Trans Himalaya 2019 – Ravi river valley, Aug 28

I woke up by the daylight on the balcony of the primary school in Bara Bhangal. Had a wonderful, deep sleep after an intense 2 day crossing of the Kaliheni Nalla. The teachers had been so kind to let us spent the night in the quarters of the school. Today’s plan was to explore the Ravi river valley upstream where it originates from the high ranges separating Lahaul, Kullu and Kangra.

We had requested the owner of the small dhaba to prepare some breakfast early morning so we could head out quickly. Plan was to keep our back packs in the school and do a one day exploration of the valley. We gobbled up some yummy fluffy parotta’s with ghee and dhal. We just took a few essentials with us and were on our way. 

We crossed a small bridge which separates the village from the school, helipad and farm lands on the opposite side of the Ravi river. We climbed up to upper Bara Bhangal from where we followed a flat trail that proceeded on the left side of the valley above the river. Just outside the village we saw a power project built to provide electricity to the settlement but it seemed to be non functional. 

The valley made a picture perfect frame – the Ravi river snaking its way left and right in between the steep valley slopes covered by thick pine forests, the snow capped high ranges rising up steeply from the valley. The entire valley was full of lush greenery, grasses and plants full of natural goodness and medicinal value. The river was muddy brown due to the recent rains and soil carried by the strong water currents.  

We initially followed a wide rock path beautifully laid out above the river. We could see another mud trail proceeding on the opposite side of the valley – making us wonder whether we had chosen the right side. Soon we came across a ferocious stream joining in from the left which – if not for a newly built bridge – would have been impossible to cross. The previous bridge was likely to have been destroyed in the August 16th 2019 floods.

Soon the wide rock path made way for a narrow single mud trail. We continued upstream at a steady pace soon encountering regular large snow bridges across the Ravi river similar to the ones we had seen across the Kaliheni Nalla. The snow bridges would make it easy to cross over to the other side in case we got stuck. 

We saw a shepherd grazing his her on the opposite side of the valley. A little while further our trail seemed to fade out in the vegetation on the left side of the valley.  We tried searching up and down the slope but no use – our trail had disappeared – maybe due to disuse. We saw a snow bridge a few hundred meters ahead upstream and decided to push through the vegetation to reach the bridge and try our luck on the opposite side of the valley.

Even though the distance was short, due to the steepness of the valley slope, the dense vegetation, tree logs fallen underneath the grass and sudden steep side-gullies progress became very slow pushing through all these obstacles. In one place I slipped down from a tree and made a 360 degree fall down the slope hurting my leg. Limping ahead through the dense vegetation with little visibility we finally reached to the snow bridge.

We found a trail on the other side of the valley however here also there is thick vegetation and in particular one plant which is pricking badly, irritating the skin. As we don’t have long pants our legs are fully exposed to the toxic plant. We finally decided to take a U turn after traversing some 10km upstream from Bara Bhangal. We now return along a nice mud trail on the opposite side of the valley.

On the way back we meet the shepherd we saw earlier who kindly invites us for a cup of fresh goat milk and tea. The sheep and goats also use the ice bridges to cross sides of the valley. The top of the snow bridges are covered with dry woods which appear to have fallen down from above with the melting snow. 

After a short break we resume our way along a beautiful single trail which takes us through majestic pine forests.  The trail winds along and climbs above huge routes of the age old pine trees. Below us the Ravi river is thundering through a narrow gorge. In several places mud slides near small side-streams have destroyed the trail and we need to cross carefully not to slip down below. 

Finally the valley opens up again as we approach Bara Bhangal. From afar we see the wooden homes nested above the river with the beautiful backdrop of the Thamsar Nalla flowing down from the valley leading up to our next destination – crossing over the Dhauladar once again, this time through the Thamsar pass to the beautiful Barot valley .

We return to the primary school to pick up our back packs by around noon. As we still have half of day we decide to start off immediately so we can climb up mid-way and cross the pass early in the morning tomorrow during a stable weather window. That way we can reach Barot Valley by tomorrow evening where I plan to meet up with Leo – my co trekker who will join me for the next 2 weeks.

Classes are in full progress in the school – teachers and students are sitting outside on the portico where I slept the previous night. Fresh air, majestic mountains, peaceful surroundings – the perfect environment to learn. I count 4 teachers and some 13 students. Classes are only happening during the summer as Bara Bhangal is cut of from the world during winter. We bid good bye to our hosts and set off to our next destination…