At the top of that climb, we could see only rocks ahead of us. Big boulders, roundish and lying on top of each other. It covered a massive flat area, the size of two football fields. It suddenly seemed like we were on an alien planet, with a completely different topography. Even though it seemed like we could just walk and hop over the rocks, the sheer size of each rock would make it a difficult passage. It was a glacial landform, that had changed the entire landscape of the area a couple of years ago. There was an actual glacier underneath those massive boulders. And as the person we met on the climb told us, there was a “dhalaan” somewhere, which meant the hard ice of the glacier had given away to form sort of a crater in the middle of that boulder field.
This was second day on the trek to Beas Kund, the origin of the river Beas high up in Solang Valley, on the south face of the mammoth Rohtang pass. The river Beas, one of the lifeline rivers of North India, is named after Rishi Vyas, who is said to have formed the frozen glacial pond that is Beas Kund. It flows from Beas Kund down to the popular tourist destination of Manali, through the Kullu valley, meeting river Parvathy at Bhuntar, and flowing down to the lower Shivalik hills and into Punjab, where it meets Sutlej at Kapurthala.
The trek starts from Solang Nalla, also a very popular tourist spot and now an adventure sports hub. Basecamp Dhundi is 8 kms away to which you could take the concrete road but the Army does not allow four wheelers unless you have a permit. So you either take the trail or walk on the road itself. Dhundi welcomes you with quite the view. Massive snowclad mountain peeps through a narrow valley, where the river Beas flows through. We are told that the trail goes along that river for another 5 kms uphill. We camped at Dhundi for the night on the first day.
Second day’s arduous climb got us to Bakarthach, a camper’s paradise just below the high mountains behind which lies the origin of the river Beas. It took us some good three hours to reach Bakarthach. The pleasantness of the place makes you want to sit and take in the view for a while. If you face downhill, the entire valley opens up in front of you, with massive snow clad mountains in the distance and lush green himalayan forests covering the mountains on both sides. Behind you, couple of kilometers away, these big barren mountains rise from the valley on which you stand. Trust me, two kilometres is very close. It seems like you’re at the gateway to the most surreal place you have ever seen. Big glaciers flow down from these barren bad boys, multiple ones from the gorges where two faces of mountains meet. The contrast between the white of the snow and the black of the mountain is awe-inspiring. Below these big bad boys is little wall of rocks and debris, which is little only in comparison. We are told, above that wall and behind the waterfall that we see is Beas Kund.
We walk towards the climb, and it took us an hour to reach the base of the climb, where the river flowing down meets with glacial bridges. The super steep climb takes another hour of us. The trekking groups we meet are surprised to know that we came without a guide or a porter, adding a lot to our expectations (and nervousness) about what awaits us after the climb. The guy who told us about the ‘dhalaan’ also informed us about how to move ahead through the boulder field. He told us about little rocks being placed on the boulders which we were to follow to reach the other end. It still took us a while to figure out the way once we were at the top. All we could see were big round boulders. Traversing through the terrain was not difficult, but tricky; there is a subtle difference between the two, mind you. We crossed the crater and my heartbeat automatically became faster as the rocks kept falling down the crater, couple of meters away from us. By the time we passed the boulder field, I was tired and my limbs hurt. But the view after it was splendid.
A massive flat terrain greeted us, a few meters below us after the rocks. And massive is definitely an understatement! It must have been three kilometers wide, with big waterfalls on each mountain slope and atleast two glaciers coming down to the flat valley, all of them together making the river Beas. It was one of the most unnatural sights I’ve ever seen. These small rivulets flowed across the flatland, with remarkable speed. These met and formed the gigantic waterfall that could be seen from Bakarthach. At this out of the world setting, there was a man sitting on a rock, taking in the view with unnatural ease, and smoking a beedi. It instantly reminded me of a shepherd I met while climbing Paku Axw Puto in the Ziro valley in Arunachal Pradesh. It is a mountain peak bordering the wide valley of rice fields in the easternmost state of our country. The commonality between shepherds across the land that we call our nation seemed weirdly satisfying. The beedi along with the carefree vibe that they give out is something that anyone with our idea of a good life would envy.
Beas Kund taught me little too may things in life. Just the magnitude of nature made me humbler, a feeling aroused by many a mountains I’ve seen and climbed. The Mountains are all the same, yet each steep climb up the earth’s terrain is entirely and completely different from each other. When I say this, I mean it at a number of levels; physical, mental and emotional. Beas Kund will be a first for me as an individual, at many levels; but then so was whatever little I have climbed and seen ever in my life.