Pin Parvati Pass Trek : Conquering the heights

Since last year we sahyadri trek members have been planning to do a himalayan trek together, rather we all were waiting for opportunity to do a himalayan trek with Ajay kaka.
                            Ajay kaka has lead many expeditions in his 30-40 yrs trekking career  ( he has completed his basic and advance mountaineering course even before we were born ) , his stories always inspire us , its always a great privilege to trek with him and doing a himalayan trek with him is like attending the trekking institution , kaka came up with the idea of doing pin parvati pass trek which is not technical climb but difficult enough to challenge ourselves. Some of us were trekking outside sahyadri for the first time hence ajay kaka wisely selected this trek considering ease of access to manali in case of emergency situations.

Within a week or so we received 11 confirmations ,1 cancellation at the last moment meant Ashish datar got the wild card entry. Date was finalised ...5th September 2015.

The place was finalized ,now it was to decide how or with whom do we trek ? we fiddled with the idea of trekking  with commercial groups such as indiahikes or trek d himalayas but we are a big group ourselves and share the understanding which other people in commercial trek group may not nor we wanted to turn this trek into a picnic hence we decided to manage it ourselves ,also it would be much more economical that way .

We contacted my old friend Sahil Duggal from nomadic destinations and he offered us a very good package including trek , transport and stay at naggar and in nomads cottage at losar at a very affordable price.

Preparations and Acclimatization

 Preparations began well before the first day , 6-7 months prior , everyone took it their own way , some started walking and running on Taljai hill , few started cycling , all however made it a habit to climb sinhgad atleast once or twice a month apart from our regular treks in sahyadri.

However it was singh kaka's pranayam sessions in last 2 weeks which boosted our confidence and took our energy to next level.

We reached manali on 2nd September , took a walk to Youth hostels accommodation in prini.
We decided to move to naggar , as sahil was to catch up with us there and decided to do few small acclimatization hikes.

Confident as we were on first hike itself we reached the height of around 7000ft while we trekked from Naggar to Chajogi and we visited 5000yrs old krishna temple , walked through apple gardens and filled our stomachs with fresh unadulterated apples.

On day two we did better , we trekked from Naggar to rumtpsu which in on they way to Chandrakhani pass trek and reached a sizable height of 8000ft.

After two good hikes we were feeling positive and in great spirit and were eager to begin the main event.

Hidimba Temple , Manali

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Day 1 : The murphy strikes in the beginning 

Doesn't matter how well you plan , there are always few things out of your control which will go bad irrespective of how hard you try to contain them , while managing your own trek , porters is one such entity.

A day prior we had a meeting with porters unions president in naggar , he ensured us full support and best team for this trek.

We left for bursheni in the morning ,  porters were coming from manali , they were to take a bus from manali to bursheni.

We reached bursheni at around 10AM waiting eagerly for porters to arrive and begin trek , we were looking forward to reaching kheer ganga before noon and have a good bath in natural hot water springs

After 2 hours , Tenzing , our trek co ordinator came up with the news that the bus carrying porters has broken down so there could be some delay .

2PM , no sign of porters , none of them had a mobile as well , tenzing walked 4 kms to bursheni , they had reached manikaran we were told and having lunch. We can begin trek in another 1 hour we thought.

4PM , now the news came up that they have reached bursheni and having lunch ( again ??).

4:30 PM , we finally see them coming.

"Pin parvati in 7 days ?? this is not possible " porters lead , tapinder . "yes its a 13-14 days trek " another one joins in , "Tunda bhuj on day 2 ?? impossible " one more .

Ajay kaka was probably expecting this , he calmly told their lead "we are doing this in 7 days , now 8 days as you have already wasted day 1 whether you join in or not , i will call your union lead and ask him to send a team which is willing". With experience you can defy any odds , this one worked and after some angry phone calls with their union leader and thekedaar , porters had no choice but to continue.

Even though we finally started, lot of time had been wasted and that meant we couldnt reach kheer ganga , infact due to lack of proper campsite we had to camp just 1 km ahead of bursheni , Day 1 turned into day 0.

Loss of day 1 and pre booked tickets for departure meant we had to reach tunda bhuj on day 1 itself.

We had to push ourselves on next day to maintain the course.
Manikaran Gurudwara

Day 2 : Pulga to Kheer Ganga to Tunda Bhuj (2163M-2855M-3147M)

We decided to trek hard and reach as closer to tunda bhuj as possible and began early in the morning. Route till kheer ganga is frequently traveled and goes via small villages before a small but steap hike begins in the jungle.

After 3 hours we were able to reach kheer ganga , which is at 2855 meters , after some snacks and tea and visit to kheer ganga temple we marched forward for tunda bhuj.

Route from here is almost a flat walk for few kms before it descends into the valley and then a gradual ascend to the wetlands and thatches.

After 3-4 hours we fancied reaching tunda bhuj itslef as we were carrying a good momentum , porters though were no where to be seen , its good that we had asked tenzing to stay behind just in case they come up to a mischief , baghu our old cook had told us that these porters sometimes just throw the ration if they feel its too heavy , we couldn't have risked that.

After an hour more we were able to see tapinder , porters lead who informed us that camp site is not far away and within an hour we can reach for halt.

Just then as if some alarm has been set , clouds started to gather and it started raining. As camp site was not far away and others were lagging behind we decided to wait in the protection of jungle and hope for the rain to recede.

Rain god however had other ideas , it continued raining for hour more , gaining speed and ferocity , we feared it would turn ugly and decided to reach camp site as early as possible .

After about 40 mins walk we reached the site but the rain here was even more powerful , we were not able to pitch tents in such heavy rains , we took the shelter of shepherds hut and literally hijacked their house.

"Its the heaviest rain i have seen here in september" Shepherd exclaimed , "if this continues till next day it will be difficult for you to continue for the pass as it must be snowing their then"

Fortunately , rains did stop after hour , Ajay kaka asked the porters to pitch in minimum number of tents required to save time.

To our right clouds now have clreared and sun rays were getting scattered , nature had painted a beautiful canvas post heavy rains .

Though we couldn't reach tunda bhuj , we were close enough and had done really well to reach that close on day 1 itself.

Kheer Ganga temple and hot water springs

magic post heavy rains near tunda bhuj

Day 3 : Tunda Bhuj to Thakur Kua (3147M-3550M)

We covered the defecit and reached tunda bhuj in 1 hour , which was a steep ascend and 3kms away from our previous camp site , road from here was gradual up and down mostly following the river parvati , after few kms of following river bed , conquering few tricky rock patches , helping young porter do the same we reached pandu bridge , which is nothing but a huge boulder blocking the river parvati , generous enough to allow people to cross it and reach the other bank.

It took us  little more than 4 hrs thakur kua , which is a grassland just above the banks of river parvati , we pitched our tents next to a small stream for drinking water.

Water from parvati river is not potable as it has heavy percentage of soil and sillica mixed in it , hence it is advised to camp next to a potable mountain water stream.

We were waiting for rakesh kaka and vikram fargade to arrive as they had lagged behind a bit and clouds were turning gloomy again indicating rain.

And again like an alarm after 3PM , rains started , fortunately rakesh kaka and vikram were close enough to reach in time for covers.

Day 2 was a success , Ajay kaka celebrated it by playing some lovely tunes on the flute , we had now crossed 10000ft mark , this were about to get a bit difficult from here on.

view from tunda bhuj camp

Day 4 : Thakur Kua to Odi thatch (3550M-3778M)

Thakur kua to mantalai is about 20kms distance , gradual or mostly flat walk and people do cover it in one day however we wanted to get as well acclimatize as we could and not overexert ourselves leading to fatigue , Ajay kaka decided that we will camp at odi thatch , 10kms from thakur kua.

From thakur kua its just a long walk along the river , in the meadows and wetlands , most scenic of all the days , we were able to cover planned distance in less than 3 hours , leaving us the entire day to rest and enjoy natures beauty.

The camp site however was very windy , so windy it took us a great efforts to pitch in the tents. Night was to get colder and nippier.

The 6 men tent were using was not wind proof and at night every now and then wind would sneak in despite our efforts to seal the windows using our rucksacks , and would decimate all the heat formed , people in 4 men tent were bit more comfortable but were feeling the cold as well.

Clear sky at night , which is rare in cities presented us with the chance to capture milky way even at 8PM , Ninad and Jeetendra did not miss the opportunity and using their gorilla pods were able to capture beautiful night skies and milky way.

pandu bridge

along the banks of parvati river

view from odi thatch camp 

Day 5 : Odi thatch to Mantalai Lake (3778M- 4148M)

Baghu, our cook ensured me that mantalai is going to be even more windy and cold and even more pretty than odi thatch.

From odi thatch to mantalai for the most part , rather 90% of it is a scenic walk , we covered it in 2-3 hours only.

We did catch up with returning indiahikes trekkers , sharing words with them , they informed us that pass is in good condition and the snow carpet is easy enough to walk , hinting at the small ascend they suggested that lake is just behind that hill.

Its difficult to gauge distances in himalayas , a small hike when we started ascending was very tiring , fact that we now were at higher altitude meant we were getting tired earlier , however it did not take more than 1 hour to conquer it and reach the beautiful mantalai lake.

Baghu and Parshuram offered the pooja to the shivling at the start of the lake , a regular ritual among the porters and travellers alike , Mantalai is not like a conventional lakes , its more like a flat land where river eases its flow , probably it turns into the lake in late summers when all the glaciers offer heavy water loading to it , nevertheless its very scenic.

Surrounded by snow peaks from all the sides , their reflection in the clear water offers a great photo opportunity , fading sun which ensures its last golden rays lingers on their top for a while adds to the magic.

Mornings at mantalai are even more beautiful as the drama from sunset continues , it was cold enough to freeze the upper layer of water and windier than odi thatch as baghu promised.

Amongst all the sleeping bags we were provided , not sub zero but warm enough unless you are in 6 men tent , one had a broken zip , while we all complained and whined about it , ajay kaka had quietly tried to fix it in the morning using thread and needle. Teaching us a valuable lesson that up here in mountains you will have to find solution yourself and man up.

There were few who would ensure a good quality sleeping bag for themselves or cry for the lack of it , and then there is ajay kaka who was happy to use even the broken one and not complain.

That morning when Jeetendra was complaining about excess cold , ajay kaka told us a story from his Jogin expedition when he had to spend 2 days in a wet sleeping bag , like all his stories this one was inspiring enough for us to get up and get going.

Ajay kaka is like an institution without fees , you just have to be with him and observe and learn.

Day 6 : Mantalai to Adv base camp 1 (4148M-4950M)

 Tapinder , lead porter and now our guide was feeling confident of our ability and told ajay kaka that we will be camping higher than planned base camp to avoid delay on summit day.

Tapinder had planned our advance base camp at 16300 ft altitude , this meant todays hike is to be the toughest of all.

For first half hour it was a good walk , flat , then we crossed a ragging nalla to make it bit more interesting , 3 brave dogs who have followed us from day 1 managed to cross it as well.

And then it was a steep ascend from the left flank of a mount , almost 45-50% , we were now feeling the heat , first we were at 13k ft and steep ascend was tiring us quickly , but we stayed put and continued , after an hour or more we were able to complete the first ascend , second ascend was ready for us , we tugged in some dry fruits and protein bars , deep breaths and attacked the second ascend , which wasnt very steep but good enough to test us.

while we were finding ways to conqueror these ascends few superhumans with mere floaters in their feet and 20-25kgs at their back were marching ahead of us , the porters .
For us it could be a adventure activity but for them its a living , they dont get the luxury of quenchua shoes or duck feather jackets but without them any such trek is almost impossible.

We completed the second ascend , tapinder told us that now only one more to go , just behind that hill , with a cheeky smile.

Third one was the worst , illusive height and building on our lost energy this one proved the menace, we were at it for more than one hour , rocks everywhere , loose morain making it even more difficult , there were no potable water sources on the route today hence most of us had empty camel bags , marching on toffees helping and boosting each other we somehow managed to reach the top and had a first glance of the snow carpet.

Our tents were pitched with support from heavy rocks to avoid chilling wind , this marked the end of the toughest day.

superhumans at work

parvati glacier , origin of parvati river

final ascend

at the advance base camp with porters and baghu the chef

Day 7 : Summit Day (4950M-5314M-4387M)

Morning was beautiful , we were surrounded by peaks from south parvati range , all of them were glowing in the morning sun .

We had planned to leave the camp by 5AM but the cold was unbearable and it delayed our ascend by 1 hour , by 6:30 we were all ready and set for the summit.

The snow carpet was visible to us but had no clue about its nature , earlier Ajay kaka had explained us the dangers about snow and how to cater them , he had advised us to match the steps with Tapinder who was to lead.

When we started our ascend it was windy and cold , ice was freckly but hard and there were no crevasses hence it was safe , we were told to match tapinder but he ascended and vanished in no time and we kept searching for this footsteps and then finally decided to find our own route.

It took us little more than 1 hour to finish the first ascend , at 16000+ ft our movement was slow to conserve the energy , the probable position of the pass was now visible , Ninad confirmed the position from his pre marked GPS route , it was just a km away.

We covered the second ascend and a small snow field , we were now at the base of the cole and able to see porters at the top waving hands encouraging us to climb and achieve what we started.

Final ascend however small , at 17000ft took some time but when we reached the top it was a proud feeling.

View was amazing , we had our one foot in spiti and one in parvati valley.

After everyone of us reached one by one , including the three brave dogs , Ajay kaka did the customary ganesh pooja , Chaitanya brought sweets which he had been carrying since day 1 and has savored for the occasion.

After some group photo session and wishing everyone on this success we started our descend to the pin valley side , we still had long way to go but now had even more positive energy to accompany.

We covered the snow carpet on spiti side quickly , there was a stoic difference in parvati and pin valley, the green vegetation has now vanished , gravel and slates everywhere , we had to be careful not to risk ankle or foot injuries.

Porters were now literally running , showing their true potential , they had lot lighter at their back now , almost negligible considering load on day 1.

We descended almost 3000ft in 2 hours and reached a pagal nalla. Pagal nalla is the name given to any glacier formed water stream , the flow increases as the snow melts during the day time and the flow seizes during the night.

Its advised to cross such streams as early as possible and their flow is unpredictable , we had to strip down to our shorts , wet shoes can cause frostbites hence had to be protected. Dogs found it bit hard to negotiate this stream.

After one more hour we had reached our final camp site.

south parvati peak

approaching the pass

final ascend to the cole

porters team with tenzing

frozen bladder pipe

waiting for others at the top

first view of spiti

crossing pagal nala

Day 8 : Final walk

last day was a long walk till Mudh village , through the rough spitian landscape in pin valley national park.

We had to cover 20kms to reach mudh village , driver however has agreed to pick us up at another pagal nall which is at 7kms.

The walk was along the pin river following its path  it was mostly flat walk but walking through sharp rocks wasnt that easy at times the route was very narrow and exposed , one wrong step and you could be saving yourself from drowning in pin river.

After 4 hrs of walking we were finally able to see a motorable road , unfortunately this was not the place driver would come , we still had to walk 4kms to reach pagal nalla.

Most of us used this as a photo opportunity , a photo walk in the beautifully colorful valley, multicolored mountains were changing color with the sun light, after walking for  more hours we could see our vehicle waiting for us.

All of us were now looking forward to visiting nomads cottage at losar and a nice hot water bath.

Yet another memorable himalayan trek ended with lot of smile and satisfaction.

pagal nala and the pick up vehicle

and it ends here

farmers at mudh village

on the way to losar


  1. Team work ......1 no.......congratulations to all trekkers......

  2. Team work ......1 no.......congratulations to all trekkers......

  3. Amazing writing... Truely engrossing!

  4. Amazing writing... Truely engrossing!

  5. nice writeup Kedar!! kudos to the team... share in some more pics

  6. Sahi re... Nicely written and photoshoot...

  7. Sahi re... Nicely written and photoshoot...

  8. very well written with the beautiful pictures.

  9. How much did it cost per person....can you tell me???

    1. it cost us 21k from manali to manali , you can contact sahil duggal - +918988203599 for latest cost

    2. Thank you very much...wish you a happy Diwali

  10. Is pin parvati possible without any operators or guides?i mean on our own risk??..
    If yes,what are the permits we needed before trekking?

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  12. These small villages along the way are really a great way to to rest and take in the beauty.
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  13. very nice contents and nice pictures . i would love to pay a visit once in a life time


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