When was the last time you did something scary? Something out of your comfort-zone, where your biggest fear was that you’ll never make it?
I feel those are the defining moments of our life. Those moments where we walk into our fears and do something that shakes us inside out. Taking on challenges changes us, molds us, ignites a fire within us and is something we should welcome every once in a while.
The mountains are full of these opportunities, and Pin Parvati Pass is one of them. Pin Parvati Pass is challenging trek and is not meant for the faint hearts. It’s for those who like living on the edge, who dare to do new things, and are not afraid of challenges. In some ways, it is even more difficult than summiting Stok Kangri. You will get to see insanely beautiful landscapes but you will also face situations where you will not be able to feel your feet. Are you up for it?
Here are some forces of nature you’re up against on this trek.
Crevasses are unavoidable if you are setting foot on a glacier. They are basically cracks on the surface of the glacier, and if it snows, sometimes these cracks are not visible. That’s why, for your own safety, you are roped up on a glacier, so the trek leaders can prevent any accidental falls in a hidden crevasse.
We did not come across huge crevasses on the Parvati glacier, but you could see some major deep ones along the way. But nothing extremely dangerous.
In all honesty, we walked the glacier like a badass team, fearless and excited to be walking on a glacier. Why? Because we had absolute faith in our trek leads. This is where the experience of the trek leaders and guides comes into play, because they understand glaciers more than us, this is their hood and their confident footsteps will make you realize you have nothing to fear. We were roped up, knew our trek leaders will take us through the safest route possible, and the sun was shining upon us, so it was quite a thrilling walk.
2. High altitude health hazards:
The maximum altitude on the trail is at the pass, which is higher than some of the peaks in the world. The height of the pass is approximately 17,500 ft. (5300 m) and the height gain could induce AMS (in some extreme cases HAPO and HACO too) to anyone. So, you need to be extremely careful, and inform your trek leaders about any changes in your health during the trek, even if it’s just a minor headache.
Another word of caution, as you gain height on the trail, the temperature drops, but you know that already, however, what I am trying to get at is that along the way you will have to cross various streams and it’s easy to get your shoes and socks wet. And chilly winds plus wet shoes plus drop in the temperature is never a good combination. It could induce hypothermia. So, if you are extremely cold at night and can’t stop shivering, inform your trek leader. Don't wait for the sun to rise and spend a miserable sleepless night. It’s easy to treat minor hypothermia, but you need to inform your team as soon as possible.
But the journey is worth it. Why I say this is because I have seen how everyone’s emotions spill over when they reach the pass.
Reaching the pass is one of the most memorable moments on the trail. I have seen people being lifted on the shoulders, jumping with joy and tearing up. It is an accomplishment and a beautiful point in your journey. You are going to feel a million emotions all at once and your heart would want to jump out of your chest. It’s a special moment that your heart will remember for a long time to come.
3. Steep descend on the glacier:
The entire trail will present you with one challenge after another. The minute you feel the hardest part is over, you will have a steep descend ahead of you right after the pass. You will walk in the same manner as before, with your spikes on and roped to each other. However, by the time you start descending from the pass, the snow starts melting and turns into slush. Walking on ice is easier than walking in slush, because it gets quite slippery. So, you will have to descend carefully, and the minute you get off the snow patch, you will have sneaky scree and moraine ahead of you, which is harsh on your toes and knees. But crossing the pass gives you a little bit of an adrenaline rush and hikes up your energy levels, so, we comfortably descended from the glacier and didn’t mind the scree.
4. Dangerous boulder bridges:
There are two massive boulders along the way that act as bridges over a stream. Both present you with different difficulties.
It’s hard to get a strong footing on the first boulder, and you sort of have to lean to one side and take baby steps and cross the bridge. Our trek leaders secured us with a rope and helped us cross the bridge.
The challenge of the second boulder is the steep steps. We climbed up quickly and had a look at what seemed like the world’s scariest (and unstable) staircase. It literally felt like getting down a ladder that is kept at very strange steep angle. Most of us got down the boulder sitting on one step at a time, until we felt we could stand straight without falling face down.
5. Frightful river crossings:
Before I say something, I want you to have a look at this picture.
This looks insane, and this was not the worst river we had to cross during our trek. Let me tell you about this crossing first. This was quite a challenging patch for us to cross, as the river was ferocious, the water was ice cold and every rock we’d step on felt slippery. However, with the help of a rope and Vinod, one of our rockstar helpers, we crossed the stream without a scratch.
The craziest stream we had to cross was on day 8, on our way from Base Camp II to Wichkurung Thatch. Firstly, the weather at the campsite was cold. Extremely cold. Like maybe -2 degrees and taking in the wind factor, it felt like -10 degrees or something. And secondly, we had to cross the stream first thing in the morning, and we were right next to the glacier so this was freezing cold glacier water. The sun was taking its own sweet time to come up and our guides were concerned about the rising level of the water, so we couldn’t wait. We walked to the edge of the river shaking due to the cold, and the minute we took off our shoes we stepped into thin ice. Mustering up all the courage we had, we eventually stepped into the ‘OH-MY—FREAKING-GOD-THIS-IS-COLD’ water and crossed the stream as fast as we could. Our feet felt like stones when we got out of the water and we couldn't even move our toes. Unfortunately, because of the temporary feeling that I was about to lose my two very important feet, taking photos didn’t even cross my mind. They say the most memorable moments are the ones that you can’t put into words, and this for me was one of them.
6. Remote terrain and absolutely no civilization:
And lastly, you need to factor in the remoteness of the terrain and the fact that there are no villages along the way and no network until you reach Kaza. You might find a few shepherds on the trail, but that’s pretty much it. During our trek, we didn’t even come across any other group, so it was just us on all the camping sites. This is crucial to know because, in case of an injury or illness, you need to understand your rescue options. Horses don’t go on this trail because of various reasons like boulder bridges and extremely narrow path in certain areas along the trail. So, in case you get injured or fall ill, you will either have to walk the distance yourself (whether it’s turning around or going head), or your team will take you on a stretcher. So, go on this trek only if you are physically fit and have experienced similar rough treks before. Even the most experienced trekkers need to be careful about their health condition and must not start this trek with any kind of illness/fatigue.
If this was an easy trek, it would have been crowded like so many other Himalayan treks in India. But Pin Parvati Pass is not meant for everyone. It's meant for those crazy few who live for adventure. The high on life crowd.
I have been trekking for a while around the world, and I have never come across one trek that takes you through beautiful valleys and meadows and rainforests and glaciers in just a matter of days. The challenges you face along the way are just a cherry on top.
So, be prepared to get dirt under your nails, snow under your feet, and fill your heart with crazy new experiences.
If you sitting there saying 'Bring it on', then this trek is meant for you.
Go be awesome.