Day 3, Chang La to Nyang (near Potok)
Trek duration: 8 hours
Trek route: Chang La – Poshing La – Pangi La – Riverbed – Potok - Nyang
Gradient: Level for 1 hour, moderate climb for next 45 mins, short ascent and then gradual descent down to the riverbed for 1 hour. Gradual ascent for 2 hours to reach Potok and then another 2 hours to Nyang.
Altitude: Chang La (3200m) to Poshing La (4170m) to Nyang (4680m)
Yet another long day for us! The recommended camping spot for the day is Potok (that’s the way the locals pronounced it I think, same as “Pota” mentioned in maps and writings elsewhere), but we decided to try and reach Nyang, an hour’s trek ahead of Potok. The locals who joined us from Thungri were keen on reaching Mago the next day itself and hence the proposed change of plans.
Also, the company of the merry locals was something that I had gotten used to and taken a liking to during the previous day’s trek. So pushing ahead directly to Mago the next day (9-10 hour trek from Nyang) along with this merry bunch of locals did not require much convincing.
The trail continued to present the visual delights like the previous day. Rhododendrons were sighted all along – which turned out to be one of the striking features of this trek. Rhododendrons present aplenty on all days, noticeably more than the Goecha La and Sandakphu trails renowned for these flowers. Or so it seemed in the month of May.
From Chang La, the trek is level or a gradual ascent for the next 1 hour. Mobile connectivity was once again within reach on certain sections, before the trail moved to a steeper ascent towards Poshing La. The broad trail narrowed into a moderate climb for about an hour’s duration, with rocky cliffs and boulders lined up along the edges, as we finally reached the prayer flags atop the pass.
There is a flat area near Poshing La which can serve as a campsite, though the altitude makes it windy and the area is exposed to the elements. A few trickles of water from the melting snow around can act as a source of water, albeit not a reliable one.
Pangi La, the second pass on this day, was a 30-40 minute of level walk away. Short rhododendron bushes lined up either side of the trail between the two passes and the bright pink flowers compensated for the gloomy weather. Visibility was poor and we were still unable to catch a glimpse of any snow-capped peaks in the distance. We took a short lunch break atop Pangi La, where bread-jam, rusk and some biscuits were gobbled up by our hungry bunch.
There is a hut located on the right side of the trail (when facing the direction heading towards Potok) which can be used as a shelter in case of bad weather conditions. There are two routes from Pangi La towards Potok – the trail on the left is the shorter of the two routes and the one moved ahead on after lunch.
From Pangi La, barring a short ascent initially, the route moves downhill all the way to a big stream over the next one hour. This part of the mountain seems to receive less sunshine than others, and many sections of the trail were still covered with snow. The trail is still well marked and broad though, and there are plenty of streams from which to drink from hereafter. We crossed the stream over a bridge and here on started the gradual ascent towards Potok.
The trail gradually ascended over 2 hours to Potok along the stream, with rhododendrons adding colour to the scenery, but the vegetation dwindled as we progressed further up and away from the stream. There are a few open, somewhat level camping grounds which can serve as campsites, with the stream providing water not too far away. A hut which can be used to camp for a night, also lies on the main trail, about an hour up from the stream crossing.
Potok is basically just a collection of 4-5 huts inhabited by the locals, which move to higher ground with their flock during the grazing season. The main trail to Nyang and further to Tse La continues high above the huts bypassing the settlement. As one of the locals had a sack of rice to be delivered in Potok, we veered off the main trail and approached the huts. We were warmly greeted by the locals and offered copious amounts of butter tea – a tradition diligently followed everywhere in this part of the country. As it had started raining by now, sitting by the fireplace inside one of the huts and sipping incessantly on hot butter tea was a blissful experience.
Half an hour of chatting with the locals, and we realized it was time to press on ahead and set up our camp for the night, for Nyang was still 2 hours away. It was a gradual ascent again from Potok to Nyang along the stream. The landscape here was rocky and barren and the trail wide and open.
An uneventful two hour hike completed, we found ourselves near a lone hut, slightly off the trail, which was to be our camping spot for the night. It had been a long day and we quickly cleaned up and lit a fire in the hut to start preparing for our meal. Maggi noodles (still easily available then :) served as a refreshing meal.
The skies cleared up for a short duration, allowing us to enjoy the warmth and click a few pictures. A lake was visible in the distance, in the direction of Potok and above it, but was left unvisited – marked on the agenda for the next time.
The usual rice-yak milk curry meal followed a couple of hours later, and we retired for the night immediately after.