Trans Himalaya 2019 – Marhu pass, July 3-5

I woke up as the sunrise hit my face on a flat road side space close to the bus stop. It was breezy, insect free and I had a good sleep. Packed up, sipped up some tea in the local dhaba and picked up my 20kmhA powerbank from the tea shop which I kept for charging overnight. At 6:45am the Nakrod bus arrived to head towards my next destination – the Marhu pass 4300m trying to cross over from Chamba to Lahaul.The bus dropped me in Nakrod where I grabbed some Maggie’s and eggs and hopped into a connecting bus into the side valley of the Chanju Nala. I got off at Bagheigarh 1600m around 11am and grabbed another round of Maggie with eggs. Shortly after Bagheigarh there is a road split that takes you into another side valley towards the village of Charda 1700m.The road ends at Charda from where a nice wide path gradually climbs up on the left side of the valley. Along the way you pass through the last village of Moha 2250m. The path gradually contours up till you cross a side valley after which it hair pins up very steeply through a shady forest below a steep rockface till you cross a ridge at 2700m.Here you enter a beautiful hidden lush green valley where you ll come across several large Gujjar rock and mud homes with horses and buffaloes grazing outside. From the ridge the path descends slightly down towards a first home where I meet a friendly family.They invite me to stay over but as it is still early (4pm) I decide to cover some more distance for an early pass crossing next morning. I resume my journey through a mesmerizing virgin forest. A few KM’s ahead I come across another majestic Gujjar home.The family lives together with heir horses, sheep, buffaloes under one roof. The pillars and beams of the roof are huge tree trunks. After I tell them I m heading to Lahaul across the Marhu pass they insist I come inside and have something to eat. The lady of the house starts preparing rottis, ghee and lassi.After a draining 1000m climb I feel quite hungry. The rottis and thick ghee taste delicious. Meanwhile it starts raining outside and feeling tired from lack of sleep the previous nights due to travel and late nite blogging I decide to stay over.The family prepares a bed for me and while showing them photos from my journey so far I fall asleep only to wake up the next morning. One of the best night rests I had so far under warm blankets. The lady served me rottis and milk and packs up another bunch for my journey ahead. I bid adieu to my warm hosts and resume my way.A clear trail slowly descends into the lush green valley while the sun rises above the Pir Panjal range above. I finally descend into the stream and continue hiking upstream through the boulders. After a while the path crosses to the right of the stream and climbs up steeply 1000m on the right slope.Initially through bushes, later on through rocks and meadows the trail steadily climbs up. Along the way I come across another two Gujjar homes which appear abandoned. On the 2nd home a shepherd is halted with his sheep waiting to cross over to Lahaul.Since the start of my journey I mark the location of all villages, hamlets, homes, passes, campsites in OSMAnd offline as I cross them. When I get network in the next town I upload all online so anyone can find them in Open Street Maps, a public mapping tool which contains a wealth of information for hikers.At 3800m the trail crosses a ridge and contours left towards the Marhu pass. The path is very clear and appears frequented by shepherds crossing over from Chamba to Lahaul. In the late morning clouds are forming near the Pir Panjal range above.Closer to the pass we need to cross a few snow sections across side gullies which are yet to melt in early summer. Crossing is quite easy as large herds of sheep have opened the pass already. Visibility is limited as a fog indulges the valley.Along the way up to the pass I meet several shepherds and Gujjars traveling from Tindi village in Lahaul to Chamba. A reassuring feeling that the way ahead is clear. Everyone is surprised to see a lone hiker crossing this lesser known pass.I finally hit the pass at 4280m around 1pm and get stunning views on the high ranges of Lahaul (right) and Pangi (left). Feels good to be back in Pangi, one of my favorite places in the Himalayas. To my surprise the Lahaul side of the pass is mostly snow free making the descend much easier.From the pass we initially descend along a small ridge into the Chenab river valley below. The rocky trail descends 1000m steeply cross crossing between vertical cliffs that are typical on the steeper Lahaul side.I meet a few more local villagers coming from Tindi village climbing up to the pass on their way to Chamba. All are very friendly and eager to know my destination. They carry little luggage with them compared to myself.Further down I catch up with an enormous herd of sheep, 1000 in total, guided by 5 shepherds and a few dogs down the narrow passages in between steep rock faces. Respect for the gaddis in managing these huge herds of animals across such challenging terrain.At 3350m the trail finally turns right across a ridge and contours into the forest towards Tindi village (10km away). Meanwhile it starts raining and feeling cold I take shelter into a small cave. Down below I can see the road in the Chenab river valley.I grab some food and catch up blogging for the last two days while the rain continues outside. I settle down for the night with the sound of the Chenab far below. Late into the night the firmament above again displays a beautiful galaxy of stars. I dream of peacefully in my cave…Morning the weather is still overcast but the rains have cleared. I pack up my things and look around for the trail towards Tindi. Inside meadows and morraines the trail always fades out and you need to be careful not to lose track.I am able to spot a vague trail which becomes more clear as soon as it enters the forest. A little further I hear the sound of sheep and meet 4 gaddis with their herd who also camped inside a cave.They show me the way towards Tindi, the path now descends and crosses a snow gully. A little while later the trail crosses yet another deeply cut gully and runs up a vertical cliffs wall which would have been nearly impossible to cross without the presence of a trail.We again enter a scenic pine forest with a clear path and finally reach the first hamlet of Bujund 3100m from where the road to Tindi and main Pangi valley starts. I notice a different house architecture compared to the Chamba valley.I immediately notice the abundance of colourful alpine flowers in the meadows around Tindi. A colourful feast for the eyes and probably of immense medicinal value. I remember taking some of the most colourful photos in these meadows last year.After the road crosses two more side gullies we finally reach the picturesque village of Tindi nested above the Chenab or Chandrabagga river with majestic snow peaks of Pir Panjal above. On the opposite side runs the main valley road connecting Lahaul and Pangi.I drop into the one and only dhaba to recharge both phone and stomach although a power cut limits charging and mobile network connectivity. The local kids come out and eagerly check the photos in my phone.I pack up three aloo parottas and start my ascent towards the next pass above Tindi: Darati at 4640m.

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