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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

The beckoning of the Himalayas

Although it makes for some breathtaking views, there are many lurking dangers as one navigates the challenging terrains and unpredictable weather while conquering the Indraprahar Pass in Himachal Pradesh

10th June 2018, 06:14 Hrs

BASIL SYLVESTER PINTO


The lofty mountains in the Himalayas come with the expectations of bringing out the best in an adventurer looking at scaling greater echelons. Himachal Pradesh is the most popular Himalaya trekking destination which has a multitude of trails and routes of varying levels for the beginner to the experienced climber.   

And it was no less for Nature Trekkers Goa, who undertook a Himalayan exploratory expedition with conquering the Indrahar Pass as the objective in the magnificent Dauladhar Ranges in Himachal Pradesh in May 2018. All in a span of three and a half days. The snow-capped Indrahar Pass which forms the border between Kangra and Chamba districts is situated at an altitude of 4342m (14,245 feet) above sea level from the tourist town of Dharamshala offers changing landscapes and terrain. It also exemplifies the traits of zeal and determination of the trekker over health and fitness factors to reach their goal.   

This writer was among the successful 54 of the participating 56 trekkers from the State who attained their endeavor of reaching the snow-covered base of Indrahar Pass at around 3400 m and return to base camp braving AMS, adjustment to food and stay, challenging terrain and the typically unpredictable weather of the region.   

Post a photo-op and after receiving their instructions at the base camp in Bhagsu, Dharamshala (1735m), the enthusiastic group of young students and professionals commenced their trekking expedition on May 19. The professional mountaineer leading the pack, Kuldeep Nehria was more than just an in-charge as he enlightened the trekkers on the fauna and flora of the Himalayan region en route. As the trekkers continued their climb, the asphalted road gave way to an unpaved road after a kilometer as they passed through Dharamkot village. At a clearing along the trail, they came across prayer stones (small stones neatly piled up as a mound) as colourful prayer flags swirled overhead in the wind and good-natured maroon-robed monks seen seated or passing by with a friendly nod added to the splendor of the manifestation.   

As afternoon approached, the trekkers who had by then attuned themselves to the onerous climb, passed by a small bridge at the first Bhated stream which was a touristy locale. As they continued their trek, they came across a steep ascent of steps for another 500 metres to the Bal village which began to take a toll on their lower limbs. As the last of the trekkers reached the village situated at a height of 2000 metres after 5 kms of trekking, they were served instructions to leave their rucksacks behind and take their packed lunch and water bottle to another climb after a brief respite. From here, the trekkers took to a steep ascent of another two kilometers to Jai Guna Mata temple (2300m) where they had their lunch. On their return, to the village and shortly after strapping their rucksacks again onto their shoulders, the trekkers, set out towards their camp-site a kilometer away. As the grey clouds broke free into a steady drizzle, some of the trekkers had to make a small detour to join the rest of the group to a more feasible yet challenging route as the precipitation level increased. The trail was narrow, slippery initially and required prudence and sure-footedness with a free fall to the valley on the other side to the valley below that could end calamitous. After side-stepping or dodging past large cylindrical pipes, they continued their upward climb as Jungle Camp at Sapenu village (2100m) announced itself in large lettering where they reached early-evening after covering 10 kms for the day.   

Next morning, May 20, the motley group braced themselves to a climb upwards of another 9 kms to Triund camp-site. The gradual step-ascent was literally breath taking, and the adventurers had to take in breaks at various points to collect air and energy levels. After passing through the Triund check post near Galu Devi temple, the terrain began to gradually waver, as the rugged, rocky trail smoothened out at odd points. As the trekkers moved upwards, they saw wired away fencing blocking incredible views of the Kangra Valley at various junctures. These places known as ‘Black Spots’ in trekking nomenclature are lurking dangers when admiring landscapes or taking pictures could prove fatal resulting from clumsiness or being casual. Half-way to Triund, there were unrestricted astounding views for a few daring self picture opportunities at Magic View (oldest chai shop since 1984) and Half Point, mid-way to their next camp-site which this trekker had to complement. The last kilometer of the climb known as ’22 Curves’ was particularly daunting as the gradient increased. The trekkers finally reached Triund (2875 m) early evening. Their camp-site was set farther up on the vast tracts of meadow overlooking the pristine clean mountain peaks of the Indrahar Pass, and its bigger cousin Mun Peak (4610m) on its right on the Daladhar Ranges on one side and the Beautiful Kangra Valley on the other.   

The morning of May 21 was the one most anticipated. After breakfast, with the exception of two who took ill, the rest of the trekkers set forth with their objective of the Himalayan exploratory trek farther four kms up. At 2925 m, they passed a small temple, Mata Taranga Wali along the rock strewn trail. As they continued upwards, they came across arrows marking the route on boulder and rock faces. At 3300 ft, they reached a clearing popularly known as Snowline Café, a quieter camp-site giving clearer, closer views of their summit which spurred their tiring limbs onwards. As the last of the trekkers finally reached the base of the Indrahar Pass at an elevation of approx. 3400 mtrs (11,155 feet) it was a sense of relief and pride that their self-belief in realizing their aim was fulfilled. The stunning vista of the Dauladhar Ranges with the more prominent Indrahar Pass and Mun Peak on view was pleasurable and overpowering. 

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