A dream trek to Rohtang Pass

A journey to Rohtang Pass, located in the Himalayas, about 51 km from Manali, although physically demanding, is an experience to cherish
A dream trek to Rohtang Pass
A dream trek to Rohtang Pass

Chennai

The crisp, chill wind woke us up like a cold towel that swept our face. The light was smooth and clear. Palms curled up into warmer clothing. At 6,725 feet above sea level, the weather was comfortable. The terrain was hospitable. River Beas was flowing gently caressing the road. We were a motley group of 17 — both male and female trekkers. Some, new and others, had a fair amount of experience. We got down from the warm air-conditioned comfort of the luxury coach onto the Manali Kulu Ghat section road. Eyes savoured the mountain and its green clothing, the river and the blue sky. Satiated, we moved on. 
Our destination was Rohtang pass at an altitude of 12,500 feet. Reaching there would mean about five to six kilometres of trekking every day and the distance had to be covered in five to six days. The initial one kilometre of trekking was more towards acclimatisation. When we looked up, we had the magnificent sight of the imposing mountain with all its foliage and brooks and small streams of water. After about a kilometre, we understood that the foot paths were getting narrower and slippery too at times. The base camp is anywhere at 1,500 to 2,000 feet from Manali. This was the last spot wherein that had rooms, lights and toilets. The night was chill and the sleeping bags kept us warm through the night. 
Next day, the morning was colder. The chill wind that rustled the leaves rivalled the mute human whispers. We took a deep breath and stretched out of the sleeping bags like chicks coming out of their egg shells. After some tea, bread and workout, we left for the next leg of our journey. The journey from there turned treacherous with gorges on the left and not too friendly and sharp rocks on the right. Looking down was no option so as to keep giddiness and nausea at bay. Gloves helped us grab the rocks and move. There were no tracks anymore. 
The next step was as unpredictable as the previous one. Our feet seemed to get used to this reality faster than the brain. We had to move one behind the other leaving a safe gap. Gradually, this grew exciting. The tall deodar trees and their green tresses flowing in gay abandon with the wind put us in nature’s embrace. The pace increased and there was someone tapping on my shoulder. My co-trekker said that I had moved too fast and that it was not safe. We slowed down, rested for a while along the natural slopes and had a quick lunch followed by a brief spell of stretching. We reached the second camp at 8,500ft. All the while the sun was just warm and glowing. The walk did make some of us sweat. After reaching the second camp, we removed the rucksacks from our backs and stretched on the natural meadows. Some frisbee, cards and other games helped us stretch and get back into the tents. It was good to splash some cold water from the stream on our faces. We made tea and cooked some food too for the night. Later, we moved into the makeshift tents with little or no even floor. We needed to curl in and curl out. The nights were really dark and the light of the crescent moon was just adequate to see our fingers stretched out. 
Throughout the next 2,000 feet on the following day, we got fairly familiar with the dos and don’ts and took one step at a time, safe and sure. The ascent grew steeper and it was not possible to maintain the same pace. Sometimes, the move forward was challenging. We had to squeeze through a narrow passage between two rocks. Bending one’s body in awkward ways to move forward was part of the thrill. We relaxed and enjoyed almost every spot where there was enough space to rest. Sitting and crouching under the rocks was like having a sense of the habitation there. There were very sharp turns upward which did not allow placing a foot properly but we derived lot of support from those sharp edges. My friend would pull out his digital thermometer to read the temperature at nights. The torches we carried were put to full use as we needed to organise ourselves for the night’s sleep. With temperatures touching 6 degrees, stirring out of the sleeping bag to answer nature’s call and slipping back into it under a tent which was not more than four to five feet from the ground was quite a task. 
The last part of the ascent, another 2,500 feet, we found snow along the way. We spent the night after reaching just about 1,500 feet below the peak. The wind was howling though the tent all through the night. There was a hail stone rain that night. Chill wind tortured anyone who tried to get out. Nursing a couple of people who had injured themselves was also part of the test. The climb to the peak was the most challenging part of the trek as oxygen levels in air reduced while moving up. Breathing was not normal. It takes time to acclimatise and move up. All the trouble was worth it. The view from the top is something that gives you a high. We screamed, high fives and celebrated the trek. The shortest of all climbs took the whole day tiring us out. We rested on the slope for two days before descending. 
The local tribal community on the hills were friendly and led a very simple life amidst the abundance of nature. The way down was treacherous, particularly along the inclinations and slopes. Couple of days of trekking down with two overnight stops in between was adequate to reach the road to pull our way back to Delhi to suffer the rude shock of having to leaving the beautiful mountain and its wilderness. 
THINGS TO REMEMBER 
  • Only limited vehicles are allowed per day. Book the tour in advance and start early.
  • Tour operators will take care of permits. But you can also do it online.
  • If you need a guide, pay no more than Rs 600 per day. 
  • Rohtang Pass is closed for tourists on Tuesdays.
— The writer is an avid traveller and adventure sports enthusiast

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