Over the last one week, there has been tremendous amount of snowfall in over major passes. There are places where snowfall is more than 5 feet (that’s till neck height, for the uninitiated).
This is the first time in 55 years that snowfall has happened in September.
This is the first time in a long long time that snowfall has happened to this extent so early.
This is the first time snowfall has happened across the entire way rather than just the highest points on the passes.
So, the scene is this. Rohtang, Baralacha and Kunjam were all closed till yesterday. Over 600 tourists were trapped at various places across the highway. At least one army jawan was reported killed but the locals here say the numbers would be higher. Yesterday, Rohtang was opened up and some people stuck in Spiti Valley were able to make it back. Sarchu is still off limits and the army / BRO (Border Roads Organization) has been been to able to make it that far yet.
People tell me it is possible to get to Keylang which is the last proper town before Leh. From there on, it will be a choice of whether to go forward or to return.
Point to note. The BRO is supposed to keep the road open for at least some sort of traffic till November 15. That’s when army does enough to stock its farthest posts with supplies. So there is still hope.
Went for a reconnaisaance mission to Rohtang Pass in late afternoon. The weather is crystal clear but that’s the thing with mountain weather. It can change in minutes. Thank god nothing of the sort happened today. But something else happened. Something so funny, it is still making me laugh.
While I was passing it, a guy ran up to me and, panting, said – “My bus left, please take me with you.” I thought, what the heck, the guy has lost his bus. We will be able to catch up by Rohtang. So he climbed on the bike and we started to climb the mountain.
It was tougher than I had thought. Way way tougher. There were landslides and cave-ins virtually every 200 metres. There were water puddles and exposed rocks all over the place and progress was really really slow. It was getting cold and dark. And the bus was nowhere in sight. Finally we came across another Himachal ST bus coming from the other side. I asked him if he has seen another such bus going to Keylong (that’s where the guy said his bus was going). He said none that he knew. But there was another bus from Haridwar going to Keylong scheduled to pass this area in some time. He could possibly take that bus.
For some reason the guy thought that his bus might still be waiting for him since he had his people on board and there is no way the bus would go away without him. So, we stood on the edge of the cliff and peered down. And voila, his bus was waiting for him right where I had picked him up. We were about 8 kilometers away from Rohtang. He then requested me if I could drop him back where I brought him from. I was angry and laughing and relieved at the same time. It was cold (we were just metres below the snow line) and he was wearing just shorts and a t-shirt. In a way, I was in fact thankful to him that he brought me back. I had no inner lining on my jacket so it was no better than a raincoat. I had no handgloves on. And riding down Rohtang in darkness would have been an experience I can live without.
Anyway, so the scene is this. I am leaving tomorrow morning for Keylong or Darcha (45 kilometers ahead) and keep a check on the weather. If day after the news is good and the passes have been cleared, I will proceed to Leh.
Return journey? I am not even thinking of it.