The first time I went to Spiti Valley in April 2005, I had witnessed some pretty awesome snow scenes especially on way from Kaza to Khibber. I knew (even then) I would be coming back here later, in the middle of winter to witness more intense snow scenes! While reading some recent Spiti-Valley winter biker's adventure in the BCMT Forum I was reminded of that old resolve.
So at a short notice I decided to do a quick 10-day backpacking trip to Spiti Valley, starting 16th Feb 2015. I had seen the forecast on IMD-Shimla site of Western Disturbances and coming snow storm and cold weather at Kalpa around 20th February.
In retrospect, I could not enter Spiti Valley at all ... and got stuck in Kalpa (HP) for 3 days as the snow the storm had blocked the roads going north from Rekong Peo; with no news of how long it will take to open up. My travel window being short this time I decided to return from Kalpa and do the 'Spiti-in-Winter' some other time!
But the 3-days in Kalpa during the snow storm was an adventure by itself - with some awesome views of Kinnaur Kailash range - was worth recording in a blog page.
Day-wise details of the trip below:
17th Feb 2015, Day-1: Arrived Chandigarh
Arrived in Chandigarh at 16:30 by train 22451 MUM-CDG Sup Fast. Took an Auto who took me to a small Hotel in Sector 45 (to be near Sec 43 ISBT) and took a room for INR 900 for the night stay.
18th Feb 2015, Day-2: To Shimla by Bus
Got a Punjab Roadways bus, Dep at 8:30 AM from Sec-43 ISBT to Shimla. Arrived 12:30 PM. The next HRTC Bus to Rekong Peo was at 6:30 PM. Tried to get a room for 6 Hrs at Hotel Aangan (just 200M from new Shimla Bus stand -but INR 1000 for 6 hrs was too much). So waited till 6:30PM in Bust stand. Was pretty cold, whole afternoon around 7-8*C inside the bus stand.
hole night bus ride to Rekong Peo was tiring. In retrospect would have been better to stay in Shimla and catch a morning bus; and be able to see the route & scenery outside bus window better.
19th Feb 2015, Day-3: 2:45AM Arrived R-Peo
The bus made it in good time. No hurdles on the way, except near Kharcham the Bus had to stop in front of a pile of boulders on the road perhaps just fallen from a landslide. The male passengers were asked to get down and clear the way for the bus to move ahead. It was a 20-minute operation of public effort at 1:30AM
It was super cold in R-Peo bus-stand at 2:45 AM. The bus conductor showed me the adjacent Hotel Bhagwati and asked me to go up the steps and bang on the shutters to get the keeper to open the door. That worked and I got room for Rs 400/-. Very basic and run-down hotel, with dirty linen. But at 3:00AM it was difficult to go out again in the cold frigid town to search for a decent hotel. So just lay down and dozed off.
At 9:00AM got up to see a clear sky and the Kinner Kailash mountains all around glistening in snow all around. Outside too, lots of snow piles lying by the road sides. After morning tea, decided to go up to Kalpa instead of looking for another hotel in Peo.
Waiting outside the bus-stand on the road hoping for some share-taxi. None came. A Maruti-800 guy agreed to take me on 'booking' Rs 500/- till wherever the road was clear of snow. As we raeched higher levels saw plenty of old snow all around. The road was cleared of snow mostly all the way. He dropped me off some 300M below near the Kalpa Chini bazar area.
I started climbing through the 'pedestrian staircase' so full of old snow that the paved-staircase could not be seen at all! Somehow I climbed, using some previous foot depressions! As I climbed snow flakes started falling and soon the flurries became a full fledged snowfall. An eerie silence descended around me. Reaching the upper level road I could hardly see the road, full of snow! Turning left and nearing the Himachal Tourism's 'Kinnar Kailash' Guest House I saw huge piles of snow and the driveway into the GH barely visible. I was now doubtful if any of the hotels up here, will be open at this time of the year. And this HPTDC's GH looked all deserted.
Anyway, I stomped may through piles of snow to what a appeared to be a side entrance door and knocked loudly with my trekking pole. For many minutes there was no response and I was about to turn back and try some other place, when I heard some noise from inside and an elderly man opened at the door.
He let me in said he was the new Manager here, joined just 4 days ago on 15th! He seemed as overwhelmed by the snow situation as I was! I asked him if I could get a room here; he said do come in fast and I will check if a room can be made available.
Mr Thakur Teji Singh, the new manager made me
comfortable in his own room first and switched on his Heater. He then called one Mr Negi to come and give me a Room with a good View and Heater.
Mr Negi too seemed very kind and cooperative and showed me a nice Cosy room, that I took. They apologized for the water being switched-off due to icy conditions but assured me they will provide buckets of water. It seemed, I was the only Guest there and most of the staff had been sent to Narkanda GH for the Ski season there. But these two assured me they will take care of me with simple food and I can be comfortable there till teh snow storm ends.
Thereafter for next 2-3 days they too personally served me with food in the room which was simple but tasty. Outside the snowstorm continued for two days with a total fall of 4-5 feet of snow. From my room's large bay-windows, on two walls, I watched the snow fall steadily and slowly accumulating on the lawns outside and soon the viewing cement benches disappeared under piles of snow.
20th Feb 2015, Day-4:
The snow continued falling silently all day. The trees turned white and the branches bent low with snow piled on them. The electric lines and the transformers mounted on poles, too were laden with snow and ice. On the first night the power went off by 11PM and never came back for the next 2 days that I was trapped there. It was cold inside and one had to manage with 1 blanket and 2 'rajais'. The inside room temperature was 1-2*C at night and the outside around -10*C as per my Sunto watch.
The whole of the second day I spent watching the snow fall. And sometimes walking outside along the 3 ft wide concrete walkway going around the GH building; with many right-angled turns to afford privacy and views for several guest room windows. The corrugated and slanted roof-tops had a overhang that covered this walkway and so one could walk getting drenched in the snow fall.
Teji-ji or Negi-ji would bring me the breakfast (aloo-paratha & achaar), lunch (Roti, Dal, Aloo-beans-sabji), evening tea/coffee and dinner
(same Roti, Dal, Aloo-beans-sabji)
to my room. Apart from eating and watching the snow fall, I did nothing else much. The 3G-network too went-off on the 2nd day. The voice network & sms seemed to work off-and-on' though I kept my mobile switched off to conserve battery.
On the 3rd day the