“Ultimate faith or Ultimate will-power.
SometimesMostly a healthy combination of the both,” that’s how I was introduced to Srikhand Kailash by Pandit Ji.
Somewhere around 2013, having survived a flash flood and successfully completing the Darati Pass Yatra, Pandit Ji traveled from one corner of Himachal to another to be able to complete his second Srikhand Yatra purely backed by his faith. Now when I look back and ponder upon what has been said and done, I find no other explanation.
How else do you explain little kids, as young as 10 years, successfully completing the Srikhand Kailash Trek? Or a one legged man negotiating the treacherous boulder zone at 4900 meters?
Unsure of my ability to trek above 5000 meters, I kept procrastinating the Srikhand plan for years. But then there’s a popular saying in our mountains,”chalo bulawa aaya hai, bhole ne bulaya hai”, which modern day instagrammers have adopted as, “the mountains are calling and I must go.”
Here’s a virtual treat for your eyes, sit back and enjoy!!
The first challenge one has to encounter enroute Srikhand is ‘Danda Dhar’. A back breaking hike passing through slushy forests that lasts 10.24 kilometers with a steep altitude gain of 1600m/5350 ft (Jaon to Thachru). Danda Dhar decides how well are you going to perform over the next three days. We walked 13km on day one and by the end of the day we were totally exhausted and drained out. Danda Dhar barrier proved a little too much for our entourage. So much so that I couldn’t muster courage to pull out my camera from the bag.
178o grams of baggage for nothing.
The good thing about camping at Bhim Talai on day1 is that you’re not camping at the highest altitude of the day. Kali Ghati, where from one gets to catch a distant glimpse of Srikhand Kailash is the highest point on first day.
Kali Ghati – 3840m/12750ft | Bhim Talai – 3556m/11808ft. A 300 m drop after a 13km walk is a major respite. More so when you haven’t got enough time to acclimatize. In our case, we started from Chandigarh overnight and immediately started walking deep into the higher Himalaya. From 350m to 3500 m within 24 hours.
Hidden in clouds, overlooking the simmering lights of tiny hamlets in the far-off distance, Kunsha is what one would call a perfect campsite where one may want to spend months if not years. Healing Himalaya, a Manali based NGO aiming to make Srikhand plastic and litter free, had their base station setup at Kunsha. You can also donate your medical supplies here at their base station. Here at Kunsha, I met my old buddy Prashant who is spearheading the clean-up campaign organized by the said NGO.
Wasted Enjoyed: Bhim Dwar
A lot of first timers, like us, wanted to reach Bhim Dwar on day1. And it gives me immense pleasure to report that none of us could reach there on first day. That would have meant walking 17km and an overall altitude gain of above 2100 meters. Interestingly, Bhim Talai and Bhim Dwar are almost at the same altitude. If one has spent a night at Jaon, it is fairly possible to walk those undulating 17kms on day 1. The terrain moves like a sine wave which makes it even more difficult to keep track of overall distance or altitude gained. So on day2, we walked just 5km when we were misinformed that there were no camps ahead and Bhim Dwar was our last pit-stop before the summit push.
Now that we were at the same altitude as the day before, the landscape looked even more pleasant. By the sheer stroke of luck, I met my friend Sanjay who was totally sun-burnt and provided us insights about our path ahead. Parbati Baag, the real last campsite was visible above and we could see little human figurines moving up and down at snail’s pace. While we slept inside our tents, we could hear shouts of people coming down from Parbati Bag all through the night.
Bhim Dwar: 3793m/12595ft
To the Heavenly Abode
Contrary to the popular belief, Srikhand Mahadev isn’t a 35km trek. Neither it is 5227 m high. I would place it less than 26km and lower than 5120 meters. The signboards placed all along the trek amplify the distance and altitude at will and relying on them could be a grave mistake.
The path ahead from Parbati Baag is a boulder carpet that tests your acrobatic skills. Up ahead from NainSarovar, glacial crossings keep your mind busy and its only after you’ve breached the 4500m barrier, you realize the scarcity of oxygen in the air.
Another mystery that unfolds once you breach the 4500m barrier is a 180° view of the Great Himalayan Ranges all the way from Kinnaur to Parbati Valley. In the far off distance, a vigilant eye can spot the Kinner Kailash Peak hovering above the clouds. To the far left, the majestic South Parbati Peak appears at a stone’s throw away.
Aloke Surin, a veteran climber who explored the Parbati region in early 1990s had this to say about the photograph shown below.
Since this photo is taken from the south, it really shows the range as a great barrier of rock and snow. The first attempt on Parbati South was actually from this direction, up the Rakti Tapta glacier by the indomitable Charles Ainger in 1970!
Whether one succeeds or fails, the mountains will have the last word always! I consider myself lucky and blessed for this yet another successful journey.
If you’re planning to visit Srikhand this year, as the yatra has begun officially on 14th July 2017, here are a few things that you must know.
- Overall trek distance: 25km one side.
- Maximum altitude: 5050-5120m/ 16390ft.
- Jaon: Thachru: KaliGhati: Bhim Talai = 10.4:1.34:1 km
- Bhim Talai:Bhim Dwar = 5.2km
- Bhim Dwar:Parbati Bag:Srikhand Kailash = 1:4.64 km
- Total Distance: 23.5 to 24.5 km
- If you’re going during the yatra, day2 can be spent at Parbati Bag which will give you a better head start for the summit day.
- As you’ll be camping above 3500 m for two days, Diamox can be helpful to help you acclimatize better. Read all about Diamox here.
- Carry raincoat, walking pole, 3-4 pair of socks, and sunglasses. Walking on glaciers isn’t as easy as it looks without sunglasses.
- Stay Cost: 130 w/o food. 300-400 with food. 400 @ Parbati Bag per night per person.
- A lightweight sleeping bag would be helpful. During rush hours, which lasts throughout the yatra, dhaba guy will provide you with just one blanket which isn’t enough to spend the night at such altitude.
- You medical kit may contain ORS, Antacid Tablets (Ranitidine), Glucose, Cetirizine
- Download GPS logs here: Jaon to Bhim Talai | Bhim Talai to Bhim Dwar | Bhim Dwar to Srikhand Kailash
- Keep Off the Grass