After a warm and cosy night in the mud home of a tribal family in the remote dwelling of Chatrali I woke up as daylight broke. The owner offered me hot chai and a home grown breakfast – chapattis and cauliflower sabji. The two little kids, 2 and 5 years old, sat on the lap of their father around the kitchen fire drinking fresh buffalo milk. I bid goodbye to my kind host and climbed across a small ridge to the picturesque hamlet of Uprikot.
The colorful painted wooden homes with limestone tile roofs set below the snow covered mountains were like take straight out of a fairytale. The main temple was beautifully decorated in preparation for the annual mela. Everywhere people were abuzz with their daily activities. I enquired for a shop where I could pick up some biscuits for the day hike. One kind gentleman invited me for tea and insisted I stay over to attend the mela.
Man on a mission – I kindly denied and continued my way to the Silpari pass at 3000m – 500m above the snowline I encountered the previous day. Not sure whether I would succeed I initially proceeded along a wide path up the valley. I soon lost the path as it faded out in the forest and used the Survey of India map to get back in the right direction. After a free climb along a ridge I found a nice path leading to the pass.
Some 1km away and 500m below the pass I encountered first snow which got deeper as I made my way up. Initially I was able to stay on the path even tough a uniform white blanket covered the forest floor. Finally I lost track of the path and continued my way up using my offline contour map. Some 200m below the pass I discovered a small hamlet of 10 rock homes buried under 1 feet of now.
Towards the pass it became very steep and I worked my way up through knee deep snow along a steep gully. My progress now dropped to a snail s pace climbing up step by step unable to see what s below the thick snow carpet. I used my hiking poles for improved stability and pushing myself up along the steep slope.
It was very cold at 3000m but the sun was shining brightly in the blue sky above. Everywhere snow was melting and dropping from the pine trees high above. I was burning lots of calories scrambling up the steep gully but enjoyed the scenic beauty of the white winter landscape. I finally made it up to the pass marked by yellow and red prayer flags.
I was afraid that – just like yesterday – I would be unable to find the downhill path covered by 2 feet of snow. After walking along the ridge I spotted a flat section contouring down the hill and footsteps in the snow. A sigh of relief I followed the steps which lead me down a hair pinning trail. Without a proper trail descending at this side of the pass was impossible given the sheer vertical drop.
I was happily running / sliding down the path along a gentle ridge slope until finally we hit the valley below where the snow in the cold forest made way for a sunny grassy landscape. A nice rock path continued downhill on the side of the hill passing through two deserted farming hamlets. After a 1300m descent from the pass I finally hit Gajoli, a beautiful hamlet on the mountain slope with a mesmerizing backdrop of snow covered high ranges.
I hitched a ride in a Maruti 800 which dropped me 10km further down the Asj Ganga valley at the first dhaba. I gulped up two egg Maggie noodles to satisfy my growling stomach while admiring a picturesque village on the opposite side of the valley from where my tomorrow s trail was starting across the hill. Content with my successful snow crossing of the Silpari pass I settle down in my solo tent snugging in my warm bivy as the night temperatures were dropping fast.