Culture

The Long Day On A Hard New Trail

Day-3 Tundabhuj to Oddithach:

“Life is a either a daring adventure or nothing.” – This famous quote by Helen Keller perfectly describes our Day-3 trek to Oddithach.

The Pin Parvati Pass trek is a 10-day affair usually, but we were attempting this trek in 7 days. So instead of camping at Thakurkuan at 3,560 m (11,679ft) on Day-3, we were pushing ourselves to camp at Oddithach at an altitude of 3,755m (12,319ft). We broke camp at Tundabhuj and started our trek following the Parvati river upstream to our destination with our packed lunches.

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Above the treeline ahead of Tundabhuj; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Parvati valley looking towards Tundabhuj; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

The previous trail till Thakurkuan was across a wooden bridge on Parvati river, followed by a gradual ascent through alpine meadows and finally crossing over Parvati river by a trolley bridge. Unfortunately both the bridges are broken this year, so we were taking a new route opened by the first group this year, which is on the right of Parvati river.
This new route requires rock climbing at places followed by a steep ascent and then continuing on and joining the old trail near Thakurkuan. Ahead of Thakurkuan the route ascends to Pandupul, a natural rock bridge over Parvati river and continuing on to Oddithach through a series of gradual ascends and descends.

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Broken span bridge leading to the old trail; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Treading on the new route; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

Like yesterday the gradual ascent through Pine forests and the beauty of the Parvati valley kept us engaged till the broken wooden bridge. Moving ahead from here, we arrived at the first rock climb, where I was advised to handover my heavy rucksack to the support staff to tackle the steep rock face. After the rock climb the trail till the next steep climb was fairly easy. We started scaling the steep climb at a slow pace, occasionally pausing and gazing at the easy, old trail across the the valley.

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Steep climb ahead of rock climbing area; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Traffic at high altitude; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

We arrived at Thakurkaun by afternoon and continued on to cross over a stream by a makeshift bridge. Once everyone had crossed the stream, we settled down to have our packed lunches. After replenishing our energy levels, we pushed forward towards Pandupul. We reached Pandupul by late afternoon, by this time some of the team members were feeling tired.

Pandupul is one of the reasons which makes this trek difficult. There have been reported casualties at this point of the trek and various instances of people turning back from here, due to the dangers involved. Pandupul consists of two huge boulders over Parvati river. The former being more dangerous to tackle than the latter. The first boulder requires walking on a very narrow intermittent crimp across the rock face. The second boulder is relatively easy to climb and has a make shift rock stairs to descend on the other side.
The thrill of bouldering over first rock got the better of our tiredness, more so when Sonam lost her footing on the rock and was helped by our guide onto the other side. Thankfully tackling the second boulder was uneventful and we descended safely through the rock stairs on the other side.

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Trekkers camping at Thakurkuan; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Moving ahead of Thakurkuan; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Approaching Pandupul; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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First natural rock bridge of Pandupul; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Crossing Pandupul-1; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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The second rock bridge of Pandupul; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Pandupul-2 this is how the descent looks from top; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal

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Descending Pandupul-2; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

We started the final ascent of the day above Pandupul and arrived at a valley and pressed on towards Oddithach. Most of us were tired now and progress was slow. Abhishek and I were at the back ensuring everyone reaches safely. Walking had become mechanical for us, we were continuing at the back of the team, without any thought of the destination.

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Trail to Oddithach ahead of Pandupul; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

It was already dusk and day light had started fading. At one point with no campsite in sight, Sonam got overwhelmed and broke down. This was her first experience of rigorous walking in the mountains. After some rest and snacks, she gathered herself. After some more walking, we noticed the campsite being set up ahead. We sent for guides and support staff to help Sonam. Finally after 10 hours, we reached the campsite at Oddithach.

We settled in our tents as the evening turned into moonlit night. The campsite looked beautiful bathed in the moon light, with Parvati river towards our south and mountains soaring over us in all directions. After dinner, the tiredness of the eventful day finally caught up to us and everyone drifted off to sleep.

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