“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith”, is a famous by Steve Jobs quote.
That’s precisely what happened with us on our way to Kinnaur Kailash Shivling last week. Though bricks were replaced by boulders, some of them so big that an entire house could be constructed by carving them out. The trek is entirely an uphill task from the word go. Fully exposed to sunlight, the trail passes through blossoming apple gardens which are rarely noticed if you’re as tired as we were.
Before we begin, I take the liberty to quote my friend Anshul Soni, who knows Kinnaur Himalaya inside out. Once he has seen a mountain, he can name it, whichever part of the Earth he is shown that mountain from. Even if it is a NASA space station placed thousands miles away in the sky.
The Holy Kinner Kailash Shivling in District Kinnaur of Himachal Pradesh is a site of much veneration.
The holy Shivling is situated on the Kinner Kailash Range at an altitude of nearly 4700-4800m; which houses crowns of the like of Kinner Kailash (6050m), Jorkanden (6473m), Sarong (6020m), Raldang (5493m) as visible from Kalpa. The Kinner Kailash Range essentially recognized as the Eastern-most extension of the Great Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, further extends eastwards & southwards in Kinnaur.
Each year in the monsoon season pilgrims throng to take blessings from Shiva at this holy sight, where the mountain adjacent to the Holy Shivling (Mt. Kinner Kailash 6050m) is known all over as the Winter Abode of Lord Shiva.
The route to the top is pure ascent. In 7-8 hours from Tangling village one can reach the base camp for an early climb next morning. Moving above 4000m the next day through a stiff boulder filled terrain, it should normally take 4-5 hrs to reach the Holy Shivling from base camp. This makes the Kinner Kailash Shivling trek quite an arduous affair, but after all its only the power of faith that may move the mountain.
River Satluj is always furious in Kinnaur. So much so that after every decade or so it inundates the valley and tries to restore the balance which the mushrooming hydel projects have allegedly disturbed. Despite guided otherwise by Anshul, our young friend Kapil Mehta cajoled us to experience the thrill that comes along with a jhula crossing. To cross a furious Satluj in a jhula is anything but wise. Nonetheless, we did it and came out unscathed.
For the uninitiated, a jhula pul is a pulley trolley suspended between the far ends of a river which is moved from one end to another by pulling the attached ropes by hand. The river runs below at a depth of 40-50 feet. The span of the jhula in our case was at least 50m wide.
The trek begins with a well marked paved path that lasts until you reach the basecamp (gufa/cave) on day one. After that, the trail disappears and all you’re left with is big boulders and bricks falling on your head, metaphorically speaking. If it rains then literally too.
Usually people walk till the gufa and spend the night there on first day of the trek. A mile or so before the gufa, one can find dhabas far more comfortable than the uneven and claustrophobic gufa. While we started with the aim of making it till the gufa, our enthusiasm fizzled out soon and gladly we accepted the exorbitantly priced dhaba accommodation as our savior. Almost a mile short of our target for day one and totally exhausted, our hopes weren’t really soaring high. But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Let me explain how:
A little ahead from the dhaba, at the Maling Khata meadow, one gets to see a 180° view of the Satluj Valley. While the eastern side is blocked by Himalayan giants, one can see as far as Pangi Village to the west. Mt. Raldang (5499) and Kanicho Pass (Haran Ghati Pass) were hidden beneath a thick layer of clouds which amalgamated subtly with the ice falls that guarded these Himalayan towers. Across the river on its right bank, above Pangi village a trinity rose above the sky. Interestingly, two of the peaks above Pangi Village resembled Raldang and Kinnaur Kailash Peak as if someone had placed a mirror and created two similar mountains on either side. The magical show of clouds wrestling with snow lasted for hours and all this while River Satluj flowed effortlessly oblivious of anything and everything that surrounded its banks.
The next morning we started at 0330 Hours. While Sourabh and Kapil raced away, I took my time to catch my breath and tried to pace up gradually. In my head I could see the repeat telecast of all those scary videos that I had watched on YouTube. A flying witch. A woman possessed. A 20 feet tall man. Lights moving on the mountains. You name it!!!
We were soon joined by another group that was staying in the sarkari sarai. The ghosts of my mind automatically went away. There was another group camping near the gufa but they seemed in no hurry to leave their camps. I immediately wanted to switch sides but alas!
From gufa onwards, it is a different game altogether. A boulder zone leaving no chance to send you back. From Parbati Kund, it is a matter of just 920 meters to the holy Shivling but those 920 meters are to be done on your fours.
Kinnaur Kailash Shivling
Overlooking the majestic Kinnaur Kailash Peak (6050 m) the Shivling is a rock pillar balanced neatly on barely a meter wide slab. It resembles a trident when seen from the Parbati Kund or from Reckong Peo for that matter, if one is fortunate enough to catch a glimpse from that far. The rock pillar rises almost 40 feet from the ground overlooking the effortless course of River Satluj on either side of the valley. In the far off distance, Purgyil Towers can be seen peeking from the clouds.
- Contrary to popular belief, the Shivling isn’t 6050m high. That’s the height of Kinnaur Kailash Peak, which is wrongly mentioned as Jorkanden (6450m) in most of the literary works.
- There’s no such thing as Ashiqui Park. The local name is Maling Khata and that’s the way it should be pronounced. Remember Everest replacing Sagarmatha? Always remember!
- The maximum altitude is 4810 m/15870 ft. (Shivling). Parbati Kund is located at an approximate altitude of 4520 m/ 14900 ft.
- Overall trek distance is approximately 14km. Another myth buster that the Yatra is 18km long.
- Tangling to Maling Khata = 8km / 3630m altitude
- Maling Khata to Parbati Kund = 4.9km / 4520 m altitude
- Parbati Kund to Kinnaur Kailash = 920m/4810 m altitude.
- Till Maling Khata, there are three stay options enroute. Beyond that none except for that godforsaken gufa, which is crowded most of the times.
- This is a water scarce trail. Beyond gufa, there will be no water source. A minimum of two bottles per person is recommended. Of water and not alcohol.
- Download GPS Log here. Download Strava Activity Here