Well, it was quite a walk, but we made it to Indrahar Pass at 4300m!
At this altitude we were above most of the clouds! It was like a view from a light plane at 13,000 feet.
The walk was staged over several days to give us a chance to acclimatise to the altitude. Our luggage, tents, food etc was carried by a pack of mules, so we were just carrying day packs.
Wow, the food! Each day we would arrive at our destination to find the camp set up. We were amazed to find a “dining tent” complete with chairs and a long table that was regularly covered with lovely Indian food. This was camping with cruise-ship style catering! We were fed about 5 times a day – breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner. Each meal was delicious, and there was always plenty of food.
We spent 4 days trekking, from Sunday to Wednesday. Tuesday was the big day. We started from our camp at 3100m at 5am. After about 6 hours climbing we reached Indrahar Pass at 4300m. Six hours up hill over steep, rough, uneven ground was a tough trek for all of us. I adopted a slow plodding style which meant I was one of the last to reach the top but just getting there was fine for me. As we got closer to the top the air was much thinner. This means you run out of breath quickly. When you stop you recover fairly quickly, as your lungs collect the thin oxygen and put it back into your blood. When you start again you have energy for about 10 steps before you are out of breath again. To maintain a constant pace I would climb 0.5m, then stop for 10 seconds and take 3 big breaths, climb 0.5m, etc. Most of us experienced mild headaches from the altitude. Coming down felt riskier – an accidental fall or twisted ankle would have been easy. We spent about 3 hours walking down over rough, stony, steep terrain.
During the entire 4 day trek our guides were very kind and helpful. They kept a close eye on us, and we even had to doctors trained in emergency medicine along for the walk! We even had hot soup and sandwiches at 4300m, and a hot meal served half way down at about 3700m. The trek was incredibly well organised by Summit Adventures who I thoroughly recommend if you need any travel arrangements in this part of India. Ten out of ten.
One of our wonderful guides:
Lunch at 3700m:
The Snow Line Chai shop between Triund and Indrahar Pass was a life saver on our way down. Just as we arrived it started raining, so about 20 of us huddled inside. We had been walking for about 10 hours but a 90 minute break sipping chai worked wonders. I am always fascinated by little shops and homes in other countries, how real people live and work is more important to me than tourist attractions. The owner of the shop spends 9 months a year there, closing down around Christmas when the snow comes. He is a kind man who looked after us very well and made nice chai.
On the first and last nights we stopped at Triund, a relatively flat spot which overlooks Dharamsala far below. Although we had been walking most of the day, the Line of Site (LOS) distance from the villages below was only 3-4km. Out came the laptop, and I managed to connect to an AirJaldi AP down in the valley! Ping with short packets gave about 3% packet loss, long packets (ping -s 1400) loss about 20%. Just good enough. So there I was, hanging off the edge of a mountain, doing emails over a 3.5km Wifi link with just my laptop. I even received and processed an order for my store. Quite amazing how far Wifi can go with good LOS and no interference.
Following the trek we had a pleasant two day workshop at the Tibetan Childrens Village in upper Dharamsala. The theme was network communications for extreme communications, so I gave a talk and demo on the Village Telco and Mesh Potato. There were many talks on Delay Tolerant Networks – an interesting alternative to Wifi for rural connectivity. Once again we had great food and the attendees were all very nice people who shared the common experience of the Trek described above. Special mention to Anders, Ben, Mikey, and Arti for a very well organised and interesting Workshop.