One of the most famous summits for trekking in the Indian Himalayan region, the Friendship peak looming at an elevation of 5,289 metres in the Pir Panjal range in Himachal Pradesh is a trekker’s paradise. From the summit, one can feast his eyes on the panoramic view of the Pir Panjal range, against the back of silver horizons formed by the Dhauladhar and Great Himalayan ranges. The Friendship Peak Trek is one of the most challenging treks in Himachal Pradesh and before trekking here, one should have prior high experience of travelling at high altitudes. The journey passes through the beautiful Solang Valley, featuring several alpine meadows, thick forest dotted with varied species of alpine trees, colourful orchards and crisscrossed by numerous small and gushing streams. The trail will start throwing challenges, when at a high altitude, tourists will have to climb over the thick bed of snow, and trek over glaciated tracks and narrow ridges. Other than the breathtaking horizon, the major attractions on the Friendship Peak Trek are Hadimba Temple in Manali, hot water springs of Vashisht and Naggar Roerich Art Gallery.
The Friendship Peak trek commences from Solang, a valley which is a couple of hours drive from Manali, located at an elevation of 2,050 metres. From Solang, one will have to trek uphill till Bakarthach (3050 m), after passing through the lush green valley and thick forest. Further, the trek will continue to the base camps- I & II of the Friendship peak. All the action starts on the trail from base camp II as trekking will have to climb over the thick bed of snow and follows to the summit. After that, the journey follows a gradual trek downhill towards Bakarthach and further leads down to Solang and ends at Manali.
Since it is a trek, located at a high elevation, it requires acclimatisation at certain altitudes and fitness on the part of the trek. June, July, September and October are the best time of the year to go for the Friendship Peak Trek.
Today the team arrives in Manali latest by 11 am. The day is critical not just because we can acclimatize a bit but also because we need to assemble as a team and get certain permits for the expedition. Although Friendship peak is listed as a Trekking peak by IMF the new process established by IMF in Manali region prescribes that the team provides an intimation along with copies of ID proofs of all participants and Guide. IMF has designated a regional office in Manali for trekking in the upper Himalayan stretches. Once we have a receiving on this intimation from IMF regional office, we need 2 more permits, 1 from BRO and other from SDM. These two permits are required only to use a vehicle on the road between Solang Nala & Dhundi. In case we do not get these two permits we will hike from Solang Nala to Dhundi which is 7 Km walk on the road along the River. Team members stay at a common hotel in Manali and spend some nice prep time in the evening together for a better understanding of each other.
Today we start early morning in a vehicle to Dhundi and reach there by 8 am. The common luggage and ration would be carried by mules for us today till Bakkarthatch where we set up base camp. The trek is fairly easy today with a steady incline trail. We cross 3-4 fixed camps in Dhundi where “sailanis” should be visible around the year. Initially, the trail is on the true left side of the Beas River that flows alongside through the day. Soon, we cross a wooden bridge without any “railings”. If you have any phobia from water, this bridge can be a bit exciting for you. From here, we keep walking through the lush green trail on the true right side of the Beas River. In the months of May and June, you may spot some snow on the ridges on the far left side. As you near Bakkarthatch, you would cross 2-3 small streams of tributaries of the main river. We should reach here by around 12 noon. Post lunch, we start setting up our base camp here. Few things that need to be taken care of are 1. Stable Kitchen tent – Ensure that it can withstand strong winds that can be a phenomenon here. 2. Tents for the team – These tents can be set up at a line where they protect kitchen tents against the wind. 3. Keep an open area for equipment briefing and training. 4. Toilet tent – Away from the site, downhill. Make sure all tags are fixed properly. 5. The evening of the day is reserved for equipment briefing and allocation.
Today we start early around 6.30 am because we need to reach ABC early for camp set up and to learn Snowcraft there. With light breakfast, we reach our camp early enough to have hot lunch there itself, by around 11.30 am. We now set up the camps here for the team and take a small rest for a couple of hours. No sleep is prescribed here as early as now because AMS starts kicking in easily. If weather permits in the afternoon, we move to snow stretches in front of the campsite for our Snowcarft. We will learn a few critical things today – Ascending & descending on heavy snow, Using Ice Axe for the temporary anchor, Self-arrest using an ice axe, roping up, and using technical mountaineering equipment.
Today, we will ferry our summit loads to Camp 1. This will serve our acclimatization objectives. We will spend some time at Camp 1, and return to ABC in the evening.
Morning of the day is reserved for the practice of the craft that we learned yesterday. We shall start moving towards our Summit Camp in the afternoon. The hike is short (around 1 hour) till the Summit Camp where we set up our tents. We go a bit higher from the large hum where we set our Summit camp for acclimatization and come down to rest at the Summit Camp. Summit Camp may be set up higher in case snow is less. The idea is basically to cut the time from Summit attempt.
This is the day we all have planned all this show for! We start at around 2 am in the morning, all geared up with Snow boots, gaiters, harness, helmet, and head torch. Please be careful in bringing a head torch for the expedition because it would be very difficult to manage Ice Axe and torch in two hands during the climb. From our summit camp, we move on the default side with the shoulder of the peak. The route is mostly clear till we reach the shoulder. The gradient of the climb is steep but roping up or fix rope should not be required. If you are climbing in the month of May, then crampons would be needed on this patch (till the shoulder). The climb till here should take around 4 to 5 hours and by the time you reach here, it might be morning. Summit trail from the shoulder is almost vertical. You cannot go zig-zag because the patch is full of crevasses on the front side. Fix rope would be needed from here if the team has new climbers. After climbing for another 2 to 3 hours, one would reach the Solo Summit (Alt. 5000 mts). You would take a small diversion towards the north and after around 30 minutes of climbing, you reach a black rock that needs to be carefully negotiated. Summit is not far from here and one should reach the Summit by around 9 am or 10 am. Celebrate your moment and click picture but be careful since the platform at the Summit is not too wide. Descending early (around 10 am) is important because the way back is also long. Once the snow gets slushy, descent would become difficult. While climbing down till the shoulder, fix rope is again needed. As we reach our Summit Camp, we gather our breath and have some quick bites. We quickly wrap up our tents and move to the ABC. If the team has enough energy after the celebratory lunch at ABC, then we can move to Base Camp on the same day. The way down would take only 2 -3 hours and the comfort of Basecamp can be quite tempting!
This is a reserve day for a second summit attempt. It will only be used in case of bad weather or other unexpected conditions.
Today we trace our way back to Dhundi from the Basecamp and move to Manali in a vehicle. Evening reserved for grand Summit celebration where we all go Dutch.
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