Day-5 Maantalai to Parvati Base Camp:
The one thing that I have learnt by observing our guides and support staff on treks and expeditions over the years – Walk at your own pace while carrying the full load on your back, and during breaks, get rid of that load off your back. The past couple of days for me and Abhishek had been more of the other way around. The upcoming terrain required us to be more patient (slow) and careful, walking behind the team, so today we decided to optimise our loads.
Today we were to walk to Parvati Base Camp at an altitude of 4617 m (15147 ft). The trail till Parvati Base Camp is a steep climb on the mountain face on the left of Maantalai, after which it continues through moraines on a relatively low gradient till the base camp.
The weather at Maantalai was overcast, which was good news for us, as we wouldn’t have to climb in harsh high altitude sun. After getting ready, we started the journey and as we noticed another group calling off the trek and turning back from Maantalai camp, the fact that whatever awaited us ahead was no easy cake was confirmed.
Continuing on the banks of Maantalai after a series of small ascents and descents, we arrived at a Naala. Being early in the morning, the water levels in the glacial Naala were low. Taking off our shoes, we walked through the shin-deep freezing waters. Once on the other side, we dried our feet quickly and started the near vertical climb through the rocks.
As we gained altitude, the view of the glaciers and streams and Maantalai below was mesmerising. Although we were missing the view of the high mountains still hidden in the clouds cover, we weren’t complaining – for thanks to the cloud cover, achieving the first milestone on the sheer steep climb was less tiring.
Catching our breath on a cliff en-route, we saw that the trail looked hard from here onward, with an almost vertical climb on big rocks. As we climbed on, things got tougher as the streams flowing down the mountain side made the soil and rocks slippery. Abhishek advised that in order to be on the safe side, our guide should rope up Isha and Sonam, and secure the rear end of the rope on me. With this arrangement, we continued tackling this section of the climb.
Half an hour later, everyone was atop the steep section of the climb. We were glad that the rocky section was over. The ascent ahead was on grass, which was easier to walk on, but it was all still a climb. The mental toughness of our first time trekkers was being tested today, and we knew things were about to get more difficult in coming days. Continuing on the climb, we finally arrived in a valley enclosed by high mountains on either side and streams flowing through the middle. Here we took some rest again. Knowing that we were close to the base camp, our guide stayed back with Sonam who was snacking on her lunch and we moved on the trail along the valley of moraines.
By the time we reached base camp area, it had started snowing and a white out had engulfed the entire valley. We took refuge under a huge rock across the stream, awaiting our guide to direct us towards the campsite. Finally our guide along with Sonam arrived at base camp area and shouted out that there was no need to cross the stream and the campsite lay on the side where he stood. We crossed the stream back again in the snowfall and hurried to erect our tents. By the time the tents were ready, we were completely drenched. We got into our tents and quickly changed into dry outfits.
After having our packed lunches with hot soup, everyone felt rejuvenated. Finally the weather cleared and sun shined in the valley as evening crept in. It was decided to leave early tomorrow so as to make it to Pin Parvati Pass before afternoon. Considering this, everyone had an early dinner and we were off to bed by 7:00 p.m. itself.