Sore footed, wide eyed and sun dizzy, we became a part of the stark, desolate and barren landscape, as the days and nights merged into one long moment. It was an autumn full of wonderful encounters both physical and spiritual as we trekked the remote Himalayas we love. At times, as in life, there were highs and lows; but we loved it. From the walk into Mudh village at the end of the trek to the lush green forests of the Kulu valley. Emerging from the moonscape at Kaaza at the end of our trek to cold beer and tandoori in Manali. We toasted ourselves and studied our weather beaten faces in the bathroom mirrors; did we really just walk across the Himalaya?

The Pin Parvati Team

  • Atsushi Bamba from Ibaraki, Japan
  • Ritabrata Saha (Ritz) from Mumbai, India
  • Mixie the dog from Kheer Ganga, India

Day 1, August 15, 2011 - Mumbai to Delhi to Manali

I had close to 3 hours to waste at Majnu Ka Tilla. The place from where all the busses to Manali depart from. On a friend’s recommendation, I went inside Majnu ka Tilla. It feels just like Dharamsala, minus the cold. I took a stroll around and settled in at Dolma restaurant for a plate of momos. My bus was supposed to depart at 6.30 pm. I was upgraded from an Isuzu to an old weather beaten Volvo. There was nothing much to speak about the journey except that to the horror of the passengers travelling the bus staff played Khatron ke Khiladi, starring Akshay Kumar and Rekha. Vintage crap.

Day 2, August 16th, 2011 - Manali to Manikaran

 Kalga in upper parvati valley By Lucid
Aaaah the fresh Manali air. As I stepped out of the bus in my shorts and tee, I was hit by the cold blast of air. I somehow managed an auto ride to Vashist, where Bamba was waiting for me at Negi Guest House. Having just finished a Darcha to Koksar trek, Bamba looked terrifyingly fit. He had already bought all the supplies we needed for the Pin Parvati Trek.

Till the clock struck 2 pm, we ate parathas, odomiyaki, drank tea, miso soup, checked mail, packed, repacked, shed every unnecessary ounce and cut down our load to as minimum as possible. Then we caught the bus to Bhunter (80 bucks for two). From Bhunter we caught another local bus and reached Manikaran at 7.30 pm. Ticket another 80 quids.

Manikaran is famous for the Gurudwara and hot springs. The hot springs are so huge that practically every household draws water from it. We shacked up in a nondescript hotel near the bus stand for 250 bucks a night. Watched Newcastle Vs Tottenham for a bit, downed a glass of whisky and called it a day.

Day 3, August 17th, 2011 - Manikaran to Bharsheni to Kheer Ganga

  • Trek time: 4 hours
  • Minimum temperature: -1 °C

After the initial shenanigans at Manikaran, we caught the first bus (7:40 AM) that rattled towards Bhasheni (40 bucks). We downed few more parathas and began our trek at 9 am. It was hot and sunny. We chugged along pretty slowly. We had a distance of 13 kms to cover. The trail is a gradual climb till one reaches a bridge over the Parbati river. After the bridge it’s an uphill walk till one reaches Kheer Ganga. We reached there around 1.30 pm. Roughly 4.5 hours. Not bad considering, Bamba was lugging a 22 kg sack and I was carrying about 18 kgs.

We were welcomed to Kheer Ganga by the faint beats of electronic music. The place has a few dhabas and serves “jari booti” to the hordes of finrangs who come here to discover their inner self and god knows what. The hot water spring here absolutely delightful. It’s the best infinity pool, I have seen till date - remarkably clean, warm. The views are such that we just lost the track of the time and spend more than an hour inside. Thankfully before getting in we cooked and ate our lunch – instant pasta with extra cheese. 6 pm was dinner time. While cooking we couldn’t help, but wonder what kind of trance party was going on in the neighbouring dhabas.

Day 4, August 18th, 2011- Kheer Ganga to upper Bhoj Tunda (3350 m)

  • Trek time: 4 hours
  • Minimum temperature: -3 °C

The alarm blared precisely at 5 am. Snoozing, swearing, cooking, eating, packing our 2 man caravan got moving by 7 am. The trail was clearly defined. And it goes up wards very gradually through a thick pine forest. Most of the time Bamba used walk ahead, followed by a pack of 5 dogs, followed by me. While walking we never spoke to each other and I kept of thinking about everyone who mattered to me. It was Tuesday, I smiled thinking. Everyone back at my old office must be busy at work, while I was enjoying the pristine beauty of the Parvati valley.

Since this was almost the end of the trekking season, we met absolutely no one on the way. We reached Bhoj Tunda by 12.30. There were a couple of broken houses and nice camping sites. We decided to walk further and reached upper Bhoj Tunda by 1.30 pm. Here the valley opens up significantly and is surrounded by huge rock peaks. They are so huge that they can make El Capitan look small.

The place was windy and cold and the lights went out in our tent by 7 pm after a wholesome meal of wai wai

Day 5, August 19th, 2011 - Upper Bhoj Tunda to Odi Thach (3550 m)

  • Trek time : 6 hours
  • Minimum temperature: -10 °C

 Magic is another name for Parvati Valley By bRoKeNhOpE
I opened the tent door at 5 am was surprised to see all the 5 dogs sleeping outsides. We had our staple breakfast of museli and milk and got going by 6.45 am. According to Lonely Planet, we should have camped next at Thakur Khan. But we decided to camp wherever we reached at 1 pm. The trail climbs up gradually and the valley opens up too. By 11 am we reached Thakur Khan. Again there were a couple of broken houses here. But the biggest landmark here is the pulley bridge. Did I just say pulley bridge!!

Neither of us had ever crossed this kind of a bridge before. Once the initial fear fizzles out, it’s quite simple to use. Bamba crossed it first. Then I did. The dog pack which was following us started to howl as they had no choice but to turn back. We felt sorry for them, but sane headedly began our march. Much to our surprise, we again heard the barking of a dog. Mixe (black and white mongrel) somehow managed to swim across the torrent and joined us! Dogs I tell you.

We kept walking and following the crains. At times we took biscuit and dry fruits breaks. Till we reached a place where there was natural rock bridge. A bit scary. Barely 20 minutes after this crossing, we crossed Pandu bridge – another scary natural rock bridge, which is said to be built by the pandus.

From here on, there was a steep 100 feet scree ascent and we reached a spectacular campground. We dint know the name. So thought this must be Odi Thach. Actually who cared, it was one hell of a beautiful campsite. Straight ahead was the peak named Kullu Eiger. It looks as beastly and monstrous as the real one.

The tent was pitched and we go busy with wai wai and canned chicken. Mixie happily slept outside our tent.

Day 6, August 20th, 2011 - Odi Thach to Mantalai (4220 m)

  • Trek time: 7 hours
  • Minimum temperature: -10 °C

We woke up at our usual time only to find icicles inside our tents. Again the same morning routine – pack, cook, swear, eat (miso soup and tsampa) before we began our hike to Mantalai. It was a good 20 kms away. In no time we circumnavigated Kullu Eiger. The trail followed on the Parvati river and just went on and on. It’s was an almost a flat walk. We took 3 breaks in between. While walking I was constantly thinking and thanking my ex-bosses Suhas and Shormistha. If not for their generosity with leaves, it would have not been possible for me to complete the basic course at HMI.

By mid-afternoon we were at the base of a steep 200 meter moraine climb. Huffing and puffing I dragged myself up. I could see Parvati South peak on my right and straight ahead was the mystical Mantalai Lake. It wasnot really a lake as such, but the Parvati river blocked by the moraine. The Shiva temple adds a lot of mysticism to this place. The weather didn’t look good. We pitched our tent and made a makeshift shelter for Mixie.

Day 7, August 21st, 2011 - Mantalai to Upper pin Parvati Base Camp (4900m)

  • Trek time: 7 hours
  • Minimum temperature: -18 °C

Both Bamba and me were wondering why was the Pin Parvati trek known to be a demanding. Till Mantalai it was quite simple. Today we came to know why.

Initially it was a flat walk till we had to cross a stream, which was half frozen. We dint have any option but to remove our shoes, roll up our tights and walk through the god damn ice cold water. I couldn’t feel my toes or the next 15 minutes. After this crossing, began a 250 m steep ascent over a frozen boulder field. The thick layer of ice on the boulders made them quite slippery. The degree of the climb never really eased out. It just went up and up. Finally we reached a flatish place surrounded by big boulders. By the looks of it looked like the high camp. According to the lonely planet, there was another high camp after a 200 meter climb.

Since it was just 1 pm, we decided to climb up the moraine. There are a few crains on the way. It took us one hour to top out only to find that there was no water source at the higher campsite! Damn! After a lot of scouting around we found a trickle! This campsite offered astounding views all around. Behind our tent we could see the Pyramid Peak in all the evening glory. And straight ahead was the huge snowfield, which led to the Pin Parvati pass. The weather looked great. We planned to start by 6 am next morning. At night the temperature dropped to -18 degrees. I slept wearing my fleece inside a Mountain Hardware -20 C sleeping bag and still shivered a bit.

Day 8, August 22nd, 2011 - Upper Pin Parvati Base Camp over Pin Parvati Pass (5300m) to Downstream Pin Parvati Base Camp (4400 m)

  • Trek time: 7 hours
  • Minimum temperature: -12 °C

Thanks to Bamba’s array of watches, the alarm went off like a time bomb exactly at 3.30 am. The temperature outside was -15 degrees. Inside the tent there were icicles all over. In sleep mode I shoved down muesli and milk down my throat. By the time we winded up camp it was 6.30 am. We wore our harness, strapped on gaiters, shouted jai bholenath and started off. Bamba led the way, followed by mixie and then me. The snowfield was gradual. The skies were absolutely clear. There was no wind at all. The ice crunched nicely under our boots. Perfect condition I must say.

Slowly the sun came up behind us and lit up Pyramid Peak in a brilliant shade of orange. Out came the glares and in went the fleece jacket. We walked at a steady pace, roped up at times. We kept checking the contour map and the photographs of this area after every ridge we crossed. The clock was ticking by. After 3 hours on the snow, we finally saw Pin Parvati Pass. At 10.30 we were enjoying the most glorious weather once could expect while standing on top of the Pass. Sublime moment. The bright turquoise sky roaring from the ice, gusts of wind scattering thousands of ice crystals, tinkled in front of us magically, with the impossibly sheer faces of peaks leaping straight out of it from every direction. On one side there was the Parvati valley and on the other side we could the Pin valley – desolate, barren and stark. Manirang was standing tall.

We spent around 30 mins soaking in the views and then began our descent. Route finding became a bit tricky. But we stayed on the true right of the valley. After the snowfield, began a steep scree descent. We crossed a small stream (which eventually becomes Pin river) and then stayed on the true left of the valley. At 2 pm we were relatively down and called it a day once we found a flat place to camp. Special lunch was pasta and tuna.

As we gobbled down the tasty snack both of us just looked at each other in awe. We had just crossed the Pin Parvati Pass. No guides. No porters. And not a single soul in sight since we left Kheerganga.

At one of the breaks, I asked Bamba, if he was bored of me. Because compared to him, I walk slow, crib at times, work less. He smiled and replied I like coz you are always cool and never aggressive. Whoa! Some compliment. Most of the time in the tent went on discussing how and what we would do once we hit civilisation.

Day 9, August 23rd, 2011 - Downstream Pin Parvati Base Camp to Mud village

  • Trek time: 9 hours (cooked lunch on the way)
  • Minimum temperature: -8 °C

We had a simple agenda today. Run down all the way to Mud village, doesn’t matter what time we reach. It was an amazingly long day. We started bang on at 7 am. The route again became clear. After sometime there were proper crains at regular intervals. It was pretty well defined as we went lower. As the kilometres went by, the trail became wider. The landscape was the typical Spiti moonscape at it’s best. Dry, barren, windy and spectacularly stark. At around 12 the trial merged into a proper dirt road. We took a break. Bamba fired the primus stove and we had a round of noodles and soup.

We knew Mud was near, but no definite idea how near or how far. Walking on the flat patch became monotonous, only to be broken by the ever changing scenery. At 2.20 pm we got our first view of Mud. It seemed like a light year away. The greed of hot food, the lure of the soft bed, the temptation of a cola made us walk faster and faster. It was snowing mildly, but we dint stop. Just walked and much to the surprise of the villagers , we reached Mud at 4.20 pm.

There was some chaos about whose house we should stay. Finally we crashed at Padma Dorjee’s house, all inclusive 500 bucks for the two of us. Mixie - the dog suddenly disappeared. He found many new friends here.

This was the end of the trek, but definitely not the end of our trip. We still had plenty of time.

Day 10 & 11, August 24th, 2011 - Mud village to Kaaza to Manali

  • Bus ride: 2 hours
  • Minimum temperature: -5 °C

The HP transport bus leaves for Kaaza at 7 am. It’s the only bus that connects Mud to Kaaza. Ticket for two 120 bucks. The ride was a scenic one. In fact we thought we would die of a scenic overdose. Just within 2 hours we reached Kaaza. The feeling was a bit strange. From not meeting any human for the past seven days, we were suddenly in the buzz of human activity. Thankfully less activity because the tourist season was over. However jeeps were still plying to Manali. We caught the first available Sumo next morning and bingo. We rode over Kunzum La and reached Manali just in time to party.