Friday, June 7, 2019

172) Bali Pass Trek: (10th-20th May 2019)

Place: Bali pass Trek, Uttrakhand
Distance: Approx. 70km is trek distance
Altitude: Max.16,500 ft;
Temperature: Max=20degC, Min= -10degC
Directions: Bangalore > Delhi > Dehradun > Sankri > Oshla > Ranbassera > Ruinsara Tal > Odari > Bali Pass > Lower Dhamni > Yamunotri > Janki Chetti > Dehradun > Bangalore
Krew: Deepak (Gule) > Yashwanth (Yedde) > Ashok (Momz) > Datta (Dattu) > Deepak (Deefu) > Chethan (Zethu) > Sriram (Vade) > Karthik (Sippy)
Transport: Plane, Train, Tempo traveller                                     
Previous Visit: Madakasira Fort Trek.
Budget:  Approx. INR 30,000/head (Clear break up given at the end)
Organised: Himalayan High – Trek lead Himanshu Gupta.

INDEX:  Brief Intro / BALI – The Valiant Warrior / DAY 0 to DAY 8 day-wise description /Aftermath & Learnings / Expenses / Crew’s view of Bali pass.

This was a one of those trips I shall cherish all my life. BALI PASS has to be one of the most intense nerve wrecking treks done till date. Entering Himalayan trekking zone via Bali pass was something crazy and surreal.  Being one of the very early groups for the year it a hide seek game we played with the snow storm and had a very narrow window to cross the pass. Overall it was physically and mentally very refreshing and a total body flusher of a trip!
And I’m sure the photographs would do more of the talking than me for this article!

BALI – The Valiant warrior:
To be very frank, 50% of the acceptance of the trek was because of the name and its relevance to the great mythological character of Ramayana – Bali (Vali) – a handful of people I really admire from the mythology.  Bali was Sugreeva’s elder brother and was the king of Kishkindha. Bali was such a powerful warrior that Ravan, Rama & Hanuman were absolutely no match for his strength. Bali was granted a special boon from Brahma that he would draw half of his opponent’s power. Ravana knowing about this, still challenged Bali to a duel and ended up in his arm lock for years in a very miserable condition. When Bali was hunting down a demon at Odari (Bali pass) he chased the demon into a cave and shut the entrance with a boulder. Then he asked his brother Sugreeva to wait outside and not open the cave’s door until he calls him out. The duel went on for days and once blood began to flow out of the cave Sugreeva feared the worse and returned to his kingdom and became the king and made Bali's wife as his. Talk about a mega screw up in life. It was Bali who had killed the demon. 

Bali returned to the kingdom infuriated with Sugreeva who had ditched him in the Snowy Mountains of Himalayas – not a good feeling I must say. Then Bali challenged Sugreeva to a duel to regain his kingdom and ended up putting Sugreeva face down to the ground. In the second round, Sugreeva approached Rama for help & Rama hiding amidst the trees shot Bali from behind and killed him in a cowardly manner. Well, that was a brief story of valiant warrior Bali. Now if a trek is named after him, now we all know what to expect right? Some Mind bending, Storm bearing, Physical endurance testing, in total one tough son of a trek! – Presenting BALI PASS on day basis.

DAY 0 – Bangalore to Delhi to Dehradun : (10th May 19)
After a good 1-2months of good work out and having completed 7 treks around Bangalore as a preparation for this monster trek, I felt calm, the calm that you feel before the storm and in this case it was quite literal. All of us had met a week earlier at White Horse, most of us knew each other and the missing gaps were wonderfully filled over some chilled beers!
After boarding the flight from different cities Bangalore, Hyderabad & Chennai, we all met at a hotel at Delhi for lunch and rest. After exploring the markets of Delhi and having a nice dinner we boarded the train to Dehradun.    

DAY 1 – Dehradun (445m) to Sankri (1920m) / 180km drive/ 9hours: (11th May 19)
Once we reached Dehradun, we freshened up and boarded the TT. From here on it was twisty ride to Sankri. The roads were so curvy and dangerous, but the driver knew what he was doing & that kept us comfortable. The view of the just born Yamuna River always kept our spirits high. We began singing and reciting poems from school days and laughing ourselves to death. It took us 9hours to reach Sankri and there we met our trek lead – Mr. Himanshu Gupta and his wonderful team. After having some soup and snacks, we stared at the mighty snow-capped mountains, it was a chilling experience. After a brief meeting at the dinner we all collected the gaiters, cramp-ons, walking stick etc, & departed to our respective rooms for a rest, well deserved.


DAY 2 – Sankri (1920m)  to Taluka to Oshla (2590m) / 10km drive + 15km Forest walk/ 8hours: (12th May 19)
Once we were up, we finished a yummy breakfast and hopped onto a jeep and the 10km ride from Sankri to Taluka was no joke. Narrow muddy and gravel filled road with one side vertical drop and waterfalls here and there. The waterfalls were so wonderful we were afraid a small distraction to the driver would take all us off the cliff. We continued our singing to reach Taluka from here the actual trek begun.
The initial route was quite straightforward and as it the same route (for about next 8-9km) as that of Harkidun trek (very popular trek). It ran along the Supin River through the forests and meadows. By noon, the clouds had shrouded the sky and the rains came down, getting into our ponchos we continued like buffalos without giving a damn about the falling water from the skies. About 70% of the day 1 trek was on flat terrain and is quite easy. The last 30%, about 4km to  Oshla was a steep ascent on steps. This took a slight toll on our knees and slowed us down. But we made to the Oshla settlement by evening.


Oshla is the last human settlement we would be getting for the next week or so, hence we made the best out of it by calling all the kids and playing cricket & Frisbee with them. And latter at the temple, we distributed chocolates and with a light mind we were set for the days ahead. 

DAY 3 – Oshla (2590m) to Ranbasherra (2800m) / 6km Meadow walk/ 4hours: (13th May 19)
As we woke up, I could feel my legs a little sore due the excessive bag weight (I will cover this topic latter in the DON’T DO section). We went for an early morning walk to the temple. Saying good bye to the kids and meeting a lot of ibexes, we went back to the camp for breakfast. The snow-capped mountains seemed nearer but still way out of reach.
The second day started slow, we could find fresh sources of water everywhere and water is something you will love here. It’s THE elixir during the trek. We also saw a water powered mill which the people of Oshla till today use.

The terrain was much simpler and peaceful. The walk continued alongside the river but the views were simply stunning. The walking pace had picked up or probably we had got used to the bag weight and the terrain. The trickiest part was to cross a gushing ice cold river on top of tree logs. After the crossing, the temperatures began to drop and then came in front of us lying on ground peacefully the first glacier. First few steps, trust me, I was no different from a toddler. I knew I had to make peace with snow & ice, but it would take time. I touched it and poked it repeatedly to make sure it was snow, and then after I fell down, with a cold butt I confirmed it was haha!


We made it to camp by noon and it was a beautiful campsite. We took our lunch boxes and sat on the boulders near the river. The ice cold river was gushing and roaring right beside us. We ate our Rotis peacefully beside the mighty river. Evening we went again for a small walk and returned back to camp. We sat staring at the mountains for long hours and once it began to rain, the temperature plummeted and we could now feel the cold. We played cards for another couple of hours and finished our dinner. The night was a pleasant one, the river roaring below acted as a lullaby and put us all into nice deep sleep.

DAY 4 – Ranbasshera (2800m) to Ruinsara Tal (3350m) / 6-7km Forest and Boulder Walk/3.5 hours : (14th May 19)
We woke up early, and were lingering around the campsite. After a good breakfast, we were set to go. The trek started off on a narrow path filled with rocks and gravels and evident landslides to the left and to the right was a merciless drop into the ice cold tributary of  Supin River. Cautiously maneuvering ourselves we took step by step and made it across the loose gravels stretch. Then in front of us stood a glacier and we had to go through it under a waterfalls, it was becoming surreal but we were enjoying every unexpected turn we met. We came face to face with a lot smaller stretches of old ice dying. The snow-capped mountains were quite close now and it began to drizzle. 

When it drizzles the cold can be felt so much harsher in these regions. After crossing the meadows and forests we found ourselves in an insane stretch filled with boulders. It kinda felt like home, but nevertheless one slip and a bloody face was ensured. Traversing with caution we hopped from boulder to boulder and made it to Ruinsara Tal. We had gained quite some altitude for the day and we were welcomed by a snowfall. The first snowfall on a trek felt really nice, but eventually the winds picked up & made it feel harsh and it slowly was turning into strong blizzard.


By evening the snow had died down and we took a walk to the holy lake of Ruinsara which was hardly 500m from camp site. Now, the gain in altitude and dip in temperature could be felt quite profoundly. And the sunset that we witnessed that day left us all speechless. It was like a hot ball of fire crashing into the cold froth of clouds afar, all of this happening behind a curtain of snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas.

DAY 5 – Ruinsara (3350m) / Acclimatization day: (15th May 19)
Once we reach high altitude it is advisable to spend few hours getting used to the temperature, pressure and the lack of oxygen in every breath taken. Hence we had one complete day at Ruinsara and it was of the most fun-filled day of the trip.

The day started off with some sour news that a batch which had attempted to cross Bali had turned back not able to bear the weather conditions at Odari (our next camp site). The water outside our campsites had sheets of ice as the top layer, we realised the outside temperature had dropped sub-zero. We knew it was a hit or miss, but like always hoping for a safe passage across the mountains, we began playing Frisbee at the campsite for a good 1hour. Then we moved to Ruinsara and had some basic exercise like sprints, push ups, small climbs and then came the monster of a game introduced by Dattu to the team. What a grinder and stamina tester “ultimate Frisbee” was and playing at such high altitude pretty much completed our acclimatization for the next whole year haha!


After that, we just sat around near the lake chatting for a good couple of hours. After a good session of physical training, we went back to tent and played cards and other games, which was followed by dancing and singing as the blizzard returned on the second day post noon knocking at our doors. I guess it was blizzard’s way of welcoming us to the mountains, you never know.
Evening we re-visited Ruinsara Lake, it was something special, the holy lake kept calling us back. It was very tranquil and somewhat mesmerizing. We all just sat in silence taking in without judgement what was in front of us. Night we all had good dinner and stared the clear skies with lot of stars. We knew the next day was the tester and it would more or less give a clue that the entire mission would be a hit or a miss.

DAY 6 – Ruinsara Tal (3350m) to Bali Pass Base Camp (4300m) via Odari (4100m) / 6-7km Snowy Ridge walk – Razor walk / 5hours: (16th May 19)
The day was here, we left Ruinsara quite early as the previous days had suggested a blizzard would knock the door at about noon. So we had to tackle the most difficult stretches in snow before that. The initial stretch for about 1-2km was in forest and had a lot of boulders but we could see the path way to Bali, which ran in between Snow Mountains and it was approaching fast.


We wore the cramp-ons, ski-goggles and it was time to enter the snow zone, good bye fresh sources of water and pleasant weather, shit was about to get serious. The snow walk continued at a good pace, but we had no resting places. Being the first time, I could realise I was wearing a lot faster, breathing was becoming difficult and wearing the ski-googles that rested on my nose cut the air flow.  We crossed Odari, the place where Bali had locked himself in the cave with the demon mentioned earlier.
After quite a tiring ascent, then came the endurance tester, the ridge walks. Most of the other blogs I had read prior coming here, this portion of the trek was bald and was done on mud. And since it was early monsoon for us, it was completely with snow. A narrow path with dead drops to left & right side and we had to walk on this razor's edge for the next 2-3 hours. What a mental endurance tester this was. To start off, it was uncomfortable, but where do you go? You can’t turn back and guess what blizzard kicked in early that day. Standing on a narrow ridge, with steep phases on either side of you, & snow being carried by strong winds hitting trying to knock you off the ridge, not a pleasant feeling at all guys. We anchored our walking poles into the snow and tried to stay put, we could feel a layer of snow on our right cheek being formed. Lots of thoughts tried to crop up into our heads, but all we did was stare down deep into the snow.

Step-by-step, we started taking 10 steps and catching a breath. This went on for 2 hours and once we made it on top, the blizzard intensified. We pretty much walked like zombies in the sub-zero temperatures and weather around was hostile. We made it to the base camp, I remember I didn’t speak for the next 45mins, catching a breath and assimilating what we had tackled.
The winds growled and howled in all its fury and by 4PM, things began to calm down. We all took a small walk outside in the fresh deep snow. Had some lemon tea and snacks and played cards. The temperature recorded for that day was a minimum of -10degC and the maximum was -1degC. After finishing dinner we could sense of silence in the air, we all knew tomorrow was the day. We had decided to leave by 6AM and cross Bali Pass, as getting caught in a blizzard at the summit was asking for your death warrant to be signed.

DAY 7 –Bali Base Camp (4300m) to Lower Dhamni (3800m) via Bali Pass (4850m) / 16-17km / Snow and muddy / 9.5hours: (17th May 19)
The night was thankfully pleasant, and the thought of waking up early pretty much woke us up every 2hours once. We were up by 4:30AM and got ready and departed by 6:30AM. The walk was slow, making sure every footing was hit right. After about an hour we could spot the pass.  The final stretch was again a true tester, it was like Bali himself whip-lashing the living hell outta us. Step by step we took and after another 2hours of risky trek, we were at top of Bali Pass.

Firstly we could not shout our hearts out as it could cause an avalanche. Sometimes nature tames in ways you can’t even imagine. We just sat there admiring the majestic ranges of Swaragarohini & Bandhar Poonch. It was sunny and we had successfully reached the top. But the mighty mountains surrounding us reminded that we had only completed 50% of the journey. A small puja was performed for granting us safe passage to the top, and requesting a safe passage back to ground, sweets (sugar balls) were distributed.
As it was a small patch of land, we spent about 30mins at the top and decided to begin the descent. The descent for the first 200meters is dangerous. Taking help of the porters and guides we made it pass this. After which the fun began, a huge may be 300-400meters descent had to be done sliding down. Ah man, these snow slides made the slides of theme parks look like kids. We had a mixture of snow walks and slides for the next few hours. Then we hit ice, all hell began to break loose here. Even though we had cramp-ons, the ice was very unstable and took a toll on mental and physical being.  And guess who returned back at this stretch, knocking the doors came another blizzard and by now we had turned to Yak mode, come what may, we are taking one steady step and moving like thick skinned buffalos.


After seeking for a lot of help to get past this stretch, then a vertical drop of about 300-500m had to be negotiated holding onto a rope. The terrain was muddy and had rocks, even though it was the most risky of all stretches, I kinda felt home when my feet hit the mud. But it was not over, there was another good 8-9km walk on muddy slushy terrain. Walking like zombies down the slushy terrain into the tree line we made it to our final camp site at 5PM.
Pastas welcomed us as we had not eaten anything since the porridge in the morning. A small cake was baked for the entire team for a celebration of completion of the trek, this truly warmed our hearts. We played cards for a few more hours and decided to crash as our knee had taken a number while descending.

DAY 8 –Lower Dhamni (3800m) to Janki Chetti (2650m) via Yamunotri  to Dehradun (440m) / 10km + 180km/ Forest and Road / 4hours + 9hours drive: (18th May 19)
The final day started peacefully, had a nice breakfast and departed. The previous day had busted my legs but the muddy terrain was helping. We reached Yamunotri and as it was Yatra season, it was flocked with thousands of pilgrims (not a big fan of crowded places, especially holy crowded places). We did take a dip in the hot water spring at Yamunotri to find ourselves pretty much healed.  Then the crazy walk back to Janki chetti began amidst the rushing dholis and running mules. Man oh man, brisk walking and sprinting on roads we made it Janki Chetti by noon. After a warm closing discussion we all boarded the TT to Dehradun. The drive was crazy and we missed a few landslides by inches.  We reached Dehradun late night and spent 2 days exploring the market and finally returned back to Bangalore on the 20th May 2019.


After returning back home, next few weeks (even as I write this article) seemed kind of lost. Was eating only once a day that too just a couple of idlys  or momos at night. Continued walking 8-10km every day in the evenings. The kind of rush you get out of nature, leaves you a pleasant hangovers for weeks together man! Few things I learnt:
  1. Treks like these – 60% mental endurance & 40% physical endurance.
  2. Dry fruits are live savers
  3. Appreciate water even though it provides zero calories
  4. Slow steady steps take you a long way
  5. Stick by your friends and they give you lot of strength
  6. End of the day sit back forget, forgive and close the day
  7. Your body can take much more of a beating than you ever can think off – don’t whiplash yourself to death now!
  8. Certain places truly test you to earn your way to the top
  9. Respect the place, make peace with it and be a part of it as you go – yeah we said a hi back to the blizzard on the final day :P
  10. Bag weight should not be more than 9kgs (about 10-15% of body weight)  
This is precise calculation of my expense. But one can take a ball-point figure out of this with ease. As it was my first trekking trip to the Himalayas, I had to shell out a little more for the gear. So, yeah a total of about INR 30,000 is what would be required from Bangalore.  

I cannot emphasize enough on the fact that the single most important thing on such expeditions and treks (apart from basic essentials) is having a good team of not necessarily like minded people, but I would put it this way, like-minded in certain areas. Having a diverse group with like-mindedness on a common area produce better outcomes during a grueling encounter such as this one. And here is our team:

1. Deepak (Deefu) – The Ibex of the group, he pretty much planned the entire trip and took the lead from the front for this trek. Constantly backed me during the blizzard knowing I down and dusted under during blizzard conditions.
2.  Datta (Dattu) – For the Frisbee boy, hate to say this, but it seemed like another day in the park. Certain places truly tested this endurance machine, but he came out with flying colours.
Bali pass trek was another milestone trek after our first ever Himalayan trek last year. We knew that this trek would be slightly tougher and we were mentally and physically prepared for it. We came across rocky terrains, forests, lakes & snowy mountains. The weather for 50% of the trek was overcast and raining and this made the trek tougher than we had imagined. But with good support and motivation from the trek leader and guides we were able to climb the pass and cross over. It was one hell of an experience. The trek down the mountain was one of the scariest things I had personally encountered with crevasses and slippery ice. But all in all the satisfaction we got after competition of the trek was worth all the effort we had put”
3. Gule (KR) – Mr Red Cap & Red Jacket’s jokes and talks pretty much filled the air with laughter and light spirits. Not only did he produce jokes, but also took a good number of jokes on himself to keep everybody’s spirit up.
4. Sriram (Vade) – Calm & steady mover. He pretty much knew from last time what it takes at these mountains. He had almost broken his leg last year on DAY 2 and yet limping ahead had completed Rupin pass. So he was one of those slow and steady people I always had company towards the last.
5. Ashok (Momz) – This pocket monster, doesn’t work out, does all non-sense, but effortlessly climbs any peak without breaking a sweat. No clue what the this guy’s secret is.
6. Yashwanth (Yedde) – The dancing, the singing and the negotiations with local people was pure joy to watch. He made sure every day at breakfast/lunch/dinner people would laugh to their core atleast once. One of the most jovial persons I have ever met.
“Bali pass is a really difficult trek. The trek starts from Sankri and ends at Janki Chetti. This trek offers splendid views of Kalanag and Swargarohini peaks and in the middle we can find the Ruinsara Tal Lake which has an unmatched beauty and grandeur. The Bali Pass trek should be in the list of trekkers who wish to experience the nature at its best with challenging terrains, steep ascents and descents, ridge walk and narrow trails. Important thing to keep in mind is one has to have a very good physical and mental endurance to undertake this trek. Consider this as one of the most unexplored trails in the Indian Himalayas”
7. Chethan (Zethu) – Ah, old pal. Felt great to catch up with this big guy over 7 days, I guess chethu and me were the last to reach the camp site pretty much on all the days and we always ended up in the same tent for all 7days. We had a great time catching up helping each other out. Cheers buddy!
Bali pass is by far the most challenging thing I’ve done. It gives you a glimpse of the ruggedness & remoteness of the Garwal region”

All of us thank Himanshu and his team for guiding us through Bali Pass. And looking at the porters, I tell you these people are simply insane, they don’t wear any ice spikes, carry atleast 50% their own body weight and ease through the snow effortlessly. Looking at them you kind of feel funny and begin to admire them at the same time. That humble infectious smile they give you as they race past you, makes you feel stupid but nice.


Last but not least we all would like to thank the 4 dogs, (brown, black, pup & wolf) who stuck with us throughout, shivering in the cold, jumping into the icy waters, sitting beside us staring into our eyes wondering things we can never figure out, squeezing into the tents at night to sleep unable to bear the cold & all said and done they came running to us wagging their tail in the mornings ready for another day’s trek. All of you truly touched our hearts and lifted our spirits (maybe higher than 16,500feet!)

Big cheers to all who have made it this far reading. Thank you for your support & love. Here is the link to all of the photos. Cheers! Sippy signing out! \m/

GEARS: (few recommendations)

3 in 1 Jacket


  1. Very well written. As I was reading this article, I was feeling that I was walking along with you guys.

  2. Too good karthik, am very much amazed to see this.