9/1/2009 to 9/5/2009 | Himachal Pradesh , India

The Pin-Parvati Pass

I left Ladakh for the Spiti Valley for the second summer in a row; though this time I would go by bus rather than hike in as I had on my last trip.  My previous trip to Spiti was ended by an early snow storm, I hoped this time I would have better luck with the weather.  Arriving back in Kaza to rain caused me to wonder if I had a Spiti weather curse.  After two days of rain the weather finally cleared enough to tempt me to leave the confines of Kaza for the Pin Valley, a side valley to the Spiti Valley.

The trek across the Pin-Parvati pass is one of the classic treks of the Indian Himalaya.  Unfortunately the complete trek starting in the Paravati Valley is a difficult one to do independently.  More than just the difficult logistics of carrying food for the entire trek, there is a real danger of hiking alone in the Paravati Valley.  In the heart of India’s marijuana cultivation region it draws more than its fare share of unscrupulous characters who control the trade in the region.  There have been numerous instances of solo or even small groups of trekkers going missing, likely at the hands of opportunistic bandits already in the area for nefarious purposes.  As a result I decided it was not worth the risk to trek independently in the Paravati Valley, nor was it worth the money to join a large group.  However I did at least want to see the Pin-Paravati Pass.  I decided to do a shortened version of the trek, hiking up from the Pin Valley side starting at the tiny village of Mud and returning back the same way.

The skies were sunny and I was optimistic as I left Mud, but by about 4:00 pm it had started to cloud up and rain began to fall.  I’m not a big fan of hiking in the rain, a fair-weather trekker if you would.  The weather continued to deteriorate and I decided to stop for the day, camping at a nice grassy spot next to the river with a tasty spring.  The next morning it was cloudy but at least the rain had stopped.  I walked about 4 hours scaling grassy ridges and rock, until the terrain began to get rough, turning to scree (loose rock) covered slopes just below the snow line.  I found a little bit of grass but it was not very flat, pretty bumpy, and the nearest water was a bit of a hike, but the view was nice.  I had just gotten my tent up and eaten some lunch (crackers and cheese) when it started to snow around noon.  I hunkered down in my tent for rest of the day as the snow continued to fall and passed the time with a book.  The next morning was a bit clearer, promising enough that I decided to make an attempt at the pass.  About 6 inches of fresh snow had fallen the previous day and night which made it a tougher hike.  To add to the difficulties I had lost the trail a while back so I was pretty much just reading the terrain and aiming for the pass.  The snow was pretty deep on the glacier beneath the pass, knee deep at times, it was a tough slog up to the top.  Unfortunately by the time I had reached the top of the 5319 m (17,450 ft) pass the view towards the Paravati Valley was pretty cloudy though it was ok towards the Pin Valley.  The conciliation for my efforts was that the recent snow fall had covered everything in white and it looked like a winter view of the Himalayas.  I debated whether to stay another night and hope of better weather, but it was possible it would get worse too.  I didn’t really want to spend another night on the sloping bumpy campsite either so I decided my snowy cloudy view from the Pin-Paravati pass was good enough.  I packed up my gear and headed back down to Mud, reaching the small village just as darkness fell after a long day of hiking.  Of course the next day was beautiful not a cloud in the sky in the morning as I road the bus out of Mud.  Oh well.

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