Saturday, October 11, 2008

Barefoot Baba's and a cup of tea - More fun in India's Himachel Pradesh

For a bit of history regarding the beginning of this adventure follow this link –

Ben Ditto soaking up some wicked Himalayan views.

“Oh my God, he’s got to be dead”, I thought as I ran up to the overturned vehicle only to find no one inside – then suddenly a parade of barefoot Baba’s came strolling past me, marching through the deep snow with no notice what-so-ever to the purple elephants nearby.
With a loud smack my head bounced off the trucks passenger side window causing the Tibetan man to my right to giggle – I must have fallen asleep. Though I am not sure how, the drive over the Rohtang La (3978m) is a rough one!

A little taste of the road over the pass.

Ben Ditto and I (Pat Goodman) left Manali at 7:00 am en route to the Lahaul valley and the plethora of high quality granite boulders and walls rumored to be scatered along the Chandra river. Check this link for a look at the bouldering -

Big wet unclimbed walls in the Lahaul valley.

It took us about 4 1/2 hrs to reach Chhatru (3360m), the bustling 4 tent tea house village and our drop off point for our next adventure; bouldering and some alpine climbing in the Chhota Shigri glacier valley.

Tea house in Chhatru.

Upon arrival in Chhatru we began to wonder our logic and our chances of climbing anything due to bad and worsening conditions. The boulders looked great – but we had no crash pad. The walls looked real good with many soaring hundreds of feet up from the roadside – but they were soaked! Not to mention the impending doom of the storm that had been following us all morning. Call it intuition or whatever, but we decided to keep traveling another rough 125 km over the Kunzum La (4551m) with our new Tibetan friends to Kaza (3600m).

Prayer flags on the Kunzum La.

Kaza is the headquarters of Spiti sub-district perched beautifully along the bank of the Spiti river. In earlier times, it was the capital of Nono, the chief of Spiti. It possesses a distinctive Buddhist culture similar to that found in nearby Tibet and is located in one of the least populated regions in India, not to mention has some of the friendliest folk I have ever met!
The Kunzum La was exceptionally beautiful and marked the drastic transition from the green, fertile Lahaul and Kullu valleys to the arid, lunar like barren mountains of the Spiti valley.

Spiti Valley.

Once in Kaza we thought “wow this is great, we are in Kaza…hmm wait, why are we here??” Neither of us had even heard of this place before and although it was beautiful we needed go climbing and this was not the place to climb. So we spent the next couple of hours trying to hire a truck to get us back to Manali. Apparently many other people had the same plan, one more big snow storm and the passes would be closed making the journey back to Manali difficult at best. Ki Monastery.

Again we departed at 7:00 am, this time with 12 people loaded into a 6 passenger vehicle. The drive back over the Kuzum La was a rough one, the storm that had followed us the day before dropped a lot of fresh snow on the already treacherous roadway. Glad we were not riding in this one!

On our way back through Chhatru our caravan stopped for some tea. Ben and I inadvertently bumped into some climbers that had been enjoying the area for a month or so. Never-the-less those fine folks were feeling the impending season change and wanted badly to get back over the Rohtang La before it closed – this solidified our decision to bail back to Manali. Had we stayed the day before, we would’ve been stuck just like these guys waiting for the off chance that a truck has the space for another passenger. 10 hrs after leaving Kaza we stumbled back to what has become our base in Manali, the Tourist Hotel( Tourist Hotel in Manali.

Though the name hardly implies it the hotel is super low key with a helpful, friendly staff. In fact, one of the staff by the name of Gupta, has insisted on taking us to the Kullu Dusserha celebration in a few days. “A festival for the Gods”, he says, “sure to make you smile.”
Stay tunned for more India adventures and hopefully some more climbing …



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