A personal account of trekking experience in a part of the Himalayas.
Each time we breathed, the foggy breath covered our mouth in wisps of white smoke.
Shivering in the cold, I look at my reflection in the glacial lake – I FINALLY MADE IT!
The preparation for a trekking experience
After really long searches and googling through every possible adventure camping site, we zeroed in on Indiahikes.com. Looking back I can say with certainty, surely we couldn’t have found a better option.
When our trek to the mighty Himalayas was being planned, I knew the time had come for me to do something for the thrill of it. Not for the heck of it.
Manali tickets were booked.
Hiking boots were packed.
Thermals and fleece were put in place.
Just the fitness regime of walking or jogging 5km every day had to be taken care of!
Seriously though, the concept of body fitness cannot be neglected because for the most enjoyable and comfortable journey throughout, you NEED to prepare your body.
Even taking a single breath will choke you.
Also read: Must-pack essentials while going trekking
Setting Out: Trekking, here we come!
Manali says Hi!
Away from the din and noise of the cities, Manali is a veritable dream world where bountiful nature offers a variety of pleasures to all types of tourists having varying tastes. Manali is a nature lover’s paradise.
Apart from that, whichever part of the world you’re from, fly to Manali and chill before your trek because you need to give your body the time it needs to get used to the weather.
Nehru statue is a prime location in the middle of the town in Manali. It is a juncture to different shopping streets and we were asked to assemble here.
We were 24 in total – all of us began our journey together to trek up the steep hills on a carefully chalked out path.
Techies. A doctor couple. Even a 60-year-old man! We were a team.
Not a team. We became a family during our journey together weaving some unforgettable memories and experiences.
Gulaba village: First stop on the trekking experience
At 7000 feet, a road trip to the village on the outskirts of Manali was the spot from where our trekking was to begin. The two-hour drive was the beginning. It was like an introduction to the chapter of unexplored beauty in a book of the Himalayan peaks.
The eyes met the mountain peaks,
Her beauty was too deep to explore,
While pictures clicked tried getting into its soul,
I looked at it and captured the moment instead.
Trekking experience to Hanuman Tibba and Friendship mountain
On our way to the base camp, the stretch was covered by hilly terrains and snow tinted mountain peaks.
The light drizzle added the spark to an already amazing ride through the ghats.
Amongst the first place we reached was the twinned peaks of friendship valley.
Hanuman Tibba is a wonderful pyramid peak rising at 5940m, located at Beas Kund glacier in Dhauladhar Range. We learnt the importance and the popularity of the peak could be understood with the fact that the Western Himalayan mountaineering institute at Manali, used to take participants of their advanced course to this summit. This peak is more clear when you travel to Rohtang pass.
From the summit, one can feast his eyes on the panoramic view of the Pir Panjal range, against the back of silver horizons formed by the Dhauladhar and Great Himalayan ranges. The Friendship Peak Trek is one of the most challenging terrains to trek on as we soon learnt later. The peaks come down to a common base which fit picture perfect against the backdrop of the floating clouds on its top.
Muling our way through
Mules are a common sight in the Himalayan region for carrying the extra load to the mountaintop with amazing resistance to bad weather or rocky path or water stream or almost ANY kind of crazy obstacles.
So offloading your backup on these animals is an option – here’s a suggestion – do not try to carry your own backpacks all the way up to look like real trekkers because, with worsening oxygen and pressure levels, you will feel sorely throttled. We have been there. Done that!
Starting the rough path
With everything set, we started our trek from Gulaba to an altitude of 9000 feet to JT camp.
Yup. That’s right. The rough patch of trek involved going from 7000 to 9000 feet in just 2 hours! What surprises you the most is the trekking itself is simple but the pressure drops will make you drop down if you aren’t fit enough.
Also read: Hiking up the mountain of death
Base camp to Rola Khuli
The third day began unceremoniously with most of the people having high BP or very low pulse rate. But the destination was close, and our enthusiasm was high, so we didn’t let anything deter us on the last leg of the trip.
Surprisingly going from 9000 ft to 12,000 ft in 5 hours is no joke but we had to do it, and we did. The journey to Rola Kholi was indeed THE best time we connected with nature. Freezing cold and frozen lakes.
The third day of the trek we started early, heading towards our final destination and in 3-4 hrs –
We made it!!!
Bhrigu Lake sits snug between two high altitude ridges towards the east of Rohtang Pass. With undulating meadows that you can walk barefoot in, the 4-day trek packed in quite a punch!
The glacial melts surrounding it with snow reflected an oasis of serenity and the snow had beautified everything it had covered!
Every day the treks were so well timed – the days were for action and nights were for chilling.
With curvy bends and steep slippery slopes with streams of water running on the sides, the sheer experience of it all made for a wonderful sight!
Star Gazing And Wonderstruck
Surprises are in store for you at night.
About 30 camping tents with 3 layers of strong, weathered sheets for 3 people, are put up to form the best protective and designed shelters.
The sleeping bags provided offer the extra warmth which you will be dying to get.
But the night sky full stars forming constellations after a rainy afternoon and cloudy evening will leave you spellbound!
Body fights – Weather why you do this?
Now, THIS is where all that regret about fitness, food regime, making every day a cheat day for chilling on your bed instead of going for that jog will rush to you and knock you out cold.
The oxygen levels go on dropping and you won’t be able to see 5 feet in front of you.
So make sure the medical checkups that the camp leader is particular about is taken care of properly.
Caretakers to your rescue
Which way to go?
Lost I look around
There were a few chances of getting lost easily and taking a wrong path.
But 2 locals employed as a porter(as the lead) and sweeper (rear end of the group) will always have your backs.
Medical check-ups are done 2 to 4 times a day involving the BP count, oxy count, pulse rate all noted down each time on a card to check if you can move on to the next level each day.
What to take?
Along with normal clothing, you need two other things which cannot be missed!
Dry Sack: You never know when it’s going to rain or snow, so prepare for the worst — particularly if you have gear that must remain dry. We carried a dry sack with us in order to protect our gear against freak storms or inadvertent submersions while fording rivers.
Sunscreen sunscreen sunscreen.
It is a MUST.
Eco games and WARS
As much as conservationists and ecologists are crying out loud about the environmental problems and the threat humans are facing, unfortunately, we happened to come across some plastic bags and cups and wrappers strewn across some slopes.
The best part of it, however, was the fact that ALL adventure campings proactively involve trekkers to clean up the place if they do spot anything hazardous.
Eco bags are given for the same.
The result? Not only do we have a part of nature where mankind gets to revive its purity to its original state, but people with excellent involvement are also rewarded titles like ‘Green-Getter’ with certificates from fun contests that are held throughout the trek!
Brush them out – them problems!
Of course, as campers, the washroom problems are something we are mentally prepared to face. But nothing will beat the reality you will face once you get there.
Toilet tents are built about a few meters away from the other tents.
Stop imagining a fancy built-in loo to accommodate your high standard needs because all you’ll see inside the tent is a Coco pit with a Deodorant kept by the side to suppress the smell!
So most importantly keeping your digestive and breathing problems in check is of prime importance.
Diamox pill (half for each night) is given for each and everyone to help you deal with the weather. Avoid eating junk and get acclimatized to the weather.
No problem. No pill.
Cook food! Food cook!
No matter what snacks you carry, the main meals are the most important thing! Make sure to have a good, nutritious breakfast to start you into the day. Lunch provided is light, the main meal of the day is dinner, which is well-deserved after a long day of trekking.
Rice with some light curry is served piping hot in closed bowls which are in fact the best bet at that altitude.
All in all, go do it. Do it right. Do it well.
Even without putting a lot of effort it will be a beautiful journey.
So you might as well try to get that kick however possible.