Sar pass trek : Survival guide

Posted by Tilak Raj
June 4, 2017

Self-Published


“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Trek time – End of May

India is a land of natural wonders and mesmerizing beauty. The Himalayan ranges in the northern part of India are a feast for eyes and a challenge for enthusiastic trekkers. I and my friends were eager to trek over Sar pass(literally means passing over the lake as the lake is frozen normally and we cross over it) in one of the most beautiful stretches in the Himalayas.I am glad this trip happened. We booked our trek with YHAI (the cheap and best organizers) around January. Me, Karthik, Rishab, Saurabh and Preetham took flight from Goa to Delhi, whereas Arun and Sumith took flight from Bangalore to Delhi. From there we took HRTC Volvo to Bhunter (better bus, compared to other private Volvo bus).Our base camp was at Kasol, we can take a local bus from Bhunter which is 30 km from Kasol, due to curvy roads it takes around 2 hours to reach. Its fascinating to see all the people from different parts of India with different age group and profession coming to Kasol to trek over Sar pass. Kasol has many Israelians visiting over the year during different season to get the feels of Himalayas and of course weed. The trek was eye opening journey for me as I reflected upon myself throughout the trek, also the Trek is a heaven for photographers and nature lovers due to bewitching landscape and Himalayan flora and fauna.

View from base camp

Base camp

Our base camp was great it was located near the river and we had the view of the snowy mountain that we had to climb. But we wanted to start trek as soon as possible. They had us do exercise, rock climbing, rapling and acclimatization walk of about 4km to see our fitness level, well these things were not easy at all as I had not done any physical activity for many days, so in other words, these exercises actually helped us. The night was filled with entertainment activities (Jack and Jill … cough) for team bonding and just get us out the tents during the freezing nights of Kasol. There were occasional rains now and then but our batch was luckiest as we missed the rain narrowly all the time.It would only rain during lunch time or after we reached other camp sites. At evening we would go to Kasol market and hang out at our tea spot and get some free wifi and go further and eat some tasty momo’s ( these momo’s are the best ), some of them did last minute shopping for the trek and were all set for the trek.

The trek itself is challenging as we had issues with weather now and then, even the local people could not predict what the weather will be like. Also, we can easily catch fever or cold and have stomach upset all the time, there are chances to get altitude sickness, but it’s all part of the trek.Our batch had 2 doctors and they would give Tablets if there is any need, but our batch was mostly very healthy and there were no major health issues with anyone. There were also frequent trekkers and experienced trekkers who had done Sar pass several times.

YHAI did a good job at providing tents, tasty food, awesome guides for the trek, toilet facility in the middle of nowhere, water facility, sleeping bag, blankets, rucksack etc.The trek was painstakingly well planned by our organizers. Not to forget all the camp leaders where from Rajasthan (:p) and were very strict in some cases, they sacrifice thier time to do volunteer job here at the camp.

Base camp at Kasol
At acclimatization walk

There are several things to consider before trek like your health. Also, you need to be prepared for the trek. Buy thermals, jackets, lunchbox, mug, good trekking shoes (preferably shows from Decathalon ), raincoat or ponchos. All these things are available in Kasol but they might be costly in some cases so you can purchase these things beforehand. The difficult part was to leave behind some stuff and pack up for the trek (bag must not be more than 6kg + lunch pack + water bottles).

There are many things to say but I will keep it short, yet descriptive about the trek details. Each day follows about trek from one camp to another camp site, while we trek over mountains ,valley, forest, snow and water streams. The experience was overwhelming. The guides where localites who knew the tracks properly and were super human trekkers considering they do this for their living.

Stream in Kasol

Day 1: Kasol to Grahan

Feet: 6500ft to 7700ft

Kms: 9 km

Time taken: 7 hours

Difficulty: Easy to Medium

Grahan camp

This was our first day of trek and was told the trek would be relatively easy, but we were wrong , trekking is always challenging we had to climb hills to move forward so it takes away all the energy , we reached lunch point around 1 pm ate some momo’s and took rest and started trek again, the terrain is good we saw variety of forest trees and streams , the weather was pleasant enough for Trek and thank god there was no rain, as we reached Grahan we found local children(pahadis) asking for chocolates (they say, “tata! Toffee”) , if we gave chocolates to one kid they he/she would run away without sharing it with other kids , there was a kid called Mohit he would forget that he had come to our tent before and would go on to ask for chocolates again!(LOL). The campsite was near a field with hills surrounding it.After we reached camp all of them were tired and dozing off, as this was the last place with human inhabitation I wanted to see the village. So me along with Karthik and Rahul(Tarzan) went to village for some adventure ,luckily we found our guide in the village ,he was happy enough to show us his village , it had narrow paths with a different kind of house , there was school(they had till 8th standard) , school playground where children were playing volleyball , other small kids running around , apple trees , sacred temple (no one other than their village people can enter the temple) and giant 250 year old tree . The village was lively until it started raining, we ran across the streets to our camp site. The scenery after the rainfall was alluring .Night is usually cold , we go inside our sleeping bags which is awesome experience in itself as we don’t feel any cold. Usually, in camps, old people would be playing cards or play anthyakshari, but we had our power banks and smartphones to play mini militia to spend our time. Atul(Royal boom) had become a pro at the end of trek, speaking of which savatha bhabi(Sumith) or swagger swami (Preetham ) would be on top of the point table always.Not to forget Jitu’s non stop hindi speaking skills and Iyer playing music non stop.

Children playing at Grahan
In deep discussion
Puppy at Grahan

Day 2 : GRAHAN TO PADRI

Feet: 7700ft to 9300ft

Kms: 9 km

Time taken: 5 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Herd of goats en-route Padri

The easiest track of the trek no steep hills or downhill ,just a steady track, still it was not a bummer as I had lots of fun as the whole trek was in the forest. We reached the next camp very early and had lots of time to rest. There are Maggi and tea points throughout the treks, yes they are costly but 70 rs for maggi in Sar pass is very reasonable, the price increases as we go to higher altitude as the weather is totally messed up as we climb up.

Padri camp site

Padri camp

On of the best camp site, it was situated in a valley, so there was a large open field where you can see horse grazing and galloping around and in front of the camp there is Snow capped mountain which we had to eventually climb, the Himalayan range looked majestic and arresting at the same time.The phantom-white mountain reared into the sky. I had quality time outside the camp taking pictures and roaming around in the cold as it just rained for about an hour, the field was very slippery so its advised to wear shoes all the time outside.The toilets are usually outside in the forests, but we where free to do our business in the open woods(the best?).

Horse grazing in the open field

Day 3 : PADRI TO MIN THATCH

Feet: 9300ft to 11200ft

Kms: 11.5 kms

Time taken: About 9 hours

Difficulty: Difficult

One of the tiring track of the trek was extremely steep and had some dangerous routes to cross, I was feeling hungry as we left the camp early but reaching lunch point was very difficult , lunch point was at the top of the hill , there were pahadi women selling buttermilk which was delicious and cheaper than those Maggi . There was constant fear of rain and we needed to open our raincoat/ponchos which is a big headache. But as for our convenience, there was only little drizzles here and there.Usually, these tracks have some snow here and there but we didn’t get the chance to encounter any snow. Finally, after the trek, we reached our camp. As there was lots of rain, this was a slushy camp. The walkway was dirty and slippery but the view from behind our tent was just gorgeous. After a hot cup of tea followed by soup, I was in the mood to enjoy the beauty of Min Thatch. I had some stomach upset here (and lasted the rest of the trek 🙁 ) because I had eaten something wrong, the camp was never boring we had our Rajasthani friends doing all the entertainment in the form of jokes and mockery between Ronak and Atul.Rahul(Tarzan) would come first to camp site and reserve us the best tents. At night time it was cold still we went outside for stargazing, man was it beautiful!

View from Min Thatch camp site

Day 4 :MIN THATCH TO NAGARU

Feet: 11200ft to 12500ft

Kms: 9.5 kms

Time taken: 7 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Medium

Steep climb to Nagaru

The trek is very steep but we had to trek in a single line and put slow trekkers in the front , so there was no fatigue ,there was only slow climbing, the path looked dangerous ,one slip could mean death as there were many loose stones lying on the path, so trek shoes is a must, we also had wooden stick for balance, we could see that we were constantly climbing up towards the peak ,yet it was far way . The lunch point here was most breathtaking as it was located just near a steep slope. We had food and waited for the rain to go away (we were lucky again as we didn’t get rain while trekking). The serrated phantom-white mountains loomed in the distance as we made our way towards them . After we reached the camp, the sun was out. The camp leader said that we were lucky to have the sun as other batches didn’t get this chance. Also, we had good water access as the snow was melting fast. And hey we get mobile network here!!! .We could see the mountain that we had to climb tomorrow in order to reach sar pass, it was filled with snow, we where very excited to climb it. We slept early as we had to wake up at 2 am for the trek else the snow starts melting and it will be difficult to trek.

Nagaru lunchpoint
Nagaru camp at good sunlight

Day 5 : NAGARU TO SAR PASS TO BISKERI

Date: May 8 2014

Feet: 12500ft to 13800ft to 11000ft

Kms: 14 kms

Time taken: 10 hours

Difficulty: Medium

Heaven called Sar Pass

This is the D-day we will reach sar on this day, we left our camps at 4 am it was very cold, we had to trek on the snow, we had a steep but slow climb to sar pass.  One thing to remember here is to follow everything the guides tell you. Don’t try to break any rules as it can be fatal. it was 6:30 when we reached sar pass, it was literally heaven on earth the place was so beautiful it can’t be explained in words , there was a crimson hue over the horizon as the sun shined with pride over the mighty Himalayas , we had so much fun on the snow, as it was flat land , we had war of snowballs and had few group pics .The heaven-touching apex of the mountain was drenched in brilliant light. Spikes of thin light impaled the snow in a bristling, moving line. There was one guide who bought flute here and started playing sweet melodies in it. The atmosphere was so pleasant. Even though we wanted to stay on that frozen lake we had to move forward to next camp, we had to trek through the snow, again one slip in snow we will slide down and need to climb up, the guides have ice axe to make way the path, even I slipped once , but because of the wooden stick I was saved big time!!. Sunglasses is a must as the sunlight directly reflects from the snow to our eyes. Finally our guides left us behind from the sliding point, we had to slide for about 300 m downwards, this was the most fun part of the trek, sliding down on snow is awesome, my slide was good and had a jump while hit the speed breaker and also couldnt stop and hit ajja (Preetham ) from behind , we slid together for another 100 m(LOL) .

We reached lunch point and had some Maggi. The lunch point was an open field, it was picturesque and winsome. After that we had to climb down, my knees and toes were hurting after climbing down. Basekri camp was beautiful, buffaloes and horses grazing around and the weather was rather pleasant other than some occasional showers.

Lunch point after Sar Pass

Day 6 : Beskeri to Barshini to Kasol

From Beskeri we wanted to skip Bhandak thack(mini Switzerland) as many of them were ill and were tired as fuck. So we planned to go to Kasol directly the next day. We took short cut to barsheni , there was only climbing down from here on , it was steep climb down so it was difficult , few of the fast trekkers reached the bus stand very early , I took my time and was taking it easy enjoying the nature and resting here and there finally we reached about 6,600 ft from 11000ft . We took a cab to our base camp, which is around 15 km.You can also catch bus to Kasol from barshini.

We were feeling sticky as we had not taken shower for days. I took shower in Delhi the next day, but Delhi was 45 degree, very hot and with lots of pollution. It was huge contrast from the beautiful sar pass trek. It was major shocker and upset to me. I just wanted to leave Delhi and go to my home.

Conclusion

At the end YHAI had planned the trek very well they served good food and water, the tents were placed at good spots. They had good cooperation from the local people, otherwise, trek would have been near to impossible, transportation of foods to those camp sites is very difficult. The photos where taken from Karthik’s SLR and Arun’s Oneplus 3. The dogs in this region are beautiful with furs.Also, the trek varies from person to person, it is never the same trek. When I referred to one blog the had snow from Min Thatch itself, but we encountered snow only at Nagaru camp. So the trek was a great experience for me, I just loved it and I am eagerly waiting to visit Kasol maybe in different season.

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