IntroductionAfter completing the long and arduous Three Passes, Kala Pathhar, EBC trek in October 21 without facing any problem, my confidence level grew. Since my plan was to reach newer heights so I discussed the future plan with Romil Sir, CEO Boots and Crampons. He advised that gradually going higher was the logical choice if I wanted to have a go at Mt Everest some day, which has been my lifetime ambition. He suggested that I try a 6000er peak next. Since Boots & Crampons had an expedition to 6111 meter high Yunam peak scheduled in their itinerary in June 2022, I started preparing for the same. Romil Sir advised me to increase my endurance level further and do some night time walking, as peak assaults generally started around midnight so it was better to get accustomed to it. My exercise regimen consisted of resistance training in the gym 2-3 times, jogging 10-12 kilometers once and a 25 km hike with a 15-17 kg backpack starting around 3.00 am once during a week. Following this routine week after week religiously, increased my stamina as well as my confidence.
The beginningAs per the itinerary the expedition was to kickstart on 26 June from Manali. I got in touch with some friends with whom I had done the “3 Passes EBC trek” last year and who were also going for this trek. I requested them to fly down to Chandigarh from where we could travel together in my car to Manali. I also requested them to come 2-3 days in advance and stay with me in our house, so that we could party and have fun before the tough and demanding expedition. Siddharth and Sandeep accepted my offer, but decided that instead of taking a flight they would drive in car from Pune to Chandigarh and take it further up to Manali. I reached Chandigarh from Dubai on 20th June and Siddharth and Sandeep reached on 22nd. We had some great time together for the next couple of days and then left for Manali on 25th early in the morning. Being a weekend, traffic was heavy and slow moving, so we could reach our hotel at Solang, Manali by 4.00 pm only. 2 other team members had already arrived and rest were to travel by night buses from Delhi and Chandigarh and would reach on 26th morning. Everyone arrived early in the morning and we got together at the breakfast table. After a brief round of introduction we all had breakfast. Surprise package of the introduction process was 12 years old Advait. To decide to go alone on such a difficult expedition talked a lot about his character and confidence. He would prove to be the most entertaining and remarkable person of the group in the days to come.
Romil Sir checked with everyone about all the gear they were carrying. Wherever shortcomings were noticed, Romil Sir made arrangements to procure the items by evening. It was also decided to go for an acclimatization trek in the afternoon and we left the hotel around 4.00 pm with Giri Sir as our guide. First we climbed to an enchanting view of Solang Water falls and then walked further up through a village to reach a beautiful geen meadow. We returned back to Hotel by 7.00 pm after a good climb.
Day-2Next morning on 27th June we left Solang after breakfast in a mini bus for Jispa. It was a beautiful uphill drive through green pine forests till Atal tunnel. This is one of the longest high altitude tunnels in the world and connects Manali valley with Lahaul valley. Once we crossed the tunnel, the view changed completely. While Manali valley was green and covered with thick pine forests, Lahaul valley was completely devoid of vegetation and high mountainous terrain was rocky and naked. But this rugged terrain had a beauty of its own. We drove along the Chandra River till Tandi, where Chandra meets Bhaga and becomes Chandrabhaga River which later becomes Chenab as it enters Jammu & Kashmir. We had lunch at Keylong and continued the journey. Gulshan Sir, our expedition guide, had left early in a pickup truck along with his associates and camping gear etc. We were informed that Jispa was swarming with tourists, so it was decided to move our camp a little further to Sumdo, near Darcha. It was a nice camping site on the banks of Bhaga River. In the evening we went for another acclimatization trek and repeated the same trek once again early next morning to prepare ourselves for the higher altitude we were going to face soon.
Day-328th June was more of a leisurely day, so we started our journey in the mini bus after breakfast. First we stopped at Deepak Tal, a small water body by the roadside and then near Suraj Tal, a slightly bigger lake below the road near Baralacha pass for the Suraj Tal photo sessions.
Our next stop was at Baralacha pass, where we climbed up a hill for another round of acclimatization. Baralacha at 4850 meters is one of the highest Passes on the Manali- Leh highway and we could feel the deficiency of Oxygen as we were loosing our breath quite fast while climbing uphill.
After staying at Baralacha pass for about one hour to acclimatize ourselves at this high altitude, we proceeded to Bharat Nagar where our base camp had been fixed. We had lunch and again went for another acclimatization climb in the evening. Most of the people in the group were showing mild to serious signs of altitude sickness and experiencing mild to severe headaches, lack of appetite and nausea, so we had an early dinner and went to sleep.
Day-429th June was the load carry day, meant for taking most of our things to Summit camp so that we travel light on the summit day to preserve our energy. Since the weather was playing hide and seek, it was decided to carry the Snow Boots, Ice axes and rope harnesses etc also and these were distributed to each of us to carry them to Summit camp. We had brunch and setout around 11.00 AM for the Summit camp. Initially the gradient was mild and we were walking through a river bed over the stones without any definite trail. After walking for about an hour the gradient suddenly became steep and we were climbing uphill almost at an angle of 50-60 degrees. Since all of us were carrying heavy load, we were getting breathless and had to stop after every 6-7 steps to regain our breath. We carried on at a steady pace although there was no letup in the incline and reached the Summit camp after about 3.50 hours.
Others also followed gradually in smaller batches. Advait was a little slow but walking steady. He was the last to reach and he literally collapsed on a plain rock on reaching the camp site. He certainly is a brave and gritty young man. Meanwhile, Kartik had not been feeling well. He was coughing regularly and couldn’t sleep well during the previous night. So after walking for a while today he started coughing profusely and was not able to continue further. Since Vishal was walking with Kartik, he decided to accompany him back to the base camp. After spending about an hour at the summit camp and leaving most of our load there, we walked back to the base camp. Many in the group were still reeling under the effects of altitude sickness, having headache and nausea. A couple of persons even vomited in the evening. Fortunately I appeared to have overcome the altitude effect and I was feeling normal, as were couple of other guys also. Weather had also been acting freaky. Low clouds suddenly engulfed the whole area in the evening and it started drizzling. Fortunately the rain stopped after a couple of hours and the sky cleared. Kartik was running fever by evening and his cough had also worsened. Even the medication given by Romil Sir didn’t help him much. He decided to go back to Manali for getting better medical assistance as well as lose altitude. Vishal also decided to accompany him back to Manali. In the morning a cab was arranged by Gulshan Sir and Kartik and Vishal left for Manali.
Day-5In view of the inclement weather and people still adjusting to the altitude, Romil and Gulshan Sir (our main guide for this expedition) decided that 30th June (which was kept as a buffer day) would be utilized to stay at the base camp, to help people get better acclimatized, so we all had a good rest whole day and by evening everyone was feeling a lot better. However, clouds again gathered in the evening and mild rain started. Gulshan Sir and his boys prepared Halwa and offered it to the local diety praying for clear weather and successful climb for the team. Fortunately the rain stopped soon and sky cleared.
Day-6On 1st July we left the base camp after an early lunch and started marching towards summit camp. Today we did not face much difficulty in climbing because we were better rested, acclimatized and were carrying much lighter weight. We, the first lot reached the Summit camp in about 3 hours. Gradually everyone reached the Summit camp but the weather worsened and soon it was snowing. A decision was taken that whatever way the weather behaves we would go for the Summit push. We were served early dinner comprising hot soup and Maggie noodles in our tents and we were off to sleep. Romil Sir decided that we will leave in two batches. Comparatively slow walkers will leave at 12.30 AM and the rest will leave at 1.30 AM. Fortunately the snow fall stopped soon and we slept with the hope that we would not have to walk in the falling snow.
On 2nd July we woke up at 1.00 AM and were told that one group had already left. We ate some sweet rice porridge and started the summit push at 1.30 AM with our head torches turned on. Almost immediately gradient became steeper and with the oxygen becoming rarer as we climbed higher, it was taking a great effort to walk every step. The path was rocky moraine with no marked trail. The rocks had sharp edges and as we gained height we faced a layer of 2-3 inches of fresh snow over the rocks. So it was really a treacherous walk in the dark.
One had to focus on every step, a small error in judgment could lead to a nasty fall and serious injury. Temperature was sub zero and we were wearing our down jackets over multiple layers of clothing, woollen socks, gloves and woollen cap to protect ourselves. The body however warmed up soon as we were climbing uphill. We were forced to stop after walking every 5-6 steps to regain our breath.
After walking almost constantly for about 4 hours we could see the first light of dawn breaking over the peaks on the eastern side and soon there was enough light to enable us to switch off our head torches. The fresh snow layer became thicker as we gained height forcing us to slow down further and take each step very carefully.
As the Sun rose the snow started melting gradually but that made the accumulated snow of glaciers soft and our feet would go down 2-3 feet deeper some times. Fortunately there were not many such stretches. We had the first glimpse of the small flag at the peak and our spirits soared. However Netar, our guide for the Summit assault poured cold water over our hopes by saying that we may still take about 3 hours more to reach there.
By now we were feeling the tiredness, hunger and were sweating profusely. So we decided to take a break. We removed our down jackets and gloves and ate the peanut butter sandwich, boiled egg, juice and water, which we carried with us. This small break refreshed and rejuvenated us we started to climb again. The flag at the peak was beginning to look larger and beckoned us. Finally we reached the top at 10.30 AM after a gruelling 9 hour climb. The thrill and euphoria of the success made us feel fresh and all tiredness vanished. At an age of 69 years, 10 months and 29 days I was the oldest person ever to reach the top of Yunam peak and it was a great feeling. Hoisting the National Flag
We made some videos and took group photos.
Romil Sir told us that Advait, Raj Kumar and Shiv Raj couldn’t make it and had to return back midway. Rest of us, Romil Sir, (incidentally for him also it was his maiden climb to Yunam peak like the rest of us in the group) myself, Siddharth, Sandeep, Suresh, Hiranya and Devyani successfully reached the Yunam top.
After spending about half an hour at the top it was time to start climbing down. Again we had to take each step carefully over the jagged rocky terrain and walked at a steady pace. Despite taking all precautions, at one point my shoe hit the sharp edge of a rock and the sole tore off in the front. Now the walking became even more treacherous with the front of the sole hanging, it was getting stuck on the rocky edges at every step. Fortunately I met Gulshan Sir soon and checked if he had a piece of thin rope, telling him about my problem. He had a shoelace type small piece of rope and tied it at the front of my shoe. Somehow it held on and I reached the Summit camp after 3 hours of climbing down.
We were feeling very exhausted and all of us went into our tents to take some rest. Our day was not over as we had to climb down further to base camp along with the heavy load which we had carried up on load carry day plus the summit day.
So after resting for an hour we had Maggie for lunch, packed up our backpacks and started marching down to base camp. Taking each step was an effort and climbing downhill on a rocky and slippery path was making it more difficult. It took us more than 2 hours and finally by 4.00 PM we reached the base camp. After resting for about 2 hours we were feeling better and we gathered in the Dinning tent for the celebrations. Our cook Anku, who had been spoiling us with his exotic tasty dishes day in and out, had prepared a cake and hot pizzas for the evening. After cutting the cake and a sumptuous dinner, we were off to sleep.
Day-8On 3rd July we were to start our return journey. Mini bus arrived at 9.00 AM and we packed our bags. We had breakfast and Gulshan Sir and his team packed up the tents etc and loaded his pickup truck. We started around 11.00 AM and traveled almost non stop to Manali. While passing through Lahaul valley I saw the beautiful Sissu water falls, which I had missed earlier while going, probably because I was sitting on the other side in the bus. It was a great site.
Celebration of Triumph
We reached Manali in the afternoon and retired to our rooms after lunch. Romil Sir advised us to gather in the conference hall of the hotel at 8.00 PM for the Felicitations ceremony and farewell dinner. After an hour of sleep it was time for a refreshing hot water bath after almost one week. Certificates etc were given to everyone and then the party started in right earnest in the august company of Old Monk. Snacks and dinner were sumptuous and everyone had his fill. Every one had his/ her return journey chalked out. Devyani joined us in the car and four of us left Manali at 6.30 AM next morning in Siddharth’s car and reached Panchkula by evening.
I can’t close this blog without expressing my deep gratitude to Romil Sir for his role as organizer of the trip. But for his positive energy and constant motivation this difficult expedition would not have been successfully done by many of us.
My heartfelt thanks are also due for Gulshan Sir and his boys Anku, Netar, Santo and a couple of other guys, whose name slip my old mind. All of them worked tirelessly and walked side by side with us in all conditions. They served us hot tea, soup and food in our tents when it was raining, snowing or we were dead tired to come out of our tents. But for them our lives would have been miserable.
Good bye till the next adventure begins soon.
An adventure enthusiasts, Romil can be contacted at
Photographs & Article Credit: Mr Raman Sood