PIR PANJAL RANGE runs on the borders of Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The average" height of the range is about 5500 m. We crossed over from Chamba valley to Lahul valley, from basin of Ravi river to Chenab river, via Kugti pass (5120 m).

We followed the following route: Chamba-Bharmaur: (1) Hadsar 2740 m, (2) Kugti 3050 m, (3) Duggi (Rudi) 3660 m, (4) Glacier Camp 4270 m, (5) Kugti Pass 5120 m, (6) Marika Got 3966 m, (7) Rape 3350 m, (8) Keylong Manhhi.

It is also famous for its many ancient temples. These were built in 7th century. We visited the temples of Chamunda, Laxminarayan and Shiva and offered our pooja.

18-19 September 1992
We reached Chamba by bus from Pathankot. We boarded the Chamba-Bharmaur bus. The route was through narrow valley and on the banks of Ravi. We left Ravi at Khadamukh and entered the Budhil nala valley.

Bharmaur is very beautiful village in background of snow-capped peaks. TheYe ^are a few famous ancient temples. We were happy to know that a jeepable road now links Bharmaur to Hadsar. We kept out luggage at Hadsar and started on the famous trek to Mani Mahesh lake (4420 m). The route was very steep, but safe. We reached Dhanchoo camping ground, which is 8 kms. from Hadsar and stayed for the night.

20 September
We left Dhanchoo early for the onward trek. It was cold and windy. The trail was steep and without any trees. We reached Gauri Kund at 10 a.m. and Mani Mahesh lake at 10.30 a.m. A beautiful lake and magnificient view of Kailash peak (5656 m) was breathtaking. We reached Dhanchoo at 1.30 p.m. and Hadsar at 4.00 p.m.

21 September
Today our real trek to Kugti Pass started. We hired 3 porters. We left Mani Mahesh nala and reached very close to Budhil nala. Then we climbed a very steep route. The towering mountain walls and water falls were a frightening sight. We reached Dharoi, about half the distance and had our lunch. Then the strenuous climb continued for next 3 hours. We got a view of gigantic snow covered Pir Panjal range. A view of Bhujala nadi was fascinating, from here one route also goes to Mani Mahesh lake from east of Kailash peak. We stayed at the forest rest house.

22-23 September
Our next camp was at Duggi (3660 m). The route was steep but well marked as many of the villagers trek via this route to Kartikeya temple. This beautiful wooden temple is worshipped by many in this and nearby valleys. A rear view of Mani Mahesh Kailash peak was great. Similarly a grand view of Duggi pass and the snow peaks were visible from the temple. We halted at a natural cave (3660 m).

Next day we reached Duggi Railing and a grand panorama opened in front of us. A grand view of snow peaks on Pir Panjal range and Kugti pass was visible. Porters were complaining about weight (about 15 kg). We tried to convince them but they started blackmailing us and asked for more money. This was the first experience of this kind for us in the last 10 years. After discussion between ourselves, we decided to dismiss them.

Now it was tough trek to carry about 35 kg extra load in addition to the personal one. We decided to make load ferrys. A camp was established at 6 p.m. on the moraine of Kugti pass glacier.

24 September
We reached the base of the glacier at 8.30 a.m. As usual we found that unlike the distant view the actual glacier is quiet, large and steep. It had taken us 5 hours to climb that steep icefall before the vertical gully. We reached the top of the icefall at noon.

The last portion of the climb was through a wide gully. We were making very slow progress, and were struggling to trace the route. It was miserably cold when reached the pass at 4 p.m. As we were standing in the pass a thundering wind was blowing from Lahul valley to Chamba valley. We pitched our tent at the pass itself. The barren Lahul valley was clear. We could see famous peaks such as Gangstang, Phabrang and peaks near Menthosa.

25-26 September
We woke up at 7 a.m. The weather was very dear and we felt as if we were on the top of the world. We were stunned to see the steepness and the glaciers on both the sides.

We descended towards Lahul by traversing the glacier on rocks and icy slopes. It took us 3 hours to traverse, then we reached the icefield. We were very cautious and used snow-bridges to cross t main crevasses. We reached the bas.e of the glacier at 2.00 p.m. and walked on a giant moraine field. It took us 3 hours to cover that moraine and we reached Mrika Got at 5.00 p.m.

The 26th was the last day of the trek. After 3 hours of descent we could see an unmetalled motorable road on the other bank of the Chenab river. After another two hours we reached village Rape. We crossed the Chenab on a suspension bridge and reached the motorable road at 2.30 p.m. We went to Keylong by bus for our tinwrird journey to Manali.

Members: Prashant Tale (leader), Shashikant Aminbhavi, Sanjeev Shukla mid Pravin Tale.

Summary: A trek to Mani Mahesh lake and across Kugti pass 5120 m) in Himachal Pradesh in September 1992.