Trans Himalaya 2019 – Kaliheni base, Aug 25

After completing 110 high passes it was time for a relaxing dip in the hot water springs of old Manali. Vashist is always a nice location to hang out – relaxing atmosphere, peaceful away from the main town, tucked high above the beautiful Beas river valley, lip smacking cuisine, both continental and local, cheap stay options and frequented by off beat travelers. After throwing my old Salewa trail running shoes which were torn apart and with no grip on the soles remaining I went out in the market of Manali to pick up a new pair of Salomon hiking shoes to complete the remaining part of my journey.

After a good night’s of rest in a small cottage in Vashist we rose up early to grab some breakfast in the main town of Manali and pack up ration for a planned 3 day crossing of the Kaliheni pass across the Dhauladar connecting the Kullu valley with Bara Bhangal.  We set off on a local bus to drop us of some 12km South of Manali along the Beas river from where we would catch the trail to Sangchar, the final hamlet on the way to the pass.

Initially we followed a hair pin trail climbing up steeply through a forest section above the Beas river valley. After a while we got onto a proper rock paved path leading up to Pangan village walking through vast apple orchards.  We got beautiful views on the Kullu valley below through which most tourist flow towards Manali passed without realizing the beauty in the slopes high above.

Being August it was harvest season and people were in full swing plucking apples and packing them up in big crates. A few friendly ladies offered us some which we eagerly accepted giving us fresh nutrition for the 3000m ascent out of the Kullu valley to the pass at 4800m. The villagers were employing Nepalese workers who were carrying heavy loads on their heads along the steep trails down to the motor-able road where vans would come to collect the same.

As we entered Sanchar, the last hamlet before heading into no-mans land, we admired a beautiful hand-carved wooden temple interlaced with white stone. We had seen similar designs in other small hamlets in Himachal. We drink a few cool drinks and pick up some final snacks in a small shop before bidding good bye to civilization and climbing up into the high ranges above.

Initially we follow a clear rock path from Sanchar that climbs straight up the valley slope following a small stream. After a while the trail fades out into dense post-monsoon vegetation and a few confusing splits where I double check the trail shown on Open Street Maps on my phone to stay on the right track.  Aside from shepherds and villagers grazing their cattle in the high meadows ahead no one makes use of this trail.

A bit higher still the vegetation opens up and we get stunning views on the wide open Beas river valley down below. Sangchar is seen mid-way the hill nested inside lush green forest. On the opposite side we see the entry towards Parvathi valley, a side-valley of the main Kullu valley.

We finally reach the top of a ridge from where we first see the side-valley that flows down from the Kaliheni pass above. We now reached the open grass meadows and looking down onto the pine forest below. The trail now contours up more gradually in this side-valley. We still need to be careful as there are a number of splits along the way.

A bit higher up we meet a cattle herder who is grazing the meadows with his buffaloes, an enchanting sight with the cloud filled backdrop. We now again hair pin up a bit steeper climbing up above the forest line into the meadows above until we hit a clear trail which proceeds gradually up towards the pass. The late afternoon views on the cloud indulged forest below appears like a fairy tale setting.

We find a couple of rock shelters on the way used by shepherds grazing the high meadows during summer. We fill up our water bottles from a small stream and settle down for the night in one of the empty shelters. It’s cozy warm inside the shelter which blocks the cold night wind blowing through the open valley. We cook up some Maggie noodles to replenish the lost calories and settle below a tarpaulin sheet to keep us dry 

The shelter is located at Riyali Thach in Open Street Maps at an altitude of 3500m. The temperature at this higher altitude quickly drops after sunset as we huddle beneath our warm sleeping bags. Having climbed up nearly 2000m out of the Beas river valley we burned a significant amount of calories which need proper food and night rest to recover for the next morning. Another 1300m steep climb to the pass awaits us…