Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) organizes budget friendly treks to the Sar Pass every year from 1st of May to 15th of June where a fresh batch of 50 people gets added everyday. The Sar Pass is situated in Parvati Valley of Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. Sar, in local dialect, means a lake. While trekking, across the path from Tila Lotni to Biskeri Ridge, one has to pass by a small, (usually) frozen lake. Hence, it is called the Sar Pass Trek.
Sar Pass is a perfect himalayan trek for beginners. It has all kinds of terrain with forest trails, meadows, hiking and traverse in the snow. It offers a complete range of experiences. It is not as difficult as it may sound but just
lengthy and will test the traveler’s stamina.
Tip: Book your seats 3-4 months prior to the actual trek as the seats start to fill quickly.
(Kasol to Barshani Map)
I anticipated going to Sar Pass for almost 3 months and finally organising my essentials in a backpack was such a pleasure.
THINGS I PACKED:
1.3-4 cotton t-shirts
2. 1 hoodie
3. 2 pants
4. 2 hiking inner wears
5. One set of thermal wear
7. Medical kit
9. Hiking pole (optional)
You may or may not find certain things at your destination so always pack properly, keeping in mind all the extreme posibilities.
TRANSPORT and EXPLORE:
1. Mumbai to Delhi-
I left from Mumbai on 27th of May by Jet Airways.
2. Delhi airport to Manali:
Via the road. I took an Uber cab from the airport till Majnu ka Tila and boarded a bus to Manali.
3. Accomodation in Manali:
I reached Manali on 28th May around 9:30 am. I chose to walk 3 kms to Backpackers Inn (Old Manali, near Club House) from the bus stand. I got a mediocre room for Rs. 800 a night.
4. What I did in Manali before going to the base camp:
a) Breakfast at Cafe 1947: A cafe with the most spectacular view ever.
b) Vashist Temple: I decided to walk till Vashist Temple which was approximately 6 kms from my room. I packed a mini- bag with one bottle of water, few chocolates and a pack of Lays. I reached on top after enjoying the view at river Beas.
c)World Peace Cafe- This is situated near the temple and one can see a typical scenic view of greenery, water streams, mountains and the blue sky (like our childhood drawings) from there. In case you don’t want to walk, you can always rent a bullet or a mountain bike or go by auto or car. On my way back, near my hotel I met an artist of my age, 20, who was selling wooden hand-painted souvenirs which included paintings of Himalayas, name plates and quotes. I showed him my artworks too and he was quite fascinated when I showed him my hand-painted shoes (my etsy- https://www.etsy.com/in-en/shop/RahulMistry) . I made his old pair of shoes look new and we decided to make a painting later that night. (Photo)
5. Manali to base camp, Kasol-
Next day at 8:30, I took a local bus from Manali to Kasol via Bhuntar. Usually there are direct HRTC bus from Manali anikaran but as I found a local one leaving early, I just boarded in. Manali to Bhuntar is an almost 2 hour long journey by bus (48 kms) – Bhuntar to Kasol is another 1 hour 30 mins journey by bus (30 kms). Luckily I got to board another bus from Bhuntar on the spot which saved my waiting time. I reached kasol and the bus dropped me exactly near the YHAI Campsite. I reported at the base camp by 11:45 am. I was welcomed by the Camp leader and Field Director and I was allotted tent no. 10
Day 1 :
Reporting Day of my batch SP29. You can report at any time throughout the day. Once you have reported at the base camp, you are free for the day, so usually people go and shop for some trekking
requirements or clothes at Kasol Market. I decided to wait for my friend Kiran whom I had met at a trek in Maharashtra. He reported by 1:30 with two of his friends, Ishita and Dhananjay (DJ). We went to the market to shop. I purchased a pair of woolen socks, gloves and a leg warmer.
The base camp at Kasol was a wonderful place to socialize with different people (specially at the
mobile charging point). There were people from the previous two batches, the one who have
completed the trek and the new comers. Every day there is a new batch reporting and others who are returning back after completing their Sar Pass. The newcomers ask them their queries regarding their experience, difficulties faced, the food, toilets, etc.
(The food YHAI serves at the base camp is tasty. If you’re bored with that, you can walk to the market and have some delicious momos/dumplings)
Everybody had introduced themselves by 6 pm and played cricket or badminton. YHAI provides us with a sleeping bag, a blanket and one haversack before supper. The dinner there is served at 7:30 pm (never thought I would have my dinner at that time). They served dal rice and roti sabzi. To be honest, the rotis they served were far better than the rotis we get at local restaurants in Mumbai. With every meal they served sweet dishes like Shira or Kheer. Once we are done with dinner we started with the camp fire by 8:30, where people from all the batches joined together and the batch who had reported a day early (In our case- Batch SP28) had to perform a dance or sing a song or whatever talents they had. So the camp fire started with the Field Director welcoming the new comers and congratulating the trekkers, and some guest to turn on the camp fire. I really thought that there will be a good fire where people will sit surrounding to it but but but… it was just few light bulbs they turned on and they called it a camp fire. So once the lights were switched on, people started cheering FIRE FIRE CAMP FIRE! FIRE FIRE CAMP FIRE! The camp fire program went on till 10 and after that we are served a hot cup of Bornvita.
As per the rule, nobody was allowed to be out of the tent after 11 pm. You can chill inside the tent with your friends.
Day 2 :
The bed tea was served at 5 in the morning, but it was not compulsory to wake up by 5 unless you wanted the tea. So I always skipped my bed tea and woke up by 5:50 and moved out by 6 for exercise. Our day would start with running to a nearby ground where we would exercise for an hour, jog back to the camp for breakfast. After breakfast, we got some free time to arrange our haversack for the acclimatization walk. We had to put a blanket, sleeping bag and 1 L of water in our haversack. It must weigh more than 3 Kg ( approx. 5 kg) or else they would add some stones inside.
At 8 am the two batches, SP28 and SP29, formed two lines for cheering the Batch SP27 for their departure to Sar Pass trek. The batch SP28 were sent for Rock climbing and Rappelling and then we were on our way for the acclimatization walk which was hardly 3km . In this walk, the leader purposely took us very slowly to pass the time. We reached at the destination by 10, it was a small plateau where each and every member of our group gave their introduction .The leader introduced himself and provided some basic information about the trek. Later, a group leader and assistants were selected from our batch.
We were back to the campsite by 1 for our lunch break. From 3 o’clock till 5 o’clock we gathered again for the orientation where the field leader gave information about YHAI and about Sar Pass in detail.
After that the same routine was followed, dinner at 7:30 and camp fire by 9 where our batch had to perform. I was just sitting with the DJ and Kiran to cheer our group. We were the cheer-leaders.
Day 3 :
As usual, I skipped my bed tea to get some extra sleep. Got up by 5:50, wore my shoes and moved out for exercise. The second day of exercise felt much better than the previous day. It was a rock climbing and rappelling day for us, I was really excited to do the climbing until I saw the rock patch. It was just 20-25 ft high. Though, rappelling down from there was like a piece of cake, the climbing was tough as there were not enough holds. Since I had a practice of rock climbing, I could make it quite easily. For the first timers it was difficult. A few of them completed it and most did not try. This went from 8 in the morning till almost 1 and then we went for lunch break. After the lunch we were free for the entire day.
Finally! Day 4 :
All set! Everybody got up early to start the trek!
Kasol to Grahan :
We left from Kasol by 8 in the morning, we were lined and gathered along with the leaders, they gave us instructions once again and gave their best wishes along with a mini-food package which included Parle-G, Frooti, and few chocolates.
According to the rules, all the girls must walk in the front and we left the base camp receiving a guard of honor by the batch 30 and 31.
About Grahan :
Difficulty level: Easy
The way to Grahan is a 4-5 hours of trek, walking is the only way to reach on the top. It wasn’t difficult as the entire walk was through the forest followed by the Parvati river. Grahan is a small village consisting of 60 families. The villagers were really happy to see the trekkers.
Into the wild :
360 Degree view from Grahan : Here, Photosynth
Almost there :
Day 5th, Grahan to Padri:
Distance: 8-9 kms
Difficulty level: Easy
Grahan to Padri is another 4-5 hours of walk, Padri offers a beautiful view of the snowy mountains. It was 8-9 kms away from Grahan. It wasn’t tiring at all since our way was through the forest shades and we kept on gaining height step by step. This is probably the easiest and fastest stretch in the entire trek. You can also see Mingthatch (Next Camp) from there.
So according to the YHAI rules we were not allowed to set any campfire at any campsite throughout the trek, but since I was not aware of that, I did it and enjoyed it.
Day 6th, Padri to Mingthatch :
Distance: 11-12 kms
Difficulty level: Moderate
Earlier according to YHAI, the plan was to camp at Ratapani but because of some reasons they shifted the campsite to Ming Thatch. Ming Thatch was another 1.5 hours of walk.
I would say it was a difficult trek for the beginners, as we needed to climb on a very steep slope. If you’re a regular trekker then all you need is just good stamina and strong fitness level.
(That’s why, never skip the leg day)
From Padri, it takes about 7-8 hours to reach on the top.
The tent at our lunch place couldn’t accommodate more than 20 people and it was raining and the tent was filled like a Virar local train. The guide said that heavy rains were predicted and so we had to keep moving.
I took my backpack, clicked some pictures and moved on.
Day 7th, Mingthatch to Nagaru :
Distance: 11-12 kms
Difficulty level: Moderate
It was another 4-5 hours of climb from Mingthatch.
It was the best lunch point ever, sitting on the edge of a cliff at 11900ft surrounded entirely by the mighty Himalayas and great Himalayan eagles circling above us. Couldn’t ask for more.
The weather was getting worse with hailstorms and it was getting colder and colder, nobody dared to come out of the tent after dinner. Oh wait, at this campsite we had dinner around 6-7 pm itself. We somehow managed to pass our time for few hours, some guys slept by 7 itself (like Kiran). It was because the next day we were supposed to start climbing by 3:30 am. I felt asleep by 10-11. My eyes opened around 2:30 and later I couldn’t get a proper sleep as it was too cold. The camp leader whistled to wake us up to have morning tea. It was easy to get up and come out of the sleeping bag, but once I stepped out of the tent.. OH MY, the weather was bad. Cold winds blowing, I was not able to walk until I had 4 cups of hot tea.
Since the weather was not good, we were told to wait and we started the trek by 4:30 and this is how it went:
Day 8th, Nagaru – Sar pass – to Biskeri
The Final Day, Hiking through Sar Pass. The wheather was not so good, there were hailstorms, snowfalls which would push one backwards and make the climb grueling.
On that day, we were supposed to leave by 3:30 am but due to the weather we left at 4:30 and luckily Mother nature supported us and we could see the sunrise.
We walked the Sar Pass in the snow. You need to step your foot sideways to avoid slipping. Nagaru to Sar Pass was almost 3 hours of walk and from Sar pass to Biskeri was around 5-6 hours.
About Sar Pass:
Difficult level: Medium & Boring (Because you might or will get bored/tired of walking in the snow after a few hours)
Passing Sar Pass was a good feeling, the best moment was the snow slide (Watch photos and video)
A short video of snow sliding :
Sar Passed – Biskeri
Distance: 14 kms (From Nagaru)
To be honest, I loved this campsite, it offers the view of snowy mountains, greenery, waterfalls, flowers, all together at one place.
After the Biskeri camp, a lot of people preferred going back to Kasol and skip Bhandakthatch, but none of our group members thought of doing that. The group always remained together.
Biskeri to Bhandakthatch :
Distance: 12 kms
At Bhandakthatch, we were surrounded by the snowy mountains but we were on the fresh green land. It’s a big plateau, so usually people celebrate by playing cricket. We were told that if we were lucky enough then we might get to see a lot of stars from that campsite. So, my friend Shivi and I were walking outside around 8:30 and waiting for the stars to come out. I asked at the kitchen for some hot water, so that we both could enjoy a cup of Earl Grey. And guess what? We did see lot of stars around 9:30pm.
360 Degree view from Bhandakthatch : Here, Photosynth Bhandakthatch
Bhandakthatch to Barshani:
Each and every person in the group were smiling, cheering and celebrating the feeling of completing all the treks. I spent my last few hours with hot tea and biscuits on the big rock which I loved to sit on.
We had no guide or leader to reach Barshani, we just had to follow the red arrows marked by YHAI.
We hardly had few stops and kept on moving without any rest. Me, Kiran, Ishita, Shivi and DJ reached in no time.
Hope you liked the article and photos, you can give us some feedback in the comments below. Happy to answer any queries.
– Rahul M.