The Dhauladhars though known as the lesser Himalayas are no less to them when it comes to the beauty and treacherous paths. These mountains have a peculiar topography. Although mostly made up of granite, the flanks of the range exhibit frequent formations of slate ( a material majorly used for rooftops there). Ascending Minkiani Pass like most other Dhauladhar peaks is an onerous task as amost all the ascends are near vertical. The vegetation at those heights is sparse because of the harsh conditions but on descending a few thousand feet one can find splendid meadows and lakes. These places are the most resourceful for the shepherds.
I set out to reach Kareri village from Chandigarh. Kareri village is the last road head before starting the trek to Minkiani Pass. Kareri is a village situated at a distance of around 20 odd kms from the town of Dharamshala. One can easily find cars/jeep to the village, no buses run up to the village as of now due to the lack of metaled roads. If one feels to take a hike there is a route from Naddi village which is 3 Kms from Mcleodganj. The hike itself is 9 kms long but has some amazing views to offer.
On reaching Kareri village one can either camp in their own tents or seek shelter in some house. The villagers there are pleasantly helpful and would willingly offer you shelter and meals. I had a contact of a guide from my previous trip and stayed the night at his place. He was kind enough to offer me a sumptuous meal. The village was packed with small pretty traditional houses with all happy people, a tad bothered by the demonetization though
The trek to Minkiani Pass is advisable to complete in 4 days though I under the influence of the guide did it in 3. After the pains I experienced for the next few days, i’d say; terrible decision. So anyways we left at 9 in the morning. The usual route that most of the other hikers take is:
Kareri Village >> Riyoti Campsite >> Kareri Lake >> Minkiani Pass >> Kareri Village
So they start from the village and spend a night at Riyoti, move to Kareri lake on the next day and camp there. The third day is for the climb to the Minkiani Pass and back to the campsite at the lake. What me and my guide did was:
Kareri Village >> Kareri Lake >> Minkiani pass >> Village
We reached the lake from the village in the same day. The next day we climbed up to the pass and came back at the campsite near the lake. After spending the night there we reached the village the next morning.
The beauty and the dread of Passes
Minkiani Pass is a doorway to Chamba through Dharamshala. It’s fascinating how two places spread at a distance of more than 100 miles by road are just a pass away from each other. Like you ascend a mountain and you can see both places at once though climbing passes is certainly not as easy as driving to places. It appears easy for people who haven’t been there and done that. People who have rather just watched them from a distance and wondered how easy it is to step on the other end of it.
It might sound that I am overemphasizing on the fact that it is not a thing for enthusiastic amateurs but it is an important aspect which everyone should understand. I myself was a sanguine adventurer in the past but certain moments and stories changed my perspective towards it all. Even before starting this trip, while I was sitting at the Kareri village with my guide I heard a story which was disheartening. It was when I was arbitrarily gazing around. My site got glued at a certain peak and I started asking more about it from my guide. It was the Moon Peak (4630 mtrs) and the story revolved around it’s ascend.
Two French lads visited Dharamshala a couple of years back and were on a trek to Triund with a group. On the day the group was supposed to return, they went missing! Their group members later found a letter that suggested that they had deserted the group for ambitious stuff. Though they wrote that they’ll soon be back to the base, they never did. Even their bodies weren’t found till that moment. But just….Anyways I’ll come back to it…!
Minkiani Pass – the climb
The climb of Minkiani pass is really challenging. It is a sleep slope with giant boulders, patches of grass, mottled rocks and slippery pebbles and mud. A step wrong and you can land thousand feet below to your death. But that’s how mountaineering works right? That is the adventure! The path to the top though can be really ticky and hard to trace for the first timers. It is highly advisable to tag along an experienced and mature guide. It took us 4.5 hours to reach the summit and the views were worth all the sweet trouble.Views from the top, can you spot the Kareri Lake though?
After stopping at the summit for a mere ten minutes we headed back. The speed and sound of the winds up there was suggesting against staying any longer. I wanted to click more pictures and shoot more videos but the guide had a strict no smitten all over his facial expressions. Without opposing him at all I started descending the mountain slowly and steadily.
2.5 hours and we were back at the campsite. Like the previous night we were not alone at the campsite. We had company in the form of 3 Germans. They were not planning to go any further up as they didn’t have any guide and surprisingly were aware of the story I was narrating few moments ago. Coincidentally and to my utter surprise it was one of their friends who had found the remains of the French boys just a couple of days back. The parents of the boys had been visiting India frequently, just to find traces of their dead children. They had decided to visit the one last time in the coming year, I don’t know if they’ll be at peace after it or it’ll add on to the misery.
A Trip to cherish
Anyways that’s life. I alongside the Germans sat near a campfire and talked for hours about each other’s countries and cultures. It was a great experience climbing the pass and coming back to the exciting people and their conversations. Yet another climbing experience for me. I came out more confident in the end but all the more careful and venerable towards the nature and its might.