Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller

Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 1/30 by Geet Gera
Dhara top, Sar Pass
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 2/30 by Geet Gera
the DUO
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 3/30 by Geet Gera
A makeshift tea stall, enroute Grahan village
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 4/30 by Geet Gera
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 5/30 by Geet Gera
Grahan village, as seen from the campsite
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 6/30 by Geet Gera
Grahan Village as seen enroute Min Thach
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 7/30 by Geet Gera
confused trail towards Min Thach
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 8/30 by Geet Gera
The 16 year old
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 9/30 by Geet Gera
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 10/30 by Geet Gera
Cobra plant
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 11/30 by Geet Gera
YHAI tents at Min Thach campsite
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 12/30 by Geet Gera
Rata Pani campsite, while climbing the trail just like the Stairway to heaven.
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 13/30 by Geet Gera
Nagaru top as seen from Min Thach campsite
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 14/30 by Geet Gera
Tents on the left is Min Thach campsite and on right is Grahan village, as seen from Nagaru top
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 15/30 by Geet Gera
Drama at Nagaru top
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 16/30 by Geet Gera
Sar Pass
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 17/30 by Geet Gera
Sar lake and Dhara top
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 18/30 by Geet Gera
A long walk on the snow
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 19/30 by Geet Gera
snow melting, only source of drinking water around the pass
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 20/30 by Geet Gera
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 21/30 by Geet Gera
Enroute Biskeri Thach, Biskeri top is on the extreme right
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 22/30 by Geet Gera
climbing the final leg of Biskeri top. You can spot two others at the top
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 23/30 by Geet Gera
Biskeri top
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 24/30 by Geet Gera
lunch point between the pass and Biskeri thach campsite
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 25/30 by Geet Gera
looking back to what we've achieved, yes we came sliding down from that snow patch in the middle
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 26/30 by Geet Gera
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 27/30 by Geet Gera
Tosh village seen enroute biskeri thach
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 28/30 by Geet Gera
Biskeri Thach campsite
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 29/30 by Geet Gera
Maggi !!!
Photo of Sar Pass - Elixir to a traveller 30/30 by Geet Gera

It all started when I made a promise to myself, the promise of 'travelling/trekking once in every two months'. I was running late, lagging behind from my solemn vow and was desperate to travel. 'SAR PASS' trek came in as the saviour, rescuing me from my mundane life. The Sar pass trek is a beautiful trek in the Himalayas and was to be my first multi-day trek wherein I, along with one of my friend was to carry all the necessary rations, cooking equipment, and of course our loaded rucksacks.

The very first trail of the Sar pass trek starts from Kasol (Himachal). So, we started our journey from Delhi, carrying our heavy backpacks we boarded the bus for Bhunter at 8PM in Haryana roadways. It took us 12 hours to reach Bhunter from where we switched buses and boarded another bus that took 2 hours to reach Kasol.

Kasol, a very small town in Himachal, is a beautiful place, secluded from the normal hustle-bustle of city life. I had been to Kasol before while en route to Barsheni and Tosh for the 'Kheerganga trek' but was never inclined to stay as I only preferred the place when it was asleep and when the beauty of nature is at its peak. But this time, it was different, the place had a pleasant calmness to it, in stark contrast to the image I had from my last visit when the place was over crowded with tourists and there was loud trance music playing all over the town, and I wanted to spend some hours or maybe a day in Kasol.

We reached Kasol around 10am and immediately started looking for a temporary place, so we could freshen up, change our clothes, take a bath as this was the last stop with all the proper facilities and then start the trek as early as possible. But, because it was peak season, the hotels were very costly and were charging a minimum of Rs 600 even for 2 hours. So, we decided to skip the hotel and we went to this 'Little Italy' restaurant where we made use of the restrooms and got ready. After getting ready we ordered breakfast and spent the next few hours absorbing the beauty of this place.

(It is the best place if you only have an hour or two to spend in kasol and then, trek. Also, their ayurvedic tea is totally refreshing.) We left little Italy around 1:30pm, after spending almost 3 hours, and started our trek.

Day 1 – Kasol (5381ft) to Grahan village (7700ft) – 10Kms

Trail from kasol to Grahan village is a marked one amidst the forest. But one has to be careful with the markings. The route is also frequent by the villagers. So, you can always ask them if you’re on the right track. Gradient is gentle for the first few kms and gradual uphill for the remaining part. There’s one make shift stall somewhere in between. We had tea and Parle G. It is the best combination, ever.

Grahan is a small, beautiful village of your dreams. We camped here for the night. Accommodation is available in the homestays. You are not allowed to pitch your tents here. The campsite (Pulgi) is just a few meters away from the main village. Charges for the room, per person, is as low as INR100

We took a room in Ravi homestay which is near to the YHAI campsite. It’s a newly build place. We were their first guest. Made completely out of wood, the owner and his family built it themselves. It took them 3 years to complete it. Red sand has been used instead of cement. The rooms are pretty nice and you’ll love the hospitality here. Take proper rest here as you won’t find civilization after Grahan.

We did not have a guide and the way ahead was a tricky one. We asked the locals for a guide. One of them asked for INR1000 per day, but came down to INR700 (INR2800 for 4 days) which was a fair deal, but he would only say yes once he’d talk to his father.

By the time, we met a guy, Sanjay, YHAI group member, who was planning to go straight to Nagaru (3rd camp) via Min Thach (2nd camp). He was accompanied by a local woodcutter. Suddenly, that INR2800 looked expensive and we told Sanjay that we’d tag along with him. He asked us to get ready by 8.

Day 2 – Grahan(7700ft) to Nagaru(12500ft), Via Min Thach(10700ft) – 15kms

We got up around 7, and were almost ready by 7:30 but then the woodcutter insisted Sanjay on leaving early. So they started early around 7:40AM and we were to follow them after breakfast. We started at 8 and owner of the homestay guided us to some 300-400 meters and then he explained us the trail from there on. From this point onwards, we were on our own in the forest. The trail throughout was a steep uphill and was confusing.

After, somehow, finding the way for an hour, we saw a porter, carrying a good amount of weight, coming towards us. We were super happy to see him. Although it wasn’t that difficult to find the way, still we had to stop every now and then to figure out, which was both tiring and tricky. As soon as we saw him, we continued on the trail, because we knew he would catch us in 15-20 mins and we’d be on our own again. No matter how much you try, these locals are like superman on the trail. In no time, he was out my sight. But I got a chance to ask him if he could stick with us and then I found him again after 15-20mins. We got into talking again, and that’s when I got to know that he was only 16 years old. I was taken aback for a while, the simplicity they possess, the hard life they endure at a very young age. I offered him water and threptin (biscuit), we sat there for some time and a private group, with a guide and porters, came in. We were now sure that we wouldn’t lose the trail from here on.

By 12pm, we reached Min Thach campsite. You’d spot the YHAI tents on entering. If you look straight up, you’d see the next campsite (Nagaru campsite) which is 7 kms from here. On the right is a canteen and only maggi, tea and omelettes are available here. There isn’t much space to pitch tent here as most of the space is occupied by YHAI camps. So, the private groups halt here for lunch and move again for Rata Pani campsite which is another 30 mins downhill trek from here.

Min Thach isn’t a very beautiful campsite if you compare it with other campsites, so, we were planning to leave after lunch but it started raining. By the time, we asked the YHAI camp leader and the owner of that canteen, if Nagaru was doable the same day, to which they replied, "yes, it is but not in this weather". We lost the enthusiasm of moving forward but luckily, the rain stopped and the sky was clear in no time. And that’s when Apoorv asked me "chalna hai ?", to which i said "chal, nikalte hai" and we started exactly at 2:30pm.

15 mins towards nagaru and we reached a point where we were taken aback because of what was awaiting us. At this point, if you look straight, steep descend will take you to Rata Pani campsite and if you look towards the left (where we are suppose to go), the trail is a steep uphill which almost looked like The Stairway to Heaven (Hawaii), except there were no proper stairs to climb and no proper support. It was rocky throughout. We, somehow, gathered courage and strength to finally move towards the climb.

We had a very clear mindset when we were leaving Min thach. If we leave, we had to reach Nagaru anyhow, because enroute, there was no place to camp and no water supply. Already, a little tired from the first leg of trek, we decided to walk every 15 mins with a 5 min break. The terrain was rocky and steep. Sky was getting dark and we were the only two on the entire trail. Slowly and steadily we covered ¾ distance. It started raining and suddenly it hailed hailstorms. We somehow managed to hide under a huge boulder wherein involuntarily I took a nap owing to the fatigue and again resumed when the rain had stopped. (We did not find Sanjay throughout the second day’s trek. He is an experienced trekker {this being his 8th time on Sar pass trek}, he had already reached Nagaru around 3PM, which we came to know later.

At 5:40 pm we were at the top feeling proud and accomplished. What a beautiful feeling it was. People at the camp came to us and were astonished to see two guys, with their own camp and food, without a guide, covered 15kms of steep uphill and made it to the top of Nagaru in one day. I still remember one of them saying "i admire you guys. I would want to do this one day". That, really made my day.

Nagaru is beautiful and a small campsite. One can spot min thatch campsite and grahan village from the top. There is also a canteen at the top which winds up as early as 6pm. The groups generally sleep early here, around 8pm because of the early morning (4AM) start on the next day. We took some pictures and pitched our tent around YHAI campsite. Wind speed is generally high here. Since this was our first attempt to pitch a tent, some 7-8 people from the group helped us. We did not have any sort of utensil to cook maggi. So we asked the person at the canteen. He was so kind and generous that he gave some local rotis with a sabzi and a vessel to cook. In return, we offered him money but he refused, so we gave him some of our maggi supplies. Apoorv cooked his maggi, had the roti. I wasn’t feeling good because of the maggi and omelette intake for last two days, so i slept without eating.

Day 3 – Nagaru(12500ft) to Biskeri Thach(11000ft), Via Sar pass(13800ft)

Today was D day and also the longest one. Knowing, that we would take an extra 20 mins to dismantle and pack the tent and our bags, we woke up at 3AM. Packing that thing (tent) inside that pack was really a task since we did not know how do it properly and It was freezing with the winds blowing at a rapid speed. One of the group members came to our tent and gave his share of tea to us and i couldn’t say no. He was kind and an amazing person. I was touched by this gesture at 12500ft. He also offered us his bournvita last night.

The camp leader of YHAI, here, was also an amazing person. He also offered us tea and breakfast in the morning. Already running late, we started without it. We came to know later, this was the last day of his (camp leader) tenure at this campsite, and he was to trek with us to the next camp and then to the base camp. We followed him and Sanjay for most of the day, since we did not have a guide and the trail ahead was tricky and confusing.

He (Apooorv) was almost ready by 4 when YHAI group made its departure. I was the one who was late. Somehow, we started at 4:15Am and we immediately spotted the group. The landscape takes a gradual change from here. Green turned white, bare hands were turned into gloved hands and the average views turned into 360 degree views of the snow capped. The gradient is steep throughout. Walking for an hour or so we spotted 3 tiny humans climbing that final leg and nearing Sar Pass. They were atleast 30 minutes ahead of us and we were atleast 20 mins ahead of the group. After climbing that final leg before the pass, we sat down for while to eat.

By the time the group came, i decided to leave while everybody else was busy taking pictures and playing in the snow. I started for point where i last spotted those 3 trekkers and i lost their sight That point was the pass in the actual sense. Without a guide, it’s difficult to spot your location. That was the case with us as i was unable to figure out that this was the highest point of the trek.

So, i was alone at this point and Apoorv was somewhere behind, exploring the pass on his own. I could not find the way ahead. All i could see is the Dhara top right in front me. And it looked like a dream. I wanted to touch it. The group was atleast 30 mins behind and with nowhere to go i decided to touch the foot of the dhara top and comeback.

Towards the Dhara top, on the right, i found a semi frozen lake. It looked beautiful from the top. I called Apoorv before i made my way down towards that lake. With only the sound of ice cracking, this place was quiet and beautiful in every sense. I loved sitting at the lake. We sat their for a long time.

We later came to know that this was Sar lake and that point was the highest point of the trek. The lake was out of the route and most people of the YHAI group doesn’t get to see it.

We thought that the group might have started by now, so we went up only to see that they were still in the same spot. But, luckily, i spotted a lady porter, going towards the deep valley. I shouted and asked her if this was the route. "Yes", she said, and we started following her to the break point where we found those 3 trekkers (camp leader of nagaru, sanjay and a porter) waiting for us and THEY told us about Sar pass, sar lake and the highest point.

The group was way behind us. So, hereon, we followed the trio. Trail from here is fully covered in snow which made it a little difficult to walk. And if you slip, you’ll go deep down into the valley. I slipped once and i went sliding down for like 50mts before i used that trekking pole to self arrest the slide. Steep ascend and descend brought us closer to the Biskeri top. We spotted the trio climbing the top from a distance and was jaw dropping. We decided to sit, on the foot of the top, before climbing the almost vertical climb. Reaching the foot, we found a zigzag trail leading to the top which was also the steepest we have attempted on this trek. Instead, I went straight up crawling on the almost vertical climb.

The view from the top is, again, jaw dropping. Covered with snow, descend from here is so steep that the only way to go down is sliding. So, we packed our cameras and phones in the bag and fasten the belts and sat down for the first slide.

When you’re without a guide and you’re doing something (sliding, in my case) for the first time, you should be all ears to the experienced trekkers. I was told to use the elbows to control the speed and the direction but I wasn't listening, I was mentally lost.

Gaining good speed from the start itself, i went off track trying to control the speed with the heels and hands. I don’t know where i was lost when the instructions were being given. Trekking pole, then, came to my rescue. With a near roll over and when the left hand and the heels were not enough to slow down, i used the trekking pole to control speed and to, finally, stop.

I could not feel my left hand for 10-15 mins. I got numb.

I took some deep breaths and started walking towards the track only to sit down for the second slide which was good after that major heart wrenching experience.

Descend, after the slides, was again steep. Since there was no snow on this part, we had to walk down to reach the lunch point.

After that slide, i was being more careful and i slowed down a little to reach the lunch point around 11:30AM. Next campsite was still 60-90mins away

White was again turned into green as we started moving towards the camp. The gradient was steep downhill with small boulders all around. The trail has 2-3 rights and lefts. The key here is to stick to the left ALWAYS. We spotted pulga and tosh village on our way down.

Around 1pm, i was the last one, from the five of us, to reach the Biskeri thach campsite. This is the most beautiful campsite on the trek. We were AWESTRUCK. The sun was at its best, so we took our shoes off and soaked in the sun for a while. Private groups camp on the upper field and YHAI had pitched their camps on the lower field. We pitched ours on the lower field. There’s no canteen and food here. So, basically you are on your own.

We had gas, a burner and maggi but we did not have a vessel to cook it. I was unaware that it can be cooked in a threptin jar. Thankfully, Apoorv figured it out and we had the best maggi at 11000ft.

We had the whole day for ourselves and we even planned to get further down to the Bhandak thach campsite. But biskeri was so beautiful, that we cancelled all our plans and decided to stay a full day here. For the rest of the day, we could only manage to do two things – Mountain gazing and Star gazing. The camp leaders made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. They offered us food. I quickly grabbed the plate and started pouring whatever they had on the menu. I still can’t forget that Kheer.

Day 4 :- Biskeri thach(11,000 ft) to Barsheni via Bhandak thach(8,000 ft).

So there are two routes from here. One, goes directly to Barsheni and the other one also goes to barsheni but, via Bhandak thach. Now, the groups were divided into three. One was to go directly to Barsheni, the other one to Bhandak thach and camp there for the night and third, the six of us. We decided to go to bhandak thach, stay there for a while and then leave for Barsheni.

So, We woke up at 7 and got ready by 8. Sanjay was leading our group.

The trail was the most confusing here with no markings whatsoever. Trail started into dense forest and small boulder for an hour or so. The trail is beautiful throughout. My feet got swollen on the downhill and due to which the gap between the toes and the front of the boots decreased. As a result of which the toenails were pushing against the front and with constant pressure and bashing, the skin chipped off. It was getting difficult to walk. I took off the shoe, doubled the band-aid and wore an extra pair of socks. Still, it wasn’t enough. Even the painkiller didn’t work. I was still in pain and ultimately i got use it and stopped thinking about it. The group, especially Apoorv, stopped for me every now and then since it was an unmarked trail.

I somehow crawled to a point, from there if you take a right, a 30 mins uphill will take you to Bhandak thach campsite and a further down on the left will take you towards Barsheni. Injured already, i planned to skip Bhandak thach and so did apoorv and sanjay.

From here the trail becomes extremely beautiful. You walk through lush green forest, VAST meadows, huge pine and oak trees and you can see the snow clad mountains in between the branches. It was like walking in your own dream. Trail was also marked from here. So i asked them not to wait. With that speed it took me almost 3 hours to reach Barsheni around 2:30 pm. They reached around 1-1:30 and were already waiting. We were happy and content on finishing the trek.

Without taking time, we took the bus to kasol. We covered that extra 7kms on day two just to take a day for kasol. It was crowded, like we expected. Sanjay was with us. We took a room (in Purnima Guest house) near the YHAI campsite. Only food was on our mind, so we got into the room and got ready as soon as we could. Sanjay was the experienced one, so he to go to BHOJ, and we do not regret it. I LOVED the food there. We ordered Shakshuka, Bureka, olive garlic bread with hummus and fried rice. Sharing stories, good food and beer made it the perfect evening.

Next day, i woke up around 6. Apoorv and sanjay were still sleeping. I went out, kasol was also sleeping. There was no sound of any sort of music. The only sound i could hear was the sound of birds chirping and Parvati river flowing, just 20 steps from the Guest house and then, i decided to walk those 20 steps. It was the most beautiful thing that happened in kasol. I sat there for a long time just watching the stream flowing.

They were awake, by the time. It was around 8 or 9am. After breakfast, we spent some time here and there on the streets. It was then, time to leave and catch the bus to Delhi.