* visit to spiti valley

Posted on July 19th, 2017 by Alex. Filed under India.

A spontaneous trekking invitation to Spiti Valley seemed to be too good to be true. I repacked my backpack from the last trek and headed to Manju Ka Tilla to take the bus to Manali. Here the first surprise: Instead of a luxurious AC bus, I was greeted by the oldest and crappiest bus available. It seems that due to some political problem, private AC buses were not allowed to enter Delhi. So this crappy bus took me to the border of the state Haryana, where the bus was exchanged. It was a hot, humid and sweaty tour till then. After the bus exchanged, travel became very comfortable and I slept through all the way to Manali.

Bus To Haryana Border

The next day we were picked up by a shared cab and we headed off to Rohtang Pass. It was early in the morning and in addition it was pass-maintenance-day during which the pass is closed for tourists. Now only a few vehicles are allowed to proceed to the pass (without crossing it), due to the pollution turning the snow black, and the trash leaving mass of people. Before crossing the pass, we stopped at Mahri and loaded ourselves with tasty aloo parathas.

Our shared Cab from Manali to Spiti

After crossing the pass the nicely tarred roads so far, became riddled with pot holes and stopped being tarred at all. Hoping and shaking over the ground, our driver turned the cab from the Leh-Manali highway to the lonely road towards Spiti Valley. After shaking through the first 7km, we suddenly found cars, cabs, police vehicles, vegetable trucks, etc. parked at the side of the road. Some landslide must have happened and we left the cab to go ahead and to have a look at the blockage. Around a corner we went and we were greeted by a mighty waterfall which swell overnight and while doing so took the road along with it. The current was so strong that no one dared to cross it. A long wait started. Nobody knew what they are waited for, as if miraculously just by waiting, the problem would solve itself. And it did 🙂 Out of nowhere a JCB turned up and started shuffling around the rocks reducing the current and rebuilding the road.
JCB- Backhoe loader-2

After the JCB left to go ahead and to clear another landslide, the race started, who is the first one, able to cross. Impatience by both sides lead to more obstruction and with no coordination, chaos was ensured. Unfortunately not all drivers especially of small cars with tiny wheels such as Swift, had any experience and hence those cars got regularly stuck. It was one disaster after the other with plenty of flat tires, cries, tears and pushing cars out of the ice cold waterfall. New arrivals from the Spiti Valley site started to complain that they are already waiting for an hour. How ironic it sounds to ears, whose owner was there already since the morning. After 12 hours of waiting the JCB returned and tried to improve its earlier work, but to no avail. We decided to go back to Koskar, stay there over night and try again next day.

The next day

Next day started early and when we reached the waterfall again, we saw that not much had changed overnight, although the water level came down a bit. While we waited for your turn to cross the waterfall, a trekking group consisting of 50 participants, showed up. They just crossed the Hampa Pass and trekked back to the Manali-Leh highway. From the corner of my eye I could see a guy who wore a very peculiar cap and I thought to myself, that I know a guy who has exactly the same cap. But it was him. The trek leader of the Hampa Pass group was my trek leader during Rupin Pass 2 years ago and Dzongri Trek last year. What a coincidence that you meet friends in the middle of nowhere.

Jai Singh and I. We did Rupin Pass and Dzongri Trek together and we coincidentally met again, while we waited to cross the waterfall. Notice his cap and the waterfall in the background.

Then it was our turn to cross the waterfall once and for all. The cab was bumping like a bunny, the springs squeaking and protesting, but in the end, we emerged victorious and crossed the obstacle. The waterfall had been defeated.

We crossed Chhatru and had a tea with Chacha and Chachi in Batal before our journey continued on dirt roads towards Kunzum La (Kunzum Pass).

The roads became a bit better and we made progressed towards our destination fast. In the evening we reached Rangrik where we stayed in the teacher quarters of the local school. It was awesome.

The next day

The next day, we headed out to Hikkim, whose only attraction is the highest post office in the world (altitude: 4440m). If not for the post office, no tourist would ever set foot in that village.

The village of Hikkim

From there we continued to the Kee Monastery and further to Kibbar, where we started our trek in the afternoon.

In Kibbar we met two guides who told us that the camp site, which we selected, is way of the map. So we asked them to take us the the base camp and we set off. It was exhausting. Not the trekking, but the lack of oxygen. The weather was windy, drizzling and cold. A few hours and 6km later we reached the base camp and we met another group here which provided us with hot and sweet tea. Before our guides left to return to Kibbar, they gave us instructions on how to proceed on the next day.

We decided to go to bed early, but the whole night, we found hardly any sleep. The altitude took its toll and even at rest the heart rate never dropped below 110bpm (oxygen levels at around 88%, so still in the green). In the night we had some strong showers and some midnight snacks, while the other trekking group was happily snoring in their tents.

The next day

The weather did not clear overnight. The next morning was gray and drizzling. We decided to proceed to Kanamo Peak, which is a easy to trek peak of an altitude of 5974m. After breakfast we packed the backpacks and left them in the tent, since we wanted to travel lightly. Just a sack with water and snacks came along with us. It was relatively easy to make distance, since no vegetation is blocking the view nor way (unlike the trek before that). We met a exhausting looking trekking group who told us, how horrible it is to go to the peak (no sight, snow, etc). A trek member of theirs suffered and vomited a lot due to the altitude. Later we met their guides breaking camp and who gave us directions, on how to continue (“Go that way, keep left at the big rock and then always straight.”)

Regularly I checked the GPS device and once we crossed the altitude of 5000m, we had a little Snickers party on the way. After roaming around, we found the rock, kept it on our right and started climbing. Unfortunately the weather changed drastically against our favor. The peaks were covered in clouds and it started snowing. The wind rattled through the clothes and the fluffy snowflakes became bullets, flying horizontally to hit hands and faces like tiny needles. At an altitude of 5500m we decided to abort our attempt and return to the base camp as the visibility changed to 0m.

It was raining when we reached our base camp. We took a short nap, waiting for the rain to stop. We broke camp and walked back to Kibbar. Strangely while it was raining at the base camp, after walking for approximately 500m, the soil turned almost dry and the rain stopped suddenly. Weather is a very localized phenomenon in the mountains.

GPX File

The last day

Early in the morning a shared cab picked us up to return us to Manali. Again we reached the waterfall, but this time, there was no vehicle waiting on the other side. We could wait till at some point in time, some miracle happened, or we could walk 8km to the Manali-Leh highway and take a bus from there. Based on our experiences while going to the Spiti Valley, we decided to take things into our own hands and left the shared cab behind. While returning to the highway, we had to cross over 5 landslides, which literally ripped the road apart. That was the reason, why no vehicle was at the waterfall. They could not come through. Happiness spread due to the correct decision to walk.

At the intersection of the Manali-Leh highway, a truck who was suppose to deliver cool drinks to the Dhabas (eateries) on the way to Spiti Valley, took us back to Manali. I sat in the back of the truck. The sun was shining and it was okay till we reached Rothang Pass where the weather became foggy and freezing cold. And that’s where I got sick. 🙂

It was an awesome trek/tour. And if you have not been to Spiti Valley, it is worth all inconveniences. You should go and have a look at it. The Manali-Spiti road is open for a few months only (and it can be closed again midway due to landslides as you could see). But the big advantage is that foreigners do not need any permission to take the route. There is a police checkpoint in Losar and they ask for the passport of the foreigners. But that is all.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

RSS Feeds: