Trip Start Jun 24, 2007
12Trip End Jul 17, 2007
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Khirganga, a half day's walk from the end of the road, is very popular with Israeli and at this particular time, Japanese stoners. The valley is well known for its marijuana production and the 20-something Israelis turn up after military service to relax or forget or something like that. In fact all of Himachal Pradesh is crawling with Israelis. They are by far the majority of travelers in the region, and they have a somewhat unsavory reputation. They travel in groups of 4-8, keep to themselves, and smoke a ton of dope. They tend to be rude to the locals and travelers who aren't Israeli. Granted, these are broad generalizations. I met Israelis who were perfectly lovely people - even they bitched about there being too many rude Israelis around. I digress.
After a lovely lunch of omelettes in Khirganga, we pressed on through old growth forest to our second night's camp.
The third day, the terrain opened up into an explosion of wildflowers and broad expanses of green.
The fourth day, we got our first peeks at the BIG mountains all around.
Day five saw us approach Mantalai Lake, site of a Hindu shrine to Shiva, the destroyer.
On day six, we began our two day slog up and over Pin pass. This was where the real climbing began. The four previous days had been fairly leisurely in comparison, with walks of 4-5 hours. Often we were in camp by lunch time. After a chilly, glacial river crossing, we began the hand-over-hand ascent of the valley wall.
Day seven was the day of reckoning. We got an early start, approaching the foot of the tongue, and making our way up.
Day eight, our rest day, it rained non-stop. I'm not sure I have ever spent ten daylight hours confined in a tent, let alone in a tent with my son. There was some strain on the father-son bond. By the afternoon, I had to get out. I took a walk up the mountain to the snow line, which was only about 500 meters above us.
The last day would be quite long, by design; an estimated 8-9 hours. We began the morning packing up our thoroughly drenched gear. My 15 year-old Eureka tent is in serious need of a waterproofing, so everything was wet. The river was raging due to the rain, making for a hairy river crossing. We started searching upriver for a way to cross as our guide got fed-up with our reluctance and made the crossing in the thigh deep river adjacent to camp. We searched and tested, jumping the braided channels here and there, finding no promising crossing points. Our plan was to avoid getting wet, which was thwarted by a misplaced foot here, and shortened jump there. After prodding the river's defenses for nearly an hour, the porters discovered that we could simply walk a few hundred meters upstream and cross on the snowbridge at the river's source. I was a little skeptical, but the bridge seemed to be several at least a couple of meters thick. After an hour and a half, we were back at our camp - on the opposite side of the river.
The day was a mix of sun and drizzle. The scenery had changed dramatically from the Parvati Valley. It began to look more like a high desert. Colorful valley walls gave it the feel of the South Dakota badlands. About halfway down the valley, we hit the road and a couple of hours past the end of the road, we hit our last significant hurdle to the hot food and warm beds of the village of Mudh. It became clear why there were no vehicles on the road we had walked. The road was severed at a stream crossing. The crossing was battered and unusable. There was an 'easy way' to get across that our guide was adamant about; a six foot jump across the concentrated flow of the stream - a raging torrent from the rain. A fall would certainly not be good, and possibly deadly. Nate felt that he couldn't make the jump. I was annoyed. I was finished with this trek. I wanted my hot food (not rice and dal!!) and the comfort of a warm place to sit and rest. I was being irrational. So in my pissed-off state, I searched below the "bridge" for a way across. Nothing looked promising. After an hour of searching with our guide sitting above, waiting, we resigned ourselves to getting wet. We were able to get across one channel of the stream unscathed, but wouldn't be able to get across the second. We made the decision to cross wearing boots to be safe (for better footing). Again I was annoyed. I had made it 8 1/2 days without getting my boots wet (Gore-Tex rocks). Now this.
In the end, the stream crossing wasn't a big deal. It was knee deep with solid footing. The stream didn't feel as powerful as it looked. We crossed and had a good laugh at our hour and a half of preparation for this seemingly trivial task. Oh well. Better safe than sorry.
We arrived at Mudh and checked into Tara's Guest House - one of several in town. The room overlooked the barley, potato and pea fields and was a great spot from which to watch the sunrise the next morning. We bought our gang a meal that night - everyone chose the thali - more rice, lentils, and chapatis. My visions of paneer were dashed, however, as Mudh is an entirely Tibetan village. The menu was Tibetan with the exception of thali and a few Israeli dishes. We shared few jugs of chang, explained to me as wheat beer, but I think it must be milk based. Anyway - tasty stuff. The three of us turned in and our gang carried on till the wee hours.