Indian Himalayan Grand Traverse - Day 17

Last night just before midnight there was a sudden very intense storm - violently windy -and Pemtuk, like a fireman down a pole, sprung into action.  He was a hero.  Tiny Pemtuk, armed only with a head-torch, flew from tent to tent, grabbing boulders, almost as big as himself, and placed them on the guy ropes.  Even he couldn't save Pauline's tent however which, like Ralph's a few days ago, was blown over by the gale.  Still he soon had it up again just in time for the wind to stop.  Most of us then went on to get a reasonable night's sleep and indeed all the crew, apart from Dilip and Pemtuk, had managed to sleep through the storm.
Leaving the campsite
Today was the last full day's walking and, after crossing the Parang La, there are no more real challenges ahead of us.  The trip has taken on an end of term feeling and you sense that everyone is starting to think about the end and the trip home.  It was, however, a great walk, different to anything we have done so far and not without a few incidents.

As Dilip kept reminding us we are now in Spiti, part of the Indian State of Hamachel Pradesh, and out of Ladakh and Kashmir.  We are however still very close to Tibet and the whole of Spiti was closed  to foreigners until 1991.

The trip has a day's contingency in it, a day which we decided to use (Dilip is very consultative) by splitting the scheduled 12 hour day which might have been involved in crossing the Porang La into two days of six hour each.  Last night's high altitude windy campsite was an extra one and today we walked the second half of the 12 hour day.  We actually went and a bit further dropping 1200 metres down to a warmer more comfortable camp than the one we had planned to stop at.

Descending to the gorge
After leaving camp this morning the route continued down the same steep sided and very tight gorge we had started to descend yesterday.  The views were dramatic.  Dilip told us that some groups come up this way and climb the Parang La from the south - a very hard route.  Eventually the trail flattens out, two valleys combine, and you get to the bottom of a beautiful V shaped gorge accompanied by a noisy river.  It's so deep and sheltered that at one point the river disappears under a permanent bridge of ice which, covered in rocks, must have been there for some time.  Just as we are getting used to the flat walking the trail makes an abrupt turn to the right and heads of up a steep hanging valley before emerging after a 300 metre climb onto what was essentially open moor (and where we would have camped).  The views down to the gorge and across to the snow covered 6,000 metre peaks beyond were immense.

Climbing out the gorge was a bit controversial and Dr Nick claims that it was the toughest thing we had to do.  The complaints I think reflected a change in group psychology - with thoughts on the end and home it's just that much harder to muster the energy needed for any sort of climb.

Last climb for the ponies
A green and pleasant campsite
Dilip had found us a lovely campsite down amongst pea and barley fields and close to a river.  It was the first time for nearly a week that we were able to use running water to wash.  For the ponies it was even a bigger treat - fresh grass and a chance to roll on their backs - and they perhaps deserved one even more than we did.

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