Monday, June 6

Indrahar Pass Trek Log

In our previous treks we had been travelling light and walking long miles a day thus helping us do treks with less leaves from work. Planning first trek of 2016, I was thinking of something in Himachal Pradesh and then I got my hands on Depi Chaudhary's Himalaya trek maps. It's very detailed one and I spent hours studying it. Hoping to combine two short duration treks, I thought of Indrahar pass(4350 m) in Dhauladhar Range between Kangra and Chamba valleys, and Kugti Pass (5050m) in Chamba. Indrahar pass is popular among trekkers but Kugti pass is less travelled with altitude of significant 5000+ meters and this required some travelling on road as well.

Alternatively, I also thought of doing Minkiani pass from Laka cave after coming down from Indrahar pass. Depi Chaudhary's map was showing a route to Minkiani pass from Laka cave which is little beyond Snow point cafe but we zeroed down on Indrahar pass.

My always ready travel buddies Kiran and Akshay were willing to join for this trek though Akshay wasn't much updated on the diversions which I and Kiran were planning to take.

With thought to first reach Indrahar pass and later decide what next, we left on Thursday, 12th May. Akshay wanted to see Bhagsu waterfall, so we started our day with that. We were told about a path leading to Triund via Upper Bhagsu village. There was a small puddle where it used to be a pond. We started for Triund around 12. It was a steep climb till we merged into Triund trek route. It was a hot day and there weren't enough trees for shade. We had our lunch in Triund and soon decided to leave for Snowline Cafe.

Akshay was little reluctant to walk that day and I was slowly giving up hope to reach Lahesh cave the same day. I sincerely wished that we reach Lahesh cave on the same day after halting for a while at Snowline cafe for food but by the time everybody reached Snowline, we decided to camp there and leave for Indrahar pass early next morning. We all were carrying our separate tents but the night got very windy and Kiran had to sleep in Akshay's tent as his tent fell due to wind.

In the night we were informed of snow conditions on the trail and were advised to take a guide. We were told that an ice axe might be needed to carve out steps in a glacier which falls very steep from peak. There was small group of people who attempted to reach Indrahar pass a day before with a guide but they had to come back from few 100 meters before pass due to snow condition and weather. Though, short on money we couldn't have been able to afford guide that day and we started little late around 8:30 AM on Friday contrary to what we had planned. There were two more people leaving that day from Snowline Cafe for the pass. They even had an ice axe and were even planning to cross the pass that day. One of them was Ken from Japan. I was hopeful that if we followed them, we would be able to get to the top. They left before us. Akshay was not willing to continue, though he came along us for a stroll till Laka Cave area. Negotiating the Laka glacier took a little time and Akshay didn't want to continue, so he decided to walk back from there.
it look a little time .. though it was fun

waterfall near lahesh cave

We followed the trail and cairns on the way. The path was not very clear, sometimes I had to look around to be sure that we are on the right track. We continued our walk but Ken and his friend were nowhere to be seen by now. There were steps carved in glacier. Kiran hesitantly crossed it.

Slowly and steadily, we were making progress. I was finding it difficult to follow the track, though I was sure that it was the right path.

The top seemed very close. I saw a severed head of what looked like a goat and blood patches on the trek. I couldn't think of any reason of  what killed it that way. Kiran was uneasy after seeing that and was feeling tired so he asked me go ahead without him. It was past noon.
Weather seemed to coming in heavily. Suddenly it was all dark and cloudy. It was difficult to see what lies ahead. Kiran was far behind and I was not able to find trail further. Markers were pointing towards a glacier which was very steep. It wasn't very wide but there were no footsteps. Suddenly it started to hail. and I feared of it getting worse as there was no place for me to hide so I decided to turn back and be content with the progress made on the trek.

With time, the hailing slowed down but there wasn't much time to change the decision for that day. Few hours after we reached Snowline Cafe, Ken and his friends also came back and they managed to reach the top. I sat there and pondered what went wrong. Why did I turn back when I knew there wasn't much left till the top, I was almost there. While talking to the cafe owner, he suggested that had we started little early, we could've got company of local Gaddi people, who crossed that pass frequently with their goats and sheeps.

At center is the severed head of goat
Recollecting all what I have seen on the way, I asked the shop owner at cafe about the severed head of goat. He told me that Gaddi's kill the goat which walk slowly because if they are left behind, these goats may die with hunger.

We returned back from Snowline next day on Saturday to McLeodganj. Here is our shared photo album.

Next Attempt:

It had been two weeks since my last unsuccessful attempt to complete the trek, the thought of not able to complete that trek was constantly bothering me. With a constant feeling of " I shouldn't have given up so easily ", I knew I won't be able to plan any other trek unless I complete this one so I decided to make another attempt to reach the top atleast. It was Friday, 3rd of June when I left alone for McLeodganj. My only camera; my mobile gave in due to charging problems. I didn't even carry my tent this time and decided to stay in caves only. There was another cave on the other side near Chatta where I would be staying, if I were to cross the pass.

With all the thoughts and will, I started off for Lahesh cave on Saturday Morning. Rested for a while at snowline cafe, I left for Lahesh cave after having lunch. I was in luck as there few gaddis who were to cross that pass tomorrow. Next morning, I heard calls of those shepherds while I was getting ready and I tagged along with them. Those sheeps were really slow while walking. I was following them and sometimes tried to help them controlling the sheeps. When I reached the point from where I turned back last time; I had to go ahead of these sheeps as they were nearly came to a halt. Few local people were coming down from the top where they had gone to offer prayers. They also offered me prasad. Walking further more for around half an hour I was at the top. The lead shepherd was sitting there and enjoying the view of Chamba valley. Breathing lively and cherishing what beautiful the view was, there is another thought going in back of my mind and I was wondering what would be the view of the other side from the top. Heavenly it was, much more than what I imagined. The steep descent from pass goes to a vast flat plateau covered with snow. From there one can see Pir panjal range and Mani Mahesh peak. Few minutes later another group joined us. We all stayed around for an hour and roamed around to see the view of valley from different spots. After an hour, clouds started rising from the valley and with rising clouds, we too started back. And in a short while, it started hailing and raining heavily. We continued our descent slowly and cautiously as the path was now slippery due to rain. And then we heard the sound of loud thunder and saw frequent lighting around. It continued all along the way and rain got heavier.We had to take shelter and Lahesh cave was nearest to our rescue. After an hour it stopped raining and we again started walking down to Snowline cafe. I was having lunch over there when it started raining again, actually this time it was pouring. When it slowed down, I too started my journey back slowly towards Mcleodganj. It was already dark when I reached the town and I had to no other option than to stay over night in Mcleodganj due to non-availability of bus. I was happy that I reached the pass which gave me many sleepless nights because I left it incomplete last time. I still wished to cross the pass to see what lies on the other side; but I was travelling too light for that.