Sunday, June 8, 2008

The first trek

There is always a charm about the first trek of the season. After more than 6 months of hibernation, we emerge from our feather jackets and heater-warmed homes and head out to high passes, valleys and sometimes even an early climb. This year, the first trek was to the Tosh Valley.

A tributary of the Parvati, the Tosh Nullah has the distinction of perhaps having as much water, if not more than the main river. It winds its ferocious way through Tosh village, Budhaban (a fabulous, idyllic meadow at 2800m surrounded by forests on all sides, Shiadi (another lovely meadow that was spotted with the first flowers of the season, Sharm Thach (at 3500m but still in the grip of cold with few flowers and regular sleet) and Shamshi Thach (a flat piece of land that will turn green only later in the season with fabulous views of peaks - Papusa, White Sail, Kullu Makalu and passes - Sara Umga and the trail to Animal Pass).

The most exciting part of the trek for me was that Tikam Dai - a 65-year-old Nepali who works with me regularly and has been around most areas in Western Himalayas for nearly 50 years - and I went upto Animal Pass. It connects the Tosh valley to Malana Glacier from where you can either choose to come out at Malana near Manikaran or at Jagatsukh near Manali. At 4500m its more challenging, remote and prettier than the Chanderkhani Pass. And for some reason hasn't been high on trekking schedules till date. The route is sparsely used and seems like Gaddis are the only ones who use it.

For the group, Vikas and gang of 11 from Nagpur and Mumbai, the high point of the trek was to go to the mouth of the Tosh glacier. Of course, for those seeing a glacier for the first time, it is difficult to imagine that all that mud and rock hide so much ice beneath.

The route itself is popular with only climbers and those who want to attempt the Sara Umga pass, that is challenging even without all the snow to complicate it. Ideal for those who want to trek early in the season and yet dont want to do a beaten trail.

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