After completing my Trans Uttarakhand winter mission 20/21 across 110 lesser known passes across the breadth of this state I had taken a short break in Chennai to plan my next ultra journey. Mid Feb the government had opened up the mapping landscape in India. I was able to download 60 detailed maps from the Survey website with some 20 thousand trails, a true hiking treasure.
With Covid numbers on the rise again I left in a hurry not to get stuck in a lockdown like last year. Booked a train to Delhi already under lockdown and connecting HPRTC bus to Dharamsala. Got a Covid negative test just in case to enter Himachal. No problems getting through Delhi but the bus got cancelled. Quick reroute through Pathankot got us to our destination.
We jumped on a local bus to McLeod Ganj the home of the Dalai Lama in exile. From here a short hike through beautiful pine forested slopes to the picturesque village of Naddi. From here one gets treated on mesmerizing views of the snow covered Dhauladhar. Rajat, an insta friend of mine had set up his “work from home” base in this lovely location since the last 2 years.
I dropped some of my backup gears at his room – two pairs of shoes, each with a life expectancy of 1.5 month in the Himalayan terrain. Vignesh another friend had just gotten me a new pair of my favorite Altra Mountain King MT-2 from the US, just in time before heading out. Best shoe I used so far in my outdoor life: wide foot, zero drop, minimalist and instant drain.
For the first day acclimitization I decided on a known / easy target – Triund peak, at 3200m, a 1300m ascent from Naddi village. Above Naddi a trail climbs up along a ridgeline taking us through lush green pine forest to the saddle of Galu Devi above Dharamkot. From here a wide rock path gradually climbs up along a steep rocky mountain slope towards the alpine meadows below Triund.
20Rs for stream water and not so friendly faces were the side effects of a typical commercialized tourist location. Usually crowded the place was nearly devout of hikers due to the worsening Covid situation and lockdown of international flights. From the meadows the path climbs up further to the saddle of Laka Got at the base of the well known Indrahar pass at 4300m which leads into the Chamba valley.
Even tough a warm winter, recent snow fall had lowered the snowline to 3100m making any attempt of crossing the steep South face of the Dhauladhar futile. The daily weather pattern seems to be clear, blue morning skies which slowly turn dark gray above the high ranges of the Dhauladhar in the afternoon with possible rains in the evening.
Snow covered Laka Got was fully deserted except for a few cafe’s eagerly looking out for a tourist to appear. The 2nd covid wave unfortunately coincided with the start of the summer hiking season leaving the tourist industry in trouble for the 2nd year in a row. We missed to carry up drinking water on the way up which was a mistake as all streams on the way up were dry.
Sneha, my co-hiker, started pitching up our tent, while I went further up to fetch water from a stream just below the frozen snowline to quench our thirst. We quickly settled inside our cosy Bluebolt quilt as the temperature outside started dropping. As the sun set below the horizon, the full moon rose above the snow covered Dhauladhar. The night was clear, cold and bright.