After completing the Thamsar pass yesterday and staying overnight at a nice cosy guest house in Bada Gran it was time to meet up my new co-hiker Leo who just flew in from Chennai. We jumped in the first available morning bus and were on our way. We met up with Leo at Lohardi, the last major village in the Uhl river valley. We had our breakfast and packed up 2 days of food to explore our next destination: covering Dehnasaur Lake and the Sari pass in one big loop.
Lohardi is a nice buzzing little village with many shops and dhabas on the banks of the Uhl river which flows through the Barot valley. You can find a few tourists and mostly many locals from surrounding mountain hamlets who come to shop. It’s located on the confluence with the Lohardi Nalla which flows down from the Sari pass. From Lohardi we walk upstream along a dirt track on the right side of the Uhl river.
On the way you come across a large hydro project under construction. Here you hair pin up above the valley and follow a trail towards the picturesque hamlet of Punag overlooking the Uhl river valley from the slopes above. It’s a beautiful community of some 100 wooden homes nested on the slope above the river. The views on the valley are stunning – terrace farms interspersed with sections of pine forest.
After Punag turns right into the side-valley of the Lamadugh Khad stream. You can see the evidence of the recent flash floods in the Himalayas earlier in August. Big wooden logs have been deposited by the stream and the mud trail is landslide-d in a number of places. Along the way we meet some local villagers carrying broccoli in big baskets from their farms inside back to the village.
We cross the stream a few times using wooden logs to circumvent the landslide-d sections of the trail. A bit further there is an split in the valley where two streams join near the Jai Dev Pashakot mandir. Here we cross a bridge to the left side of the Lamadugh Khad river and the trail start ascending along the valley slope above the river.
Vegetation is dense at the end of summer dotted with a colorful spectrum of flowers. We follow a clear path that climbs up steeply treating us on beautiful views of the valley below dotted with tall pine trees. Small patches of blue skies penetrate a mushy cloud cover. The path is in good shape as it’s used by the locals for their annual yatra at the high altitude Dehnasaur lake. A solid 2200m climb out of the Barot valley to the lake at nearly 4300 meters altitude.
After a while we finally get on top of the ridge where tall yellow flowers in the misty hills form a beautiful setting. Every type of flower seems to have its own preferred altitude where it flourishes and paints that region in its own color. The trail now contours through lush green alpine meadows high above the Lamadugh Khad valley below staying below the ridge line.
As the trail winds its way through the cloud indulged valley we now enter a fairy tale landscape. Thousands of orchid type flowers in full bloom cover the valley in deep pink. The camera shutter is taking in the mesmerizing scene as we hair pin up through the meadows. The fog is quite dense now and visibility has reduced significantly. Orientation becomes difficult and with no clear reference trail in my pre-planned map we try to stay on the right track towards the lake.
As we climb up in the higher meadows we encounter some shelters and firewood used by shepherds or pilgrims. We can hear the nearby sound of a thundering stream flowing from the lake above. We now start climbing through the boulders and moraines as we close in on our destination. Just below the sharp rocky ridge line Dehnasaur lake finally reveals amid the moving cloud cover. We walk through some snow covered patches to reach the lake which is still partly covered by ice.
The surroundings of the lake are completely barren – rocks with no vegetation. As we circle the lake we encounter several shelters used by pilgrims – leveled platforms where we can settle down for the night. There are also a few small temples and a cave with cooking vessels used during the annual yatra. As the sun slowly sets we admire the final sunrays through a small opening in the clouds. The temperature now drops quickly and we find a suitable place which blocks the cold wind blowing through the open area.
We collect some (partly wet) firewood and try (very) hard to lit up a fire sprinkling the wood with kerosene. It takes almost half an hour to lit up a feeble flame and we quickly heat some grain mix we picked up from a store in Lohardi. A hot meal at the end of the day is always an indulgence after a long day of fast hiking and burning many calories. We quickly eat our dinner and then hurry inside our sleeping bags and tents / bivy as we feel a freezing wind blowing across.
The night near the icy lake at 4300m is freezing and initially sleepless but the overwhelming natural beauty and physical endurance of the journey eventually puts us to rest. As the skies turn clear later later at night I take a quick peek-a-boo outside my warm bivy and admire the sight of the milky way – a vast expanse of star dust illuminates the dark skies above the Dhauladar mountains giving me a deep sense of inner peacefulness as I dream off in a place which feels like home.