Situated at the height of 17,380 feet, Pin Parvati Pass trek is one the most beautiful treks in the Himalayan range that starts from Phulga village of Kullu, Kasol and ends at Mud village of Spiti and vice-versa. Categorized as difficult and challenging, Pin Parvati Pass trail is the most exciting trail that hold surprises up its sleeves on nearly every turn you take as you witness the tree line disappearing in the grassland of wildflowers and the disheveled shrubs, the uncanny Parvati valley through which the Parvati river chisels its curvy path and the equally contrasting deserted mountains bearing the spell of Spiti’s barrenness. And that's not all!! Traversing 78 KM on foot in 10 days, you don't only experience the transition of the landscape from green paradise to barren mountains but also a transition between two cultures, from Hinduism to Buddhism.
Day 1: Bhuntar(4196 feet) to Phulga(9498 feet) to Kheerganga(9711 feet)
Distance: 5.5 KM in 4 - 5 hours
What to Expect: Luxurious natural hot bath amidst mist and enchanting valley
As per the convenience, everyone meets at the Bhuntar bus stand from where there is a short drive of about 48 km to Village Phulga which is the last village accessible through road for Pin Parvati Trek. The main trek starts from Phulga from where you saddle up your rug sacks and embarks on the 10-day journey on foot.
Kheerganga is the first camp to Pin Parvati Pass trek surrounded by mountains from all the 4 sides, famous among the pilgrims as it is said that Hindu Mythology God, Shiva meditated here for 3000 years and water is said to have healing properties. Soaking into the hot springs, staring at the tall giant snow-clad mountains and watching hot steam mixing up with the surrounding fog is worth more relaxing and rejuvenating than any luxurious spa in the world!
The ascend from Phulga to Kheerganga is a little arduous but worth all the joy you get by immersing in hot springs of Kheerganga.
Take Away Tip: It indulges a lot to remain soaked up in the hot springs but long exposure to sulfuric water leads to dizziness and puking. Don't stay in hot springs for more than 5 to 7 min.
Mesmerizing valley at Kheerganga campsite
Day 2: Kheerganga(9711 feet) to Tunda Bhuj(10935 feet)
Distance: 12 KM in 5- 6 hours
What to Expect: Picture perfect sceneries. A lot of wildflowers, berries, and amazing cascades
The 70 percent of the trail from Tunda Bhuj to Thakur Kuan is through the thick dark sub-alpine forest. Tunda Bhuj drives its name from the birch trees (Birch-Rhododendron, pure silver birch etc.) that are prevalent here. You get to see enumerable waterfalls on the way. It is one of the most beautiful trails where you get to see a lot of wildflowers, birds, and berries. The ascend is fairly easy but watch out for landslides and fallen trees.
Take Away Tip: Watch carefully while crossing fallen trees. One of our batchmates got severe cut on his hand while crossing. Most of the trail would be pretty much washed away due to landslides and thus mud is loose, watch your footsteps carefully.
Trail along the Parvati river on the way to Tunda Bhuj
Ferocious yet fascinating Parvati river
Day 3: Tunda Bhuj(10935 feet) to Thakur Kuan(11712 feet):
Distance: 12 KM in 5-6 Hours
What to Expect: Trekking on the most challenging rocky path with width barely enough to keep your feet with 10 feet drop at one side and huge mountain rock on another
Treeline ends at Tunda bhuj therefore from Day 3 onwards you have to be extra cautious about the oxygen level in your blood. Drink a lot of water to acclimatize to high altitude. Climb till Tunda Bhuj was an easy walk with mild ascends and descends but day 3 to Thakur Kuan is going to be full of adventure and adrenaline rush. There are total 3 boulder crossings but not as scary as it sounds though you really have to be cautious while crossing as one slip and you will be carried away by the gushing water of Parvati river that you were happily taking the photographs of. The most exciting part of day 3 trek to Thakur Kuan is the manual pully. The pully is the only way to cross the river from one end to another and you can have a ride if time permits.
Take away tip: Drink a lot of water as oxygen level dips due to end of the tree line and air gets thin.
Boulder crossing, on the way to Thakur Kuan
Day 4: Thakur Kuan(11712 feet) to Odi Thatch(11876 feet) :
Distance: 9 KM in 3-4 hours
What to Expect: Pandu pull 1 and Pandu pull 2
The trail gradient from Thakur Kuan to Odi Thatch is comparatively easy except for the boulder crossings! On the way from Thakur Kuan to Odi Thach, you cross the Parvati river twice through two bridges: Pandu pull 1 and Pandu pull 2(As per Hindu mythology Pandvas placed these rocks for river crossings hence named after them). Pandu pull 1 is a boulder stuck in between a waterfall and river, slippery from one end and few grip points at other. Pandu pull 2 is made up of the pile of rocks and is rather easy compared to Pandu pull 1. Other than the Pandu pulls and their arduous crossing the trail is pretty much flat.
Take away tip: Don’t panic while crossing Pandu pull 1, listen carefully to the instructions. Try to balance your body weight while crossing Pandu pull 1.
Hold your horses, it's not going to be an easy walk !
Day 5 ODI Thatch(11876 feet) to Mantalai(13353 feet) :
Distance: 11 KM in 5-6 hours
What to Expect: Getting till the source of river Parvati that you have traversing along since past 4 days
Do you ever wonder what a river looks like at its source from where it is originating? Is it as ferocious as it seems while falling down from the rocks and forming cascades? Well, watch it yourself at Mantali that marks the origin point or river Parvati. It is amazing to see that you made up till the source of the river that you have been traversing along for past 4 days.
The climb till Mantalai lake is easy except the last stretch of 300 m. Few meters before Mantalai lake there is a Shivling adorned with sacred temple stuff. This place is known as mini Mantalai
The camping site, Mantalai lake is an attraction in itself that you look forward to. A sacred place for pilgrims, the most scenic view for photographers, the silent valley for writers and the gateway to enchanted beauty for wanderers. Lord Shiva's temple at the height of 4116 m marks the entrance to Manatali lake which also serves as water source of Parvati River.
Take away Tip: Save your energy for the last stretch of day 5 as it is quite steep but the view you will witness on reaching the top will take away all your tiredness.
Just tranquility and nothing else!!
Origin point of river Parvati
Day 6: Mantalai(13353 feet) to Base Camp 1(16207 feet):
Distance: 13KM in 6-7 hours
What to Expect: Crossing many streams bare feet and the first glimpse of Glacier that you will climbing on and night adorned with millions of stars
The climb keeps getting on steeper, the view keeps getting on more scenic and the nights keeps getting on colder. A glimpse of fresh water lakes embellished in perfect blue color. The climb is a bit steep as you gain an altitude of 869 m. There are numerous stream crossings bare feet. Camping along the glacier is an experience in itself. The excitement of tomorrow and the rumbling down rocks at night will keep you pretty much awake! It is the nearest that you can get to those stars at night, make your wish on the brightest one!
Take away Tip: Cross streams bare feet where the water level is high as it is very necessary to keep your shoes dry. Avoid going near mountain side for washroom purpose as rocks keeps on falling from the top, listen to your guides carefully when they'll tell you which area to use for nature's call. Try to sleep well and again keep yourself hydrated as tomorrow is a very important day!!
It was much more than an picture could tell!
First glimpse of Glacier, it was ecstatic
Day 7: Base Camp 1(16207 feet): - Pin Parvati Pass(17388 feet) - Base Camp 2(16076 feet):
Distance: 6 KM in 6 -7 hours
What to Expect: Crossing crevasses, drinking from the freshly melted snow
Are you ready? Ready to march on glaciers of Himalayas, ready to cross the dangerous crevasses, ready to set your feet on 17388 feet height. Are you ready to get the feel of accomplishment? Finally, the day has arrived for which you tormented yourself physically and mentally not only for past 6 days but for quite a few months with all those preparations. We start early at 5 AM when it is still little dark to cross the pass. The ascend is gradual but altitude and thin air make it little difficult. Everyone is roped up as an extra preventive measure against falling in a crevasse and are provided with crampons for a firm grip while walking on glaciers. Will reach the top at around 11 AM and starts descending at around 11:30 AM. Here onwards your path is going to be rocky unlike the cushy green mountain trails, the winds are going to be dusty yet utterly cold unlike the moisty winds of Parvati. Trees are going to be a 'cease-to-exist' site but the rainbow-colored mountains will keep you enchanting.
Take away Tip: There is just one stream that you get on the glacier(if lucky) for water re-fill, therefore, ensure that you have filled your bottles while starting from Base Camp 1.
Crossing pass at the height of 17338 feet!
Day 8: Base Camp 2(16076 feet): to Wichkurung Thatch(11482 feet):
Distance: 10 KM in 4-5 hours
What to Expect: Near to Frost Bite experience!!
Ever wonder how it feels like when one gets frostbite? Don't worry you are not going to have one but quite a close experience of the same. Right alongside the base camp 2, there is a stream coming down straight from the glacier which you have to cross first thing in the morning on the way to Wichurung Thatch, that too in the wee hours of the day to avoid the increase in water level. This is the most difficult part of the trek. More difficult than breathing at the top being stuck with AMS, more difficult than the boulder crossings, most difficult of all. But you will make it. There are no risks involved, you won't get frostbite as the temperature of the surrounding is more than the water. Trust me it is an experience ... you should definitely have it yourself!
So, it is the last night that you are going to sleep in tents ... embrace it in a milky way. Bike adventures team makes sure to make it memorable for you by surprising you with a chocolate cake at the height of 11482 feet totally amidst the wilderness !! Enjoy
Take away tip: Don't delay while crossing the stream, be quick in opening your shoes-socks and don't sit after crossing the stream. You won't feel your feet but just put on your shoes and socks and start walking immediately and don't panic you are going to be absolutely fine.
The barren mountains of Spiti has its own charm
Day 9: Wichurung Thatch(11482 feet) - Mud Village – Kaza(12467 feet)
Distance till Mud: 10 KM in 3 -4 hours
What to Expect: Pagal Nala
Wichurung Thatch to Mud Village is pretty much a straight walk along the river over loose rock terrain of Spiti mountains. Not until we saw the pagal nala, we were scared throughout the entire journey on how will be crossing it. Pagal nala will be the last stream you will be crossing on foot. Named as Pagal Nala because when the ice bridge/barrier melts with the day heat the accumulated water suddenly comes gushing down via this stream hence named as Pagal Nala. In reality, it is a well-laid bridge.
Take Away Tip: Use your water wisely as there are no streams or waterfalls on the way to refill the bottles and the river flows down the hill from where it is not feasible to fetch water.
Can you see the hues of Mountains !
Day 10: Kaza to Manali
Distance: it is not going to matter, it is going to be a ride home baby!
What to Expect: Jar full of Memories and A promise to yourself to come back again!
Last day of the trek. No one wants to get up, sit in those cabs and ascend down the mountains but what we have started has to end but definitely in a style. Kaza to Manali is a 200 km journey which takes almost 10 hours as there are numerous streams( yes on roads too!!) that you have to cross. There are a lot of tourist attractions on the way back to Manali. A little detour and you can visit Kee monastery(Have a cup of butter tea). You will be crossing Kunzum pass and the famous Chacha Chachi ka Dhabba at Bhatal and then Rohtang Pass. So, fellows how do you feel? back to the world, back to network, back to western toilets and hot water baths but roads are still winding, the streams are still blocking your way, the sand silhouettes are still staring at you and the prayer flags are still fluttering. Hoping for you to come back again!
Take away Tip : Leave early and try to make out the most out of your journey down to Manali by visiting famous site seeing places
Pic Courtesy: Shaiwal Thakur, Arun Bose, Prerna Shah, Pooja Dhiman, and Shalin Thakur.