‘Pin Parvati Pass’ is a high altitude pass at 5319 metres (17450 feet) above sea-level, connecting Parvati Valley in Kullu district to Pin Valley in Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh in India. This trek is a trans-Himalayan expedition – it was first undertaken in August 1884 by Sir Louis Dane in search of an alternate route to the Spiti valley.
Considered one of the hardest treks in India, I had been eagerly waiting for an opportunity to undertake it. So when The Mountain Walker announced its maiden Pin Parvati trek, I was the first one to sign on. It was planned such that we would start from Parvati Valley, following the Parvati River till Maantalai lake, ascending and crossing the Pin Pass, and then descending to conclude our trek at Mudh in Pin Valley.
The first day of the trek was from Barshaini (2174m; 7132ft) to Khirganga (3100m; 10170ft) – a distance of approximately 11 kilometres. The trail is well defined as it is frequented by pilgrims due to the religious importance of Khirganga (also spelled ‘Kheer Ganga’ and ‘Kheerganga’).
We reached Barshaini where our guides and support staff were waiting for us. After introductions and general discussions about the route, we started for Khirganga. After a couple of hours of walking through pine forests, we arrived at Nakthan, a sleepy Himalayan village. Taking a break from our rucksacks, we sat down to enjoy a bowl of hot Maggi noodles and chai, while absorbing the village atmosphere. Himachal Pradesh is famous for its apples and Nakthan (like any other village in these parts) has a row of Apple orchards. The person at the orchard gave us some freshly plucked apples for our journey ahead and we continued our walk towards the sacred Rudranag Waterfall.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at the Rudranag Waterfall and after crossing the bridge over the wild Parvati river, we began our ascent to Khirganga. Some of the team members were a bit tired, so we took our time on the ascent and finally arrived at Khirganga in the evening accompanied by a slight drizzle.
Khirganga is a meadow atop a hill surrounded by pine forests. The main attraction here are the hot springs, which are considered holy by Hindus and Sikhs. I was surprised by the amount of commercialisation of the place due to the high number of pilgrims and tourists arriving here.
We reached the campsite where our guide and support staff were waiting for us and we helped them in setting up our tents. After settling down and having a cup of hot soup, everyone gathered around a bonfire, enjoying the moonlit meadow. Dinner was served and post dinner everyone retired to their tents.
The first day ended in bit of a disappointment for me, as I was expecting to camp at a quiet, secluded place. But I was sure that as we moved to higher altitudes, we would move closer to wilderness and away from civilisation.