It all started when we all gathered at Regional Adventure Sports Centre (RASC) at Hatkoti, Shimla on April 25. We were a team of seven – Pranav Rawat (team leader), Rohit Thakur (deputy leader), Hament Sharma (High Altitude Photographer), Puneet Rawat, Pawan Nagta, Monu Bragta and Vibhor Joshi (totally non-climber).
The fact that Col. H.S. Chauhan (Director, Indian Mountaineering Foundation) helped us pick the right equipment (on rent) helped.
The real thing started the next day. On April 26, we all embarked on our journey into the unknown, with snowy mountains to give us company, in a utility jeep. Our first stop was the last village of Pabbar Valley i.e. Janglik in beautiful Himachal.
Natives were uncomfortable seeing a group of city men (all smartly dressed-up with gear) going above tree line. They just couldn’t refrain themselves from asking the purpose of our visit and our destination ahead. A few of them couldn’t fathom why we were going trekking and joked as if we were going to commit suicide. But we ignored them smilingly. With blessings of Mata Hateshwari and Jakh Devta, we started our trek in the afternoon.
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Snow was far more than we thought – that was a surprise! It was getting tougher to open route in snow with just trekking boots. Load in our sacks was killing us as we didn’t arrange any HAP (High Altitude Porter) for this trek. We reached Simru Thach (Gazing ground) at 5 pm. It was again full of snow which was surprising. But it was an easy first day as we stayed in an abandoned hut.
Nature had planned a beautiful surprise for us – mesmerising snowfall started in the evening. Oh! It was heavenly.
Next morning we left for Litham Thach under clear blue sky. Route was quite tough as the area was covered with thick layers of snow. Then we realised that the load was too much for us. We spend 3 hours to reach DayaraThach which actually requires half an hour. Since mind was challenged to its limits; it all seemed tough. The entire valley was covered with thick snow and there was no place to rest. But the group was determined and managed to reach Litham by dusk.
Everyone was exhausted and sadly we had wet climbing boots by now. And guess what? We had to camp on snow. Good thing was water was available as river was not frozen.
In night we decided to leave some ration behind to reduce excess weight from our bags in order to advance forward to our destination with less effort and in lesser time. We left 25 kg of ration the next morning in Litham and started to camp next at BuranThach. Snow in certain areas was waist line deep and in some areas the depth was till chest line. It was tough! And it was tougher for the group to move ahead, we all decided on an in -line formation with Team Leader being first person to move forward and the rest followed him. The gap between each individual was 50 steps. The technique was a success and by 4 pm we were at our targeted area i.e. BuranThach.
There was no water in the camp, so two of us decided to get some water from the melting snow. That was not enough of course, and we had to light a fire in order to melt snow for drinking water (and also to re-fill our water bottles).
Next morning it was the D-day of trek. We were up early at 7 am and found ourselves in the middle of deadly slopes of snow and rock. Snow conditions were tough and to top it all, blowing winds made the trek almost impossible. While most of us were gung-ho about the way ahead, few were furious as it was getting tough for our team’s ‘non-climbers’. But we all followed in-line formation correctly and by 12 noon we were on base of GunasGully. What seemed to be achievable in 2 hours actually took 5 hrs.
Then something unexpected happened. One of our team members Puneet, who was leading the team at that point was on a 90 degree climb when he met with a fall of 10 meter. The most experienced team members (Pranav and Rohit) took the charge and fixed 200 mts of rope on 90 degree straight mountain. If it was tough for them, you could imagine the fate of non-climbers.
Experienced team members were kind enough to keep travel bags with themselves and allowed less experienced team members to make a climb without any extra load.
This Gully took 6 hours as we move on to Gunas pass by 6 pm.
An amazing feeling engulfed each one of us as we reached on top. All the pain of sun burns on face, aching feet, dehydration was worth every bit of it. No one wanted to return but we all had to as night falls in mountains rather quickly than cities. So we all decided to return from summit and make tents for night rest. As the stove started warming it was the time to get some water and food.
Next morning we all were thrilled to realise the descending was less than half the time against climbing. On our way back, we met few Everesters from Indian Army later told us that Gunas-Pass is undoable in April month of the year. I guess the blessings of “Baring Naag” (god from folklores) has always been with us & ultimately helped us to return safely with his temple visit on our way back.