Here’s how to look for the ideal camping spot in the backcountry.
You have trekked for over eight hours in a demanding terrain. The dry heat and unforgiving ascent has left you exhausted. The thin, cold air at higher altitudes is not making it any easier. And then you have to set up camp before nightfall.
For the seasoned trekker, instinct and experience take over and your shelter for the night is in place in no time. For the uninitiated, here are a few things to keep in mind, before you pitch up the tent and set camp for the night:
Look around and select a good spot
One of the most common mistakes is to drop your backpack on the ground and start pitching a tent right away. Always take some time to walk around the area and explore possible spots where you can pitch your tent. Select a good spot and pitching the tent will then become merely procedural.
One of the main considerations while selecting a spot is the source of drinking water – pitch your tent close to a source of water, but never camp right in the river bed (even if dried up) or in the immediate vicinity of a lake or stream.
Check for impending dangers
Always inspect the surrounding terrain as well. Avoid rock-fall, landslide prone areas and minimise exposure to strong winds. While a rocky cliff can help block the wind, camping near it should be avoided if there are signs of loose boulders or imbalanced rocks visible higher on the cliff.
One should take into account the weather conditions as well. Always bear in mind the possibility of rain, lightening and thunderstorms and related dangers. Camping atop an exposed ridge brings in the danger of a lightening strike, while depressions should be avoided where water can collect easily in case of a downpour and flood your tent. Shifting a tent in the cold of the night during an unexpected downpour is not something that you would like to get out of your warm sleeping bag for!
Pitch your tent on soft ground
Once you have selected your spot, ensure the surface is level, preferably soft, grassy ground without any protruding stones. If it is not level already, spend some time levelling the surface and removing sharp, edgy stones. This will ensure a good night’s sleep while protecting the ground sheet of your tent from wear and tear. Also check if the tent pegs can be inserted easily and will hold firm, else rocks just below the surface might prevent the pegs from gaining any purchase.
Keep in mind, however, that grassy patches close to a lake or water source, though soft, allow water to seep into the surface and can prove to hinder camping.
Always ensure the entrance to your tent faces the leeward (as opposed to windward side). Remember, in normal weather conditions, the wind typically blows up the valley during the day and down the valley at night. Even better if the entrance is pitched eastwards, allowing the early morning sunlight to warm up your tent and wake you up early in the morning.
If you are pitching multiple tents, they should be close to each other – preferably in a straight line or horse-shoe formation.
Enough vacant space on all sides
This is an added advantage. It helps to have space to move around the tent, spread out your trekking gear under the sun, in case of clear skies, designate a cooking area and set up your stove easily in open surroundings. There is place for a campfire too, if you have access to firewood and wish to spend a few hours by the warmth of the fire before retiring for the night.
This article written by WildBoots team first appeared on RedBull website courtesy The Outdoor Journal
Lakes of Kashmir have always enchanted people from the plains. The fairy tales of Indian Cinema were, at one point of time, woven around the ethereal beauty of Dal Lake, with the vast expanses of the valley forming the backdrop of many a romance. What remains largely unknown to the larger audience is the presence of lakes beyond the valley, of the kind you can only imagine in the most beautiful of your dreams.
Kashmir lakes trek, offers you an opportunity to step deep into the mountains and explore vast meadows and pristine lakes which retain a sense of serenity and tranquility which has vanished from our lives today. You go to places where time has stood still, against backdrops which leave you speechless.
Each of the lakes on the Kashmir lakes trek offer remarkable views and are religiously and symbolically important to the people of this region.
Kishansar Lake – Oligotrophic* Lake
Length - 950 meters
Breadth – 600 meters
Altitude – 3710 meters
Primary outflow – Vishansar Lake
Vishansar Lake - Oligotrophic* Lake
Length - 1000 meters
Breadth – 600 meters
Altitude – 3710 meters
Primary outflow – Neelum River(which merges into Jhelum in POK)
*Oligotrophic - It is a lake with very low Organic compounds & nutrient content and thus, consequentially, very less Algae production. These lakes, therefore, have very clear waters with high drinking-water quality. With ample oxygen content, these lakes support a lot of fish species. Oligotrophic lakes are most common in cold regions.
Gadsar Lake - Oligotrophic Lake
Length - 850 meters
Breadth – 760 meters
Altitude – 3600 meters
Primary outflow – A tributary to Neelum river
Satsar lake - Alpine Lake
Length - 3200 meters (from 1st to 7th)
Breadth – 900 meters (width of the valley)
Altitude – 3610 meters
Primary outflow – An underground stream
Gangbal Lake – Oligotrophic Lake
Length - 2700 meters
Breadth – 1000 meters
Altitude – 3575 meters
Primary outflow – Nundkol Lake
Nundkol Lake - Oligotrophic Lake
Length - 1200 meters
Breadth – 500 meter
Altitude – 3505 meters
Primary outflow – Wangnath nullah, which flows into Sind river
Apart from these major lakes, a few more small lakes also lie of the Kashmir Lakes trek.
Nichnai Lake lies just before the Nichnai pass, at a distance from the trekking trail, on the left side.. This small lake is visible from the top of the pass and its turquoise green colors enchant the trekkers as they cross over to the other side of the pass towards the twin lakes of Vishansar & Kishansar.
There is a smaller yet unnamed lake, above the Kishansar lake, which feeds into it, thus forming a triple cascade along with the Vishansar Lake.
Yamsar Lake, which lies after the Gadsar pass, on the left side is a very small lake and is considered poisonous by the local people. We cross it over on the way towards Gadsar lake.
The astounding beauty of all these lakes make the Kashmir Lakes trek, a once in a lifetime opportunity to come face to face with the nature and become one with it, in all its glory.
The short and swift trail to Nag Tibba is accorded an important place in the small history of WildBoots. It was here in the spring of 2014, on a short hike to this mountain that the concept of WildBoots was discussed and finalized by 3 friends, passionate about trekking who wanted to create something special to get more and more people hooked onto the adventure bug.
The trek starts at the quaint little village of Thatyur, which is on the Mussourie-Uttarkashi Road via Suwakholi. It takes an hour and a half to reach Thatyur though the shared/public travel options are limited and you might have to wait for a while to get the shared taxi/jeep.
There are multiple routes to reach Nag Tibba top from Thatyur.
1. From Devalsari Village – A trek of 13 KM, stay options are available in the forest rest house at Devalsari. You will need to carry camping gear to camp near the top. Single day return trek is an option but it gets very tiring to do so.
2. From Aunter – A motorable road goes directly upto Aunter from where the Horse trail starts. The trek is relatively shorted from here and does not require a guide. Though camping gear is recommended so that you can stay overnight.
3. From Mangalori Village – The route runs along Pali River for a short distance from Thatyur after which, you turn left crossing an old wooden bridge over the river and continue up to Mangalori village and further to Nag Tibba top.
Another route starts from Pantwari, a village reached via Nainbag. The route is the shortest at 8 KMs and is mostly preferred by the groups trekking to Nag Tibba.
We took the route from Mangalori to reach Nag Tibba, partially because it’s not an oft-used route and affords relative quiet. Turns out, it gives you a chance to experience a beautiful Gharwali village and its lifestyle.
We started early morning from Mussourie with our ration of 25 paranthas and fruits, looking sufficient enough to cover the whole trek. We were not carrying any kitchen equipment and it was a slight risk considering we were not planning to employ a local guide and were going to complete the whole trek on our own, with no prior knowledge of the trail apart from what we had read up in maps.
After an adventurous ride on the back of a milk van, we reached Thatyur and after enquiring around, were shown towards the trail and given general information about the places. We knew the village of Mangalori is not far away where we planned to stay for the night, and so we leisurely moved ahead along Pali river.
After crossing the river, we entered the forest trail and continued further up along a small stream. A relaxed walk of two hours brought us to the village by late afternoon and we were greeted by the ever-smiling gharwalis and shown around multiple places to put up our camp (even invited to stay in their houses for the night). We choose the temple complex right in the middle of the village to pitch our tent (an old room is also available here to sleep in, at no cost). A temple dedicated to Nag Devta, similar to the one at the top of Nag Tibba is situated in the village and an annual fair brings people from all over gharwal to this village to pray to Nag Devta.
The evening was spent playing cricket with the village kids and engaging in conversations with the village elders and youth. Like people from all over the hills, the villagers were very welcoming and quite knowledgeable about world affairs and the city life too. We retired early to sleep, looking forward to an early start the next morning to reach the top. We had planned to get down from Pantwari village then take some transport back to Mussourie/Dehradun via Nainbag.
The day of adventures starts.
A few villagers offered to be our guides to reach the top but since the weather was clear and the route looked pretty straight-forward, we started out on our own and continued through the forest trail upwards towards Nag Tibba top. The deeply forested trail got quite steep after an hour or so and it was slightly tough going, scrambling up at times, with us continually doubting whether we are on the right trail or not. The frequent tree temples, places where the villagers had tied colorful threads to fulfil their wishes gave us confidence that we were indeed on the right trail. The entire trail was painted red by the beautiful Rhododendrons and it was a pleasure to walk along the well known aroma of these plants.
We reached the flat top ground of Nag Tibba in 4 hours, with snow still around on the top in March. The weather had turned inclement by this time, with clouds all around and visibility down to a few metres. The rains seemed to be coming any moment now. We were still upbeat, with the gorgeous forest and snow lifting our spirits up. At the top, the visibility was very low and even though we could hear the bells at the temple, we could not find it after a 10 minute search. We decided to push off towards Pantwari, taking the trail in the general direction as told by the villagers of Mangalori. Who was to know that this trail is going to take ages for us to reach humanity again.
A prominent feature of the Nag Tibba range is the long ridge lines which continue along the top of the mountain range. Thus, Nag Tibba range has very long summit height trails which do not take you near any villages directly. We got onto one of these trails and continued on a gentle walk, looking to find any signs of civilizations or a village nearby. Keeping on the right trail was made more difficult by the frequent meadows we encountered on the way, with each of them having multiple trails going off them. And all along, we were without food, through heavy rains and reduced visibility. It was turning out to be an adventure beyond what we had anticipated.
At last long, we reached a broad trail which signalled regular movement and after a few minutes we saw a few huts just a few hundred metres away on the trail. But since the huts were above our location, we decided to move in the opposite direction, hoping to find the village downwards. An hour’s walk brought us into a deeper forest with no signs of any village visible along. With sunset just a bit more than an hour away, the only hope was now to reach the huts, retracing our steps and ask for help. We quickly turned back and reached the huts in about an hour. To our amazement, we were far off the trail to Pantwari, around 15 KMs away but fortunately, just above the village of Kyari, a village in the same valley as Thatyur. We could see the village of Kyari in the distance and quickly started descending along the way shown by the residents of the huts. These people were living here to tend to their fields, growing wheat and vegetables around.
An hour of knee-rattling descend ( we were now on the move for almost 11 hours) brought us down to the village of Kyari. The villagers were astonished as trekkers seldom came down this way, being far off from the main Nag Tibba top and not falling on any of the main trekking routes. We enquired for accommodation and were told to go towards Thatyur in shared taxis to get accommodation. We gobbled on food in a local shop and then got going towards Thatyur, staying at a guest house there for the night.
Morning, we took a shared cab towards Mussourie and then moved to Delhi from there on. Though the plans for WildBoots were already on their way, the sense of togetherness on this adventure had given all three of us confidence that come what may, we will make this work. And thus was born WildBoots.
P.S. - The route from the top to Pantwari is easier but if going by our own vehicle, it is better to come back via Kyari so that we vehicle need not move a long distance from Thatyur to Pantwari to pick you up.
Another better way is to start the trek from Pantwari which is a shorter route and then retrace your steps back to Pantwari.
A list of things to carry and trekking tips that can be put to good use on the Chadar Trek:
Your regular trekking boots can be worn on the Chadar for the trek and you can carry and change into the gum boots at tricky sections where the Chadar is not well formed or the trek involves moving through a section with a higher water level. Alternatively, the gum boots can be worn and trekked in all along, depending on your style of trekking and comfort provided by the gum boots.
You may also rent a pair of snow boots from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, Delhi at nominal rates (Rs 100 per pair per day and onwards). These snow boots are light-weight, waterproof and provide some insulation for the feet as well, performing the job of both the trekking boots and the gum boots.
The first attempt was unsuccessful. The Bailey trail remained elusive. And yet, whatever little was seen of Arunachal Pradesh during the first attempt only strengthened the resolve to be back here soon. The promising views of the forests – countless tall treetops with outstretched arms floating between the clouds, a seemingly unending chain of mountains, with lush green sides and mystical snow-clad peaks, that peeked through the dark clouds every now and then – there was something different about the Himalayas here that beckoned strongly.
So, having a week in hand after completing the Goechala trek, I decided to head back to Arunachal and complete the unfinished Bailey trail. Bidding adieu to friends in Yuksom, I forced myself to get back to sultry, humid Siliguri. Fortunately, a waitlisted ticket purchased that very morning on the Kanchenjunga express resulted in a confirmed berth by the afternoon train. A swift overnight journey by train, and I was in Guwahati, ready to head onward to Tezpur.
Heavy downpours and a flash strike of bus operators caught me unawares, threatening to end my attempt at the Bailey trail once again. It took some negotiations with drivers gathered near the ticket counter before a bunch of us boarded a traveller and managed to get started.
Tezpur – a quiet yet bustling town surprised me with the all the amenities it had to offer including a well equipped market wherein all supplies for the trek could be purchased. Tinned food, however, was difficult to procure. In an emergency, Supplies could be procured from Dirang too, although some provisions were priced higher there.
The Bailey trail trek can be started from a number of small settlements located near the tourist spot of Dirang on the Tezpur-Tawang highway. While most Bailey trek references on the internet indicate Chander as the starting point, the trek can also be started from Thembang, Pangma or Phudung. Over the last few years, all of these settlements – and Panchavati have become accessible by road, though public transport options to reach these hamlets are still limited and expensive.
Chander, though providing the easiest approach to Thungri (camping spot for day 1 of the trek), is about 25 kms uphill from Dirang, and would involve paying a sizeable amount as taxi fare. Additionally, Chander is very cold as it is situated atop an exposed ridge, and none of the households can boast of a formal toilet setup
A summary of the Bailey trail trek, day-wise itinerary and travel up to Phudung, from where the trek started:
Trek start point: Phudung, near Dirang
Trek end point: Jung, about 30 kms from Tawang (Thimbu Hydel is where the trek actually ends and a road connects to Jung. You can hitchhike your way from here up to Jung)
How to reach Dirang:
Nearest airport: Guwahati
Nearest railhead: Guwahati (Bhalukpong actually, but not sure if train services are active to this station)
From Guwahati, it is a 4-5 hour drive to Tezpur. ASTC buses and private mini-buses / Tempo Travellers ply from the New Paltan Bazar taxi stand regularly.
From Tezpur, it is a 7-8 hour drive to Dirang. Shared taxis (Tata Sumo) are available, cost INR 500 per person, at fixed timings from the ASTC bus stand in Tezpur. Private taxis available just outside the bus stand as well.
From Dirang, a 30 minute drive takes you to Phudung, the last of the villages on this road. Private taxis (small cars like Maruti Suzuki / Alto) are available for INR 400-600 from the taxi stand near the Government Rest House, a few minutes’ walk down from Dirang’s main bazaar.
Trek route: Phudung – Thungri – Khudumbara – Chang La – Poshing La – Pangi La – Potok – Nyang – Tse La – Lap – Lurthim – Mago – Thimbu Hydel – New Melling – Jung
Day 1: Guwahati to Tezpur and completion of ILP formalities
Day 2: Drive from Tezpur to Dirang
High above the pious spot of Gaumukh, beyond Nandanvan and Tapovan lies a mountain which has always caught the fancy of dare-doers around the world. Mount Meru is situated in the Garhwal Himalayas, lying between Thalay Sagar and Shivling. It has three peaks, Southern(21850 ft), Central(20700 ft) and Northern(21160 ft).
The central peak, the lowest of the three, has a lot of highly challenging routes. Shark's fin, a 1500-feet vertical rock wall at the top, is considered as one of the toughest climbs in the world and has always attracted a lot of Alpine climbers. There have been dozens of attempts on this line and for a long time, this stood as the pinnacle of alpine & big wall climbing for the whole breed of alpinists and rock/ice climbers around the world.
The credit for the first successful ascent of Shark's fin goes to the trio of Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk in 2011. This was the second attempt for the team together with Conrad having attempted once more earlier with a different team.
The ascent to the top took the trio a 12-day push from the base camp. The team learnt from its experiences on the mountain in 2008 and meticulously planned the ascent. Conrad's deep knowledge, basis his earlier two attempts on this line helped the team prepare well for the attempt and they were able to push through the first phase in 48 hours, what had taken them 6 days in the last attempt. In their own words, they got incredibly lucky by a clear weather window, a cold-and-dry high pressure system which afforded them clear days to climb. Continuing forward, it took them 4 more days of climbing to reach the overhanging section, the most dangerous part of the climb and the one which had thwarted most of the attempts before this. They pushed through for the summit bid thereafter and reached the top on 2nd October 2011. It took three days thereafter to climb down and safely complete the expedition.
The climb up Shark's fin requires a high level of competency in different styles of climbing - Ice climbing, Snow climbing, Rock climbing, Aid climbing, Mixed climbing. It's basically more of high-altitude, big-wall climbing and less of mountaineering. The most difficult part are the overhangs, which challenge every climber and is the biggest obstacle on the line.
The mountain is still awaiting a second ascent on Shark's fin.
Source - Read up on Jimmy Chin's account of the climb here
The climb was captured and has been converted into a documentary MERU by Jimmy Chin. It released this year at Sundance Film Festival to a great reception, focusing more on the softer aspects of an expedition like this - mentorship on a big climb, loyality and obsession.
For those who have visited the valley – Kashmir hardly needs any introduction. For those who have not – recall the scenic locations of the Swiss Alps featured in numerous Bollywood movies and photographs alike. The Tarsar-Marsar trek starts off from exactly one such location – Aru, near Pahalgam.
It was early in the 2014 season (June 23rd) when Mushtaq and Kaashi travelled from Sonamarg and put up in a guest house at Khanbal near Anantnag. Delays in the train to Jammu and a frustrating but all too common 3 hour delay at the taxi stand in Jammu (to diligently ensure the requisite number of passengers are cramped up inside a Tata Sumo), meant that I could make it to Khanbal only around mid-night the same day. Too tired to partake in any discussions around the trek, we retired for the night – but not before gorging on the delectable mutton kebabs that Mushtaq had thoughtfully kept aside for a late night snack J
Day 1: Drive from Khanbal (Anantnag) to Aru via Pahalgam
Tired from the previous day’s journey, the plan for today was just to reach Aru, starting point of the Tarsar-Marsar trek. A short 10 minute drive first to the taxi stand in Anantnag was followed by another 2 hours in a shared taxi from Anantnag to Pahalgam. Stocking up on the usual supplies of Maggi, rice, dal and chocolates – our ration for the short trek to follow, we started walking towards the road leading up to Aru.
Being the month of June and a long weekend before the holy month of Ramzan, Pahalgam was choc-a-bloc with local tourists. Making our way through the crowded streets, we managed to hop on to a jeep heading to Aru. Over the next 12 kms, the road winds up gradually, but more importantly away from the teeming streets to the smooth meadows of Aru.
Over the next 3 to 4 days we planned to trek from Aru to Sonemasti, passing along Tarsar, Marsar and Sonsar lakes, ending our trek at the scenic village of Sumbal on the Srinagar – Sonamarg highway.
Day 2: Aru to Sekwas through Lidderwat (4 to 5 hour trek)
A sumptuous breakfast of thin, soft Kashmiri rotis with cups of “namkeen chai” was first on the agenda. Our host in Aru, Mr. Ashraf Gani provided details of the route to be taken and camping spots along the way. He also did mention though, that the route crossing over from the Aru valley to Sonemasti and the Sumbal valley had not yet been crossed over owing to a lot of snow on the high pass. An early retreat back to Aru from Tarsar seemed on the cards, but we decided to trek on anyway and reach the pass first before deciding on venturing any further.
A final check of our camping gear and provisions and our trek was underway by 9 a.m. along a path through some splendid fields and flowering meadows around Aru. For the next 2 hours or so the trail passed through a pine tree forest, a gradual ascent all along. The forest cover did give way at times to views of the open valley with few shepherd huts, green meadows and sauntering horses. Shepherds (‘Bakarwal’ or ‘Gujjar’ as referred to in these parts) with their flock added colour and variety to the landscape as well. A stream crossing and wooden log bridges along the way sure did keep the trail interesting too!
For any trekker, the joy of crossing over a pass and setting foot onto a new valley is magnificent. Passes afford the best views of the whole trail, are the sources of watersheds which keep us hydrated through the whole journeys and the best part, once you reach a high mountain pass, the exhilaration is almost unparalleled, only next to summiting a mountain.
By definition, A Mountain Pass is the highest point of the lowest possible route to connect two valleys. Its the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks and exists on the line of the watershed between them, through which water flows down into the two valleys. Passes are known as a Pass, Col, Saddle, Notch; with slightly different definitions but used interchangably in many cases.
For years, mountain passes have been important routes for trade between civilizations since long. Important centres of trade have developed around the base of the passes, allowing traders to rest, barter their products and reach markets. Passes have also been used extensively for migration, permanent or seasonal, of people. Also, with the mountain ranges always presenting formidable barriers, Mountain passes have been used for war beyond the mountain ranges since long.
The height of a peak from a Pass is the prominence of the peak, which is the minimum height required to ascend a mountain after climbing down from a higher peak.
In Ladakh and Tibet region, passes are known as La, thus the names Khardung La, Chang La, Nathu La, Marsimik La etc.
A few famous passes known as Cols are Auden's Col above Gangotri , South Col linking Everest & Lhotse etc.