One of my first trek in Mumbai was at Sandhan Valley. Since I am new to Mumbai and don’t know many people here I decided to look through Facebook to find some travelling group and that’s  how I came to know about aberrant wanderers. I have one word for these guys and that’s “Awesome!”.

The team at Sandhan Valley
The team at Sandhan Valley

The whole trip was a wonderful experience. A trip with so many fond memories and with so many wonderful people. Sandhan Valley is an amazing place to trek. It’s not an easy one and you might have to climb, slide, roll, wade through hip-deep freezing water, rappel down waterfalls, it will definitely make you take a deep breath but the view you get to witness and the place you camp will definitely take your breath away! The leads were really amazing people. So patient, so caring and they took care of us from the beginning until the end. Kudos to Sanketh and team for organising this wonderful trek! To me personally, I don’t think I will be travelling with any other group other than Aberrant wanderers. I hope I can join you guys on another adventure really soon!

dehne bridge at end of sandhan trek
Dehne bridge at end of the sandhan trek

By Anand Ramanathan,

ABWs Sandhan Valley Trek on 25th-26th November 2017

Stok Kangri – A name that always made my eyes pop-out whenever someone told me about it.!

stok kangri
Living up-to my dreams of doing at least 3 himalayan treks in a year, I decided to do Stok as the third one of the season.
Accordingly, we took a road-trip to leh From Jaipur in a Nano.

on the way to leh
on the way to leh

Meeting Chirag after two long years was a treat. Even after staying 2kms close, we never met in Mumbai. So had a lot to talk and share about. Next day morning I was introduced to the team.

chirag on the way to mankormo
(chirag on the way to mankormo)

Giri and Anuj were going to be our guide. Sandesh and Anurag were from Nasik, Chirag and we three idiots (Ganesh Anna, Niraj & me). Being an high altitude trek ,it is recommended to get acclimatize well so we went out for an acclimatization walk. On our Previous trip to leh, we had missed Leh Palace n Shanti Stupa so it was a good decision to visit them.

leh palace

Entering the Leh Palace, first thing that crosses your mind is the “Height”. Wonder how the tiny King stayed in that palace for a lifetime. We walked up the trail and headed to the palace above leh palace. It offers a very good view from the Top. But I was told that Stupa had more scenic view and so we proceeded through the streets of Leh.

streets of lehWalking through the streets of Leh, you realize that everything is so “pretty and cute” there. I mean the kids and the veggie farms.

leh streets
leh streets


Stupa is really a good place to visit, peaceful and a scienic one. We headed down from the stairs and made our way back to our guesthouse through the market. I had never seen the other end of the market and so was surprised to see so many foreigners on the way.

shanti stupa

Post Lunch we were hanging out in the hotel and got our equipment checked for the trek. Evening time was spent in the market to purchase whatever was left out. Also, we had to visit our
beloved over-priced Doctor friend who’s fees made us sick every time. But this time Anna had decided to get the most out of it and thus the moment he asked for Tea, a spontaneous YES! came out from him. After having delicious dinner, we returned to the hotel where Giri and Anuj briefed us about the whole trek.

Day 2 of the trek began where we were supposed to trek upto Camp 2 which was Mankormo at an elevation of 4400mtrs. Trek to Mankormo is a boring one.. with lot of walk.. and morraine.. and the sharp mountain edges..

stok kangri

Somehow I never had that exciting feeling about this trek.. maybe.. because of the hectic drive from Jaipur.. through those killer passes.. though I was totally fit physically. It was a new experience to meet unusual and professional trekkers from all over the globe. I always love to learn something new from everything that I come across.. be it a person.. a path.. a mountain.. etc. We began late but had a good pace so made it by 5pm.

giri crossing river stream
giri crossing river stream

Mankormo is located at a perfect location.. can be rightly said as the “turning point” of the trek. With little headache in everyone’s head, no one was in a mood to setup camp and make arrangements for food. Somehow I gathered energy and helped the cook and Anuj to settle things. It was first night of the trek so it had to be spent out in the open. But then, the “not so excited” mood continued and I hopped back into the sleeping bag and the day ended with sandy’s voice calling me out of tent.

(Milky way seen from mankormo)
(Milky way seen from mankormo)

Day3 of the trek starts with the most idiotic but good thing of the camp site. To use only public washrooms, good and bad at the same time.. good for the environment and bad because it had no doors. So, we had to go in pairs.. with or with our partner in crime.. 😛 After winding up the camp, we headed to the Base Camp of Stok which was 500mtrs higher than Monkormo. A nice hike of 3hours with gradual incline and pretty Marmots welcoming us.. After climbing up the last patch before base camp, It feels like you are on something big and serious mission.

stok kangri base camp

The grandeur of Base camp is just amazing. I had slight headache which went off as I had warm water.. Others.!! were terribly exhausted and I could see the “low oxygen effects”. Everyone went to sleep as soon as the camp was setup. Me, on the other hand.. took out my camera.. & JBL.. and was enjoying the silence and the super wide spread beauty of those Barren Mountains and skies..

summit trail
summit trail

On our back side.. was the gateway to Heaven.. The road to summit of Stok.. I could see people coming one by one and then reaching the campsite by and hour where they were welcomed by their team mates.. Some happy to ‘make it’.. Some.. happy to get ‘back alive’.. and some happy to see them “make-it-back-alive”

blue sheeps
blue sheeps

Post Lunch, I visited the place where Mobile network was there.. It was very touching to see people’s face after talking to their loved ones.. And I still wonder why I lack “that” feeling…

chirag trying to call
chirag trying to call

Anyway.. talking about the trek.. We went to the adjacent peak and almost gained around 5oomtrs which was a very satisfying achievement for me.. and others too..
We sat for a moment.. enjoyed the view, saw the most Famous Khardung La Pass until the weather turned Bad and we made our way back to the camp.

khardung la pass
khardung la pass

Later, that evening during dinner, our guide and cook told us that the weather has remained bad from past two days. But we were too busy with food to think about the weather.
Anna and Sandy had puked earlier so they were skipping food…

bad weather
bad weather at camp

Due to Rains, everyone went in tents and slept.. Me and Niraj were listening to songs and even anna fell asleep in few minutes.. I remember the time on my watch.. 9:35PM and Niraj was telling about his new wife.. I mean his new life.. and we dozed off.
“Machan… please wake up Machan.. I’m not able to breathe..”
That was Anna’s Voice with a severe fear in it.. and I woke up in all my senses the moment I saw him. And Later the discussion went like..

Me : What Happened Anna?

Ganesh : Don’t know Machan.. I’m getting bad dreams…

Me: What kind of dreams machan??

Ganesh : I feel like you are running behind me trying to hold my neck and kill me.. and so I run from you and get into a house where two women are doing something to me..

Me : WHAT!? Why would I do that.? Have some water machan… you might have got suffocated..

The most terrifying moment was when he couldn’t balance himself.. he was getting Hallucinations…. he had lost his balance totally.. Somehow I lifted him, took him out and gave him hot water… made him walk, tried to bring him back to senses and made him familiar with the scenario.. After few minutes he was relaxed and we went back to sleep..
But it didn’t end there.. I could hear him murmuring in sleep and all I heard was.. “Please save me machan.. I don’t want to die.. I have two families to take care of.. I want to get married..”
And the most quick reaction from my tiny brain was a slap.. I woke up Niraj and told that something is seriously wrong with Anna. I went out and knocked on Giri and Anuj’s tent..
Giri asked me what was the matter.. I could figure out that he was in deep sleep.. but I had to inform him and so I told him about ganesh’s body loosing his balance And the reply I got was.. “Left me gir raha hai.?? Toh left me sula do usko..”
And that was the most funniest moment of the whole Trek.. I was laughing out lying on the ground like an idiot.. coz only I knew the reason.. Somehow I controlled my smile.. got back and asked him to give Diamox to Ganesh.. because nothing was possible to do at night.
Giri sir came out and checked with Ganesh.. convinced him that everything will be alright and have a good sleep..

stok kangri
night at stok camp

But things just got worse in the morning and Ganesh couldn’t even get up from the place..
Yesterday I had seen a group of experienced Himalayan doctors in our neighbour camp. So I asked Giri to call them and made them check Ganesh. The moment they checked his Lungs they realized that it was a case of HAPE(High Altitude Pulmonary Adema) in which water starts accumulating in our Lungs..
I have always admired these foreign climbers for their skills and Safety measures, whereas we Indians have that “Chalta hai” atitude which leads to most of accidents..
So they gave some first aid injections to Anna and told us to lower him immediately..
But it was difficult to find a mule so early in the morning. So We were left with no choice but to make a stretcher and lower Anna. Unfortunately, all the money makers organizers were not ready to share a rope for the same..
Looking at the Delay, One of the Doctors scolded us in Dutch and which meant that we had only 1hr to lower him down or else he’ll die.
Hearing his words.. I decided to carry him on back and descend down.. And Me,Giri, anuj and our guide took him to Monkormo..

sick anna at monkormo camp
sick anna at monkormo camp

Being an emergency, we were in our true form.. we descended in and hour and made Anna rest were constantly checking his oxygen level and pulse. But he didn’t feel better and so Anuj,Puran and me decided to take him to Leh.
Giri had asked me to Stop and let anuj and puran do the needful. But Anna used to take my name more number of times than he took of the almighty.. Which left me no choice but to go along with him..
We made it to Stok village by 3PM.. By the time we reached stok… Anna was back in action.. guess the medicines worked well… We took him to leh Hospital as a formality and got him checked.
After visiting Leh Hospital, My love for Leh increased by 100times. To know the reason, get admitted.:P
We were looking at the Peak and could see the change in weather and all it got was “ugly” After skipping two dishes anna had a half parantha and we went back to our hotel.
Now, all I had in mind was whether to attempt the summit in a day or to stay back and wait for the team. Anuj and me had something different after 3days of same food at camp. People were surprised to see me online 2days before the schedule. I asked Anuj whether it was a good decision to climb up or to stay back. He agreed and we went back to sleep.

summit day
summit day mornings

Day 5 of the trek was a big day for me.. as I had decided to do something that was very challenging for me.. But as per my calculations we made it to monrkorma within 1.5hrs and till Base camp in another 1.5hrs… I took 2 hours as it was not that easy for me.. The moment we reached base camps all the dull faces of our team mates bloomed. The reason behind the dull faces was the ‘ugly climate’ which was saw from Leh the other day..
Gaining 1600mtrs in a day had started showing its effect on my body.. AMS.. and I was half dead after an hour.. skipped food.. couldn’t sleep for the summit.. and refused to take Diamox..
We began our summit at 11:34 at midnight.. other groups had started off two hours early and they were pretty ahead of us. Niraj and me shared a single sack which made us tired halfway..

summit trek
(summit trek & glacier view)

We made it somewhere near shoulder of the peak and I decided to return.. So me and niraj returned at 5am.. as I lowered my condition began to get worse.. After every 10 steps I use to sit and puke.. I had no idea why I backed off from that height.. but after looking at myself.. I feel that it was the right decision..! We reached back in our tents at 6:15am and fell asleep.

stok kangri summit
(stok kangri summit)

I could hear sandy’s voice and it was 9:45.. but I preferred to rest than to go out and ask what happened.
So, at 11:30, when i finally woke up, I came to know that Chirag was the only one who summitted and rest whole team had returned.. I was very happy for Chirag to make it to the summit as he wasn’t well during the whole trek. After the summit attempt, no one was interested to stay a minute more at the base camp as it was their 3rd day and the weather wasn’t so pleasing…
But we had to wait because of the mules. All we could do is play cards and enjoy music, drain all the power banks.. and eat pakodas.. 😀

fun time in tents
fun time in tents

Next Day We left for Leh, it was a fun descend.. biding adieu to the mighty Stok.. those tiny marmots.. blue sheeps.. It was like.. I had byhearted the route in those 3times of ascend and descends..

marmots on the trek
marmots on the trek

So, I was enjoying a lot.. skipping stones.. jumping from one boulder to other.. matching giri’s pace and breaking our own records..

chang ma
chang ma

Everyone was pretty swift until i took out JBL and everyone’s pace slowed down.. and people began to dance while walking on their way down.. 😛

Reaching back to Hotel.. we found that Anna was no more..

“But why Nano.?”

Because it’s challenging.. I replied.

Tanvi’s dad had already marked us “3 idiots” after listening to our decision.
This wasn’t the first time someone had asked us such exclamating questions.
It all started with a thought of doing the Stok Kangri Trek which is considered as one of the toughest trek in Himalayas.

stok kangri
To Reach Leh by road, one has to take the Manali-leh highway or Srinagar-leh highway both of these routes are considered as dangerous routes in the world.
But God wanted us to add some more adventure to our journey, so we took a detour and took another route which goes via Saach Pass and connects Chamba Valley with Pangi Valley. This stretch of 167kms is total offroad and driving a Nano was like watching an ant climb a hillock.

attari border

 

After witnessing the patroitic grandeur of the Retreat ceremony at Attari, we left the border at 7pm and drove till Pathankot without any major halts. After continuously driving for 6hours,anna had began to feel sleepy.. but being a confident driver he managed to cover another 30kms stretch after which he gave up.

IMG_8861
all this time, the owner of the car Mr. Sharma was asleep and remained in the same position until I took the wheel 😛 I still remember that big question mark on his face while asking me “Tumhe driving aati hai.?”
So now it was my turn to continue the journey and reach till keylong which was our next halt as planned. Watching me drive sharma ji was impressed and scared at the same time… because I almost felt like I was driving in some NeedForSpeed racing game.

enroute saach
enroute saach

The super curvy roads with Jackals hopping in between and the gradually increasing depth of valley with every turn made me happier and sharmaji scarier…
After riding for another 5hrs, I managed to reach Bairagad, the last place where you’ll get a petrol pump before the off road of Saach paas begins.
Early morning view from the petrol pump was amazing. That also made us realized that we were at a good elevation.. of almost 6oooft.
Anna had already made provisions for extra fuel, so we had an equal amount of fuel with the car’s capacity.The roads after the pump kept on climbing and climbing and every village that we came across after that had lesser number of house than the previous ones. Also, sharmaji observed that even the people were getting lazier as all doors were shut and it felt like some haunted village. But sharma ji couldn’t make out that someone close to him was also getting lazy and dizzy… yeah, that was me.!! 😛
After driving on those short curves for whole night long, I had started slightly losing control on the wheel. And then it happened…
My hands got loose and the car went towards the cliff side. Luckily, anna noticed it and within no time he pulled the steering on the left and lifted the handbrake.!
After that incident, it took us 10minutes to get back to normal.. because everyone had imagined themselves in the valley inside a small wrecked car.
That left No chance of me driving again for the day.. that was for sure.!
So anna took the wheel back in hand and continued the journey…

nano
After around 16kms of drive we saw a glimpse of how the rest of our journey is going to be… through streams… I mean.. pushing the cutie pie Nano through the streams..
We had no other choice so without complaining me and sharma ji started pushing her through uphill offroads.. through stones and pebbles.
The 1st tough climb had damaged her parts and we could make out from the smell which was of the clutch plate… Anna and me knew that it was the plate which was getting worn out, but it wasn’t sufficient to convince the owner. so we took a break and refilled our bottles and stomach.
After a km ahead again the offroad continued… and then we realized that we were at 7800ft and climbing.. Getting at this height was no doubt an achievement, but it started making us exhausted and that made our halts bigger and bigger.. Everytime sharma ji n me used to push that little toy car up, anna used to take it 200-300mtrs ahead on a flat road.. Those 300mtrs we felt like… 2 zombies walking in that lushed green forest pathway.. slowly gathering all breathe and taking a step..slipping our feet from stones at times and yet going till the car and getting in because it was quite cold and we were hungry. so we decided to halt and have some energy.

tired Niraj

The amount of greenery and the beauty of the Chamba Valley cannot be described in words.. Those coniferous tall trees,some fallen some risen till the skies… the sharp cuts in the mountains.. water streams making their way through them.. the depth of the valley with a steep slope and still we could see some routes climbing up… the sound of the water gushing through huge boulders was so constant.. and yet the chirpping of the birds was so loud and clear as if someone had the control on these voices.. it was 8:38am, I remember, I could see the sun on the other mountain range and here, it was dark due to the forest cover…
“Abey chal jaate hai..” sharma ji said.. and that made me get back to the reality that we had 114kms of offroading left and that too in an extra-ordinary vehicle.
The ” Push-Run-Rest-Repeat” mode continued till we reached checkpost which was at an alti of 10500ft. Hats-off to those guys who stand there throughout the year irrespective of the worse climatic conditions.
Himachalis have always been kind.. and that always make me feel at home.
to my surprise they also clicked our pictures as record. We met a group of Enfield riders who were returning half way as it was too difficult to cross the road ahead.. that made us nervous at first.. but as decided, “chahe kuch bhi ho.. Nano ‘Leh’ jeyenge” and we started the Engine.. the so called auto-rickshaw sound began and it grabbed the attention of all the police n locals who were at the post..
Luckily, the road was good.. with even surface.. lesser potholes.. low gradient climb.. but a continous one.. “Takudoo” as anna called the nano which meant “dear” in his language.. managed to reach atop Saach and that brought a smile to our faces.

@Saach pass
But this smile was short lived as we realised that we had an equal amount of road left for descend. Descend began.. the top of Saach’s road had Ice walls as tall as around 10ft. Getting down turned out to be more risky as steering used to rotate on it’s own due to rocks. Somehow Sharmaji managed to make it halfway down at the dhaba where everyone was found busy as the local forest minister was supposed to visit anytime. Without taking much rest and food we continued our journey to Keylong.

Road after the dhaba was more curvy and tiring… after an hour anna gave up and I had to bounce back in the Driver’s seat. Being the culprit of this trip, I had no other choice but to get the trio out of this “suddenly turned into a nightmare” Road trip. This time I kept the music loud so that I won’t fall asleep and continued to drive.. After ending up the valley, we crossed a river and made our way to the nearest village Khillar. Before we could take a deep breathe and relax, our car got stuck into mud and got stuck.. Anna tested all his skills to get the car but ended up in vain. And then tragedy stroked and the car broke.
After half an hour, I managed to ask a Taxi person to tow the car and park it at the local garage. Luckily, I had carried a rope and carabiners to tow so half of the towing job was done.
It was the 1st time, people of Khillar had seen a Nano coming from Saach and making it to Khillar. Two mechanics refused to look into the car and check for the fault. But then there was this guy Sanju, who had migrated from Manali and so he had a fair idea about the car. After diagnosing he told us that the clutch plate had completely worn out and that it had to be ordered all the way back from Chamba. We made up our mind that it was going to be a long stay here.
Accordingly, we kept our luggage in the garage and went to explore the tiny village of Khillar. Next Day, I woke up and realized that we had actually spent a night in the garage.

in Garage

The view that we saw after opening the shutter of the garage was something one will ever dream of seeing through their windows. Two huge mountains,with roads which looked like small lines drawn on them and a furious flowing river deep down the valley. Looking at the river reminded me that we came up all the way up from there. Getting out of the garage, I came across the hotel which we were searching earlier for Dinner. Anna and Sharma had skipped food because they were very disappointed so they were hogging breakfast as if it was the last one.

at khillar
The Hotel stood at a perfect location because it was just above the garage which turned out to be our home for one more day. Sadly, no clutch plate was available in Chamba town.. By that time, almost half of the village had began to knew us.

View from hotel

So, one of them found out a way to get the plate from Kullu which was far away from the small village that was in the Pangi Valley. That night, the mechanic had went somewhere far to fix a truck and had left the whole garage on some 3 unknown kids whom he didn’t knew at all.

IMG_8944

It was 2nd evening and all we could do is watch the sun set behind the Mountains sitting on the tractor which was lying beside our broken Nano.

at the garage

@khillar
3rd Day started with a short run down the lane and while running down, we saw Sanju coming back in a truck and that made us head back to the garage. The moment I reached back, I saw a box which was kept outside of garage. With every cover that i unfolded, i couldn’t stop smiling.. the plate had arrived.!

20160721_091438

Now, came the 2nd half of the major Task.. fixing the plate and putting up everything back in it’s place. Sanjay had taken a day and half to dismantle the car and that had given a fair idea that he is going to take atleast a day to fix it. So I decided to help him in every possible way to get it done fast.. Meanwhile, Anna and SharmaJi preferred taking a bath on 4th day after 2days of convincing to the cunning manager of Raj Hotel.
Lifting an engine all by yourself is not an easy job. But getting out from here is all i had in mind. So my little brain made a pulley with everything i had and lifted the engine and allowed Sanju to fix it. By this time, it was noon and Sanju had began to lose patience.. after every 30minutes, he used to smoke a Bidi, change the spanner and would get under the car and continue his fixing job.
Finally, the car got ready by 4pm. After a test drive by Anna it was ready to roll. We all had nothing in our stomach so had to eat first before starting our journey to Keylong which was still 110kms ahead.

Thanks to all

Almost everyone who knew that we were leaving greeted and wished us a happy and safe journey and gave us the maps and directions to Keylong..
Everything went will in the first 3kms until…..

To be continued…

Jaipur-leh(Part-2)…

This was the first year of Kokankada Festival held on Harishchandragad Fort.

The idea of organizing a fest in outdoors was to bring together experienced people from various field of adventure and share their experiences to the new generation hikers/trekkers. Also to promote Local folklore and business.

It was successfully organized & managed by Aberrant Wanderers team along with the help of Bhaskar Badad, a very resourceful person from Paachnai village residing on kokankada.

The event consisted of :

  1. Short Films & Documentries shot on Harishchandragad
  2. Local Folklore & dance.
  3. Skit Perfomed by Theatre Infinity
  4. Handicraft exhibition & sale.
  5. Harishchandragad clean up project

Few clicks from the event:

kokankada fest'16

 

kokankada curve
kokankada curve

kokankada fest'16

 

kokankada fest'16

 

kokankada fest'16 kokankada fest'16

 

kokankada fest'16

theatre infinity
theatre infinity
sunset
sunset
the team
the team
campsite
campsite
local dance
local dance

 

Around 70-80 people attended the event. We hope the second year will be a bigger success and will involve everyone who couldn’t make it this time….