India is a wonderful place to be in if you love mountains. Trekking in the Himalayan range, which has terrains ranging from thick jungles, snow peaks, high altitude deserts and everything in between can be a very satisfying experience. I am blessed to be staying in Delhi; where I enjoy the best of both worlds. An overnight bus can take me to the hills and beyond.
Traveling in the hills means different things to different people like Char Dham yatra, cleaner air, vegetation, tea, bonfire, homestay, adventure, and for me, it means a journey into the unknown.
Every time I go to the mountains alone, with family or with friends, the wild is kind enough to hold my hand and guide me through its lands filled with million untold stories and lessons about life. Hills are like wrinkles on the forehead of my grand parents, representing the harsh reality, and an amazing life lived nonetheless, inspiring us to do the same.
Only last month I had driven down with my family to Great Himalayan national park for a beautiful trekking and fishing trip, And while doing so I had also booked a trek for myself with http://www.indiahikes.com for a new route launched by them in Lahaul and Spiti region to Mt Kanamo. Indiahikes as a company loses a lot of business each year, as they have to refuse people who do not match the fitness or experience criteria. For this trek itself, we required achieving a few 5km and 10 km timed runs before they let you make the payment. This definitely shook me up and actually helped me prepare mentally and physically for a 19600 ft summit.
With the summit at 5950 meters, this the highest I’ve ever trekked up to. A 360-degree view of the Himalayan range around me, it is the best thing I’ve done all my life. It took both preparation and hard work to make it here, and it was totally worth it.
Mt Kanamo lies in the cold desert mountain valley called Spiti, which lies in North India. The terrain is unique with scree and boulder moraine, which makes your trek even tougher. The base camp itself is 4270 meters, and it takes few days to get acclimatized. The first camping site above Kibber is at 15700 ft, which is higher than most trek summits we do across India. Well, apart from acclimatization the trek is not technical at all. Get fit and pack appropriate clothing, and you are all set. Indiahikes has videos, which apart from giving you a fair idea about the trek also help you prepare and pack your backpacks appropriately.
As you get closer to your trek date, Indiahikes introduces you to the remaining of the group, which comprises of some of the most amazing and grounded individuals with exceptional stories of their own. Well, this time 13 such individuals were part of my group apart from the team leaders and support staff. Once we got to know each other better, the unending sessions of roasting each other during the trip never stopped.
Indiahikes takes care of your trip from Kaza, but hey you still need to reach there?
Day 1 – Manali
From Delhi take an overnight Volvo Bus to Manali. Stay overnight in Old Manali area in budget hotels to acclimatize for a day. Prices start from Rs 500 a night to Rs 3000 per night. Old Manali has loads of cool cafes with multiple cuisine options for food and music. The place has a laid back vibe to it, from cool cafes having regular live gigs to serving sushi for lunch. Enjoy a nice cafe hop here with intriguing shopping options.
We stayed at Compass Cottage (listed as Bhoomi Holiday Home on http://www.bookings.com)
As the road from Manali to Kaza is a dirt road, the distance of 260 Km takes around 11 Hours. Take a shared taxi or an early morning bus to Kaza. We hired a Tempo Traveller for our journey and it did pretty well on those roads. Though you will be tired, do take out time for a small walk through the market.
Day 3- Drive from Kaza to Kibber
It is a very short drive of around 2 hrs so you can add a few destinations to your drive. Do take out time to visit Key Monastery, Hikkim (for worlds highest Post office), Komic (highest village with a motorable road at 4587 meter) and stop at view points to soak it all in. We were all on a course of Diamox for our trek as recommended, and it helped us acclimatize and be comfortable at such altitudes.
We went for an easy acclimatization walk to one of the closer peaks at a height of 15300 ft and were back for lunch and some great conversations. Sunsets are to die for at Kibber, so do step out in the evening for an amazing light show. Kibber is a quaint little town with the most amazing people. Don’t forget to say ‘Julley’; it might just lead to a wonderful conversation.
We started early around 8 am for our first day of trekking. What was supposed to be rolling terrain, turned out to be a tough 7 km trek. Starting at 14200 ft, the air was thin and our rucksack seemed extra heavy. Chacha Ji our 48 yr old guide made this walk look like a stroll in the park, while we huffed and puffed our way up with a steady pace. Stopped for lunch and a game of Frisbee at the picturesque lake half hour before our base camp. The serene water body has a beautiful reflection of Mt Kanamo, which looks, out of this world.
Started our day with an early breakfast followed by a small hike to 16200 ft with the most amazing views. We lazed around at the top and were back for hot and sumptuous lunch. Rest of the day was just rest and conserving energies for the big day.
Judgment day- We had our dinner last night at 7 pm so that we could wake up at 2 am to leave for the long summit day at 3 am sharp. Day comprises of 6 hrs ascent and a 5 hrs decent, both which are equally exhausting and test you physically as well as mentally. A lot of times I wanted to quit, but with encouragement from my trek mates I made it to the summit at 9:40 am. Two of our trek mates were hit by AMS and had to head back to base camp. With a prayer at the summit and a view of peaks all around we had to bid adieu and start out journey back to base camp
Day 9 – Drive back to Manali en route Chandertal lake
We left a little early to spend some time at Chandertal lake before we headed out to Manali.
I would rather recommend stay at one of the camps near Chandertal lake and drive to Manali next day, to completely soak in the beauty and a hike to the nearby cliffs.
Get fit & Get set go
Apps to just make it easier:
Trek Booking – http://www.Indiahikes.com
- Nike + Run Club App
- Lean Body with Lee Labrada – 12 Week daily trainer program with exercise videos and nutrition advice