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Published: June 20th 2006
Ain't No Mountain High Enough - The Hampta Pass, Indian Himalayas
After the blistering heat of Rajasthan we decided to head North to mountain country. The original plan was to head to Nepal and trek in the Annapurna range. However, at the risk of daylight curfews, political unrest etc we took the safer option and caught the 12 hour night bus to Manali - The capital of the northern Indian provence, Himachel Pradesh. We left hot and humid Delhi and after a run in with "waiter" who demanded a tip for good service (what ?), we woke up somewhere in Himachel Pradesh.
This place is at the foothills of the Himalayas and it's peaks range from 3000 - 6500 metres. Pretty big indeed and to wake up to these along with a beautiful blue sky, rushing rivers, very cool hill stations, tiny tiny roads and agreeable temperatures, we could have been forgiven for thinking we'd got the wrong bus and were actually in the Swiss Alps! We headed to a small village called Vashisht for some well earned "chill out" time - 4 days to be exact before heading into the Moutains for a 5 day trek.
Meet the Crew:
The Promoter - Raj: Sells the gig well, smiles alot, wobbles his head and ensures you that all will be fine, even if the pass isn't officially open yet???
The Guide - Bhaggatt: Absolutely top fella, international skier, paragliding coach, a genuine moutain man, a man of few words and pearls of mountain wisdom.
The Crew: Six Nepalese porters who can carry 20-30kg's of kit attatched to their head and back wearing only thongs and shellsuit tops. These boys are tough!
The Contestants: YT and Dom. No trekking experience and keen to learn - Rock on! Plus The Boys - Jeremy & Justin from Sydney of all places. Currently on a gap year and teaching English to Monks in the Dalai Lama's Monastery - How cool... Day 1
- So we set off with a little intrepidation to be honest, starting at 2000 metres and we climbed up and up and up and up until we could climb no more. Lunch time, a cup of chai and some biscuits plus a gallon of fresh water freshly drained from the melting snow all around us - nice! After lunch we climbed up
and up and up and up some more. At one point a rock the size of a football made it's way down the hill, saying a cheeky hello and carried on it's merry way. A few feet either way could have been very nasty indeed - Note to self, watch out for mountain goats and hurtling rocks... We finished the day and the crew set up base camp (c3000m) in a small valley surrounded buy 150 foot pines, blue skies and the river rushing by below. Indeed, an awesome place to lie down and rest for the night. Before too long, we were fed and watered with a Dhal & Curry (our staple for the next 5 days) the stars were out and the fire was blazing. I had to lagh when I found myself in mid conversation surrounded by 6 Nepalese guys. Neither of us could understand too much of what the other was saying. However, we got the basics and certainly enjoyed the moment! Day 2
- This was pretty similar to day one although the scenery was different. We climbed another 800 metres through a lush green valley above the tree line, with rocks the size of
houses scattered across the land scape. We met countless sheep, goats, sheep dogs and the odd shepherd on the way up. It dawned on me that the shepherds spend their days herding their flock in the mountans, a solitary existence indeed and one which could drive you a little loopy with so much time to contemplate your life, the people who are important to you, what we are doing here and what we should be doing with our time etc. However, a great opportunity to think about the things you don't get the opportunity to consider when you are living what we all consider to be a normal life with a heavy work load and busy schedule to keep up with. Fortunately, after so much contemplation I had my Ipod to to take my mind off thinking to much, or so I thought. Unfortunely, my pod with my 20G of mighty fine music, 10G of photo's and countless hours of fun and entertainment for the long hours of travel ahead on buses, trains and planes had just "done one" as they say in Sunny Manchester and crashed.... I was not a happy man.....(Ade, Daniel, don't laugh, you know how long
it took me to burn 400+ albums)! Day 3
- The Hampta Pass. We started at the snow line at c3800 metres and climbed up and up, surrounded by snow capped peaks and a beautiful blue sky this was gonna be a good day. The climb was tough andwe trekked over the melting snow, tumbled a few times, rested for breath, checked for altitude sickness and worked those legs "girlfiend"! At times we traversed across some reasonably hairy snow lines and did our best to stay vertical with the knowledge that a tumble now would mean a long climb back up! After c600 metres 4 hours of ascending the mountain, we finally reached the highest point of the pass! We had done it and survived and we were both well chuffed to be atop a 4400m mountain with some snow falling around us. It was exhilerating and exciting and a truly memorable experience overall and perhaps the highlight of our time in India. Photo's taken, high-fives given and we headed DOWN the mountain which proved to be as tough as going up the mountain. However, we made it down and camped in the valley below. I will say is
that it was cold.... and windy and it pored down with rain at times. However, it was awesome at the same time. We hit the two man tent, rugged up and slept and well earned sleep. Day 4
- Keep descending the mountain please! We descended to c 3000 metres to the town of Chhatru. This town is actually 3 tents and it sits in the Spiti Valley, surrounded by more mountains and a thundering river crashing by. As if to remind us where we were, the mountain put on a reasonable sized rock and snow slide show for us, whilst we sat at it's base. Sending home the message that we were still in its sights and to be careful as "she is stronger than we". Day 5
- A few overs with the locals and then back to Manali in the jeep, acoss the Rohtang Pass - The second highest passable rod in the world!
I should take my hat off and say a big thanks to our guide Bhaggat, a very good guy indeed, interesting and knowledgable about the mountains. Also to our porters who ran over the mountains as though they weren't there.
These guys really are something else and anybody who can ascend and descend a mountain in a pair of thongs deserves a huge round of applause! Rock on gents.
Overall this was a truly awesome experience and whilst it may not have been at the highest altitude or the toughest trek in the world, it suited us both just fine and we loved it!
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