Surpassing the stunning Sar Pass

The Sar Pass in Kullu is an unsurpassable experience as it involves passing by a small, frozen lake, writes Harikrishnan E N

The trek from the base camp; (right) Deepika and Krishna Joshi

A 1t 13,800 feet altitude, with brisk breeze caressing his face, beholding an aura of snow-capped mountains, he stood there and asked, “What percentile of India’s population do you think gets to see this heavenly beauty?” Awe-struck by the astonishing view before her, she answered, “I don’t know, daddy — a very small percentage, I guess.”

Back in November 2017, Krishna Joshi, an entrepreneur, had turned 60. Instead of organising a function, he told his daughter, “Let’s do something big before that”.

It’s 5 am, the duo reach Kasol (base camp) after boarding an overnight bus from Delhi. Kasol, a hamlet in Himachal Pradesh, also known as the ‘Mini Israel of India’, is situated on the banks of River Parvati. Here, the temperature can go down to seven degree celsius when the day breaks. The valley amidst the mountains exhibits a mesmerising view.

Before beginning with the climb, the duo, along with 27 other trekkers, had to go through an acclimatisation process. A set of exercises to make oneself ready for the climb. “The oxygen levels get lower as we climb higher. The acclimatisation process was immensely helpful to deal with the difficulties as we got forward,” said Deepika. Along with a medical certificate and an NOC form as mandatory documents to make the climb, the trekkers had to be well-equipped with LED torches, a thermal flask and several layers of warm clothes. With limited lunch packed and clad in thermal wear and trekking shoes, the group set out to make the climb.

Deepika and Krishna Joshi.
Deepika and Krishna Joshi.

The climb

It’s 7.30 am. Guided by a team of three guides from Kailash Rath trekking community, they begin their 12-km uphill climb to Grahan Village (second base camp). Although the trails are frequently used by locals, the trekkers always find the first day of climb a strenuous one. “With equipments in the backpack adding more weight to my legs and tramping through an uneven terrain, it wasn’t an easy climb,” Deepika said.

As they reached the second base camp, concluding day two, the weariness was easily perceptible. “I crashed as soon as the tent was mounted. Strangely, I couldn’t notice my dad anywhere around. After a few minutes passed by, he approached and gestured me to come out.” Reluctant but curious, “I followed him out and was numb when I laid my eyes upon the wonder - Aurora.” Krishna, in his 60s, seemed to be the one guy in the camp about whom there was a huge buzz about. He appeared to be unshaken from all the physical and mental exertion that everyone else experienced. His answer to all their spurring questions — yoga. Krishna has been a long-time practitioner of yoga. And evidently, it has been working out great for him. He said, “I’ve been practising yoga for 10 years now. It has helped me tap into all the energy and focus it towards a desired outcome. My concentration levels have improved too. Yoga has helped me stay healthy.”

Deepika Joshi, an advocate, said, “The Sar Pass trek has always been in my bucket list for a very long time. With dad accompanying me throughout the journey, I couldn’t ask for more. Apart from the experience of conquering the mountains, the trek has gone a long way in helping our relationship grow stronger.”

On the fourth day, the trekkers gradually got to see the snow, it was tangible! “We were aware of the fact that walking through a blanket of snow, although exhilarating, would be double the physical exertion,” Deepika said. Subsequently, a training on how to walk on snow that lasted for two hours, and then they plodded forward. With an early start the following day, the trekkers took to bed soon. But before that, “We had good fun singing and dancing around the bonfire,” said Deepika.

Whistle blows

Enjoying a glass of milk and a light breakfast, the trekkers were all geared up to make the final climb to Sar Pass at 3.30 am. They had to commence the uphill trek before the snow starts to melt. When the sunrise hits, they were warned that it would get demanding as the bright light would pierce through one’s eyes, making it hard to see. Deepika admits, “The 58-km trek was not as easy as I expected it to be. It was a package of uneven terrain, steep slopes, slippery and melting snow and the air getting thinner and thinner. The beauty of nature is what kept us going. The mighty mountains, the subtle and pristine snow, the bright sky and translucent water inspired us to ascend.”

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