*Indrahar Pass (4350 meters) is a Dhauladhar Pass connecting Dharamshala to Kuarsi Village in Chamba. It is one of the most commonly frequented Dhauladhar Passes, by the travelers and Gaddis’ alike.*
The year was 1999. My father got transferred to Dharamshala. We (me and my twin brother) were just 13 years old. At 13, the worst that can happen to you is leaving your friends behind. Nothing hurts more than losing friends at 13.
Getting into a new school makes life even worse.
Parting of the ways was tragic but we made a promise to our friends. The childish promise of writing letters and calling each other. Meeting frequently was also a part of the plan. That never happened. And with all these promises, we went to Dharamshala.
The change was drastic. All of a sudden we found ourselves sitting on the front desks of the class. A boring life it was turning out to be. There was no one to talk to, people were strange and so were our teachers. At times, it would appear that even our parents had changed their stance from ‘friendly’ to ‘friendly fire’ towards us.
But there was a little hope. There always is a hope.
A small window opened near the front desk that would give us a glimpse of the mighty Dhauladhars’. Me and my brother would often stare at the Dhauladhars’ looking for a friend. That was when I fell in love with the Dhauladhars. They were our sole companion; motivating and reassuring all the times. Reassuring that the good times will be back again. And if I look back, I feel that that reassurance helped us a great deal to enjoy live the best phase of our teenage life in during our stay at Dharamshala.
We used to live beneath the ‘Gauri Junda’ Peak; which is now known as Dharamsala Matterhorn. Our residential colony was close to the starting point of the Kundli Pass. There was a snow-point at the high ranges that would never run out of snow (The Mon Peak) and we would often go hiking to catch a glimpse of that snow-bowl. Often we would meet foreigners telling us stories about the peaks and the Dhauladhars’.
And that made me even more determined.
Our trips would often start from Khaniara and end at Bhagsunag Falls via the Indru Nag Trail. Nine out of ten times, we would lose the trail and that would mean staring foolishly at the snow patch with a hope to reach there someday. That always looked close but beyond our reach.
It was during these wild-chase trips I met a long bearded German who taught us the lesson of respecting the Mother Nature.
We were happily making noise and littering around during one of our wild goose chase. He followed us closely, probably he was also trying to chase the elusive snow-bowl like us, I am not sure. And when we gave up our chase, he walked to us, handed us all our litter that we left behind and said in his ‘tooti-footi’ English, “Ye aapka hi to hai saara pahad, inko kharab mat karo (These mountains belong to you only, why spoil them?)
And then he went on his way. We were flabbergasted and amused at the same time. He collected all our litter.
Silly fellow. But that was a lesson well learnt.
I hope he successfully chased that elusive snow-patch.
And one fine day we left Dharamshala. This time I didn’t miss any friends, not even the place. But nothing could take away the memories of that snow patch from my mind.
We left Dharamshala in 2001. And I was yet to have a clear look at my friend, let alone meeting him.
And after 12 long years, I did meet my friend.
October 2013 – A Long OverDue Visit
I started this trek with the idea of going only till the Indrahar Pass and not beyond it. And this is one of the most beautiful passes I have ever seen. The rocky bareness of the Dhauladhars’ is a beauty beyond words.
It’s not a big deal to cross the pass in one day and set camp in Chhatta or Mandara on the other side (obviously if only the Mother Nature permits) but my plan was exclusively to go to the top and meet my old friend. At the top you get to see the vastness of the Pir Panjal Ranges and on a lucky day you can catch a glimpse of the holy Chamba Kailash Peak as well.
Indrahar Pass is between the Mon Peak and the Camel Peak. And just to the right of this pass lies that snow patch. The very snow patch that made me fall in love with the mountains. I walked few steps on the ridge towards the Mon Peak.
A couple of months back I had gone to the snow line ridge and (somehow) I couldn’t muster courage to walk towards the top. But I knew I was close. The moment had finally arrived. I could see the Kangra Valley in its entirety. From Dharamshala to the vast submerged lands of the Pong Dam.
The Journey was complete. The wait was over.
The Lady who experienced the Sunrise
I met an old lady completely absorbed in the Himalayan way of living. She wanted to witness the sunrise from the top of the Indrahar Pass. So she chose to walk to the top and her journey started at 1200 Hours, just at the stroke of the midnight.
And she was barefoot. I got to know that it was a habit for her to walk to the top of the pass barefoot even during the winters.
G, the owner of the snowline cafe told me about the inspiring endeavors of that lady. G himself is a strange man. He talks too much and suffers from gastrointestinal pain. He ties a shawl around his waist to get rid of his pain.
A Word about Trek Guides in Dharamshala
The travel guide business in Dharamshala is a bubble waiting to burst. And it will explode soon. Hoteliers blackmail and scare people by planting fake bear-attack stories in the minds of their guests. And then they force them to hire a guide. I was shocked to see those lanky, inexperienced guides charging as much as INR 1800/day for a short walk to the Snow Line ridge.
Here is a word of advice for those who want to visit the Triund Hill or go beyond it; don’t hire a fucking guide. The walk to the Triund Hill is an easy walk and you can make it to the top in one day. Plan your visit, book the forest rest house, or stay in the tents at the top, you certainly do not need those guides who know nothing but claim otherwise.
Hire a guide if only you want to go to the top of the pass. And before that consult the Mountaineering Institute guys first. There is no point in wasting your hard earned money on a pot smoking guide.