Lotni itself was the satisfaction for the day! But we were hoping our best to go to the peak and Kiran again meditated for all of us with the only spirit of making it to the peak. We all slept early with the only hope of seeing the peak!

Early morning 5 Am, we could hear the camp leader shouting and we tried listening to it carefully. He was shouting “SP-7 Get up soon, climate is good and we are going to the peak!” wow! We all shouted from the tents “Wooooooow and yeahhhhhhh” and just jumped out of the tents. We got ready very soon and by 7:30 Am we were all ready to leave. Thanks to Sun! We could see him and the blue sky played the morning raga for us! It was also very exciting the way we did our usual karma in the snow!

Usually the day we trek to the peak, our trek starts at 5 am and the day will be very long because we have to trek almost 10 kms. But we started at 7:35 Am and our pack lunch for the day was a packet of biscuits, one Real mango tetra pack, Some Chikkis and a Vada. We were not sure whether this will be enough or not. All of us started to leave and 8 of our team members, including Shivu from our Bengaluru gang, did not want to join us as they were feeling difficulty in climbing. This time we did not force Shivu as he said he is not willing to come and give us problems at the peak! So we thought he is taking a wise decision and left it at that. Now our team size got reduced to 21. Camp leader cheered us and wished us the best for our climb and we started from there with full of energy.

It was a beautiful day for us and I have no words to express about the same on how exactly we felt looking at the mighty snow capped mountains, Incredible Sun and Awesome Blue sky! These are just words from me and I witnessed it there! As we were climbing on the snow in a line, it was a great sight to watch our folks climbing the peak. But the disappointing thing was our NGO Banners were in Shivu’s rucksack and we forgot to take it from him. You have absolutely no idea how disappointing I and TS felt! We just moved on! After a while, Kiran, Lakshmi and Kowshik stopped and were discussing something. I and TS joined them and they were thinking of going back as Kiran was feeling uncomfortable and Lakshmi also wanted to join him. But we stopped them from doing that as they were looking good. It was Kiran who was feeling tiresome. We even asked Kiran to stay back with us or he can join Shivu so that Kowshik and Lakshmi can continue with us. After sometime, we asked Kiran not to go back and we told him that we are there with him and we can do it without any problems. He believed in us and he said lets proceed. We all were happy with his decision which was the right decision anyway! It was a highly inclined climb and we encountered severe climb during our 1st 2 hours of the trek this day. Almost 75% of the climb got over in the 1st 2 hours and we had to just walk on the snow atop. Since we were at the high altitude, every 5 minutes of walk made us get tired and rest for some time. TS had distributed his ITC Candyman chocolates to all of us which made us feel better as and when we got tired. Luckily there were rocks here and there for us to sit otherwise we would not manage resting on the snow. As we were walking atop on the snow, we took lots and lots of photographs and I tried taking panoramic shots as well. It was just incredibly spectacular view which gave us enough confidence to go on with the spirits we had gone there. We could see the peak at the next hill but we had to cross a long way for that. One guide was with us as we were walking very slowly. While walking, every step would go inside the snow 2-3 ft. Because of this many of us used to fall down some places it was too slippery. Since we had the sticks with us, we could manage somehow. We almost reached a point from where we could see the lunch point. We were all relieved as we looked at it and started moving fast. We reached the lunch point at 12:00 hrs and rested before we had food. Brave villagers! They had their tea stall for us there as well. They used to melt the snow and prepare tea and noodles from that water. There was also a small water stream flowing from where we got the drinking water. Himalayan water! Amazing it was to drink. I had never tasted that kind of water. They say that it’s the purest water on earth with natural minerals. Wow! What all are we experiencing? Was the feeling for us!

Sarpass Conquered!
We all finished our pack lunch and started from this place. It was about 30 minutes walk from here to the peak is what we were told. But we encountered our life and death situation during these 30 minutes. Yes! It was just a scary climb from this place to the peak. It was very steep and if someone slipped from here, he or she would end up in some other valley. I was helping Kiran during this climb and we were very slow as it was very slippery. We could experience how dangerous it is to trek on Himalayas. It was very difficult because the snow was fresh because of the snow fall and the route was almost invisible. It was very difficult even for our guides to create the way for us with their ice axe. We saw most of our team members almost one by one reaching the peak and shouting that we have conquered! After seeing that, we could not walk slowly, we started climbing faster and we reached the peak. As we reached the peak, it was like “YES! WE DID IT”; SP-7 did it; Divya and Lakshmi did it. It was the most satisfying climb and it was a great sense of achievement for all of us. Guides started congratulating each one of us and they said SP-7 did it! And the great 21 did it. The peak was just awesome! We were at 13800 ft altitude and no body to stop us from screaming that we did it. As we saw the clouds were nearing us again and it started snowing. Holy cow! It started snowing at the peak. We all were getting worried but the feeling of achievement made wiped all our worries and took us to one more exciting part of our trek - sliding! After taking number of photographs and videos, we were ready for the roller-costar ride! Since it was cloudy at the peak, we could not see how folks are sliding. We could just see them for till about 4-5 ft; after that they were inside clouds.

Yes folks, to climb down from the peak, we cannot climb down, we have to slide down. Wow! We all were waiting for this moment. Guide took us to the sliding point and he started with one by one. Sujan was the first one to slide. Since the snow was fresh, his slide was not that successful as he had to push himself to slide down. But for those who followed Sujan was the real toast! We have to just sit and have our rucksack at the back, hold the stick on your shoulders with two hands and just slide! Wow! I did the same but by the time I slid for 20 seconds, my right leg got stuck in the snow and I was not sure on what to do. I tried pulling it, it did not come out. Then I tried bending towards my left and started pulling, it came out but I was upside down within a second. I started sliding with my back facing the sky. Even though I was not sliding properly I was enjoying it. I felt that I left my stick during the slide and tried turning myself. I succeeded in that and I started sliding in the correct way sitting on my back. After about 60 seconds, I saw folks standing in front and welcoming us. Woow! It was an amazing experience that we all experienced. After the 1st slide, there were two more slides that we enjoyed in the same manner. After this sliding experience, we were like till the time we saw snow, we were trying to slide everywhere. We almost climbed down about 1000 ft within 90-120 seconds. Our team leader Chandu was the best; he was doing everything he could do - rowing, sliding, and surfing with his stick. Wow Folks! Sliding is the most enjoyable activity during the Sarpass trek which is too good to miss. We had heard about it but we experienced it. You need to experience it to believe it. During the exciting sliding, I lost my Camper water bottle as well.

Biskere Thatch! - Getting down from the peak!

After the rich sliding experience, we were all looking very joyful and it was like nobody got tired. All of us were enjoying the walk after sliding and we were almost coming to an end of the walk on the snow. Because of the sun, snow was melting and the way was becoming more slippery. We saw our next camp tents while climbing down. Even if we saw that, we had to walk up to it which takes about 1 hour. This was the longest trek of the Sarpass. We hated to walk on slippery mud and we were feeling walking on snow was much better. Sujay was counting how many times he had fallen down and at this point he said it’s the 19th time. We were walking very slowly and most of our folks were almost about to reach the Biskere camp. Guide was waiting for us to join them soon and five of us; Kiran, Sujay, Kowz, TS and I, we missed the route. We felt like we were in some other route and not the correct route. I was enjoying looking at the golden and yellow finches and I was about to capture those, Kowz went back and started shouting at as asking us to go back. We all did go back and found the correct route and saw the guide waiting for us. It started snowing again and we had to run. It was a plain grass field so we were happy running. By the time we reached our tents at Biskere, snowing got stopped and we could see the beautiful camp site. This stretch; especially our last two camp sites are known as Switzerland of Himachal Pradesh. It’s that beautiful. This was at an altitude of 9500 ft. Even here the temperature recorded was 3-4o C.

We reached our tents at 17:40 and dumped our rucksacks. Camp leader greeted us and welcomed us after having achieved what we had come for. He offered us welcome drink and asked us to relax and enjoy the stay. He was very kind and cooperative too. Since the ground was very slippery, most of us hated to walk outside the tents. But the place was so wonderful that we came out and took a lot of photographs. We all were very tired so we decided to eat early and sleep early.

Because Shivu wanted my wildcraft woolen hand gloves, I had no hand gloves with me and during sliding I had nothing to protect my hands. So I got very irritating burning sensation and was feeling very uncomfortable. If I touch water, I have to hold my hand tightly in a blanket or sleeping bag or wear gloves to reduce the burning sensation. That miserable my condition was. But somehow I managed it and luckily Lakshmi gave me a set of gloves which they additionally got it for themselves. That saved me!

Our eyes opened to a lovely morning and we completed all the morning formalities sincerely. Now that we have conquered Sarpass and seniors to it, we knew how to manage everything. All of our folks started shouting at me asking me to come out of the tent as they saw a wild brown bear. Wow! I jumped out of the tent with my shooter to capture it. They reason they called me because I had the 500 mm lens which could take the picture of the bear which was standing near the pine trees somewhere at a great distance. Luckily my shooter could capture it and it was a brown bear!!! BROWN BEAR! What are we seeing? Yes! Thanks to Sujay, after coming back, we did some research on the Himalayan Brown Bear. It is such a rare animal to find in Himachal Pradesh that there is no count of that anywhere in any database. We are lucky that we could see that and we could even capture that. We had to shout at it loudly for it to pose towards us while capturing. This is what Wikipedia says on brown bears: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himalayan_Brown_Bear.

Bandhak Thatch – The Switzerland of Himachal Pradesh!

After our relaxed time at Biskere Thatch, we started our last day of trek to Bandhak Thatch. We were told Bandhak Thatch is the most beautiful camp site of all the campsites of Sarpass. So, all of us were waiting to see the same. We started from Biskere at 9:30 Am and we had to climb the steep down. It was the most hateful thing we did after all the success of climbing. We had to climb down for an hour to join a village route and from there it was an easy walk. We went through many water streams and the bridges near the water streams were just the huge logs of trees. While walking it was so beautiful that we were feeling like we are in a botanical garden. It was a spectacular sight to watch all along the way. At one point, we had to even do the rappelling to climb down. It was about a 25 ft of rappelling which was easily done by all the folks. Immediately after the rappelling, we reached the lunch point where the Barshani village people had their tea stall. We even got to drink Mazza here! Wow! There was a very beautiful waterfall at this place which was awesome to see. We clicked few photographs and started walking. It was about 2 hours from the lunch point to reach Bandhak Thatch. As we were walking, we stopped at a place where we could see the sudden steep to climb. Guide said this is the last steep to climb and the end of this peak is the Bandhak Thatch.

It was a tough call to climb but we had no other options left with us. Before coming here, some of our folks wanted to go back to the base camp and they were not willing to stay at this camp. But later after looking at the camp, they stayed back. We climbed the steep and we were welcomed by the YHAI banner. As we walked on top, it was a plain green field with snow capped mountains in its background; blue sky and our beige colored tents welcomed us. Wow! Incredible view! We just dumped our rucksacks on the field and rested there. Our camp leader Shashi came a long way from our tents to receive us but he ended up trying hard to move us to the tents. I had not even dreamt that I will see such a place in my life. Wow! I just do not have words to express how awesome it was. May be few of the photographs can tell you how it was.

We knew Shashi as he was at the base camp for couple of days during our acclimatization. He was managing Bandhak Thatch as a camp leader since one week. He was happy that we could conquer Sarpass and he promised us that we will have a great time at this camp site. We reached our tents by 16:00 hrs and dumped our rucksacks. This is the only camp site where we could walk with our bare foot. It was a very nice lawn; looked like German lawn. And there was lot of space in front of our tents to play games. We had our welcome drink and sat on the lawn and were enjoying the nature. Some of us walked up to some rocks to sit and talk. And some rested on the ground. After a while we decided to play cricket and we did it. Shashi made us play “fire in the mountain; run-run-run” game and after that we played Antakshari. It was a package of fun at Bandhak Thatch. We were thinking we are so lucky that we experienced all worst things and all best things in these mighty Himalayan Ranges. To our delight, at Bandhak Thatch, we could capture the sun set moments as well. Yes! We got to see the sun set. This camp site is at an altitude of 8000 ft and it is surrounded by snow capped mountains and pine forest. The wind was very chilly and the temperature was very low because of the breeze coming from snow capped mountains. The temperature recorded here was 3-6o C.

We enjoyed a lot before we had our dinner and went back to the tents to sleep. Before I slept, the thoughts that were coming to my mind was those two casualties of SP-1; our decisive point after Zirmi; Shivu’s Shake Abdulla story; Tila Lotni Camp leader’s angry words; heavy snow storm; Scary walk to the peak; Kiran’s meditation; At the peak; Sliding after the peak! Wow! I could not believe that we experienced all these.

Oh! I completely forgot on introducing the most happening character in our group of 21. Uncle Radha Krishna. This man was 56 years old and he was the most annoying character during the trip. Either he used to get irritated with something or he used to irritate others somehow. May be that’s the way he kept himself busy. He used to be alone always and he hated YHAI’s arrangements at some places. He is from Bengaluru that’s the only comfort for us. He struggled a lot during the climb and fell down many times but the proudest part was he was one among the Sarpass conquered. He used to sleep in the other tent always but non-Bangalorians wanted a break so they sent him to our tent on the last day. We enjoyed a lot pulling his legs in the evening. He travels alone throughout India. He has no friends to join and nobody cares about it is what he says. Anyway! It was a fun time with him for rest of the folks.

The last day of our trek – Enroute KASOL!

Our eyes opened to again a beautiful morning with a sense of low feeling that this was our last day of trek. We took a series of photographs on an awesome rock with the snow capped mountain background. We left from this place at 9:30 after a very delightful breakfast of delicious Chowmeen. We were told that it was only a 2 hour walk to reach Barshani village and we can take bus from there to our base camp KASOL. I guess most of our folks reached on time to Barshani village except for Kowz, Lakshmi, Kiran, Raghu, TS and I. We were lazing and walking slowly in the forest enjoying nature and cracking some awesome PJ’s. It was a very beautiful walk amidst the wonderful pine trees, grass field, Barshani village, people of village and crossing the mighty Parbati River over the bridge. Finally we reached the Barshani village bus stop at 13:00 hrs. We were late by 2 hours. Thanks to Lakshmi! Now I have to make someone responsible right?
It was the Election Day there and we were told that there is no bus till 15:00 hrs. So I and TS decided to go to the saloon and trim our beards which we did instead of wasting time waiting for the bus. By then our hero Raghu had booked a taxi for us. So happily we dumped our rucksacks and started our journey to Kasol. The problematic driver dropped us at Manikaran and told us he has some emergency call and he would not take us to Kasol. Kowz got angry and he started fighting with him; we managed to pay the driver and get out of his car soon. Since it was 15:30, we decided to have our lunch and then take the bus to Kasol. We went to Shivalik which is a very good restaurant in Manikaran and hogged heavily. After our grand lunch, we started walking towards Kasol which is just 3 kms from Manikaran. By the time we walked about 1km, we got the bus and we got into it and got down at our base camp. Wow! It was about 17:30 the time we reached our base camp; by then all of our other folks were out at Kasol roaming and having a party time. It was like a red carpet welcome for us at the base camp having completed our trek successfully with greater difficulties. All the other batch folks surrounded us and started asking questions; few of them were video recording, and some took photos of our team. It was like an interview. Wow! It was a great feeling while explaining our experience to them. We almost gave one hour for them to answer their concerns. We met our field director who welcomed us and who was also angry on other folks who returned without completing it.

Shivu came to the base camp and we enquired on where he was all these days for which the jealousy answer he gave was he was at Chinnu’s place! And he wanted all of us to go to Chinnu’s place and stay there for a day. I was on my toes to go to her place and we all decided finally to go. We all were feeling like taking batch as it was almost 8 days of no bath!
We all dumped our rucksacks and collected our deposited extra luggage. In the meanwhile Suzy, Sandy and Jaggi were all set to leave to Chandigarh for a grand party at the Army Canteen. So wished them bon voyage and we expressed how happy we were meeting all three of them. A good friendship was very certain with them. Then we decided to go to the small place where there is hot springs and went there crossing the bridge. This place is very small and like Manikaran, we get hot springs at this point as well. There were many people to take bath so I, kowz and TS were not feeling comfortable. Shivu had asked us to go to the room at Chinnu’s place to take bath so finally we went there. We all took a good bath for about 30-40 minutes each and we were feeling fresh. We came back to the base camp as we had to have our dinner there and collect our certificates. We had our dinner on time at 19:30 hrs and completed all our exit formalities to go out of the base camp. They called us one by one and handed over the certificates in front of all other members which made us proud in front of the whole YHAI fraternity. We wished all of them best wishes for their ascent to the wonderful Sarpass. After the campfire session, we packed our rucksacks and left from there to go to Chinnu’s place.

Stay at Chinnu’s place!
Now the exciting time starts! We went to Chinnu’s place and dumped our rucksacks in the room assigned for us and went into Chinnu’s room. We met her mother and Shivu introduced all of us to them again. I was just kept looking at Chinnu. She is a very beautiful girl with a very cute dimple on her right chin. Wow! I just kept looking at her. I and Shivu describe her as a Pine Tree! She is a beautiful pine tree indeed. She made special masala tea for all of us and she even wanted us to have dinner but unfortunately we had already finished eating dinner at our base camp so we just settled for the second round of tea. Her sister’s daughter Divanshu! was damn cute. She was in her 5th standard and she was absolutely cute to the core. We played with her for some time. Divya and Lakshmi were so lucky that they got to sleep in her room. Unlucky me! I went to our room and ended the day.

We got up very late in the morning and after our bath, we went on search of Idli Sambar! Yes! We were craving for idli and sambar. Unfortunately we were in Kasol we could not get. But we went to the same restaurant where we had gone once before our trek and had our breakfast. Sujan and Divya wanted to do the white water rafting. But YHAI field director had advised us not to take risk with these private folks as they will not have any safety measures if something goes wrong. I was all the more not interested to do that. I wanted to rest and also I wanted to spend more time at Chinnu’s place. My shooter was waiting to capture her as well. So I refused to go; Kiran’s team refused to go and all of us refused which made Sujan to feel a little discomfort on us and they both decided to go with the other folks. We said fine and we stayed back wishing them good luck. We just lazed around and came back to Chinnu’s place to have our tea. By the time we came, Chinnu was in a temple and we had to go there to see her. I took my shooter and she came down from the temple and asked us to walk with her. We took a group photograph and for which she gave me some space to sit next to her! Jealous TS was not moving at all. But cute Chinnu gave me the space and I sat next to her. Because of which the photo looks awesome! We were just causally walking towards temple and I could click many photographs of Chinnu. I even told her that her nose ring is beautiful and she looks very beautiful with that. I asked her to pose at my camera and she wonderfully did pose at my camera. My shooter captured all the best moments and I fell flat for her beauty. I enquired about her age and it was 17 and she is still a small girl. But she was as beautiful as a tall pine tree. I captured her lovely expressions and promised her that I would send her the pictures from here which I am going to do in the next couple of days. All our folks were teasing me taking Chinnu’s name for which I had to shamelessly blush! Wow! Shivu offered to pay for the room rent to Chinnu but it was her kind nature that she told we all are like friends and she will not take any money from us. They became very close to all of us by heart! Especially to me! And since Divanshu was in school, we could not get her photograph. We missed her!

Bidding farewell to Kasol and Chinnu!
We went back to her house and clicked few photographs with her mom as well. Her mom showed us how to make thread out of Sheep wool. It was very good to watch. Lucky Kowshik and Lakshmi got to wear the local Himachali costumes and got them captured in my shooter. And it was like we had postponed our trip to Manali to an extent where Chinnu told that there is a direct bus at 15:00 hrs and we have to catch that if we need to reach Manali. So we had to finally leave her place. We left at 14:50 hrs and I was the last one to leave. It was really a sad feeling walking out of their place but what can I do? I had to go. We got the bus at 15:15 to Manali and we reached our Youth Hostel at Manali at 19:45. We were delighted looking at the youth hostel as it was simply amazing. Sujan and Divya completed their white water rafting and joined us at Manali Youth Hostel. There were 10 beds in the dormitory room; we were 9 so it was completely our personalized room. It was very good. We had paid just 88 Rs per day per person and got such good facilities! We had dinner in the restaurant managed by the Youth Hostel. Youth hostel here was managed by some private resort owners; that was the reason it was so good. Since we were all tired, we slept early and for the first time after 2 weeks we could sleep on the bed.

Manali and Kullu – The hot cool place!

The next day we visited the Solang Valley and did the paragliding. Sujan and Divya did the horse riding too. And evening we went to the Roerich’s Art gallery and Naggar Castle which was simply amazing. I liked the art gallery very much and on the way back we ran into a house where a girl by name Aarti wanted to sell us Dry apples. Just as a sample we ate so much of dry apples. After that we bought a lot from her and TS was bowled by her beauty. We were at her place for about 2 hours just for this transaction and she became very close to all of us that she even offered us tea. But we had to go to the bus stop and catch the bus from Naggar to our Youth Hostel so we left from there soon. On the way to the gallery we even got to see the cherry tree. Shivu climbed the tree and got us cherries to taste. It was a very good day at Manali. We decided to go to Kullu the next day as Sujan and Divya had a lot to purchase. Kullu is the best place to do that. But I was inclined to see the Manali town but anyway I had to go with the decision. We all came to Kullu on 16th and went around searching for stuffs. Sujan and Divya bought loads of stuffs for their colleagues and friends. I just shopped for my sis, dad and mom and even our other folks did the same. We had our bus to Delhi from Kullu at 18:30. Luckily even Kiran, Kowz and Lakshmi had booked the same bus. So we all got to travel till Delhi together. We reached Delhi at 8 Am in the morning. They had their flight in the evening itself so they did not stay in Delhi. We had our flight the next day morning. So anyway we had to book a room for ourselves so they came with us to freshen up and leave to airport. It was a very good gang of us to take our friendships to greater levels in the future. We booked A/C rooms and they got freshened and left to the airport by 11:30 pm. Even we got ready and left the room at 12:00 hrs and went inside the metro station first. There we decided to go to the India Gate and then to Sarojini Nagar market. It was very tiring to roam around in hot Delhi. My thermometer reading was 44. We somehow with great difficulty, went to President Bhavan, Parliament and the India gate. After that we went to Sarojini nagar market for shopping and it was much more tiring for the day. The best part of the day was the dinner at Udupi bhavan in Karol Bagh market where we hogged like we have never eaten south Indian food. By then Kiran, Kowshik and Lakshmi had safely landed in Bengaluru.

The next day we had our flight at 6:45 Am so we had to leave the hotel by 4:30 Am. We reached Bengaluru on time at 10:15 Am. Naveen Anna came to pick Sujan and Divya and we took the Volvo from the airport to our house.

So this is the end of our amazing journey to the Himalayas. And now you know actual meaning of ‘Sarpass Returned’! Congratulations to all the 21 who conquered Sarpass!

Hope you enjoyed our wonderful journey! And I hope you even experienced a bit while reading this amazing story!

Testimonials of Characters from Bengaluru: (I may not have explained everything but I have tried to highlight main points)

Sujan (Gunda): Talented brain works as HR at Infosys and he is the boy friend of Divya. They both are ready to get married very soon. His highlights during the camp were taking one Avil tablet every day and getting bitten by bed bugs every day. Not only taking tablets, he used to make others also take tablets and sleep.

Divya (Gundi): Beautiful and very brave woman with highly matured behavior. It was really inspiring to hear that she completed Sarpass with us with no difficulties. She works for Dell. She used to lead from the front during our climb and that was the enough motivation for all other folks. She was the only good friend of Uncle Radha Krishna if I am not wrong.

Lakshmi (Putti): Another young brave woman who completed Sarpass with us. She is married to Kowshik since 2 years and they both are the sweetest adventurous couple. She works for Bosch. Her highlights were plenty. She used to say Kannada Shayaris all the time and she used to feel proud that she knows German. We used to call her Laskmi, Lachmavvvva, Lachmakkkka and Puttamma. Her favourite song is Lemon tree and by the time she sings in front of us it would turn to pine tree.

Kowshik (Putta): Proud husband of Lakshmi. He should feel proud as his wife made it to Sarpass without any problem. He works for GE in Mechanical domain. He is the Spiderman! A professional rock climber. Cool guy to hang out with and he has a very good sense of humor. He is a good friend of Kiran since many years. They both used to work for TCE.

Kiran (The perfectionist): Whatever he says is final. He loves driving, crazy about cars and reads Auto Car magazine without fail. We loved his conversation with his son Ujjwal. His son used to ask him to get him snow from Himalayas and the way he used to convince him was very funny. He works as project manager at CTS. He used to meditate everyday in our tents irrespective of how much noise we used to make. He is a gem of a person and king of PJs. whatever he says it’s the best, it’s the best! No one could argue more on that.

Shivu (The Shake Abdulla): Shivu was the most talkative person during our trip. He has no fear and whatever he decides to do, he will just do it. Unfortunately he missed the Sarpass peak but his decision was wise enough. He used to talk to every local person we used to see and he used to make them friends. That’s the way we got in touch with Chinnu, Neetha and Aarti. He has a very good heart that’s the best part! Since he did not know how to express the word “Shivering”, he replaced it with “Shake Abdulla”. We all enjoyed it the most. He stays in Shimoga and takes care of his business.

Sujay: His friends call him Suzy! The heavy guy of our team. He was very careful during his walk and he had even counted the number of times he had fallen down. He is the coolest person of the lot and a great photographer. He had his SLR with him all the time and he used to capture the best moments. He had all the good gears! Like: head lamp, wrist watch that has altitude meter and thermometer. He used to test his body temperature every morning which used to read more than 35 always. He has a very good sense of humor and we had a wonderful time with him during our trek. He works for Oracle.

Sandy: Sandy was at his best capturing the best moments of our trek with his camera. He has taken lot of cool videos at all main places of our trek. He is also very cool and has a very good heart. He works for a company called i-pass in Bengaluru. He used to pull Suzy’s leg always and used to have lot of fun. Cool guy to hang out with. Most of the time, we saw him talking over the mobile phone. He looked like he used to manage many girl friends. He used to hardly sleep and every 30 minutes he used to wake up and go out. No idea what he was doing though!

Jaggi: Jaggi was also the coolest guy. He works for Oracle and he is Suzy’s colleague. Jaggi is from Andhra and he was hardly able to speak in Kannada. So he used to talk to us always in Hindi. He had his SLR and as soon as he sees some good stuff, he used to let us know so that we also could capture. The main problem for him during the trip was he had forgot to get the coffee mug; so he used to always wait for someone to finish and then he used to have.

Raghu: Raghu was the only person to maintain the consistency as a patient right from the day we landed in Kasol. He was caught with cough and cold and at times fever as well. So every day he used to give good company to Sujan to take tablets. He works for Thomson Reuters. He suddenly turned Sharukh as soon as he saw the snow and started posing like him!

TS: The Total Solutions guy! Even though he was on leave, he used to sell the ITC products to us every day. He used to talk a lot and sing only Kannada songs. When it comes to talking to others, he was the most silent guy as he is very poor in Hindi. Whenever we used to play Antakshari, he used to be silent if we sing songs in Hindi. My best buddy. He works for ITC. He was bowled by Aarti’s beauty at Naggar. But he could not talk much as she could not understand Kannada.

Srik: You guys know me by now. I was the official photographer of the team with my 500 mm lens and I tried my best to assist everyone when needed. I am proud to be a part of 21 who conquered Sarpass! And we all lived our dreams. I work for Oracle as AM- Human Resources.
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Please leave your comments after reading. For any specific feedback, please post the same to srikanthap@gmail.com.

22 comments:

Manikandan said...

I came, I saw, I conquered” - Julius Caesar.

I cannot think of any more words other than the above mentioned historical quote for your success.

Rock On!!

Prasad A N said...

Hey! Nice writeup about your experience there :)
- Prasad [SP6]

Raghu said...

Wow! Write up is reallly nice. I wonder how you got so much of patience to write such a lengthy but good blog capturing all your experience in words.

Feeling lucky for being the part of SP-7 Batch.

Keep going...

Sudhi said...

Fantastic!!!

I really enjoyed this journey by reading eventhough I missed it actually.

Keep going......,keep writing......

Sudhi.

SuZ said...

My oh My!! That's a long story, but it has managed to capture all the highlights of the trek and made me re-live those wonderful moments. Thanks a lot for that.

It was really amazing to meet new people from Bengalooru. And its not everyday that we get to meet such down to earth people having the same mindset. (I am positively excluding Radhakrishna uncle from this list :P. Even though, I salute his spirit)

There are three things that are permanently etched in my memory from the trek
1. The dilemma in our minds when we heard the horrendous news of the tragedy with SP-1
2. The conversations and PJs that we shared amongst the Bengalooru group. (Esp the jokes session in the Tent@Gunaa Pani)
3. The variety of climates we got to experience, ranging from scorching sunlight to zero visibilty snow storms.

Truly, we are one lucky bunch!!

And lastly, Srik, thanks for those kind words in the mini testimonial that you have written :)

Srik said...

Hey Sujay! Thanks for your share on our 18-day long expedition. It was of real fun. Thanks for your kind words as well! :)

Thanks to Mani, Prasad, Raghu and Sudi as well.

T S said...

" Oho Himalaya..!!"

“It’s my DREAM since my childhood days to see snow and play. Ooops I did it.”

It’s one our great adventurous and longest trekking since we start our trekking activities. Congrats to all SARPASSis..!! And thanks to Youth Hostels Association of India team.

I never ever forget the all funny moments we spent in the trek also we cannot forget the critical moments as well. Really we are lucky enough to see and enjoy all kinds of beauty of the Himalayan range.

Wav.. !! Amazing Rivers..!! Valleys..!! Ice cold water..!! Awesome Hot springs..!! Evergreen forest..!! Shocking Heights and Depths..!! Mighty Himalayan snow..!! Beautiful Flora & Fauna..!! Beauty of Himachalies and their lovely kind heart and hospitality..!!

“Himachal Pradesh - Dev Bhumi...” Jai Ho Himachal..!

One has to see and feel the beauty of the Himalaya in lifetime..!!

The moments I cannot forget in the trek..

• Funny moments & PJ’s of Bangalorians in the tents at higher camp..!!
• All the higher camp places and its beauty.
• Wonderful & dangerous Snow storm!!
• Shivu’s Shake Abdulla situation.
• Criticality & Beauty of Thila Lotni.
• Snow walk of the SARPASS.
• Lovely snow sliding in the peak.
• Bandhak Tatch’s beauty..!!

One thing still pending- Zuck.. Zuck of Snow to Sujan..!! I will try in next trek.

KASOL.. “Heaven on the Earth” Hope you can imagine its beauty. It’s become our dream place.

Cheers Srik..!! Wonderful photos and blog. Keep going..!!


T S
No Tyangirigires..!!

Narasim said...

Hello Team Bangalore,

Congratulations. Job well done.

As you know, One of the roots of name Bangalore is boiled lentils (benda kaluru). Now we know that all of you can be labeled frozen lentils, thanks to the Canadian winter descending upon you at the peak.

I cannot help but feel envious of your magnificent trekking experience in the Himalayas.

The daily journal kept by you, Srikanth, gave me a full understanding of every step you people took. The vicarious pleasure derived from virtual trek sitting half a world away was made possible by your delightful prose and poetry. Thank you.

Notwithstanding the thrill of your trek, as you realized, these adventures are not without their tragic consequences, sometimes. It is good to see you all back safe and sound in Bengaluru. I was so worried for you all. That is why I called Srikanth twice on the morning of 14th on his mobile phone. Obviously he was asleep and did not respond.

The photographs were very helpful in giving a glimpse of the beauty of Himalayas.

Glad that Raghu made it to the top in spite of his cold. Pleased to see that Shake Abdulla in the garb of a sadhu made it back safely.

Once again, Congratulations on your achievement.

Srikanth, thank you for the detailed journal.

Very sincerely yours,

Narasim

manjunath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
manjunath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
manjunath said...

Congrat's to the Sarpassies!
I have downloaded the blog...and I will try to finish reading it in stages in a couple of days! But I'm sure Srikanth has put in all his efforts,as usual, to give us a good reading.Though it is good to experience the journey through Srik's eyes,the best,as we all know, would have been to experience it live, and I'm one person who has missed this opportunity.But I'm sure TS and Srik will provide me enough opportunities in the future to help me forget this missed chance by organising other treks and trips!Well all the best to all the Conquerers and may your breed increase!
I think the best part of the trip FOR ME was, you all returning back safely! I felt relieved after i heard from you as I was a bit worried after I heard about the tragedy which occurred midway through your journey. You all have proved that you are healthy now!!Next time I will be more comfortable after issuing certificates!!

Srik said...

Thank you All!

Doc!! Special thanks to you for giving us medical certificates... now you know how fit we are!! :)

Christophe said...

Hi Srikanth,
I am a friend of Sreelakshmi from Germany...

Sreelakshmi already told me a LOT about this adventourous trip, but just now after reading this blog I got the complete picture!

I started reading it and I was so thrilled that I could not stop until I had reached the end after ~1 hour!

Seems you have experienced ALL the things of a good Indian blockbuster movie:
- Snow mountains
- adventure
- love stories (Chinnu :-))
- songs (lemon tree:-))
- LOTS of DRAMA

It is unbelievable that you have experienced all this in a couple of days.

The two decisive points (one being the sad story of the two casualties, the other being the point where the trip almost was cancelled due to the harsh weather) and then the no longer expected happy end that you still reached the peak!

Trust me, it sounds like a fiction story with all the dramatic turnarounds and the happy ending!
You all can be really proud to have been part of this.
And Srikanth, you did an unbelievably GREAT job of documenting it in such a wonderful manner.

Only thing I missed in his blog was a closeup photo of Chinnu. After having talked sooooo much about her beauty, it is kind of unfair not putting one...

Now you REALLY have something you can tell your kids about in decades to come!

THIS IS REALLY AWESOME.

Chris

sajana said...

An adventurous journey to Himalayas!!! ..hmmmm...sounds indeed very adventurous!


At first i told Sri i will print a copy of your story so that as and when i get time i could read it after going home..but i couldnt stop myself and inbetween my work hours at office i thought let me start reading while taking small breaks from work may be every one hour ;) but, it so happened that as i started reading i got so interested that i started taking breaks every 15 mins and on that day my manager was not in office so i took advantage of that ;)

The story got intersting and i really admired the way Sri made it a point to mention the minutest of the deatils for the benefit of the readers.And yes not to miss all the details regarding what they ate for every meal( I know sri you are a foodie and you ought to write about it and you would not like to miss writing that right?)and as in most of his stories there was a small love story here too :) (dont know whether girls get impressed by him or he tries to impress them or get impressed by them :)lol)

As TS mentioned about his dreams i too always dreamt and longed to play with SNOW and yes this story has inspired me like all of them would have...just hope that i too can see Himalayas one day and be proud like you guys!

The photos helped us visualise the beauty of himalayas and all the flora and fauna were captured very well.

Once again i would like to mention that I just loved the way you have captured all the minutest details Sri..kuddos to your writing skills!! Keep Trekking and Keep Writing..

:) Sajana

Vinay Hegde said...

Just read the blog and I had a virtual tour of Sarpass..... I am planning to do this trek again this year for the 2nd time.

A gr8 place to visit and conquer.

A nice narration......

regards,
VInay

Vinay Hegde said...

Hi Srikanth,

Thanks for your reply. I needed one small information from you. Please let me know when did you book for the tickets to Kullu From Delhi, was it after reaching Delhi or u had booked the tickets in Advance?

Hemant said...

Dear Shrikanth and 21 Sarpassers!
An excellent writeup of an exclusive trek. Why dont you publish a smal sovinior in the form of a book? All the best and hoping to see you in one of the treks by NHAI!
Hemant Pandey from Pune-02026123123.

ash said...

hey ..very nice read:)
can you please tell me how ur batteries wer saved to click pictures??
hw many batteries did u take??

shishir juvekar said...

The batch you mentioned SP1 09, i was in it. The incident has left a scar. Every other time this topic arises, i get goosebumps as if it just happened yesterday. I can't forget that day as it is one of the most memorable & horrifying days in my life.
p.s. love the blog.

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