01-02-2017, 1110 hours, Mane Dhank, Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, India:
As we crossed the Mane Bridge, we began to see the Mane Dhank patch, which had completely changed since our prior visit. The snow on the entire mountain side had come down to the road and across towards the Spiti river during the avalanche. Only loose soil, gravel with slight traces of snow could be seen on the mountain side.
Though the road had been cleared after the avalanches that occurred throughout the section, driving through what remained of the road was not that easy. The cleared gap was narrow throughout and at certain points there still was a lot of snow on the road itself, which only a car with high ground clearance could go through. There were also very few places with enough space to give a pass to oncoming vehicles if they did come. And the removed snow had also formed walls on either side of the road leaving a narrow passage in between forming a oneway road.
Upon starting the uphill climb nearing the end of this treacherous Mane Dhank section, HPPWD workers could be seen working hard to keep the road open by pouring soil over it. But while we were in the middle of negotiating the uphill climb on the steepest stretch, we found a Tempo Traveller (which was not visible until we got very close to it) stuck in front after a deep left curve. The passengers of the vehicle were using shovels to pour soil and removing excess snow on the road. As we had stopped too close to the vehicle, our cab needed to be reversed to a straighter section first, from where enough momentum could be generated so as to climb the steep slope again. The only problem was that doing such a manoeuvre on snow is generally very risky, as the car may start slipping on the little snow left on the road. The worst case scenario could be complete loss of control of the vehicle and a plummet down the steep gorge. The wall of snow formed after removing the snow off the road can help in such situations as it acts like a barricade and can stop the vehicle. As the cab driver was well aware of the danger, he utilised his experience and with utmost precision reversed the cab. He got down and poured some soil near the rear tyres so that they got a decent grip while accelerating. By this time the Tempo Traveller had also managed to get moving again. Our cab then started climbing again and on approaching the curve we saw that the Tempo Traveller was stuck again, but this time a little further ahead of us.
Our cab driver then managed to park the car on the road side on a patch which was cleared for either vehicles to pass or in some cases to get the initial momentum going if one got stuck during the climb. He then got down with his shovel and went ahead to help the people with the Tempo Traveller. We also got down to get a closer look. It was windy and small rocks were coming down from the hillside onto the road. The cab driver asked us to get inside the car so that we wouldn’t get injured from the shooting rocks, while he himself continued to work with the shovel. After a few minutes the Tempo Traveller managed to get through and our cab driver returned to the car.
We are now on the move again and have finally crossed the Mane Dhank section successfully. The rest of the vehicles (which were behind us till we got stuck) had already overtaken us at Lingti while we were shifting our luggage from the Xylo to the hired Sumo. As of now, we are in the last vehicle to cross Mane Dhank, headed towards Rekong Peo from Kaza today. There is no network on our mobile phones so we have no news on what is the situation with Mr. Mehta at Lingti.