First of all, do not consider this post as a regular travel blog. This is something different. Here, I am trying to sum up emotions of all those 48 people who met on this trek for the first time and became family in just span of 10 days. I could not recall instances where I met people from all parts of India and before I know I had started counting on them. I feel this is only possible in India, where there is a different language spoken on every 50km, different culture, festivals across every state.
Chanderkhani Pass was my first Himalayan trek and first trek ever for many members in our new family. We call it CP-21 (Chanderkhani Pass – Batch 21). This trek was conceptualized and organized by Youth Hostels Associate of India (YHAI). They have many national as well as state-level programs each year. This trek to Chanderkhani Pass encompasses an excess of jaw-dropping sights alongside the elegant vicinities of Himachal Pradesh. Chandekhani pass is generally arranged in the month of May, when you can experience literally every season [I know it sounds illogical, but as our guides told us – “Pahado me mausam ki kucch guarantee nahi hoti” (One can never predict weather conditions in the mountains)].
So, without further delay, let’s dive in it. Along the way, I will try to pen down every detail that we experienced in those 10 days.
Day 1: Reporting
On May 20, I and 4 of my friends left from Pune. We reached Delhi in the evening and our bus was at 11 PM from Kashmiri gate. It is recommended to take HRTC Volvo buses as they are pretty reliable with compare to Private transportation options. We reached base camp ‘Youth Hostel- 15 miles’ at around 3.30 PM the next day. As soon as we reached, we had lunch and volunteers allotted us our tents. The first day here was pretty relaxing and meant for acclimatization. The previous batch (CP-20) arranged campfire which is a tradition over here and also a source of small entertainment at 4850 ft.
Day 2: Acclimatization walk grade 1 We woke up at around 5 AM, had tea, and went for morning exercise. In YHAI, they strictly follow the schedule. After having breakfast, we went on an acclimatization walk. We were instructed to carry some luggage with us. On this day itself, we got a glimpse of beauty that we were going to store and cherish it for lifetime. Here in these beautiful woods, we had a small introductory session and formulated slogan for our batch.
“CP 21……. We want all the fun..”
Day 3: Acclimatization walk grade 2 This was one of the most important days in the trek. We were instructed to carry exactly the same luggage which we were planning to carry to higher camps. Till this time, we had also started to know each other from the group and this was just the start of our bonding. Beautiful scenes, fresh air and clear flowing water of river Beas are there to accompany you on this walk. After coming to base camp, we were briefed about the higher camps and acute mountain sickness (AMS). We were relaxed after we got to know that we have 8 doctors in our group.
Day 4: Sola Tanki- 7930 ft. On day 4, our actual trek started. We were all prepared and psyched to travel this unforgettable journey. We were introduced to our two guides for the trek, Gayatri bhai, and Monty bhai. While leaving from the base camp we were wished good luck by clapping along the way-out by the succeeding group. We felt so blessed and excited. It was like a kick start for our trek. After trekking for around 3 km on Mathan hill, we reached Bijli Mahadev. It is one of the sacred temples in Himachal Pradesh. The legend goes like the Shivlinga in this temple takes the lightning on itself in order to protect the nearby area. The shivlinga breaks into 25 pieces which are then joined again with ‘Ghee’ as an adhesive by the head priest. Isn’t it breathtaking?? It is a very holy place for locals. We had our lunch over here and went to our first higher camp Sola Tanki. There are sixteen water tanks built by the British officers. This was at the height of 7930 ft.
Day 5: Mounti Nag- 9187 ft.
The second day of our trek. We left at around 9.30 from the ‘Sola Tanki’ camp after having breakfast and packing lunch. It was a road with beautiful scenes and bare mountains. You can see Beas River continuously flowing down below spreading life and happiness. You start to remember beautiful moments from your life with every breath you take in (as they say- “in pahadiyon ki vaadiyo me ek nashaa sa hota he”). We started to walk for ‘Mounti Nag’ camp when it was bright sunny daylight out there, but till the time we reached the camp it had started raining. We quickly went into the tents as nobody wanted to get drenched at around 9200 ft. (in real life except for Bollywood). After some time, when rain stopped we were served welcome drink and hot soup followed by dinner.
Day 6: Ubla Thach- 9970 ft. By this time, I was in complete love-affair with these mountains, nothing could compare my satisfaction and delight. This part of trekking offers you a scenic view of Beas valley on the one side and Parvati valley on the other side. We reached our base earlier than our prescribed time. Our camp leader (A ‘Dabangg’ (fearless or resolute) personality as told by our guides) greeted us with a welcome drink and some really beautiful stories of those mountains. This place was a starting point of a once hot water stream, hence the name ‘Ubla Thach’. The hot water stream is no more there but you can find crystal clear mountain water, which is used by nearby villages. Also, no wonder if you hear bear stories from the locals. We could not ask for more.
Day 7: Dohra Nala- 10692 ft.
After filling our eyes and hearts with the mesmerizing view of the sunrise, we moved towards our next camp Dohra Nala (Two narrow water streams). Those orange rays on mountain tops really made us introspect our being and literally cleared out all the negativity in us. Our lunch point was beside a beautiful lake on the mountain (Yes, you read that right, a lake on the mountain). Monty bhai (one of our guides) and locals told us that nobody knows the depth of this lake. Many explorers and scientists came and investigated, but they could not measure. Sometimes, humans can never know the secrets of Mother Nature no matter what. ‘Dohra Nala’ camp was set in the deep valley surrounded by tall mountains and besides two narrow water streams. We came across a bit bad weather conditions, it was hailstorm which made the pathway all slippery. But the ‘Pakodas’ at snacks and ‘Gulab Jamun’ served at dinner were worth the efforts.
Day 8: Chanderkhani pass- 12200 ft and descend to Naya Tapru- 9970 ft.I can say this was the toughest part of our trek. We had to ascend 5-6 km and descend again for 5-6 km on the same day. Also, we had to do snow-sliding along with climbing steep slopes and rocky terrain. We woke up at around 3.30 AM and left the camp at around 5.30 AM. We had to leave before sunrise because we needed to pass snow-laden rocks before it starts melting. On this camp, we were accompanied by two more snow guides. We were amazed to see that we were struggling climbing in our proper hiking shoes while our snow guides were ascending with just a pair of crocs. I still remember the line said by one of our guides – “Takat aapke pairo me honi chahiye sir, shoes me nahi” (strength should be in your legs and not in the shoes). The sheer desire to reach our destiny and quest for beauty kept us going. Finally, after many small breaks, we reached Chanderkhani pass at around 12200 ft. What an enchanting view it was. Huussssshhhhh…!!! I just cannot describe that feeling in words. All I wanted to do is sit on that point for hours and content my eyes and fill my soul with the naked beauty of luscious green and snow-clad white mountains. It was pretty cold, but the wind felt warm as if it was calling you up there since the start. We were no more feeling stressed and tired, it was all vanished in the fraction of a second, and what left was an absolute joy and inner fulfillment. Have you ever felt your existence and knew that you are just a small dot in front of these mountains, both at the same time?? Well, I did.
There is no one but you, the giant mountains which are now within your reach, the enormously expanded sky and your vision so far that you could see the sky cuddling with mountains. It was just Heaven on Earth.
No matter how much we wanted to stay up there, we had to descend to our last higher camp ‘Naya Tapru’ (Literally means New Town). We came sliding down from the Chanderkhani pass. We were no more feeling our body below the abdomen. No, we were not sick, it was just snow-sliding effect. We were walking on snow followed by beautiful meadows to reach our campsite. The view from our tents was just bizarre. Our tents were literally built on the edge of the mountain. We could see beautiful city lights of Manali down there and a shiny starry sky in the night. It was some weird sense of achievement.
Day 9: Descend to Base camp
We all, with our heavy hearts, packed our backpacks and started descending towards our base camp at 15 Miles. It was the last day of our trek, but I was sure everyone was planning their next trek. It is impossible to stay away from the mountains once you taste its beauty to the extent that your eyes blackout and you get high. We left the Naya Tapru camp shouting our improved slogan:
“CP 21……. We had all the fun..”
Day 10: Breakfast and Checkout This is the last day at the 15 Miles base camp. But, we vanished on the 9th day itself to Manali. It is appealing request you to you all, if you ever decide to do a Himalayan trek, then Chanderkhani Pass is the most recommended one. All of my group members would also agree to it, I am sure of this. It was one hell of a trek.