Trans Himalaya 2019 – Chaurasi Pass, July 6-7

After a good early lunch at Kalprai I set off on my way to the Chaurasi pass to get to my next base: the Kalicho pass where I hope to cross over to Lahaul again. The villagers of Kalprai are fully into harvest on top of their rooftops. From here the road goes till Datuin 2300m, the last village in the Chanju Nala valley.Just before Datuin at the road head is the Chanju Kali Mandir, a beautifully hand crafted wooden temple. Last year August many pilgrims where starting their annual yatra from here towards the Chaurasi Ka Dal lake at 3750m. Being a pilgrim destination the path which runs left of the Chanju Nala is very clear and well maintained.The trail initially goes through scenic forests above the thundering Nala, interspersed with lush green meadows. Along the way I come across a few shepherds which are grazing the meadows on the higher slopes above the forest in the valley.At one place I meet a few buffalo herders who walked all the way from Palampur to here to graze their cattle these nutricious meadows. They stay beneath a tarpaulin sheet with only basic luggage for the summer. They offer me a glass of buffalo milk and I resume my journey re-energizedFurther up the stream is partly covered with snow bridges with wood and bushes on top. The Chanju Nala appears from underneath periodically. The first signs of more snow to come at higher altitudes. I wonder how a solid layer an form on top of running water.Left and right side of the valley large waterfalls are dropping down from high above into the stream. Snow melting on the peaks above is in full progress at the start of summer. I cross a couple of bigger streams flowing down from the Pir Panjal range on the left side.Around 5pm I come across a familiar place: Rali Dhar at 2950m where I stayed overnight with a family last year. Surprised to see different people inhabiting the half open rock shelter, probably relatives. A kind elder man who is fixing the walls after the winter snow suggests I halt here.Having been on the move since 5am I call it even for today and settle down to write my daily blog. The lady of the houses prepares thick fluffy rottis with some yummy milk based sabji sprinkled with fresh ghee. A sumptuous feast after a 12 hour intense hike from the base of the Darati pass.I am able to squeeze in just 4 of these thick rottis around the cooking fire. I go for a stroll outside in the surrounding meadows and count 9 cows and one horse which provides daily needs to this family. No farming, just grazing and milk based food. While finishing my blog on a big tree trunk outside the lady brings me a cup of hot chai while the skies are bright orange as the sun sets above Chamba.We settle down for the night on thick blankets on a raised platform next to the cattle sharing the same roof. At 2950m the nights are still cold and I m glad to sleep inside this warm, comfy shelter close to the animals.Next morning I wake up and it’s raining outside. The entire valley is indulged in fog and I hope it ll clear up to cross the pass. The lady of the house has milked the (jersey) cow and is making lassi by rotating a big wooden laddle in a tub filled with milk. The man serves me hot tea and the lady starts preparing rottis.After breakfast I thank my hosts and am glad I stayed in this comfortable shelter during the cold rains. I proceed my way to the pass which is 10K and 1500m elevation gain away hoping to cross in 4 hours depending on the snow situation.The valley towards the pass gradually ascends, the Chanju Nala is still partly covered by snow. Initially I follow the trail alongside the stream, further up it’s easier to just walk across the snow bridge. The snow is covered by wood and stome rubble making it non slippery to walk upon.Eventually I reach the Chaurasi mandir at 3750m, the destination of the annual pilgrimage later in summer. The mandir is surrounded by vast beautiful meadows full of colourful alpine flowers. Most of the snow is melted in this open area. One finds a few deserted shelters used during the annual yatra.I walk past the Chaurasi ki dal, a beautiful lake which is still partly covered by snow. I take a moment to take in this mesmerizing natural setting, so tranquille and beautiful. I follow a trail right of the lake which climbs up towards the snow covered valley below the pass.As luck would have it a huge herd of 1000+ sheep and goat is just descending from the Chaurasi pass, a spectacle of epic proportions. The herd is zig zagging down the steep slope guided by some 10 shepherds from Barbour, some of which simply slide down on their blankets.A few shepherds come down first and then whistle to call the herd. A few of them sweep the animals from the back. I take 30min to capture the unique spectacle in photos and videos. The shepherds are eager to know where I come from and invite me to stay with them at the lake tonight. As it’s still mid day I excuse myself and resume my way.On the other side of the pass the snow section is shorter. I soon am soon descending 500m into the valley along a moraines ridge marked by big piles of stones. Post noon the entire valley is indulged in most cover but the weather holds up.At 3900m the trail contours horizontally below a long rocky ridge covered by meadows offering stunning views on the Chamba valley below. The trail keeps going up, left, down of the prolonged ridge through saddles and contouring around sharper peaks in between.Towards the evening I meet two buffalo herders, aka Gujjars, staying in the nearby Mumbardar settlement who invite me to stay over at their home. The sunset and misty clouds in the sky paint a beautiful evening picture.As we descend along the ridge towards Mumbardar a beautiful rainbow appears above the hamlet. We chat up in broken English and Hindi and take a nice dancing video of dad Gujjar near the lake above the village.Some 13 families live in this tribal hamlet disconnected from the world. They live in big rock, wood and mud homes and graze their cattle in the surrounding meadows. In the evening the sheep settle down on the large, flat rooftops.Drenched in the afternoon rains I settle down in one of the homes next to a warm cooking fire. My host is preparing palak / milk sabji and fluffy rottis which I eagerly gobble up after another long day of hiking with lot of climbing.After dinner I show them the photos of my journey so far which they eagerly admire. Late night I finally settle down below warm blankets on a raised platform in one of the homes. I sleep off deeply to be woken up the next morning by the sunrays entering the room.My host is already in full swing to prepare coffee and parottas. Hospitality is beyond words in these remote hamlets. After breakfast I kindly thank my hosts and continue my journey downhill to the nearest road head at Tundah village.I walk through beautiful misty meadows and pine forest passing by more tribal homes as I watch the snow peaks of the Pir Panjal at the horizon. My next target being the Kalicho pass to enter back into Lahaul.

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I am able to squeeze in just 4 of these thick rottis around the cooking fire. I go for a stroll outside in the surrounding meadows and count 9 cows and one horse which provides daily needs to this family. No farming, just grazing and milk based food. While finishing my blog on a big tree trunk outside the lady brings me a cup of hot chai while the skies are bright orange as the sun sets above Chamba. As we descend along the ridge towards Mumbardar a beautiful rainbow appears above the hamlet. We chat up in broken English and Hindi and take a nice dancing video of dad Gujjar near the lake above the village. http://ultrajourneys.org/trans-himalaya-2019-chaurasi-pass-july-6-7/ #Explore #Himalayas #AlpineStyle #Minimalist #UltraRunning

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