Join mountaineer Sharath Vishnu, as he reminisces about a wonderful solo trek in the scenic Spiti Valley, in this guest post.
After the expedition that I had planned for several months had to be packed off after an injury to my partner, I was sitting in Batal trying to figure out what I could do for the remaining couple of weeks I had. I was close to the famous Chandrataal lake – it was just a day’s trek away – but it somehow never really excited me. I was disappointed that the expedition couldn’t go on and so I wanted to go somewhere by myself. This was still early in the season and the Manali-Kaza road via Kunzum la had just opened and there were hardly any vehicles on the road. After a day’s wait at Batal’s Chandra Dabha, I finally got a ride to Kaza, my first trip time into the Spiti Valley.
Kaza (3650m/12,000ft), the district headquarters of Spiti was a quaint little town with not many tourists around. Spiti is still not as famous as Ladakh though they have very similar geography and I quite liked it. I knew that there were a couple of trails above Kibber, a beautiful village 30kms from Kaza so I headed there hoping to do a small 4-5 day trek.
I had no map, no destination to go, I just hoped to camp around the high mountains of Spiti and come back.Thanks to my trusty Nokia phone, whose GPS works without a cellphone network, I had a general idea of where I was trying to go. I knew that the trail going left from Kibber goes towards the Parang La, a trek route which goes to Tso Moriri in Ladakh, so I had to keep off that so I headed straight upwards from Kibber at 4270m/14,200ft.
Day one was a gradual hike above the village. There were meadows or huge flat lands just above Kibber after which the gradient increased. I slowly hiked up for 4 hours where I decided to camp for the day. I could see the Chicham village in the valley below and this was my point of reference as I hiked through areas with no trails. I found couple of trails which I think the shepherds use but most of them didn’t go too high. Water was abundant as I had found many streams all day, taking care of one of the many worries while trekking solo. I got to see a stunning sunset from my little camp before the cold took over and jumped into my sleeping bag.
On the second day, I had to decide where I was trying to go because going too far into the mountains without knowing the place meant I was risking getting lost. So I decided that I would go on a small recce and come back to the place I had camped. I had no objective and I roughly thought that I would hit the snowline (a place from where the snow starts) and come back. It looked pretty high for me so I thought I will find the route I will take the next day to reach the snowline. I could feel the altitude as I went higher so I thought I was somewhere close to 5000m or 16,500ft. After 3 hours of meandering and a bit of height gain I was finally close to the snowline. I realised it would still take me couple more hours so it would be a good target for the next day. I headed back to my camp and saw another beautiful sunset and the alpenglow on the snowcapped peaks of Spiti.
I rose early in the morning on the third day and started by 7am after some hot soup and headed on the same direction that I’d gone the previous day. After reaching my high point of the previous day I realised the snow was not as close as it looked. And the hike up was a lot more steep than it seemed like. No matter how much time you’ve spent in the mountains, you can’t quite gauge them right many a times.
After a long gruelling five hours, I finally hit the snow to reach a beautiful plateau after which a huge massif soared above. It looked like they were above 6000m. I wanted to go a little ahead and see how far I could go but the snow was soft and was sinking in enough to feel that heading back was easier.
Hiking alone gets to you after sometime, I knew this, I had hiked alone before and knew exactly how it would be. By the end of third day I was already bored of getting water, cooking and everything else that is not so fancy that comes along with hiking solo. Going solo for couple of days is nice, you enjoy being with yourself but on longer trips you need to be extremely motivated to do something alone to be able to manage. So I thought of heading back the next day and enjoy some nice gulab jamoons in the Kaza market.
On the way down, I just took the closest way down instead of trying to go down on the path I came up. And out of the blue, I saw a small but beautiful lake just before I reached Kibber. I sat by the lake with no one in sight, with the entire place all by myself. As I walked down the last few meters down to Kibber, I felt that I wouldn’t have enjoyed Chandrataal as much. The small trek was truly worth it