The uncertain trek that finally happened

by - January 11, 2018

When I decided to go to Parvati valley in December, everyone had the same question, “In winter?!?”. Coming from the land of always summer, I knew it would be difficult for me, but at the same time my longing for the big mountains was getting uncontrollable. So, I decided to break loose from the clutches of the city and run to that of the mountains.

Kheerganga view from the top

The one thing that anyone who has been to Parvati valley recommends is the Kheerganga trek, and I naturally wanted to do it too. It is an easy trek, would fit perfectly in my schedule, and the pictures looked brilliant. As fate would have it, it apparently shuts down for a week during winter when it snows heavily, and that week mostly falls in December. With an air of uncertainty surrounding my plans for the trek, I went ahead anyways. To make things worse in the meantime, a raid caused a closure of most homestays in the valley, which added even more to the uncertainty. Even after reaching Manali, I could not get concrete answers about the situation in the valley, leaving me in two minds about the trek, not to mention the mad rush that was coming in to celebrate the New Year.

With a few alternate plans in hand, along with a friend who had just joined me, and a couple of other co-travelers turned friends, I went on to the valley with hope. With sound guidance from like-minded folks, we found a place to stay at a base camp, a little-known village called Kalga, at the far end of the valley beyond Barshaini. And luckily, the trekking trail was open too. We took a taxi to reach Barshaini from Bhuntar, and then trekked to the village. There are also a couple of other villages a short trek away, like Pulga, Nakthan, which can also act as your base camp. As much clichéd as it may sound, the peace and serenity of the little-known hamlets are unbeatable in comparison to the well-known tourist hang outs in the Himalayas. You may have to barter your comfort in exchange, but you will definitely find it to be a fair deal. What you get in return is always so much more. Thinking back today, I’m not even sure if Kalga can be called a village because it was really just a few homestays and a couple of shops. But my stay here amidst towering snow-covered mountains, the warm smile of the little kid at the shop, the piping-hot food I had in freezing-cold moonlit night, are sure to stay in my memory for a long time to come.

Kheerganga view from base

Early the next day, we started our trek towards Kheerganga. Do you remember how I started this article by stating that this is a very easy trek? Well, I’d like to differ just a little bit here. The route is pretty simple and straight forward, the ascent involved is not too much, and the trail isn’t too long either. If you are just talking about the physical effort involved, it is an easy trek. But what made it a bit more than that, is the ice. It had snowed a few days back, and the trail was covered with extremely skiddy patches of ice towards the top. So, after a while, we literally had to watch our every single step. “Mountains, mountains, and more beautiful mountains everywhere, nor any eye to admire” because all the eyes are watching out for skiddy ice on the way!

Kheerganga trek view from camp

I don’t have to tell you how beautiful the end was, I’m sure the pictures stand testament to that. A lot many of the stays and shops were shut since it was off season, but there were sufficient options to cater to a normal turn out of travelers, ranging from dormitories with indoor heating, tents, to private rooms. That reminds me again of how lucky I was because on my way back the next day (which was the New Year’s Eve), I saw a humongous crowd heading towards the top. I still am not sure how so many people would have fit in on the top, or how much peace they would have got. I mean what is the point of taking the efforts to reach an unreachable place in search of some peace, only to find it as crowded as your hometown.

After an overnight stay in a tent, we left the next day after breakfast. The water was freezing cold, there was no hot water, and I was not prepared for this, and I will therefore not talk about how I brushed my teeth. Instead, I’d like to remind you of this brilliant invention called mouthwash and ask you to not make fun of its existence like I used to before, because Karma is like a rubber band. It was the same trail we took down as the one up. So again, all eyes were on the path. As with all treks, the climb down was much quicker, and we reached down for lunch.

Kheerganga trek

So, if you are planning a trip to Kheerganga in winter, I'd suggest you to go ahead. I'm glad I did :) 

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