India with pics


First Runs
Endless Winter
Sep 25, 2003
Just back from India, had a great trip overall, even if it was a warmer and dryer than usual year. Some pics added below - a better organised trip report will come at some stage - but this is a start to build on, mainly reconstructed from emails:


What a great place! The terrain is fantastic. Snow quality typically on this trip was powder (not of lightest blower variety) up high, heavy down low. They have a conservative approach to opening the uppper lift after snow, and when that is not running there is tree skiing from the lower lift, or more tree skiing down to one of the lower villages. The trip to Drung in particular is a great journey down an isolated valley, good skiing up high and very scenic but low angle lower down.

Our purpose was to acclimatise to altitude to a degree, before heading to Kullu Valley to earn our turns. Certainly writh a return trip at some stage, provided the political situation does not worsen. The ideal window for powder seems to be late Jan to mid Feb. We did meet a guy who had lived in India for over a year, who said that there is great spring skiing later too, with virtually no skiers/boarders, and the lift still open for sight seeing purposes.


We have just got back to Vashisht from a 4 day/3 night trip, plus a night before and after at Solang, a small village with limited facilities - we got to Beas Kund, a
lake (snow covered) in a beautiful cirque at about 3500m,
with spectacular mountains around - Particularly Hanuman Tibba,5950m, a mountain climbing proposition rather than a skiing one. Skiing back down the steep moraines from Beas Kund was fairly crusty, but there was some good spring snow as we got lower. The weather was initially quite warm, with very steep gullies sliding regularly, but got colder and more stable later in the trip. A gully just beside where we were camped had a fairly big slide in it the first night we were there, fed from a
steep gully above but out of sight - the very reason we
decided to camp on the ridge above the gully rather than in it. For the third night we moved camp in order to ski a peak further down the valley. Our intended peak ("The Stairmaster") proved to be very difficult to access, and we ended up climbing and skiing the adjacent, slightly lower, Tisra Peak, about 3650m - 850m climb that day, with some slow progress in the early stages until we could get a clear slope to climb. Climbing was also slower than at home due to
altitude. We got up fairly early to avoid the snow getting too soft by the time we skied, and set out by 7am. We reached the top about midday. Skiing was on
beautiful spring snow for a large part of the way down,
getting a bit heavy lower, then very heavy below the tree
line. Pitch varying a bit but moderately steep overall, and enjoyable ski and a good trip to increase our fitness and acclimatisation for higher climbs to follow.

By the way, there is a gondola in construction at Solang,
where there was previously only a small rope tow, intended to be ready for 2010. there is a lot of construction of new hotels going on too.


Back yeserday arvo from a great trip over 3days/2 nights to Bhrigu Peak. 4310m, and straight up from our base at
Vashisht near Manali. Very nice to start from here, but it also means starting from a lower altitude, about 2050m.
First day was a long very steep uphill grind with packs,
skis and boots carried - to a glorious campsite above the
snowline with some bare patches of pine needle mulch to aid camp comfort, and a great view down the valley down a
snowfilled gully between forest of conifers and Himalayan
Oak (which is evergreen). Next day an early start for the
remaining 1200m climb on skis, with light packs - about
400m up to the treeline then open alpine terrain with
awesome views variably affected by low cloud. Good skiing down from the peak, past Bhrigu Lake (snow covered at present) and even better skiing in the drainage below the lake, which required a climb out but well worth it - then more good skiing back to camp about 2.30pm - enough for the day. Next day we had a more leisurely start, climbed part way up to a lower peak we had passed on the way to Bhrigu Peak, and skied back to camp in quite firm conditions as the weather had got colder during the morning. Lunch and a brew at camp then packup and the long downclimb - less tiring but
harder on the muscles than climbing up. Hot Springs bathing at the bottom was never more welcome! 10/3/09 when we got back was Holi, a Hindu festival in which the prime activity seems to be throwing coloured water at people randomly. Most of this had finished by the time we got down, but there was plenty of dye on the roads and pavements, and on people - predominantly red ochre but various other colours too. The
hot spring baths were very busy, and the water in the
bathing pool was quite red.


We have recently got back from a longer trip (6 day/5
night)up the Jagatsukh Valley, a steep and narrow side
valley heading east from about 6km south of Manali. It was a great trip again, somewhat demanding though - and some of our best skiing so far, with one last ski trip (5 days/4 nights planned) before heading home.

The weather has been very fine, with only briefly snow the night before we returned, so it remains definitely spring conditions rather than powder. Overall it has been a warm and low snow year on these parts, but there is still plenty of good skiing at higher altitudes. This has one advantage at least, which is that for the next trip, the road which is closed in winter will have been cleared closer to our objective at Rohtang Pass and surrounding peaks.


Spent the day just getting to the locality called Chhika, at 3100m, where the skiing starts this year at least, and there is a Shiva shrine, plus a couple of huts which I think are used by herders and pilgrims in summer - no tent for a change, and running spring water. We had found (previously unknown to us) that there is a new road up the valley to within 2-3km of Chhika, a private road being made by a company constructing a hydro power project - thankfully at least no large dam in this location as it is a spectacularly beautiful valley - a small weir and tunnel portals though, and the road itself, which is an amazing bit of construction with many hairpin bends up and along a cliff face for most of its length.

Getting on to the road was not straightforward though - The company administration would not allow our taxi through, nor would the security guys at the boom gate a couple of km from Jagatsukh village. We eventually started walking along the road, not enjoying the prospect of an unexpected 10 km uphill, especially with legs still sore from the long downhill of the Bhrigu trip. Fortunately we were soon picked up by company vehicles going up to the construction site, split between 2 vehicles, the first being on top of a ute tray full of dirty diesel containers - we were just glad to get the lift!


Chhikka has great chutes leading up the south side of the
valley, which would be even better in a bigger snow year,
and a large area of more moderate ski terrain above that. The climb is difficult though, starting gently and steepening progressively through thickening vegetation including masses of rhododendron bushes (in bud but not in flower) - to a
point where we need to take off skis and boot up a steep and narrow chute. At the top of the chute we had lunch, climbed a bit more and decided to cross to a more likely looking skiing chute. This was good for 2/3 of the way down, when we were taught a lesson: Don't ski down what you haven't seen the whole way to the bottom!! This was when this chute spilled over a 20-30m cliff. We thought we would have to climb out quite a way and find a different route, but fortunately there was a narrow traverse band that allowed us to cross to
an adjacent chute which we could ski to the bottom. George was up higher still, and we radioed him about the situation, so her was able to cross the ridge higher up.


We moved higher up the valley to an area called Seri, on
skis this time (on the south side of the river) - a summer grazing area, about 3500m at the lower end where we were camped. There is great skiing here, more immediately accessible than at Chhika. The north side of the river still has little snow here, but from Chhika up to Seri is lined by cliffs, spires, pinnacles and buttresses. A rock climber's dream, I imagine. Further up the valley is a headwall then a large snow filled cirque with a high pass, and a mountain called Deo Tibba to the north, 6001m with a rounded glacial cap. Our aim was more modest than Deo Tibba though - a great ski mountain called Pashchim Pahar, 4610m and just a little up the valley from camp, on the south side of the river. A really spectacular campsite!


Another fine day, and time to get up Pashchim Pahar. A long climb, on skins the first 500m then booting up with crampons the next 600m., up the ridge dividing the NE and WNW faces, with the snow softening as we climbed. Both these faces have great skiing, with substantial sections about 40 degrees. The 360 degree view at the top was amazing! The NE face has a longer continuous fall line down to the river, but this day had more variable now and areas of shallow wind slab. The
WNW face is a bit steeper overall, though easy to ski in the
soft spring snow by this time. There was some surface
sloughing of soft snow on the steeper pinches but no
difficulty. There is 600m steep vertical then and easing of pitch to 28-30 degrees with a choice of heading down a
natural half pipe, or crossing to a large wall closer to
camp, which we did. One run was enough that day!


No big peaks this day - more just enjoying the skiing.
First climbing the 500m wall mentioned yesterday and skiing a different line down, then exploring up another valley immediately above camp, which revealed more great skiing on nice spring snow. There are many great chutes and slopes around Seri still untouched by us. A bit of snow that night around dusk put us to bed early, but did not last.


Time to go back to Vashisht - skied to Chhika easy at first then more obstacles (rocky outcrops, vegetation (bloody rhododendrons!)), but no real problems. Crossed the log bridge then loaded skis/boots on packs and hiked down to the weir construction site. We were lucky to immediately get a lift in the empty tray of a light truck heading back down to Jagatsukh. One hitch on the crazy road though; a tip truck had manoeuvred to across the road and started to tip rock and dirt over the precipice - then tipped over onto its side
on the road, thankfully no further. The driver appeared to have injured his knee, but got off very lightly considering the possible consequences. An ambulance vehicle came down from the dam site and was able to squeeze around the truck to take the injured driver down, then we were able to

We took a public bus from Jagatsukh to Manali, always an
interesting (and cheap) experience. We met up with Raju, a local guide known the the Steves for information and arrangements for our next and last trip up the Rohtang Valley - but first, hot springs in Vashisht, recuperation and rest for a couple of days.


Just back from out last ski trip in India and all remains
well. Rohtang Pass (3978m) is a major pass from Kullu
Valley to Lahaul region and the Chandra River valley that
divides the Pir Pinjal (Middle Himalaya Range) from the
Great Himalaya Range. The road over the pass is cleared each year by the Indian Army, to allow access to this area which is quite isolated in winter. Usually the pass opens for traffic May-June, but this year with lower than usual snowfall it was open to Marhi, within striking distance (2-3 hr on skis) of the pass, and clearing is getting close to the pass. As we found out, it is an area of wild and changeable weather, with strong winds almost every night which generaly moderate in the middle of the day. We had less skiing overall than on previous trips - but still some good skiing as well as some difficult conditions. Conditions weren't really suitable for attempting the bigger surrounding peaks though.

We were able to get a 4WD to Marhi - this can only be
done early in the morning as they close the road further
down at Gulaba after 8am, when snowclearing operations
start. There is little at either of these places until the road opens, there is a climbing "snowpoint" where stalls with food, warm clothes, ancient skis etc open up to cater to Indian tourists who have never seen snow before.

When we arrived at Marhi, the "rescue" guys permanently
stationed there suggested we stay in the "guesthouse"
nearby, rather than in out tents. - this had some attraction in the cold wind, and we did so for the 4 nights. It was a large and attractive building in a spectacular location, but in a shocking state of disrepair; out of 6 rooms only one was essentially dry, and we only just found 4 reliably dry sleeping spots. It was very cold inside too, but at least there was plenty of room to move. Taking this option also
meant we could ski the day of arrival.

We skied out to Rohtang Pass first day. Unfortunately the weather closed in as we got there, limiting our views, but we did get misty views of the closer of the mountains of the Great Himalaya Range, the Gephan Range, rising to about 6200m. We were able to traverse around from there to skiable slopes which took us back closer to our dwelling. Steve E and George skied first, down the lower slopes of Rohtang Ri, the mountain guarding the pass on its east side. Stephen P
and I continue further around to Rohtang Chute, a fantastic rock lined chute further back from the pass. We were able to enter it about 2/3 of the way up, whereupon the weather
closed in to near white out conditions, so we decided to ski from there rather than boot up to the top of the chute - great skiing on about 6cm of fresh fluff on a firm base. Moderately steep and great atmosphere.

That night there was another 20cm of fresh snow. George and Steve had been sick overnight, with George staying in for the day. We were rather concerned about avy danger, as the few cm of fresh the previous evening had been sliding on steep slopes, so we limited our skiing to fairly low angle slopes. We were too slow out though - after a nice but short ski our accommodation to the valley floor, the sun came out, the wind stopped and a rapid
warming turned the powder to wet cement.

Next day we skied another great chute in the valley between Marhi Choti near our accommodation and Dashaur Peak, 4695m, a fantastic steep pyramid of a mountain guarding the west side of the pass (which we would really liked to have skied if conditions were different). This day though, the snow was really
crusty and skiing was difficult though manageable.

Yesterday there was only a small window of good snow
conditions between enough sun to soften the crust and the
weather closing in again in the afternoon - we timed it
better this time and had a really nice last ski of the trip down Marhi Nala Chute, another great line with 37-38 deg pitch though not as much vertical as the other places we skied. Not perfect snow, but a really nice ski to finish our Himalayan skiing.

This morning the 4WD we had arranged arrived 6.30 am, as we are back enjoying the day in Vashisht, with to breakfast, chai and hot spring baths all being enjoyed.



One of Us
Ski Pass
Aug 16, 2007
Re: India

Awesome Graeme....
Puts my little adventures into perspective. Cant wait to see the pics.


Fully vaccinated and travelling again!
Ski Pass
Oct 14, 2005
Re: India

Nice one! Very impressive. Welcome back. I was wondering a couple of weeks ago if you were back yet.

Plenty of familiar names there, though it is certainly easier when doing it in a heli!

A gondola at Solang! Had been hearing rumours about that for some time but nothing more.


First Runs
Endless Winter
Sep 25, 2003
Re: India

skiers right of Gulmarg upper lift

on the way down to Drung

view across the valley from Vashisht

temple hot spring baths Vashisht

the evidence Your Heinzness

Hanuman Tibba

we were camped just left of this mess, gully walls about 10m for scale

camp en route to Bhrigu Peak

Bhrigu Peak summit (we skied the other side)

our way up, Chhika

our way down, Chhika

Pashchim Pahar from Chhika

Pashchim Pahar from camp, Seri

Rohtang Chute

traversing to Rohtang Chute, Dashaur Peak behind

battling breakable crust, penultimate chute of trip
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Old n' Crusty
Ski Pass
Oct 12, 2007
Re: India

Cheers for the report and piccies, not jealous
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