Also available in: French
Trekking in Himachal Pradesh
Thinking about going on a trekking adventure one day? Check out our Himachal Pradesh Trekking series featuring SAIL advisor and outdoor enthusiast, Chris Higgins.
It isn’t often that an old friend offers you the trip of a lifetime. A three week trek up a Himalayan valley full of mountains and snow capped peaks. The Miyar Valley is tucked up high in the northeastern corner of India, below troubled Kashmir, in the state of Himachal Pradesh. The Miyar caught our eye for its remoteness and the fact that few trekkers visited the area. There are no teahouses or guesthouses. Accommodation is your tent and the only mode of travel is your feet which suited me just fine.
My friend and I also shared a fifty something craving for some rock climbing and a mountain adventure. The news that our application to climb Mount Phabrang (6172 metres) was accepted by the India Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) put a radical spin on our preparations. On the IMF’s official report, our expedition’s team is named “Four Grumpy Men in the Miyar Valley”. That name ‘Four Grumpy Men’ is misleading. It was a joke we played on our Liaison Officer, Abhishek Das, who became a friend and climbing companion. (The thought of him reading it aloud to the IMF’s Director had us in stitches).
In fact, we were actually quite a jovial bunch in the valley. In spite of the moraine, which does a number on your knees and sanity, we had smiles on our faces. Our expectations for weather were grim. Normally, this time of year, the Miyar is wet and cloudy. We the ‘grumps’, on the other hand, had three glorious weeks of sunshine and blue sky.
Looking back, some of the most harrowing moments happened before the climbing started on the drive to the trailhead. Coming out of Delhi, four lanes of traffic fought for space on a three lane highway. In the mountains, the steep road shrank to single lanes crowded with cars and motorbikes. All of them scrambling around hairpin turns and switchbacks to pass the endless line of trucks kept us on the edge of our seats. Along the roadside signs read: “Don’t gossip, let him drive,” Driving risky after whiskey,” and “Don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly”. Throw into this chaos, herds of cows roaming the streets because they can turn up at anytime and because well…cows own the place.
From Manali in Himachal Pradesh, a long jeep ride took us over the Rohtang Pass at 13,098 feet into the Miyar Valley. For the last leg, we followed a dirt road cut out of the mountains. No guardrails, just the odd boulder between you and a steep drop into a river below. Turning sharp corners and staring down over the edge all you could do was pray your driver believes in a good night’s sleep and regular maintenance checks. After that…just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Our journey on foot started at road’s end in Urgos, a small village perched on a slope where two rivers met. On both sides of the Miyar Valley, mountains rise up to at least 4000 metres and a river runs down the middle. After camping in a nearby farmer’s field, we watched with relief as our piles of gear were loaded on pack horses – not our backs. A dining tent, a cook’s tent, a two burner stove, a propane tank and enough grub to feed seven hungry people for three weeks. We were quite the convoy as we headed up the valley to the village of Tsaling.
Many of the faces we encountered in the valley looked Tibetan or Central Asian. Mostly small scale farmers, the Miyaris live in homes built with plaster and rocks gathered from the riverbeds. Bell shaped haystacks top their flat roofs and women in scarves and long skirts spread the harvest to dry. The short growing season makes it hard for farmers in this valley to earn enough to survive. Many younger Miyaris are leaving in search of work elsewhere leaving the older generations to keep the villages alive.
Before reaching Tsaling, we had to first cross the Miyar River on a shaky bridge made of wire cables and wood planks. The horses couldn’t walk with their loads across the shaky bridge so we hauled the gear and sacks of food on our shoulders. The trick was to just keep moving and not look down at the river roaring underneath. Grabbing the railing wasn’t an option as it only made the bridge swing more. Adrenaline pumped, we all made the crossing to Tsaling unscathed and relieved to walk on solid ground again.
To read more about our journey, check out the next post which follows our trek up the Gangpo Valley to Mt. Phabrang.
Great hauling capacity and tough construction, sturdy duffel bags proved their worth for everyone, especially with the way our bags were handled by the porters and stacked on the horses. Not to mention being tossed around when they were loaded on top of the jeeps.
Go Pro camera
Never used a Go Pro camera before this trip and I love the minimal weight, funky mounts, durability and the camera itself for stills and video quality. The sealed case worked well at keeping all the dust out. The only disappointment I experienced was with audio recording. If audio is critical, invest in an external microphone.
Irreplaceable value for keeping electronics charged without much fuss. It’s your choice: either a solar charger or carry batteries.
Also available in: French