A solo trek was not possible this time because upon asking a few people who have done it, I came to know that you need a permit for this trek and as far as I have heard, they don’t give a permit to solo trekkers, that was not true though.
I made some phone calls to a few local guides who told me that if I wish to hire them, it would be a guide, a porter (maybe two porters) and a horse that will go along, needless to say, I was disappointed and started searching for an organiser who would be taking a group to Deo Tibba Basecamp, I found Hippie in hills, they had a 5 day itinerary and I was hooked.
Now I have never trekked with groups before, the picture that comes in my mind when I think about trekking groups is boring, I always thought you are limited within a group, being an introvert, I don’t like company anyway, that’s why I go solo most of the time but it surely was better than taking a horse, also… I didn’t have any other option because I was already obsessed with that place and I wanted to go there at any cost.
After Reaching Manali, Gaurav, owner of Hippie in hills picked me up in his jeep and took me to his office, where I got to meet my fellow trekkers… we were a total of nine people going on the trek – Saksham, Lata, Lagan and Gopi were team Hippie in hills and Me, Ashu, Maria, Frederick, and Everton were the ones who all have signed up for the trek. Maria and Frederick (not related) are from France and Everton is from Brazil.
Day 1 – Drive from Manali to Khanol and trek to Chikka (3000 meters altitude)
We took off, Khanol is around 12 kilometres from Manali and we were heading towards AD hydropower plant which is the last point up to which your vehicle can go, the road goes through Manali and after crossing Jagatsukh we were amidst the beautiful mountains, full of pine trees, that area was beautiful and secluded, the wind started getting chilly, we were stopped by a check post barrier, that’s the part where you will need the permit because that area comes under the AD hydropower plant.
The road after that is risky, its an unmetalled road with 40 marked hairpin turns, you need to even put your vehicle in reverse gear on some turns to clear them, also there is a dangerous possibility of big rocks falling off the cliffs above so stopping anywhere on that part is a bad idea, a significant altitude is gained after covering all the 40 bends. You will reach the Hydropower plant after crossing that part.
As soon as we reached the plant, light showers started and after picking up our bags, we started our trek. It starts through a pine forest which reflects beautiful hues and contrast. The way till Chikka is easy, its a gradual climb with a few waterfalls en-route where we refilled our water bottles.
We stopped in between to have breakfast and ate some pre-packed Aloo parathas, after around one hour of trekking we saw the campsite of Chikka right in front of us. All the group members were physically fit so we were going up at a good pace.
Chikka is the perfect campsite you can get on a trek, the place was surrounded by beautiful pine and birch-bark trees with some other beautiful varieties of flora with different shades of green and red, a river flows right next to the campsite, the place has a religious significance as its the home of Nag Devta. There are some temples and old houses which are used by the local shepherds.
There is a common room which you can use, its an old house with a fireplace inside it, but we pitched our tents on the grassland outside, just to get the feels. You can find a lot of fat wood around there and we had a big campfire that night.
All of us were awestruck with the night sky as none of us have seen so many stars before. It was so beautiful that you would hurt your neck by keep looking up in the sky. Trust me, even being a Pahadi I haven’t seen a starry night sky like that before, It would surely give an orgasm to an astronomer.
Day 2 : Chikka to Seri (3600 meters)
We all woke up early in the morning, had our breakfast and packed our bags to continue the trek, the trail after that is through some birch-bark trees, bushes etc and after going on for a while we reached above the tree line with some snow-capped mountain range visible far ahead of us, after trekking for another few minutes we were walking on rocks while the views kept taking our breath away (or was it the altitude?).
The way from Chikka to Seri is tiring, its steep at some points but overall a gradual climb, its quite a vast stretch. After walking for another few minutes we reached another campsite called Chota Seri.
Chota Seri is a beautiful small meadow where you can camp but we were not staying there, we took a snack break underneath a rock and continued our journey, it started snowing. I was in disbelief because it was the month of May and a snowfall was the last thing we could expect.
We resumed our trek and after walking for a few minutes more, the snowfall got heavier and the fog started to cover up the mountain. Frederick, me and Lagan were far ahead of the group as we were going very fast, I was shouting like a maniac while the snowflakes hit me right on my face. I was thrilled.
The visibility was getting lower with each step and after walking a few meters ahead, we saw a big rock which seemed like it doesn’t belong there because it was different in its composition and was cut off at one side by weather to act like a perfect shelter, we just waited there for the other people we left behind.
A few minutes later they arrived, that day I felt that we were going to a different world like in fantasy movies, each one of us was spellbound, especially Everton, he was experiencing a snowfall for the first time and he kept zoning out and get lost in his thoughts.
We took some rest and resumed our journey towards Seri, finally through all the snowfall and fog we arrived at our destination. Seri is a vast meadow which is surrounded by majestic mountains on both sides. There are some rock caves and the team decided that we should stay inside one of the caves instead of tents which was quite a badass thing to do. Primitive style baby!
We went inside the cave and it was big enough to accommodate nine people except there was no headroom, we were ducking down all the time to prevent our head from getting slammed on the roof, we adjusted our stuff and crawled inside our sleeping bags and had some Maggie, vegetable soup, and pasta.
The cave was snug and secure, however there were few holes on the sides from where the cold wind was gushing in, but we had some good quality sleeping bags so we were not worried about frozen to death situations as it was summer season (still, the temperature was in negatives during night) but we surely discussed the possibility of the rock above us collapsing, it weighed several metric tonnes, we certainly would not appreciate it collapsing upon us. We played some cards and did some chit chatting after that.
It was dark already and Everton started to show signs of Altitude sickness, he was having a headache and felt nauseatic, he later told me that he was hallucinating too. we gave him a tablet of Diamox and he just took some rest, skipping his meal, later that night, upon asking him he told us that he is feeling good now, Frederick was also having some symptoms and he got better after taking a tablet of Diamox later that night.
Day 3 – Seri
Usually I was the one who used to wake up the earliest, when I got up and went outside it was a crazy sight to watch, It was snowing and that whole area was now covered with snow, there was no snow on the ground the previous day and only in a span of one night there were around half a feet of snow all over the place.
It was like a dreamland. how often do you get a chance of spending a night inside a cave in the Himalayas and waking up to such crazy and beautiful views?
We decided not to move ahead because the snowfall was getting heavier, also… pooping during heavy snowfall at negative degree temperatures is also a nightmare! I measured the temperature in the morning outside and it was -2 degrees.
We were supposed to go to Tenta on day 3 but had to cancel due to heavy snowfall, four of us decided to climb up the steep mountain ahead of Seri anyway, the ones who suffered from altitude sickness last night were advised to stay in the cave with other people. We decided not to take any bag so we had no water bottle and food, just 2 bars of snickers for four people, we planned to eat ice upon getting thirsty.
We started with the vast meadow in front of us, which was a snow bed now, after covering it we crossed a stream, we were standing at the base of that mountain, it was very steep, its called Rock n Roll (because of the rocks that keep rolling down from the top). It was again covered with around 2 feet of ultra soft, grainy, fresh snow, it was very steep, around 70 degrees of gradient and at some point, it was steeper than that, I murmured a few times what the hell were we doing? The snowfall got way too heavier while we were climbing that mountain, we could feel the grains of snow getting bigger while they hit on our faces, we were out of our breadth but we continued and finally reached a huge rock.
The snowfall got heavier to the point where the visibility got quite low so we decided not to proceed ahead, no worries… I will surely return for Deo Tibba base camp someday soon, we already completed around 95% of that climb.
Climbing down that mountain was too much fun and we were just rolling and sliding down the slopes, we reached back at the cave and had some pasta and soup.
We decided to descend early the next day because Maria also got hit by Altitude sickness and her condition was not improving even after taking a Diamox tablet. I heard her waking up distressed during midnight and wee hours saying Oh Putain! (translates to Oh fuck!) repeatedly.
Day 4 : Seri to Chikka
After having breakfast, we started descending down to Chikka, Maria was still struggling with Altitude sickness and that day the snowfall was the heaviest of all days. We decided to move in two groups, four of us led the way followed by the others. It was around one foot of snow, at some places my whole leg went inside a hole covered with snow.
Walking on that snow was very hard because it was a rock field, we slipped a lot of times but finally managed to cover that part.
The snow covered the trail so we were making our own way, we fell and slipped a few times, I was wearing a poncho which was a pain in the butt. I somehow managed to take out my camera and got some video clips and was blabbering the whole way that I wanted to eat Bhindi ki sabzi and Paratha.
After some tiring hours of walking on that snow, we reached the treeline, it was a lower altitude so the snow was less, but the weather was not good that whole day.
We reached Chikka and entered the common house which was used by locals and trekkers, we were lucky because the fireplace inside was already lit and we just sat around that fireplace and dried our clothes/ socks while the other team members arrived.
Maria also felt better after reaching the treeline, we just did some chit chatting after that and dried up ourselves on that fireplace, had our lunch and slept.
Day 5 – Chikka
I woke up early and went outside, it was a pleasant day with a clear sky and bright sun, all those who were suffering from mountain sickness the previous day were feeling as healthy as a horse, it was a bright day and we just sat outside the Veranda soaking up the sun and ate some Parathas in breakfast, we had some fun climbing a rock and clicking shirtless pictures.
This was an awesome trip and it killed my judgments about going with groups, it was the best thing that happened to me, I enjoyed a lot, we experienced extremes of weather, we slept inside a cave, climb through a snow blizzard and what else.
I kept telling others that our whole trip felt like we were a group of Archaeologist or Scientists on a mission to find a hidden pyramid or a frozen Mammoth. I don’t know about others but I felt that I don’t have a life outside of this, I was brainwashed for those 5 days.
Here’s the video of our Deo Tibba base camp trek: