Friendship Peak has increasingly become popular for being the bridge between trekking and mountaineering. This 5,289 M peak which sits at the intersection of the two major ranges in Himachal Pradesh – Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar, is fascinating to say the least. With all the risks, challenges and thrills of an expedition, Friendship Peak’s considerably lower altitude makes it a perfect choice to jump head first into the world of hardcore mountaineering.
However, do not be fooled by its altitude – a climb on this ‘little’ peak is nothing to throw a stick at. What it lacks in height, it makes up for in its bizarre landscape and continuous steep slopes – both of which are difficult to navigate and need considerable amount of skill. What makes it special is that, with all its defining features, it constantly pushes you out of your comfort zone. With the chilly winds breathing down your neck as the sun plays a game of hide and seek, you experience the mountain being playful with you as it throws all kinds of beauty and challenges your way, forcing you to play along.
This article discusses the difficulty level of Friendship Peak, the gear and skills you require to make a successful ascent up its icy slopes and some of the challenges you are likely to encounter when you embark on this journey from where there is no looking back.
Difficulty Level of the Trek:
Friendship Peak is a level 6 trek on the Bikat Rating Scale.
About the BRS: The Bikat Rating Scale rates the difficulty level of all treks and expeditions in our portfolio after taking into account their geographical and climatic conditions.
According to this scale, if you are a beginner who is unsure of your fitness level and don’t know what to expect on a trek, a trek rated one will be a good place to start.
If you liked your very first trekking experience and are looking to test your limits next, the treks rated 2 or 3 will do the job for you.
A beginner who is sure of their fitness level on the other hand is welcome to skip the first two levels and directly start with one of the treks rated 3.
From 4 onwards, the rules change a little. It is mandatory to have trekking experience of the previous level to participate in the next level.
The Trails of Friendship Peak:
Although not identified as a technical peak by the IMF (Indian Mountaineering Foundation), Friendship peak presents you with an assortment of terrain, gradient and environment which is easier to navigate if you have some of the basic technical skills required in the mountains. If you are not overly familiar with mountaineering equipment and techniques, however, there is absolutely no need to worry! As a learning-based organization, we will be providing you with the equipment and training needed to use them during the initial days of the trek. Nonetheless, it helps to know the challenges you are likely to encounter if you decide to undertake this journey. Let us help acquaint you to some exciting difficulties which make the trek challenging as well as fun!
Challenge 1: Acclimatization:
We gain quite a bit of altitude from our head trail at Dhundi (3,150M). Since we are moving quickly from sun-showered meadows into the land of fifty shades of white, acclimatization is crucial to completion of the trek and a safe return.
The weather on the trail of Friendship Peak has a way of surprising us too. With its sudden twists, we never know when we will be hit by our next snowstorm, white-out, or torrential rains - which makes the trek thrilling while also, adding to its level of difficulty. This constantly changing weather- sudden snowstorms and whiteouts - makes adapting to newer heights a tricky business.
We have seen quite few fit trekkers experience extreme fatigue, head ache, and nausea on this trail. So, the battle against altitude is not one you would want to take lightly on the Friendship Peak Expedition.
Do remember to drink lots of water, layer up as instructed by the leader and take the climb at your own pace. These simple but effective strategies can help keep all altitude related discomforts at bay.
Challenge 2: Nature of the climb:
Known as the perfect trek to move up from trekking to hardcore mountaineering, the peak serves as a practice ground for a mildly technical and extremely steep climb. It offers up features of an expedition - from carrying your own load to a need for technical knowledge.
On the trek you will be introduced to mountaineering equipment and new technical skills like using the ice-axe, pitching a tent in snow, roping up to name a few. The mountain also hand-delivers a lesson in the importance of softer skills like working together as a team. Even seemingly simple tasks like walking will get reassessed when you put on your shin-high, very heavy snow boots for the first time.
The last day is especially challenging because of the nature of the climb. Firstly, we gain an altitude of nearly 1000-1200M in a single night – that from 4000M to 5289M. Be prepared for a 7-8 hour long steep ascent.
During snow time, the trails have random ice boulders jutting out of the ice bed below, which require constant maneuvering. It is more grueling in times when the snow has receded and the rocks are exposed. Navigating this rocky landscape with snow boots and crampons is a whole different ball game.
That said, if you are someone who is new to expedition style trekking and technical climbing, do not let these challenges deter you. We will be providing you with the training needed to handle both, the equipment and terrain, during the initial days of the Expedition. Getting used to the equipment takes time but by the summit day, they will feel like a second skin.
Challenge 3: Peculiar Terrain:
Friendship peak is kind enough to introduce you to all the traits of a mountain- like scree, moraine, snow boulders, crevasses, narrow ridges, steep gradient and much more- in the span of a week! A trek up the peak is an on-field lesson in the variety of high-altitude features. Walking through glacial moraines, navigating the massive snow rocks, braving the unpredictable weather in knee-deep snow and walking brutal slopes on the trail keep the journey exhilarating throughout.
Each season on the peak is met with different kinds of challenges and hence, different visuals and a completely different experience. Even within the same season, the trail of the trek takes you through an assortment of landscapes, each with its own difficulties. It is like the mountain is teasing you out of your comfort zone – each time you get used to the terrain, it changes face and presents you with something new!
You may also be required to spend a night in snow which is a completely different experience. If you are someone who likes to wake up dry, this might prove to be one difficult night- with the winds knocking on your tent and the snow from below sneaking into your many layers of protection.
Challenge 4: Extremely Long Distances
Do not be fooled by the relatively lesser altitude of the mountain. The distances between camps are massive.
The summit push, especially, is extremely long. Although manageable, go with the knowledge that it will be a long night on a tough gradient between 50-55 degrees with narrow ridges skirting direct drops into the valley below.
This might require long hours of mental preparation but we can assure you that once you are back down, the memory of the climb is sure to keep your brain firing for weeks to come.
GEAR REQUIRED FOR FRIENDSHIP
While we will be providing most of the technical equipment needed for the trek (tents, sleeping bags, crampons, snow boots, ice axe), there is some basic gear you will need from your end to get through your hike comfortably.
Some of the things you will need are:
1) A sturdy, lightweight backpack: A good backpack which sits comfortably on your back without putting too much pressure on it can be the deciding factor between making it to the summit or not. Good, however, is not a synonym for expensive.
One of our founders, Pankaj, purchased a non-branded pack for INR 1100 in 2010 and the pack continues to work just fine for him even today. In the article linked below, he shares some helpful tips on what to look for when choosing a trekking backpack.
2) Comfortable trekking shoes: Happy feet equal a happy trek. Conventional sports shoes don’t suit trekking trails. We recommend wearing high ankle shoes with sturdy soles. These not only provide better support but also reduce the possibility of injuries while hiking. In case, you need help with a list of deciding factors that make for good trekking shoes, please refer to the article below.
3) Right Clothing: Any high-altitude trek requires specific kinds of clothing. It should be warm but light weight. It should also be such that it is easily packaged. On high-altitude treks like Friendship Peak, we usually employ the layering method where you put on multiple layers of clothing instead of one very heavy, thick jacket. This is for two reasons:
- The weather in Himalayan regions is unpredictable and changes very quickly. Layering gives you the freedom to adapt to that accordingly where you are not left feeling too hot or too cold.
- These are easy to carry and are packing-friendly.
4) Right Sunglasses: When you know you are going to be in and around snow or in any high-altitude location where the sun is harsh, you might want to carry a good pair of sunglasses. A lack of these could prove to be fatal. The article below can help you pick out just the right pair.
SKILLS REQUIRED FOR FRIENDSHIP PEAK
Bikat Adventures is primarily an adventure learning organization. This means our key objective is not just to help trekkers complete their treks but also to ensure they pick up some valuable lessons and skills in trekking along the way.
To achieve this, we have created learning modules and paired them to different levels on the Bikat Rating Scale.
These modules are taught real-time on the trails by our trek leaders.
The following are some skills that are likely to come in handy on a trek like Friendship Peak.
While you will have all the assistance you need on the trek from our capable trek leaders and guides, we suggest browsing through the articles below to get an idea of what is involved.
1. Ascending Descending on Trails
Friendship Peak is full of steep ascents and equally steep descents. While ascending and descending on rocky terrain is difficult, achieving this on icy slopes is trickier. A set of simple techniques can help you navigate rocky as well as icy landscapes with considerable ease while also reducing chances of injuries and stress to specific body parts. The guide linked below shares some useful tips on how to ascend and descend on trails.
Here is an additional article for some more in-depth information specific to an icy terrain.
Ice-craft Basics: Glacier Travel
2) Packing Your Rucksack
Given how unpredictable the weather gets on Friendship Peak, you are likely to keep changing your layering frequently along the way. Also, due to the vast difference in day temperature and that at night, you most probably will spend a lot of time packing and re-packing your sack.
Accessing your stuff can get a bit messy and confusing during this process.
A sack packed right can facilitate your trekking while incorrect packing can make even an easy trail seem difficult. Worry not, we are here to help. The article linked below shares some useful guidelines you can follow to pack efficiently.
3.How to Pitch a Tent
Our trek leaders will be guiding you on how to pitch a tent during the trek. Nevertheless, we are linking the article below for anyone who might be interested in reading about it.
Layering appropriately to protect you from the cold is essential. The article linked below will give you a fair idea of the winter layers you will need and guide you on how to layer up at campsites and while hiking.
Like we said before, Friendship Peak is rife with sharp ascents and equally sharp descents in an assortment of landscapes. This, along with its peculiar terrain and environment require you to use some mountaineering equipment. The articles below will acquaint you to a few of these and help you understand how to use them as well as how they can facilitate your climb.
We hope this article answers all the questions you may have about Friendship Peak. In case you need further assistance/information with something, please feel free to reach out to us. We are only a phone call away.