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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Surpassing Sarpass Trek, YHAI Trekking Himalayan Expedition at 13,800 feet - 1


Selfie @ Jana Waterfall
This is the travelogue for my first Himalayan trek. Being a verbose guy I might post too long travelogue, but I will try to control myself with least word possible while explaining my pre trek experiences and post trek experiences with the people and the proximity.

It was the Sarpass Trekking Himalayan Expedition spans for an overall 11 days and 10 nights by Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI). The base camp was located in Kasol, Himachal Pradesh. Our Sarpass Trek trivia in brief:
It is the second highest trek-able peak in Himachal Pradesh at height of 13,800 feet
Sarpass is lying in between Sivalik Range and Pin Parvati Range (highest trek-able peak in Himachal)
-  Grahan is the closest village located at a distance of 2 hours (you cannot count distance in km here. Thus, our 5 min ki duri pe hu casual reply to a friend when asked, our expected arrival time is feasible here)
Winter snowfall was heavy. Precisely heaviest after 35 years. So, woohoo...Lucky us!!

Remaining I am leaving it to include in the blog.

31st July, 2014 – 3rd June, 2014 evening:

Hidimba Temple, Manali, Himahal Pradesh
I left my hometown Shegaon via Maharashta Express. Reached Nagpur by 6 pm. Waited for my trek companion Mr. Prashant Bonde. Then waited for the train to arrive. Meanwhile helped a soldier carry his heavy luggage to his destined platform. Came back. Climbed on the train. Witnessed the Keralites and impossible-to-even-guess language. I was in the minority, so decided to settle down ASAP. Bad experience with heavy air conditioning system. Slept. Woke-up. Reached Delhi. Meet my second companion Mr. Ambarish Gawande. Had lunch. Travelled via Delhi Metro to ISBT – Inter State Bus Terminus. Booked Volvo. Purchased goggle. Climbed Vovlo. Evening. Morning reached Manali. Jay, our booked driver took us to the hotel. Planned to visit Solan Valley. Our booked vehicle failed. Waited for like 3 hrs. Reached Solan Valley. Did paragliding. Don’t even think of missing this. Once in a lifetime experience. And if you are planning to record your flight, do press the right camera button. I pressed the wrong button and will regret this till my next flight. Visited Hidimba Temple. Then Jawahar Nehru Waterfall. Then Mall Road, Manali. Came back to the hotel.

Next day. Ambarish and I went to the post-office for sending a parcel. Realized that you don’t have left-right in mountains. It’s always up-down. Then went to Jana Waterfall. This is an awesome place. Here there are many hotels located beside the waterfall. You have tables placed in ice cool water streams. And we can order our lunch and have it with your legs hanging in the very chilly ice water. But be careful this might hamper your digestive system, as most of blood will flow towards legs instead of the stomach.

I would insist you to order the local thali. The thali is just delicious, filled with vibrant food items. They includes lal chawal, siddu, kadhi, rajma, lingad curry, corn chapatti, aaru’s pickle, dadhiya (sweet), muli ki chatni. And most awesome is desi cow ghee!!

Delicious local thali at Jana Waterfall all items
Day 1: 3rd June, 2014 – REPORTING DAY

After roaming the whole day in Kullu we reached Kasol Base camp. It is located just beside Parvati River, which gets its water from two huge glaciers – Pin Parvati and Dudhon. The gigantic Parvati Range was on one side; with snow-clad Himalayan mountain. And Kasol town on other side. Numerous tents. And so were the participants! Freezing breeze of air welcomed three of us. Rancho Chamaldas Chanchad, Farhan Qureshi and Raju Rastogi; we entered the base camp. Already we were late for reporting. The expected arrival time was 4:00 pm and we trio reached around 9:30 pm. The first thing I did after reaching was plugged my mobile on the public charging port provided by YHAI at Kasol Base camp.

Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) Kasol Base Camp photo

Reaching on the reporting desk the guy with stiff voice and spinal cord as straight as Qutub Minar gave us the same look which Raju, Farhan and Rancho gets while submitting paper late in the movie sequence of 3 Idiots. But here the guy was a military guy. Couldn’t do the same thing they did in movie of swapping the forms. So, instead we patiently waited for him to bend his spinal cord from Qutub Minar to Leaning Tower of Pisa; and give further instructions. While he was providing us documents I was observing the cultural event that was taking place in the camp fire.

We were part of SP34 group. And the guys who were enjoying were SP34, SP33, SP32 and SP31. Singing, dancing, chivalry, babbling, peaching; fun, masti, enjoyment.

Qutub-Minar-spinal-cord man ordered us to keep the luggage there itself and have dinner first. We did the same! I am a 24-7-hungry-guy. No doubt I brushed my hands on the food. We had dinner. And few metres away a worker was playing the gazal - Abhi ghar na jaana.

Ye bikhari si zulfe, ye faila sa kaajal
Ye feeka sa ghazra, ye simta saa aanchal
Tere haal se log pehchaan lege,
Tujhe dekha ke lo mujhe jaan lege,
Mujhe jaan lege!
Abhi ghar na jana Abhi ghar na jana
-          Pankaj Udas (Aman 1994)

Meanwhile tents were allotted to us. It was number 20. Being the late comer our tent was all empty. It was just three of us. Yuppie!! And that ‘Yuppie!!’ lasted for few minutes.

When you are in Himalaya be prepared to face everything Himalayan. Roads, stroll paths, buses, ghats, animals, rivers, trees as well as your sleeping floor. The sleeping floor of tent was not plain. I was expecting Ganges Plain and all we got was thorny Himalayan surface. We could actually locate Shilla ht. 7025 m, Solang 5975 m, Pir Panjal 5972, Hanuman ji ka Tibba (that’s a peak’s name) a.k.a. Dhauladhar ht. 5860 m, Pin Parbati 4800m, and many more on our sleeping floor itself from Himachal Pradesh.

After proper study of each and every peak I settled my luggage down and went on to get my mobile back. I was shocked to find out that the whole charging facility was reimbursed and was not there. After enquiry I was informed that every night at 10:00 pm whole settlement is broken and then arranged next morning.
Himalayan floor, no mobile in hand, Parvati river’s gushing sound, chilled breeze, rats and cockroaches inside tent, and to its companion Ambarish Da’s thundering snores echoing in empty tent. This was surely one of the most horrible nights!

Day 2: 4th June, 2014 – ACCLIMATIZATION

Acclimatization during Sarpass Trek YHAI
I was sleep deprived the next morning. The morning temperature was still very low. That made me wore all the warm clothes I had. And with that I became Neil Armstrong. I presume he was more comfortable with that tight space suit as gravity is just 1/6th of that of Earth. My One Step outside the tent was a HUGE step in my Life!

Believing myself as Armstrong I went jumping to drink warm water and tea. First thing I did was to peek into the tent of base camp leader for my mobile. And then we fall-in for morning exercise. Group captain took us to the ground. And the army drill began.

Things in my case are never typical. And if anything is going normal then I can call it calm before supercell/tornado/hurricane/typhoon/cyclone (My blog has global readers. I am bound to use all names used for a tropical storm to make understand everyone).

The exercise was very exhaustive. Freezing temperature, absence of sunrays, Parvati River, snowclad Parvati Range Mountains these all natural forces were insufficient to avoid our sweat bladders to stop. And guys generally have their way of puking this pressure, best way – humour. The jokes were being cracked and we were laughing impishly hiding our face as much as possible. But damn that local-guy; he caught us grinning. Our impish smile turned sheepish. And we mean me and Sharfaraz Khan. That local-guy came to us and charged us of talking. To which Sharfaraz retaliated saying we were laughing over the jokes and wasn’t talking. But then local-guy punished us by ordering a very tough position. He forced us to bend our legs as if there is an imaginary chair behind us and hands straight.

Long 45 min exercise was breathtaking. Leg ligaments were by now strained. Now this! Local-guy was forcing us to name the guy who was cracking jokes. But none of us came forward with the name. Very soon Abhishek Jha came ahead and took the blame of cracking jokes. Eventually he actually was. He thereafter became group leader of SP34 and my nice friend along with Sharfaraz , Ramesh Bhanushali and Sanjay Pasi.
After the exercise we were told about the place where we will be carrying our 6 kg bags for acclimatization process. This is the process in which we carry two blankets and two water bottles with us on a small trek. Making sure that we are fit for the trek and our body welcome this drastic change. And YHAI is not conscientious for any loss of health and wealth.

Reaching back to base camp we see-off SP32. Standing on one side there was SP33 and other side were all of us SP34. SP32 were recording our cheering, uproar and shouting. We were clapping furiously. The sound of claps was captivating Parvati River’s voluble sound. One after another the unwavering faces were vanishing and leaving the Kasol base camp.

We then had our lunch and got up for acclimatization. Packed the bag given by YHAI with two blankets and two water bottles.

Our small trey was accompanied my Thakur – a guy just my age and who claims that he did the Sarpass Trek in just one day; and for which we took 8 days. With him we went on for a 4 km of mini trek and I made few more friends enroute. Sampath Satti, Gopalkrishna Hegde, Mahesh Hegde (at first I thought if they both are brothers) and Phanindra Hegde (this confirmed me that this is a common surname).

By noon we were on top of the hill and everyone was reaching one after another. A surprise was waiting for all of us. Rooh Afza..yumm!! We mixed the Rooh Afza and water that we brought in a bucket. Each of us gulped in an instant and then we had our introduction session. And there I got to know about the Tadas family from Akola, city located in vicinity of my hometown. Sanjay Tadas, Vaishnavi Tadas and Sangita Tadas were those. And very soon I was introduced with four other people from my vicinity; Mukund Chandak, Bhavana Chandak, Nitesh Brijwasi and Nayana Parakh.

BASICALLY it was all basically then!! Bangalore guys BASICALLY introduced themselves. Abhishek – our group leader and one time Sarpass experienced, Ambarish - die-hard photographer and enthusiastic nature lover with great wisdom and experience of nature cycles, Ashwath - the hardcore technical geek who has a Kernel in his head, Anil and Himanshu – both working as teacher in Central Board and adventure hungry, Bhavana, Nayana, Nitesh team of CAs and Mukund, an engineer. Chandrakanth, the calm guy who speaks less, but when speak he always makes sense. Chetan – who was given a jadibuti by his manager for avoid muscle fatigue. Dayanand – married, humorous and extrovert guy, Gautam – resigned his job in CISCO for this trek (that’s what he claims) and going for MS in USA, Harisha – the guy I respected most in the whole trek and will keep respecting, Jeet and Surekha – the HR guys, I am going to forward you my resume soon. Subodh Kadam and Khushbu Kadam – newly married couple. Kusuma -  girl who wanted to enjoy last few days alone before marrying and was going for Roopkhund Trek just after Sarpass Trek. #RESPECT! Mallesha, Preetham and Vinay – three musketeers who studied in same college, joined the same company, working for same project and now surpassing Sarpass together. Damn lucky guys! Manjunatha – most fashionable guy in our group; every girl was feeling envy after watching him. Nagarjun – who believes LOVE THE COMPANY AND not the job; which made him CEO of VOLVO. Prashant - the senior member of our group and mu uncle cum friend who gave me some very important life teachings during the whole trek, Reshma – TCSian cum Bangalorean. Sagar – master of situational songs and shayaris. Sachin – guy to whom after introduction I asked “From Mumbai?”  and his response “Sachin naam sunte hi Mumbai?” and we laughed over that. Sampath – IIT-B guy with 90th AIR rank and I dared to debate with him on thermodynamics principles. Sandeepa – entrepreneur and guy who sustained a brawny hit from me. Shreenidhi – who left his job for the sake of writing and now is the most demanded script writer in Kannada TV shows. Chinmay, Gopal Krishna, Mahesh, Phaneendra, Reshma – all belonged to Hegde family.  Sujata, Neelam, Sharfaraz, Ramesh, Sanjay and Ujas were other guys.

And BASICALLY this way we completed our acclimatization process and BASICALLY we were sliding down to foothill to our base camp in Kasol.

Random adventure during Sarpass Trek YHAI

Soon we had our lunch and following it was orientation session. And then we were allotted some time for shopping. Purchased some basic amenities and we were back in den before 6.

Then we had our dinner and sleep. This time I commit to memory to take my mobile and charger with me.

Day 3: 5th June – ROCK CLIMBING AND RAPPELLING

Me during rock climbing in Sarpass Trek YHAI

Today as I was in no hurry to get my mobile I woke-up a bit late. This made me stand in LONGGG queue for bathroom. Glad I have strong expertise as a tenant for such tasks. Soon we were up for the biggest morning task – exhaustive exercise. Then breakfast and see-off-ing SP33 to Sarpass Trek.
Time was for rock climbing and rappelling.
Situational song can be –

Aaj kal jindagi mujhase hai Keh rahi
Tu Jo Meri Maane Toh Chal Deewaane Sapano Ki Raahon Mein Tu
Saari Khushbuo Saari Roshani Ko Le Le Inn Baahon Mein Tu
Naye Raaste Hai Tere Waaste Panaaho Mein Tu
Tere Liye Nayi Hai Jamin Naya Aasmaan
Likh De Hawaao Pe Koyi Nayi Daastaan
-          Shankar Mahadevan (Wake Up Sid!)

We reached our destination. Most of us took rock climbing frivolously. But after watching that 75 degree stiff slope rock I bet most of ours determinations punctured the same juncture. The rock was so stiff than even Spider Man will reconsider before giving it a try. Yeah! But Tarzan could have done it easily.

Before climbing we were given the theoretical knowledge of the rope, its equipments and all the skills that are required before climbing a rock. Rope has a breaking strength of 300 kg and caravan 1800 kg. Each of us was attempting their best to climb. But precisely I would mention one guy – Harisha. This is the guy you can compare like with Bappi Lehari or Adnan Sami. At first none of us even gave him seriousness to any extent. But once he started climbing up. We all below him were breathing heavily. And the local-guy at top was breathing more hastily; as he was having the task to stretch the rope in case climber falls. Harisha took his first step. Stretched his right leg to a crack. Then pressed the rock with his left hand to shift body weight. Then left leg. With every small step his blood pressure was increasing. And guys standing below was decreasing. But Harisha attained this feat. And I am proud to call this guy my tent-mate. :)

SP34 group during Sarpass Trek YHAI
Then came my turn! Watching everyone climb my blood was replaced with adrenaline. The rock was divided in three stages. After each step we get enough platforms to take breathe and plan our further itinerary. The people keep shouting to guide you, but this is disguise. They ask to take your right leg left, left leg right, right hand left and left leg right. That will simply tangle you and ultimately lead you to fall. Best practise is to map your path before climbing and then at each halt plan again. I managed to climb the whole rock successfully and then visited the river close to the location.

Then did some experiments with photography before climbing a fallen tree over the river joining two banks. Again had Rooh Afza and then back to Kasol base camp and back to same location for rappelling.
I decided to skip this task as I already had an experience of rappelling in my previous treks.

Again theoretical info before practical experiments. Equipments includes deconder (figure of faith), mittens to avoid our hand from burning due to heated rope because of friction. It was no hard task. I tried taking a power nap which was disturbed due to the intense sunrays overhead. After its completion we submitted our extra luggage to the YHAI base camp.

Imagine the serene role of Amol Palekar as Ramprasad Dsahrath Sharma in movie Golmaal (1979); these guys were us. And then imagine the vigorous Spartans from movie 300; that’s guys from Vashi (Mumbai) who arrived surpassing the Sarpass Trek. Their energy level was vibrating the whole base camp.
Positive energy that was scattering from their mouth was sufficient enough to cross Sarpass. They told about many things. Issue, obstacles, barriers, difficulties, hindrances. Next moment we arranged the meeting. I called up everyone from SP34 with the news that we are organizing a meeting to finalize our slogan for the trek.

They were –
Sarpass ke charo aur, SP34!
Machaiye chor, charo aur; SP34!

And few more. We couldn’t conclude with a single slogan. Instead we decided to use all of them during the whole tenure of trek.

Today it was our turn to rock the camp fire. So we guys and girls decided to perform some dance in common. But eventually it turned out that we guys only were the performer. And those include me, Mukund, Gautam, Nitesh, Subodh Kadam and Sampath. We danced on Kolaweri Di. It was a very comic dance which eventually turned more hilarious with us being the part of it.

Our lead dancer ditched us very badly or he just fell for stage freight. During our rehearsal we planned for some other steps and on stage we did something else. During rehearsal we planned to dance on whole song and eventually half of us kept dancing and half stopped in the middle. I saw many people laughing on us. But who cares. We were abusing each other during the steps and each of us turned out to be an expert choreographer during last 30 sec of dance. Doing whatever that was coming to mind. Left leg rhymed with right. Lips were singing the song. To the anxiety this dance was recorded by many people. Am glad no one 
uploaded it on YouTube, else it would have become instant hit.

Then dinner and sleep!! We all were super-duper excited to the trek starting tomorrow. That night even Ambarish’s snores didn’t stopped me from dreaming the Sarpass scenarios.

-----

Apple juice IN Jana Waterfall
That’s it from first three days of Sarpass Trek. Next blog will include the real trek experience. How we reached from the height of 6,500 feet to 13,800 feet. Almost twice of where we were. On legs, with 10 kg to 18 kg of weight on back. Sometimes extra luggage of some other friend. Through the moss. Glaciers. Oak trees. 1  and half kilometre ice slides. Mini Switzerland. Snowfall. Holding the tents. And trying to count each star in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Snow patches. Some returned. Some cried. Some laughed. Some puked. Some fatigued. This was certainly the toughest of trek one can ever have.

One universal fact of the Himalaya to what local-boy says –
Mountain never gives you second chance. Respect it and then you can surpass any Sarpass like trek.


Stay tuned for more fun, adventure and thrills!! :)

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keywords: sarpass trek, yhai, kasol base camp, kullu, manali, himachal pradesh, 13800, 2014, beskeri, ratanpani, grahan, padri, nagaru