Khimloga or Khimlay pass; it is no longer used by the Shepherds and traders. It is an old trade route between Lewari (Uttarakhand) and Chitkul in the Baspa Valley or Sangla Valley.
We enquired with the locals about this pass, but no one seemed to have crossed it. One of the locals said that earlier (in his grandfather’s times) this pass used to be used as a trade route.
Then there used to be a gradual snow slope to ascend the pass. However, (as we found out) the snow slope is now gone (especially this year, as the snowfall has been very less) and hence it is difficult to cross this pass.
Origin of the name Khimlay (or Khimloga)
So, this pass has fallen into disuse. One of the locals mentioned that the name of the pass was after Khimlay Singh, who used to be a trader who used this route. However, the falling away of the snow slope of the pass also coincided with his demise. Hence, the pass was named after him (can’t verify the veracity of this story).
We were also told by a local guest house owner that no one had crossed the Khimlay pass from the Baspa valley side. A team (Tapan Pandit, I guess) had crossed the pass from the other side in 2011, after 42 years. However, they were a big team with a lot of Sherpas and fully equipped.
However, this info did not dissuade us from setting forth on this trek on 7th July, after breakfast and replenishment of some of our rations.
We crossed the bridge across the Baspa river and followed a trail along the true right of the Naradu Garang (stream).
The trail sometimes goes high above the river and sometimes along it, cutting through green forests/fields and sometimes boulder zones. It took us about 3 hours before we reached the snout of the Naradu glacier.
We crossed the Naradu Garang to its true left as we decided to traverse across the Naradu Glacier on its true left. Luckily, we found a very good campsite at the snout of the glacier. I suspect it was used by the team which had set up a glacial study/research unit further up the Naradu Glacier.
Suspecting we would not get a better campsite, and given it was late afternoon, we camped here. On 8th July, we started early and traversed the whole Naradu Glacier.
It is a strenuous walk across boulder zones, shale, scree slope, and loose rock for about 4-5 hours before we reach the glacial snowfield.
The first hour of the traverse on the snowfield was easier as the snow was pretty firm. As we approached the pass it was around 2pm and in some places we were sinking up to our knees in soft snow. However, this was only for a short distance.
The entire snowfield was crevassed, but mostly the crevasses were open and hence easily avoidable. The climb to the pass was a steep rockface and needed rock climbing skills. The initial 10-15M seemed the hardest.
Kamal tried climbing it without a backpack, and he could do it. But he also, made an assessment that it would be very difficult for him to climb with his backpack and even more difficult for me (his rock climbing skills were superior to mine in the advanced course).
As he got down, I saw him struggle. In case of a slip/fall, the resultant injury would have been very severe. Also, there was a huge open crevasse below the rockface. We had not carried any rope with us. If we had, one of us could have gone up and pulled the bag with a rope, and then with the safety of a rope we could have climbed.
Kamal strongly advised against climbing and with a heavy heart we decided to retreat from 50M-100M below the pass as we did not want to take the risk, given we were a 2 member team.
Though I was (and still am) disappointed with the decision, it nevertheless was the right decision—keeping in mind the precarious glacier conditions.
We decided to return to the point to the point the glacial study/research unit had been set up, as that had a campsite and water source. It was a tiring walk back & it was late evening (around 6pm) by the time we camped.
Falling into a crevasse
While descending to the campsite, I made a cardinal mistake of mentally being in the past (thinking whether I should have risked crossing the pass).
Consequently, on one occasion I missed seeing that I was going to go across a light snow-covered patch. It was following the fault line of a fairly wide open crevasse (which was closing at the point where I was crossing it).
Unfortunately, the snow covering was only on the surface, and it gave way under my weight and I fell chest deep into the crevasse.
Luckily, the big backpack prevented me from going further, and I held onto the surface after I had banged my jaw against the ice. I shouted and Kamal, who was a few meters ahead of me, immediately ran back and helped me haul myself out.
I admonish myself, as such mistakes on a solo trek could prove very costly. On 9th July, we headed back from the Naradu Glacial study station to Chitkul in about 3-4 hours.
- 07th July 2016: Chitkul to Camp at Start of Naradu Glacier (31.30906 N,78.42917E,4432M).
- 08th July: Camp at Start of Naradu Glacier to 50-100M below Khimloga (Khimlay) pass (31.28453 N,78.37719E, 5232M) and back to Glacial study station (31.29911 N,78.41800E,4658M).
- 09th July: Naradu Glacial Study station to Chitkul village.