The adventure began with a bus chase on the busy streets of New Delhi, although the real adventure had already started 6 months back when the plan was hatched and the nitty gritty details were checked and all the required equipment, hacks, tools check etc were being done.
We were supposed to catch the 8pm bus for Mcleodganj from Majnu ka Tilla and were very very late. After several calls from the bus agency, our begging and pleas to wait for us, the bus officials telling us that they had waited for half an hour and couldn’t wait anymore, we managed to catch the bus at Karnal bypass. This was an omen that an exciting adventure had begun and there was more to come. The first step of the mission was successful and the next day we would start the trek towards Triund. Our happiness knew no bounds.
Day1 13/10/2018: Triund
We reached Mcleodganj at around 7am and checked in to a Hotel in Dharamkot. After freshening up, we reached Gallu Devi Temple check post and had a quick breakfast. And the journey began at 11:30 am. The first few minutes were very exciting but soon enough the weight we were carrying started to become overbearing. We felt like those overburdened donkeys carrying supplies. Each of us were carrying at least 15-20 kgs since we had all the equipment, tents, tools, food supply etc. with us (which was a foolish thing to do that we realized later). The climb till Triund was 9kms and would take us 5-6 hours.
The view from ‘Magic Café’ was awesome, which was one of the many places where we stopped and took rest. There are several such cafes on the way which provide food and refreshments. We stopped at many places, enjoying the view and resting our tired limbs and body. Although the weather was very good with a little warm sunshine and cool wind, we were sweating profusely. The first lesson learnt was to pack as much lightly as possible. After several rests along the way, panting and sweating, we reached Triund at around 6pm.
The view from Triund was mind-blowing. The sun was just setting, the mountains had all turned beautiful red. The sky had burst into colours and it was a sight to behold. We had forgotten about our tiring journey and started clicking pictures of the beauty all around. There were two cafes where we inquired about the spot where we could set up our tents. Since we had come on our own (which is a violation of the recent govt. regulations), we were told the forest officials would not let us camp anywhere. So, we found a spot a little farther downhill and away from the crowd and set up our camp. It was right near the edge where the forests started. It had a very good view, although if we moved our camps a few more inches, we would have rolled down into the forests in our sleep. Souvik and I went out in search of wood while Sourav and Pushpita arranged the tents. It had got completely dark by now and we had to use our torchlights to see the way ahead. We lighted our own little bonfire with whatever wood and cardboards we could get. We sat around it while we had our Rajma chawal which Sourav had brought from the café. It was already 8.30pm and the weather had become quite chilly. After chatting and listening to songs, we retired to our tents.
Day2 14/10/2018: Snowline Café
We all woke up early or let’s say we didn’t get much sleep at all for some reason. Maybe our bodies were trying to get acclimatized to the chilly weather, or it was the excitement what the next day would bring us. The rising sun was worth a sight. We danced around in joy & had a short photo session, before breakfast at the Café. Then we started to pack our things. I spoke to a porter Mr.Kewal who agreed to carry one of our bags till Snowline Café. We were ready by 9:30 am and started our journey. But just then, we got one of our first setbacks. Pushpita said she was having some pain in her feet (which had fractured a year back) and she decided to go back to Mcleodganj. So, we were 3 of us now and Mr.Kewal who had the task of reaching Snowline Café. The terrain looked steeper than before and we were getting exhausted within the next 10-15 mins itself. The task of completing the journey looked bleak. After a few more minutes we had another surprise. Sourav decided to turn back and accompany Pushpita till Mcleodganj. At this point Mr.Kewal remarked that we were like the mighty Pandavas on their way to heaven, dropping one by one. These incidents were saddening, but we had a good laugh. We had a mission at hand and would not let these setbacks dampen our spirit. So, we re-arranged our luggage and various items and parted ways with Sourav. Now it was only the two of us, myself and Souvik. But, we started our journey again, with Mr.Kewal leading our way. He was a fit little fellow and was moving very quickly between the rocks, making our lives all the more difficult as we were huffing and puffing to keep up pace with him.
The terrain was fully rocky, steep and treacherous at times. One wrong step and we would end up into history. And moreover the heavy baggage was adding to our misery. We took regular breaks, having Snickers, nuts, Water etc. At some point, we gave way to a very big group of cheerful college students returning from Snowline Café. We met many people on our way, all exchanging greetings and pleasantries. We met one small group of foreigners who were carrying big garbage bags along with them and were picking up garbage wherever they found. They even advised us not to litter and spoil the environment. This was a very noble thing that they were doing.
Note: The ‘Waste warriors’ are also doing a great job to keep the environment clean.
After resting at several places, taking pictures of the very beautiful surroundings, drinking water, and chatting with Mr.Kewal we finally managed to reach Snowline Café at 13:00hrs. Our initial plan was to reach Laka and set our camp there. But we were very exhausted and our feet wouldn’t move. After some discussion and thoughts we decided to set up our camp at Snowline Café itself. We found a nice place a little farther from the café and set up camp. We had a little Maggi at the café and said goodbye to Mr.Kewal.
A little while later we met a guy from the UK who was on the way to Laka along with his guide. We had a little chat while having our food and learnt that he was going to trek till Indrahar Pass the next morning. We also learnt that it had started to snow at the top there (which was very exciting). However, we did not have any snow equipment with us. And Mr.Brij Lal (owner of Snowline Café) advised us against going up there without a guide. The guide accompanying Mr.UK told us we could join him next morning at 4:30 am if we wanted. We really wanted to do this. We thanked him for his offer and said we would definitely try and after sometime they went ahead towards Laka. I was very optimistic that we would make it to the top.
Our job now was to collect firewood and start our small kitchen. After fixing our tent, we went out in search of firewood in the jungles nearby. It was a tough job again since we didn’t have a proper axe with us and the knife that we had would at best be used to sharpen pencils. We started collecting barks of trees and little twigs when a hailstorm started, adding to our despair. But it was exciting as well and our journey was getting more interesting now. When it paused to rain for a while we quickly hurried up to our camp and took shelter. It started raining again and continued for the next 1.5 to 2 hours. As we peeked out from our little tent peephole we saw that the whole ground was covered with snow.
The weather had become really cold now and we had to start a fire. After a lot of failed attempts, we managed to start a fire and cook some rajma, chicken and paratha that we had brought with us. This was quite an achievement for us. We were very excited and enjoyed our meal a lot. The sun had begun to set by now. So, we positioned ourselves near the rocks from where we could have a better view. The whole sky had burst into colors and the scenery looked like one of those beautiful windows wallpapers. It was a sight that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. I sat there for a long time gazing at the setting sun.
The next task was to plan for the next day: the final trek till Indrahar Pass. We two sat and were discussing like soldiers planning to capture Tiger Hill. It was a daunting task for us since we didn’t have any equipment, no guide with us and my ailing feet had got no better. However, I was hopeful that we would still manage to make it to the top. We decided to wake up as early as possible and give it a try to reach the Pass. We had dinner at the Snowline café, chatted with Mr.Brij Lal and after sitting outside enjoying the cold weather for some time, went back to our tent at around 21:30 hrs.
Day3 15/10/2018: The Final uphill Trek
We woke up by the chatter of a group who were admiring the beautiful view. We didn’t know whether to get irked by their presence or thank them for waking us up. It was 06:30 am already and we were late by 2 hours of our planned trek start time. We hurriedly completed the morning rituals and got ready for the final ascent. It was a race against time now as it was 08:30 am already. However, we started our journey hoping to make it to the Pass. We reached Dhauladhar café by 09:30 hrs which was pretty quick as per our standards. The terrain wasn’t so hard this time. We met young Praveen Kumar at the café who was engrossed with his mobile and his music. We chatted for some time with him, who advised us that we were very late and it wasn’t wise to go to the Pass now. We bade him goodbye after a while and started the final ascent. This time it really felt what it is to trek. The terrain was fully rocky, almost 70 degree and there could not be even 1% chance of error here or we would reach heaven instead of the Pass.
Although there were guide marks on the big rocks, Souvik started marking our own path here and there just to have a comfortable downhill journey. From far we could see the waterfall and we decided to reach that first, although it would mean we would have to cover more ground. We took regular breaks in between, drank water, rested and continued with hope in our hearts. It was here I understood that I wasn’t fit like the mountain goats as I had always imagined. Or maybe it was due to the injury, I couldn’t jump around the rocks and climb the mountains like those animals do. With the pole in one hand, I gradually limped towards our destination. Souvik was the fitter of us two and led the way. He also had a good sense of direction and acted as the navigator. Another lesson re-learnt here was I didn’t have a good sense of direction as well and would end of entirely someplace else if given the chance to navigate.
We reached the Lahesh caves around 12 pm after crossing the small but beautiful waterfall. The Pass looked so near and yet so far. The locals had advised us to turn back by 13:00 hrs as the weather would start to turn bad by then, you never know when the weather changes high on these mountains. We could see the dark clouds gathering on the top and would soon gradually descend upon us. After a lot of discussion, soul searching and logical reasoning, we decided to give the ‘Pass’ a pass this time. It was impossible in this weather, without a guide, snow equipment and sadly my aching feet. We sat outside the cave for about an hour trying to enjoy the view (actually we were almost trying to swallow the view) as much as possible. The view was mind-blowing, the weather was beyond wonderful and you could actually hear the mountains sing (actually it’s the wind that makes whistling-like noises).
Our descent was a lot easier than our climb and we reached our camp by 16:00 hrs (thanks to a Shepherd who guided us to follow the small rocks put up on the bigger ones as a mark).
We stayed here for the night, met some wonderful people and went back to Mcleodganj on 16th Oct. Mr.Mithu helped us share our load of luggage and we parted ways with a promise to come back to these mountains again and cross the Pass and trek till Chamba someday.
It was one of the most exciting, thrilling and adventurous journeys of my life. I will cherish these memories forever and would always love to come back to these mountains.
Pack as light as possible.
Carry lots of cash. It’s costly up there.
Carry lots of Nuts, Protein bars and Electrolytes.
Always heed to the advice given by the Locals and the Shepherds. They are the boss up there and whatever they say is right.
For first timers, please be informed that trying to make it to the Indrahar Pass will be an almost impossible job without a guide as the trail gets lost at places and the terrain is very steep and hard. So, unless you want to stay back at the mountains, please hire a guide (as per Govt. regulations).
Dhauladhar Café is the last café before Indrahar Pass. So, you can camp at Laka instead of Snowline Cafe.
Start for Indrahar Pass around 4:30 to 5:00 hrs so that you can return before dusk. (It takes around 10 hrs to and fro from the Pass).
A first aid kit is a must. But hope you don’t get injured.
Please do not litter. Collect and dispose of your own trash.
Do not get injured before the journey. It would be difficult to trek with broken limbs.
o And lastly-
Indrahar Pass trek is not an easy Trek!! Count it as a Moderate one.
Checklist for Beginner Trekkers:
Shirts / T‐shirts/ Jeans / Trekking Pants
Windproof jacket of decent quality/ Warm and thick Fleece
Thermal inner wear (upper & lower)/ Woollen cap / Woollen gloves/ - Woollen socks
Scarf/muffler/ Comfortable Trekking/Hiking shoes (shoes with a thick sole are recommended)
Lightweight floaters/sandals/slippers, Raincoat / Poncho/ Small light weight towel
Water bottle (sturdy ones)/ Cap or Hat
Walking stick / Trekking pole / Torch / Flashlight (with extra batteries)/ Books (only if you love reading)
Carry rain cover /Waterproof bags
Tent, poles, stakes / Tent footprint (ground cover for under your tent), Axe
Shovel/ Toilet Shovel
Sleeping bag for each camper / Repair kit for pads, mattress, tent, tarp
Headlamps or flashlights (extra batteries)
Insect repellant / Toothbrush/ toiletries/ Pre-moistened wipes
Hand sanitizer /Soap / Mosquito repellant
Rucksack & Cover, Whistle / Hunting Knife
Bandana / Sewing needle and nylon thread Duct tape / Journal / Pen
Offline MAP Download (although local help would be better)
First Aid kit
Ready to cook meals, dry fruits, Protein bars and water
Places worth visiting in Mcleodganj:
Illiterati Café for its amazing food, books and view
Morgan’s place for the amazing food.
Clay Oven for the amazing food.
Aunty’s roadside shop for the tasty Tibetan dish ‘Laffe’