Sunday, 9 November 2014

Along the Charang Ghati Trail

                                            Along  the Charang  Ghati  Trail

                          As I take a step, the next prayer follows. I am grabbing onto loose pebbles, trying to climb almost flat face on a mountain pass. There is not much distance left to the top. I am panting for breath and my heart is beating, and added to it the drop below is 2000 ft. Charang Ghati pass at 17,600 ft, the mountain pass in the Kinnaur Kailash range, is in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
View from Kalpa

It has been four days since we left Lambar, the last motorable road at 9850 ft. We have crossed the alpine meadows, walked down to the valleys, crossed several streams seen waterfalls and snow-clad mountains all just a few hundred feet away.It is monsoon and while everything around seems pretty, walking in the rain is not advisable. The bugyals  (alpine meadows) are bloom with 
wild flower creating a kaleidoscope of colours.

Clouds form a cover just a few feet above the ground and it seems I am literally walking on them

Our journey begins from Kalka in the morning. The route runs through Shimla-Narkhanda-Rampur-Karcham. The hills begin thereafter and the whole character of the journey changes. The serpentine road meanders almost parallel to Sutlej river through the mountains, pursuing a sinuous rhythm that is dictated by the terrain it weaves over and passes through. The fragrant air and the cool serenity of the surroundings work like a sedative. The sudden appearance of the upcoming mega power projects at Karcham and Wangthu threw us back to the Indian political apathy. A real eyesore in the Himalayan  grandeur. The construction of the dam and littering the area around with concrete and cacophony were like festering wounds. 

But lofty mountains were potent enough to lift us to their summits from this ugliness. Snow-capped peaks now and then compel us to leave behind any lingering negative thoughts. That is the magic of the Himalayas!
After a couple of days of trekking, we make an early start next day to reach Charang Ghati base camp (15,750).The weather is clear and the route from here is very broad; a ‘U’ shaped valley indeed! After two hours of trek, the route deteriorates to a virtual succession of jumps from one boulder to another. There have been massive landslides on the surrounding mountain sides. The last few hours to the base camp is a very steep climb and with no water under a scorching sun — a test of endurance indeed.

We reach the base camp, an open ground surrounded by mountains and pitch our tents beside a glacial lake with difficulty as the cold winds blow from the glacier. Everyone is dog tired by now. We crane our necks to the limit to see the tops of the peaks and path beside the glacier. The clarity of the night sky never ceases to amaze at such places. A short campfire followed by hot khichidi with pickle fortifies us for a good night’s sleep.

Reflections at a lake at Base camp with Charang La in the extreme left.
The next day, the final day we are lucky to have yet another clear morning. The initial climb is on the moraine and after crossing the stream flowing from the snout of the glacier we climb uphill crossing huge boulders with difficulty and reach the base of the pass.
Group Pose at Base Camp

                         The climb from here becomes even more steep at an 80 degree gradient indeed. The last steps to the summit really checks ones endurance and inner strength. The sudden appearance of prayer flags, thangkas, flickering in air makes us happy.

The pass offers a vast and interesting panorama of snow-clad mountains, valleys and bugyals. The trail continues for a couple of hours down with a steep descent, zigzagging down the green slopes and leads directly to Chitkul village at 11,320 ft situated in the Baspa river valley.

Next day we start early to retrace the route and travel along Mastrang-Sangla-Karcham and stop at midway at Jeori to bath in the natural hot springs. We  visit  Bhimkali temple at Sarahan which is 16 kms and are back to Kalka late night exactly 14 days after we had left.

Vishwanath  R  Dugganahalli 

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