Sour Tal trek

sayshh

Member
About me:

I want to keep this post about the trek as much as possible. This is my first travelogue, or even a post on BCMT forum – please have some consideration for that, as you read along.

So, it is warranted that I at least introduce myself – a professional in the IT industry having the well-known (for the wrong reasons) work-life balance. The perfect way to describe me, is that people who are undergoing mid-life crisis would be able to relate to me the best. I do like to travel, but at leisure and in as much comfort as possible.

Now, about the trek:

Sour Tal (3700 M ASL) – a trek destination not so popular among the trekking circuits. There are far more well known and <add-your-adjective-here> treks. Manali (a popular hill station) being the well connected starting point.

This trek happened in 2017, and soon after I wrote about the experience on my Wordpress page. On May 27 this year, exactly 3 years later we re-lived some of the summit moments on our WhatsApp group. It brought so many fond memories back and reignited the desire to go back to the mountains. Also, I haven’t come across a travelogue about Sour Tal on BCMT. So I thought of recounting my experience with this community, and share some information about this trek. Better late than never.

As you might have noticed in my introduction, I am not an avid trekker. Far from it. I got into this because of my persuasive friend Sudhakar. This is how a typical conversation would go with him after the general chit-chat.

Friend: By the way, on <so-and-so-date> we are going for a trek to <name-of-place>
Me: Oh cool, so where is this place?
Friend: Describes the place, the plan, duration, etc.
Me: Sounds like a good experience, but not sure if I can join
Friend: Ok think about it and let me know if you would like to join.

Call gets over, and then I never express my intention to join the trek. This has repeated so many times, so slowly he stopped insisting on me joining.

Sometime in the month of July in 2016, we spoke again. Conversation went similar to the one above. However this time he was more determined. He was also the designated trek leader from Karnataka Mountaineering Association (KMA). According to him, another friend of ours Sri - was also thinking of signing up. He also suggested that we can pull in my cousin, Jai. His ultimate lure - four friends together on a trek, having fun. I was getting into an unavoidable situation. I discussed it with my cousin, hoping to wiggle out if he is not interested. Instead, he jumped on to the idea. Somehow I also started accepting the idea of a trek, and finally we signed up for the trek by the due date.

We were in
batch 3 that year. The programme dates were 21-05-2017 to 31-05-2017, with all meals, accommodation, and travel included Delhi to Delhi.

Trek days: 24-05-2017 to 29-05-2017.

Now for some teasers as per tradition:

Bhanu bridge over Beas river
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View from camp 2 - Dudu Dhog
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View from Sour Tal summit
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More details to follow...
 

sayshh

Member
As many would know, Manali lies in the Beas valley, with mighty mountains on either side. From the left bank rises the Pir Panjal ranges, leading upto dizzying heights of peaks like Deo Tibba, Indrasan, etc. On the other side, we have an equally mighty Dhauladhar range. Sour Tal is located in the middle reaches of this range, above the snowline. The trek is graded as an easy-moderate one. As a result, many of us first timers had enrolled. So there were a lot of questions about the program and trekking in general. KMA kept us informed through emails and WhatsApp group. A briefing session was held, where they also distributed rucksacks. We were instructed to practice walking/running 6 kms a day within an hour everyday as preparation.

In the summer of 2017, we did half-day treks to Kabbaladurga [26-03-2017], and Savandurga [16-04-2017] near Bangalore. This also helped us familiarize with the other members of batch 3.

I will skip the details of reaching Delhi, and limit to the trekking expedition.

22-05-2017 - Prini base camp (1950 m)

We reached Manali in the morning viewing the snow capped peaks through the panoramic windows of the Volvo bus. From there jeeps were arranged to carry us and our rucksacks to Prini base camp.


View from Prini Base camp
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Many trekking expeditions use camping facilities at Prini as their base. A stream called Prini Nallah flows next to the property. It is around 5 kms away from the main Manali town, on the Manali-Naggar-Kullu road. Here we were introduced to our local guides – Sonu, Om, and Samir. Then tents were allotted. Soon breakfast was to be served in the dining tent, so we were asked to freshen up quickly and be there on time. As we had breakfast in dining tent, we were introduced to the rigid schedule:

  • 5:30 AM – wake up call :eek:
  • 6:00 AM – Tea/Coffee
  • 6:15 AM – PT (Physical Training)
  • 7:00 AM – Breakfast (followed by (re)packing rucksack and backpack)
  • 8:00 AM – Trek starts
  • 1:00 PM – Trek ends, Lunch
  • 4:00 PM – Tea/Coffee
  • 6:00 PM – Soup
  • 7:00 PM – Dinner (no artificial lights after sundown)
A short briefing was given about the camp site and expedition. The trail was all set and all campsites were already established. Energy packs (juice, chocolates, biscuits, etc) would be distributed after briefing on trek days. We would carry our backpack for the day, while our rucksacks would be carried by mules to the next campsite. Very convenient!

Additional conveniences like electricity, fixed structure for toilet and bath facilitates were available here. One peculiar thing was that the men’s bath and toilets were on the other side of the stream. This meant that we had to descend down to the stream, cross a narrow rickety wooden bridge and climb up to the same height to reach the restrooms. Women participants were thrilled to see the stream, whereas it was a frequent hurdle for us. :lol:

Wooden bridge over Prini Nallah
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Acclimatization walk for the day was cancelled as it started raining during briefing. After the rains, the sky had cleared up and we could feel the freshness all around. Few of us went out for a walk and spent some time here enjoying the views and just having fun talk. After dinner we were introduced to the main guide of the trek – Ganga Ram. I felt amused as I zipped myself in the sleeping bag for the first time to spend my very first night inside a tent.

23-05-2017 - Prini base camp (1950 m)

We collected our energy packs and set off for the acclimatization walk after breakfast. The path took us through apple orchards and small mountain villages. Our mid-way stop was at a serene temple in Shuru village. Walking further for around an hour brought us to the Arjun Gufa. Overall time taken was around 4 hours. We were back in the base camp for lunch.

Views as we ascend

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Passing by quaint villages
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View of the valley
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Birds eye view of base camp while descending
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After lunch we were again free. Post tea, we went for a walk into a nearby village and returned by "soup time". We settled in our tents and drifted to sleep, only to be woken up by noises outside. Several members had suffered from stomach ailments and we could hear them vomiting. Without getting out of the tent, we could recognize them. Slowly we gave in to sleep again, hoping for the best tomorrow.

Note: Some pics are shot on mobile phone, please excuse the quality.
 

sayshh

Member
24-05-2017: Camp 1 - Klount (2230 m)

I woke up in the morning with mixed feelings, not because I was unwell, but because 10-12 members of the 35 member group had fallen ill. Exactly when the trek is about to begin. The mood was somewhat anxious than upbeat as everyone lined up for the day’s briefing. Instead of briefing, we got scolding :-( from Mr. Khemraj Thakur – the proprietor of the Base Camp. A man in his 60s, apparently having good mountaineering experience. He blamed inadequate warm clothing as the cause of stomach infections.

He criticized us for not wearing sufficient warm clothes. Indeed many from our group were roaming around in t-shirts. :rolleyes: He started pointing at the offenders individually. Luckily I was wearing a jacket on top, so I was let off with a suspicious look. ;) Many also got criticized for needlessly drinking (cold) water. Drinking extra quantities of tea/Coffee was highly recommended. All members were cleared to start the trek after some deliberations, except Mr. Sridhar who suffered the most the previous night. After the “briefing” we collected our energy pack for the day and started the hike. Leaving the convenience of electricity, foam mats under sleeping bags, not having to wash our plates - for the next 6 days. Our rucksacks were getting loaded on the mules as we departed Prini Base Camp.

Views as we neared Beas valley

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Steep descent to Bhanu bridge
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Through the by lanes we proceeded towards the Beas valley. Then there was a steep descent towards Bhanu bridge. We bought a few bottles of packaged drinking water, to avoid drinking the water filled at base camp. We then crossed the bridge to the Dhauladhar side, and started climbing over a concrete path laid for villages. Soon the paved path ended and entered pine forest. The slope was quite steep, but because of shade it was very cool and pleasant. Soon the mules carrying our rucksacks overtook us.

A herd of goats going for grazing
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Mid way, we stopped and rested - trying out all filmy photoshoots. A hike of another hour and half brought us to the campsite. The campsite was located in a small clearing among trees. Welcome drink (of non-alcoholic nature) was being served. The cool breeze, beautiful views and the refreshing drink took all our tiredness away.

View from Klount campsite
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Post lunch “Rope walking” activity was planned at 3:00 PM. Some explanation about the safety equipment was given. Most of the people tried their hand and enjoyed it. I played the part of a spectator and encouraged the participants. We returned to the camp for tea. By this time, Mr. Sridhar had reached. He was given a jeep ride till the village. He had recovered enough to climb through the pine forest. =D&gt; There was no supply of electricity here onward, so we had to take advantage of the late sunset and finish dinner around 7:30 PM. Courtesy of Mr. Raghavendra, we had
rasam (like a spicy and tangy soup) on the menu. Hot rasam was just too perfect for the cool weather. Soon after dinner it was dark, we got into our tents and waited for sleep to come.
 

earthian

Wanderer
The photograph of the cow peering around the corner is pure class. Great write up and waiting for more. Thank you for sharing.
 

sayshh

Member
25-05-2017: Camp 2 – Dudu Dhog (2750 m)

By now I had become accustomed to zipping inside a sleeping bag and tent, and had another night of good sleep. Dawn was already breaking by 4:45 AM, and the sky was gradually lighting up. Needless to say, it was a beautiful morning. Spent some time lazing around and taking in as much fresh air as possible. Morning tea was served soon, after which we prepared our rucksacks and day packs. Once breakfast and day’s briefing was over, we started our ascent to the next campsite.

Sun rising over snow clad peaks

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Till the mid-way point from here, the trail went in and out of cedar/pine forests.The density of trees kept reducing as we gained altitude. Most of the hike was under the open Sun, through fresh, green grassy meadows. A steady climb of a couple of hours brought us to the mid-way point. Those who reached earlier were resting under a big tree. I remained out in the sunlight as the breeze and warmth was enjoyable.

Views after climbing past pine forests
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All of us lost track of time and kept chit-chatting, a good 30 minutes later Ganga Ram prompted us to start climbing again. Climbing in a zig-zag pattern on the steep incline helped in keeping the breathing in control. However the hot water filled at Klount campsite was not palatable, and I was running out of drinking water. I kept moving ahead, hoping to find some source of water. Slowly we entered a small area shaded by trees, and there was a tiny single stream of water.


Grassy meadows, closer to the campsite
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Many members lined up to fill their bottles with this water. Water was very fresh and tasty. On one hand, the stream helped in quenching my thirst, and on the other it made the ground slushy and slippery. Moving further up, we could see the campsite. Upon reaching, I had multiple servings of the welcome drink. Tents were allotted and soon lunch was served. Today’s adventure activity was rappelling. Some of the folks chose to remain at the campsite, including myself and Jai. We relaxed and refreshed till others returned.


View from campsite at 7:15 PM
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As the sunlight dimmed, most of us gathered in the dining tent. Divya (Raghavan) mesmerized us by singing some melodious Hindi, Tamil, and Kannada movie songs. Outside, campsite staff were preparing for a campfire. Last rays of the Sun were fading away as everyone assembled around the fire with their dinner. Soon it was dark. We washed plates in the light from torches while fingers were going numb. What’s a campfire without song and dance? Boring! Several people jumped into the party, especially the youngsters. Slowly people (us included) started retiring into their tents as it became biting cold.
 
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