Thick Ice, Leaky Tunnel

Sach Pass (11)

As usual, I had no plan to write about this. But then, I had no plan last year too. But Sach Pass is always eventful, and always makes something happen. When I visited the first time in 2012, I had no clue what it was and it practically changed my life, giving me a glimpse of what lies beyond the touristy towns of Himachal. Last year, as a much more experienced visitor in these areas, I still got a jolt as I got stuck up there as the bus broke down at 4000 metres.

So, what about this time?

To begin with, it was still June. We’d entered Pangi from Lahaul without any trouble but Sach Pass still had too much snow and the bus service was not going to start anytime soon although the road had been opened. So, we got into a shared car going towards Chamba (INR 600 per head). It was too expensive for my liking but we’d spent very little on the previous few days so it tolerable.

We were supposed to start as early as possible but they kept waiting for more passengers and finally moved at around 10 AM after packing almost a dozen people inside the car. The initial part was as expected, slow but without any incidents. We started gaining altitude and started enjoying the views. After a while, the road started getting steeper and narrower but that was all on the expected lines.

It was past noon and we were looking forward to a break and some food at Bagotu, a small, seasonal settlement with a few dhabas. However, the car came to a screeching halt because another car was waiting in front of us. We got out and saw what I call the ice tunnel. I had seen photographs of it by some early bikers on this route. It was surely going to melt away by July but at that moment, it was on the road leaving a small hole to pass through. This is exactly why the buses were not running till then because the tunnel was only big enough for small cars.

Sach Pass (1)

More importantly, there was a lot of snow in front of it, even blocking the narrow path. These must have fallen from the top in the morning. After a few minutes of confusion, what we understood was that an excavator stationed at Bagotu will come and clear this part. Till then one could wait there or walk through that stretch, and try to reach Bagotu because it was surely going to take a while. We obviously choose the second option. We left most of our luggage in the car, trusting the driver to bring them later on, and started moving with the camera.

Sach Pass (2)

Sach Pass (3)

Now, it was not all ice and snow. Water was seeping through the crevices too, creating a small waterfall. We decided to shoot a video while walking through it. It was a short walk, but the mind always kept wondering about various morbid possibilities that a small jolt could have led to.

On the other side, we found a few more cars waiting. They could do nothing but wait. So, we left them and started walking towards Bagotu but very soon, we came across another waterfall piercing through the road. The water was a foot deep and the force was strong enough to sow seeds of doubt. Others crossed quickly I took around two minutes to cross those two meters. There is a video of this too but I don’t feel like publishing it.

Sach Pass (4)

Sach Pass (5)

Sach Pass (6)

Sach Pass (7)

Sach Pass (8)

After this point, there were no serious obstacles. We came across a few people working on the road, under the shadow of thick, vertical walls of ice. They had to make this stretch ready for bus service in a couple of weeks but a moment of insanity on part of the weather may force them to start all over again. But they were still cheerful, imagining Sisyphus happy and waiting for the summer that comes late and doesn’t last long in these parts.

Sach Pass (9)

Sach Pass (10)

Sach Pass (12)

We finally reached Bagotu after an hour or so, found a nice shack, and ordered Rajma Chawal and tea (what else?). Thankfully it was a sunny day and those elementary facilities felt like heaven. The excavator finally left the station when we reached, and it took two hours more to clear everything and resume the journey, which resulted in more epic videos. However, the videos are still being processed. Hopefully, we can come up with something conherent using all those random footages.

Sach Pass (13)

Sach Pass (14)

Jitaditya Narzary

Is a traveller disillusioned by the familiar and fascinated with the unknown... and of course the founder of this blog.

14 thoughts on “Thick Ice, Leaky Tunnel

  • 2017/08/01 at 8:18 pm

    साच पास तक पहुंचना अपने आप में एक और रोमांच और इससे भी ज्यादा रोमांच ,
    साचपास पार करके पांगी तक पहुंचना है।
    में तो कहता हूं कि साच पास से आगे का रास्ता ज्यादा मजेदार है खतरनाक व डरावना भी लगने लगता है।

  • 2017/08/03 at 10:54 pm

    Was it really cold there? I saw a guy wearing sandals in one of the pics! Hiking in India is something I would love to do on a second trip.

  • 2017/08/03 at 11:04 pm

    Such gorgeous scenery and what an adventure! You did it in sandals no less! I would love to do a hike here someday.

  • 2017/08/04 at 2:54 am

    What beautiful beautiful scenery!! That is certainly an adventure when the car can’t go any further and you set out on foot. Exploring no matter what!

  • 2017/08/04 at 8:54 am

    This seems so crazy! Weren’t you freezing? I would have knots in my stomach walking through that tunnel. I’m assuming that eventually you did get your luggage. What an adventure!

  • 2017/08/04 at 8:43 pm

    What a fun and crazy journey! I would probably be a little nervous as well…especially with a makeshift waterfall already in place. The pictures of the tunnel and pass are beautiful, none the less.

  • 2017/08/04 at 9:41 pm

    Oh what a great adventure that bus could not move forward and you all the crossing that snowy and leaky tunnel by foot. It looks so freezing but some people are so strong they are in shirts and sandals. But after reaching Bagtou you got yummy rajma chawal and tea which is great after a tiresome and beautiful trek.

  • 2017/08/05 at 7:33 am

    Look at those snow capped peaks. I would love to cross Sach Pass some day. It has been on my bucket-list for a fairly long time and the pictures you have shared only make me want to cover it soon. Cheers!!

  • 2017/08/05 at 3:31 pm

    It’s such an amazing journey! It seems pretty hard to me to pass the tunnel on foot, but you made it! Your pictures of mountains are really stunning.

  • 2017/08/08 at 7:02 am

    I can’t imagine doing this in sandals but wow what incredible scenery! It looks freezing but absolutely picturesque. Those mountain peaks are beautiful. Look forward to seeing the videos!

  • 2018/02/05 at 12:28 am

    Absolutely amazing. What do you think, in June, if someone was crazy enough to struggle up to Sach Pass with a bicycle prior to the official opening, would the north side descent to Killar be a nightmare of snow and water features? Do you have an overall impression of which side is tougher? Internet is full of videos of the south side, but few of the north: perhaps all the adrenaline has been squeezed out by then and people are in survival mode and too freaked out to take video. I have been struck by how different the north and south sides of the ranges are in this area. Once one had dropped down on the north side if could be pretty committing. I would hate to get to an impassable impasse and have to turn around. Do road workers simultaneously work to clear the road from the Killar side?


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