The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success ~ Paramhansa Yogananda
We failed thrice in three years, in succession. The urge to go back and witness the magic unfolding across the other side of mountains grew with every failed attempt.
And finally we succeeded. On June 26, 2015, we three successfully reached atop the Chaini Pass (14400 feet, 4390 meters). Those agonizing moments of failure, the pain of every failed attempt, the sad days of longing; everything just evaporated the moment we set foot atop the pass.
Don’t believe me? Have a look yourself!
In the first week of June we decided to give it a go. This time, unlike our previous attempts, it was decided to get a guide beforehand. After making hundreds of phone calls and browsing thousands of webpages, we ended up with nothing. No information about the trek except few photographs.
So as usual, we were clueless again. After much deliberation, our journey commenced on 23rd June, 2015.
The trek starts from Hail Village, 6 km from Devikothi Village, holy shrine of Devi Chamunda. While one trail diverges to Gadarsu Mahadev Lake and Ali Pattan Pass, the other one (relatively easier) takes you to the Incredible Pangi Valley over the Chaini Pass (14400 feet/4390 meters)
Hail is the last motorable village of Churah Valley and the first base camp from Hail is approximately 6-7 km.
0900 Hours. Chamba
Pandit Ji, our team lead landed in Chamba via an overnight bus from Delhi. I and Rijul were in a much better condition as we had started from our respective hometowns. A backbreaking journey of 16 hours for Pandit Ji. Despite that, he decided that we move forward and try to reach our first base camp at Rawas on the very first day.
From 216 meters to 2900 meters within a period of 24 hours.
1400 Hours. Devikothi.
So we marched on. Another four hour long journey from Chamba to Devikothi. And by the time we reached Devikothi and paid our obeisance at the holy shrine, the sun had disappeared and it was all gloomy and dark. The idea of walking on foot from Devikothi to Hail was disapproved unanimously and thus started the struggle of finding a cab in that remote-land.
After inquiring around for about an hour we found a cab. But the driver was a novice. We drove from Hail to Devikothi in first gear. The moment he stopped the cab, we literally ran out.
A fourth time failure, and that too because of someone else’s mistake would have been fatal. Luckily we escaped unscathed.
1500 Hours. Hail
Hail is a small village of few houses scattered here and there. Across the stream coming from the Ali Pattan Pass lies Chandru village, which serves as the first basecamp for Ali Pattan Pass and Gadarsu Mahadev Lake.
Our hopes of finding a guide at Hail went for a toss. Nobody ventures out in the wilderness these days, I tell you. After Sach Pass was thrown open for the general public, people gradually gave up walking across these mountains.
So onward we marched.
The trail was perfectly marked and it passed through a thick forest. The valley ahead is deep and narrow. Initially a near vertical climb welcomes you, which is exhausting undoubtedly. After climbing for about two hours, the trail started to descend. And it went down so deep that it almost touched the foot of the rivulet coming from the pass.
And now we were staring at a huge glacier. Almost one kilometer long and the only way forward was to walk on it. The valley opened up a bit but only to accommodate the gigantic mass of snow blocking our way ahead.
1800 Hours. O Dear Shepherd!
And then it started raining.
The best thing about glaciers? They look damn good and fascinating in a photograph. The worst? They suck the very life out of you if you walk on glaciers.
Fortunately for us, we saw two shepherds walking towards Hail. That gave us the much needed relief. We were now close to the base camp. Dozens of gaddis’s and hundreds of goats welcomed us to the base camp.
It doesn’t get better than this. Crossing the pass, any pass for that matter, with gaddis’ is a lifetime experience. A memory to cherish forever. But that wasn’t meant to be this time. Here’s what conspired!
How long have you been waiting?
Been a week already.
Will you cross tomorrow?
Probably No! We have many newborns, they can’t walk as yet. We shall wait for few more days.
Probably, Murphy’s Law at work. Disappointed and disheartened, we looked around in search of shelter. However, we couldn’t pitch our tent in the open because it was raining. We had to walk another one kilometer to find a safe shelter. And that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Because that’s where we found our guide. After three long years, we found a man who knew the route to the top.
We found safe shelter, company of learned men, fire, utensils, and a good vantage point to shoot the landscape.
Pandit Ji found dizziness and sleep deprivation. And then it started raining. Cats and Dogs.
2000 Hours. Rawas Base Camp – I, Delhi to Rawas – 26 Hours Non Stop.