Saturday, 24 May 2008

YHAI Sar Pass - Trekking Tips

YHAI has been doing a great job organizing treks all over India. You can find a list of their trekking programmes here. The Sar Pass trek is one their most popular ones and is held in the month of May. Its a 11 day affair, including 8 days of trekking. As of 2008, the base camp was in Kasol, a cozy little town on the banks of river Parvati - 42kms from Kullu.

The entire trek is a feast for the mind, body, eyes and soul. The pictures of Sar Pass will definitely blow your socks off! You can find them here. Here are a few things that we learnt from our trek.

  1. The YHAI Sar Pass page is your bible. Follow it to the last word.
  2. A good pair of hunter shoes is a must, since you will be trekking on ice. Normal rubber cannot take the brutal cold. If you are in Bangalore, you can find a fine bargain at this army surplus stores opposite Russel's market in Shivajinagar. It should cost you about Rs.650.
  3. YHAI provides you with a decent ruck sack. So unless you plan to take up trekking as your religion, you need not invest in one.
  4. Thermal wear is a must. It costs around Rs.700 is really worth investing into.
  5. Goggles and sun screen lotion are a must. You'll end up with red swollen eyes if you don't bother to carry goggles. The pretty and non-pretty females of our group did carry sun screen and got off easy. We guys came back tanned and sun burnt looking like Nigerians.
  6. In addition to the hunter shoes, make sure you take a pair of slippers/floaters along during the trek, even if it means a little extra weight. At the end of each day's trek your shoes will be all wet and soggy. So if you don't have an additional pair of footwear to walk around the campsite once you dry up, its one big pain.
  7. Be prepared for a staple of Parle-G biscuits and tea. Breakfast and lunch are no doubt served - but you'll soon find out that these two will be staple food. Food in the higher camps ranges anywhere from decent to good - which is very ironical given the fact that the food in the base camp, well, sucks.
  8. You can carry just a little snacks, as its relieving to nibble on something once in while when you get bored of the local food. Unless you are very choosy, you need not carry much food. Some dry fruits and a packets or two of snacks will suffice.
  9. It pays to heed the words of the instructor and reduce you backpack weight to the bare minimum. You will not be bathing except on the last day, so you wont be need more than an extra pair of pants and a couple of shirts. You hardly sweat given the low temperature and so its not as gross as it sounds.
  10. Hygiene will be more or less nonexistent. Be prepared to use open air toilets and answering natures calls, well, with nature! Don't take plastic plates or boxes as far as possible as they are difficult to wash and degrease. Tissues will sure come in really handy. [And don't forget the toilet papers!!]
  11. Surprisingly, you'll have network coverage almost along the entire route, though intermittently. The only problem being that you will not have power to recharge you cells. So be sure to carry you cell phones; and use it wisely.
  12. Drink as much fluids as you can over the course of the trip. As you will told over and again, its very important that you remain hydrated and that your blood retain its normal consistency. The tea, soup, juice and daliya that you will be given will provide ample opportunity for this.
  13. Be sure to explore the area around each campsite. All places, including lunch points have been tastefully chosen. So let the shutter bug in you loose, and at the same time don't forget to sit back and savour the vigour and beauty of the Himalayas!
  14. Even to this day, when I listen to Floyd's Division Bell, the panoramic visions come rushing back. The experience of listening to psychedelic/Indian classical music in a place like that is just indescribable. You are in a world of your own. Bliss! [In fact you will find lots of weed growing out there. But you won't need to use it]
  15. You'll find lots of interesting people from all walks of life. Get to know each other. You're bound to find a lot of like minded folks and make some long lasting friends in the course of the 10days.
To conclude, just get there and enjoy maadi. If there is anything more that you'd want to know, drop me a comment. A mail would be just as good. Cheers!


badri said...

hi iam badrinath.....
i had completed this sarpass trkking in the year march2003. it was a good experience that time...pls keep in touch n inform me next time when the call comes for trekking...

vk said...


Bardi, the YHAI trek was a big one! Not sure when the next big one will come by! We're mostly doing trekking in and around Karnataka and Kerala now... Thats I'd say is a good way to keep one's trekking calender marked.

For that matter YHAI does conduct a number such treks the whole yr round. Check it out here

suresh said...

hi vk
thanx for valuable tips on the trek. we are planning sarpass this year. Eagerly waiting for the month of May. Last year we did mountain biking. In fact it was our first expedition. after that experience we decided to have more of Himalayas. thanx again.

vk said...

Glad to hear that! In case you still remember when its all over, do drop me a note as to how the trek went on.

Srihari said...

We're also planning for this year's sarpass trek. I'm tentatively looking for the mountain biking also. So, if possible, drop me a mail or comment. Thanks.

Rao said...

I had trekked sur pass in year 1994
the base camp at that time was ....
i forgot and mini base camp was place where we finf hot water springs...It was great Also friends try trekking in Karnataka and kerala

vk said...

@ Rao
Your 'mini-base camp' would have been near Manikaran.
Currently its on the return path. So having a bath in the hot springs of the gurudwara/temple (after almost 8 days!) and then dining at the langar is one of the best things you can do on the way back.

As for trekking in K'taka and Kerala - we've done quite a lot and there's a whole lot to be done yet. I have documented a number of them on this blog.

Vinay said...

Hi VK,
Thanks for those Trekking tips. I would be onmy way to SarPass Trek on 28th April 2008.

Would you be knowing someone / a website were I could get in touch with fellow trekkers who would have registered for the same reporting date?

Thanks!! in advance

Vinay said...

Typo error!! sorry its 28 April2009

vk said...

I highly doubt some such site existing where you can get in touch with fellow-trekkers-to-be.

Don't you think its just fun to make friends then and there and get to know each other really well by the end of the trek! Hope you have a wonderful trek.. Cheers!

sameet said...

This is the first time I am going on a trekking with YHAI-Sar Pass. Can you guide me about what are the thing to carry.

vk said...

All that's been mentioned on the YHAI Sar Pass page and the things I've mentioned in the post should get you safely to the top and back home again.


sameet said...


Thank you the information and also the tips.


Tejas said...

Hi VK,
thanks for the tips. I'm planning on going for the Sar Pass trek on 23rd may. I had a few doubts about it...

What is the most comfortable way to take a night-bus from Delhi to Kasol ?

Is it okay to take the usual Adidas running shoes along (with plastic bags around socks) ?

Would a light jacket, sweater, monkey-cap, gloves and thick cotton socks be enough ?

Thanks in advance,

vk said...

What is the most comfortable way to take a night-bus from Delhi to Kasol ? You can book tickets online if you want to play it real safe. Or else there are ample buses available from different areas like Cannaught Place. I'd advise you to do the latter. Gives you a lot of flexibility and its more 'fun'!

Is it okay to take the usual Adidas running shoes along (with plastic bags around socks) ? Ask Adidas if they guarantee that the sole wont come off when kept at sub-zero temps for over 48 hours ;) I've seen Woodlands trekking shoes' sole come off and Adidas's sole not come off too! So its difficult to say a thumb rule. Whats for sure is that your shoe has to be waterproof and gum should not be used to stick the sole to the shoe. It has to be directly moulded.

vk said...

Would a light jacket, sweater, monkey-cap, gloves and thick cotton socks be enough ?Just make the jacket a bit 'heavier' :) I strongly advice you to buy a pair of thermals however. You sweater is only a tenth as good as thermals but twice as heavy! It get bitterly cold, espy at Tila Lotni.

Hope that clears your doubts. Have a wonderful trek. Cheers!

Tejas said...

Thanks Vk... that was useful. I guess I should get new shoes.

joicy said...

Hi Vk..
The Tips gave an insight to many things we didnt know. Thanks a lot. We have planned our trip on may 30th.And m very excited about it. :)

vk said...

Glad I could be some help. Hope you have a wonderful trek Joicy. Incidentally, exactly a yr ago (as of yest) we were on Sar Pass! :)

All the best.

Kavita said...

Hi I am going for sar pass on 17th may. I am very confused with which shoes to buy. Actually i have very less options available as my shoe size is 4. I am not getting hunters anywhere in mumbai. How about action trekking shoes? Are they fine? I will be trekking first time. So is it advisable to use those shoes? Please suggest. Thanks

VK said...

Hi Kavitha,
Check with the dealer if these action shoes are directly moulded and waterproof. If they are, then they're fine. Directly moulded because if glued , the soles stands a chances of coming off in the cold.

Anonymous said...

This post was helpful man...I'll be doing this route in a couple of weeks...

I've done 4 treks before this in the Kumaon and gadhwal region....but its been a while since my last trip there...

how is the route? i noticed on the website that there's an altitude gain of 100-1500 ft almost everyday....thats kinda neat....

VK said...

Hi Sanket,
Given your exp, this one should be a cakewalk. Its not a difficult trek even otherwise. Ample time to ascend and take you time enjoying the surrounding. Only the stretch where you trek from Tila Lotni camp to Sar pass and beyond is a little tricky.

Kavya Bhatt said...

hi Vinayak! I had a wonderful time readin thru ur blog.. m planning to go to sarpass d cumin yr.. n this blog was truly helpful.. actually i was searchin for a good pair of trekking shoes for a multi-day trek n stumbled upon ur blog..
will go thru ur other entries at a leisurely pace some other time..
happy trekkin..cheers!

VK said...

Hi Kavya,
Glad to hear that. Commercial Street in Bangalore is a good place to get some good trekking shoes. Get a good pair that'll last for a while.
I did buy a pair of Woodlands that're really good but goddamn heavy. Please don't do that mistake!


Kavya Bhatt said...

hey VK! I bot Action trekking shoes today.. hope i havent made a mistake.. they r lightweight n came with lot of recommendations frm many pple. lets c :)

VK said...

Cool! Let me know how it goes :)

Rohan said...

Dear Kamath

The tips are very helpful. Really nice effort.

We were planning to take up this trek but on the registration site, they are asking for the membership number. None of us in my group are yhai members, so does it mean that all of us will have to 1st fill up membershi forms, send DD and den after getting membership number fill up Sar pass form.

Or is there any alternate way out. Isn't there any provision that they take extra money for membership along with sar pass trek fees and save us the trouble and delay of waiting to become a member. We don't want to miss out places in the batch on our preferred day of travelling.


VK said...

You do have to be members of yhai. You'll have to go through the process of applying for a new membership hence. I don't think there's a workaround. Give the Delhi office a call if ask them if there is an alternative.

Just so that you know, when you are yhai members you get discounted price at numerous hotels and resorts. Turned out to be a useful benefit.

toutlemonde said...

Very well written, im planning to go on dis trip dis year, after giving my boards. Good advice on the division bell, though i think dark side wud be better..

Vachana Shetty said...

Hi Vinayak,

Your blog is acting as a bible to me! We have registered for this year's Sar Pass. I read in one of your blogs that you took a train from Delhi to ?? and the journey was beautiful.. Could you please help me out with some more details?
How did you go from Bangalore to Delhi? And what time did you reach Delhi?
I am planning to take a train instead of flying. I read somewhere its best to gradually shift between such drastic climate changes. Do you think it's a good idea?
Thanks once again for your detailed blogs.. :)

VK said...

Hi Vachana,
Good to hear that. There's another post on this trip - Sar-Pass trek moments. You'll find a lot of the details you're looking for in it. We took a train from Delhi to Kalka so that we could ride the Himalayan Queen to Shimla. It's one of the few narrow gauge trains still operating and takes a nice scenic route. You can look up the timing for Sampark Kranthi yourself.

I don't think flying/taking a train to Delhi matters. What matters is you get acclimatized to the altitude before the hike; which the YHAI makes sure you do my having you spending a couple of days in the base camp. So choose whatever works for you.

CTC Blogger said...

Hi VK..

Very useful blog. I'm going on this trek on May 19th this year. And I'm all excited about this.
A few questions I have.
You said they would provide rucksacks.. So does that mean we dont carry a backpack from here?
Also, I have made arrangements for transport upto Kullu. Buses to Kasol from there shouldnt be a problem right?

Sid said...

Great job in writing these blogs. Awesome help for someone considering the YHAI treks.

One question I had was about the physical ability required to do the Sar Pass. My uncle, who is 40 years old and weighs about 85kgs, would like to join. He is in a fit conditional has hiked several hikes in the US in the past (upto 10 miles a day with 2000ft elevation gain). Do you think he can do this?

Sid said...

Great job of writing these posts. Awesome help for someone considering these treks.

One question I had was about the physical ability of someone to do the SAR Pass Trek. My uncle is 40 years old, 5'8" and weighs about 85KGs. He is physically active and has done a lot of hikes in the US. He is actively considering this trek but would like to know if it is too challenging. He has done 10miles of hikes in the past with about 2500 ft elevation gain in one day.

Your response will be very useful.

VK said...

@CTCB: Yeah.. you don't really have to.. The backpacks they give you aren't the best but they do the work. If you hike often you could consider investing into one. You'll find buses to Kasol from Kullu easily. Shouldn't be an issue.

@Sid: Your uncle seems to be in great shape. There was even a 60year old couple in our batch who completed the hike, albeit with a little difficulty. Your uncle should have no probs whatsoever!

Pratik Rajurkar said...

Hey Vk,
your Blog is awesome, me and my friend are bound to go for the Sar Pass expedition on 3oth may onwards, will the weather still be as exciting as mentioned?!! wud we encounter snow even then?

yogendra parihar said...

Hey guys my name is Yogendra Singh Parihar from Jabalpur(MP). I am going to Sarpass and reporting on 06th May 2013 with my friends. I have done Pindari & Roopkund Trek earlier. Some of my companions are going first time. Kindly tell me whether Sleeping bag is required for this trek?

VK said...

YHAI should be providing you with sleeping bags

smitha said...

Hi VK, Found your blog very helpful. Me and a bunch of friends are going to the trek on May 14th. Kindly tell me if we need to carry a rcuksack. And what kind of shoes would be better?

smitha said...

Hi VK! Found your blog useful! Can you please tell me what kind of shoes are good for those conditions. And also did you carry any jacket/rain coat along with you? Me and a bunch of friends are trekking on May-14.

VK said...

Hi Smitha,
Glad the post helped. YHAI does give you rucksacks. They are so-so when it comes to quality. If you think you'll be hiking seriously, you can consider getting one yourself. Adventure Worx makes fairly good backpacks that are reasonably priced.
Take a good jacket with you; you'll be grateful. Get those slightly heavy ones that are both waterproof and keep you warm. Those things always come in handy - not just for treks, but traveling in general.

Nitin Dokania said...

hi VK
i wanted to ask which mobile network signal was coming during the trek.. was it BSNL or private operators as well like docomo?

VK said...

I must have been on Vodafone back then IIRC. BSNL coverage will be better than the rest as usual.