Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trek to Minkiani Pass with a ‘green’ twist

Maninder Kohli
In the last week of September 2011, our team of 14 spent a week trudging across the Dhauladhar Range in Himachal Pradesh passing through Kareri Village, Kakeri Lake and finally Minkiani Pass. Starting from 1,400 masl the group walked about 45 km to reach the Minkiani Pass at 4,050 masl over a four-day period. We camped out for six nights and were supported by a group of 14 staff and a number of ponies.

As a matter of habit, after the completion of each trek we do a stock taking on how the issue of limiting environmental damage during the trek was managed by the team.
Of the 25 or so treks I have done over the past years, I feel that this particular trek was undoubtedly the most environment-friendly for the following reasons:
Use of Industrial Cylinders for fuel: These cylinders are heavy at about 36-40 kg each. From an environment and safety point of view, they were vastly superior to the use of kerosene. In previous treks I have noticed kerosene stoves breaking down forcing the cooking staff to use firewood. In one case last year, the kerosene container leaked while a porter was carrying it, badly burning his back.

All Plastic carried down: All plastic wrappers were carried back down. At all campsites a pit was used for burying biodegradable waste only.

Paper Bags for packed lunch: Packed lunch was distributed in reusable paper bags. These bags are tough and were used daily limiting the need of carrying plastic on the trek.

No trenches: Despite chances of rainfall, no trenches were dug at any campsite, which allowed us to leave all campsites as if they were never used.

Clean Up of Campsite: Between Kareri Village and Kareri Lake there is an interim campsite. Groups of school children used this campsite during the summer and had left behind a complete mess. We found broken glass bottles and paper all over. Our team along with staff did a great job in cleaning up the whole campsite.

The following are some areas where I felt there is a need to introspect and see what solutions can emerge:
Use of Toilet Paper: I personally don’t use toilet paper but find as leader of the group difficult to enforce the same practice on the team. In my opinion leaving toilet paper all around the campsite is not an acceptable practice. If use cannot be avoided we should ensure that paper is taken back to camp and burned or taken back down to the road head. I find trying to bury paper does not work as animals often dig it up or rain displaces it.

Bathing in mountain streams: This practice is acceptable as long as you don’t use soap or shampoo in a running stream as water can get contaminated. As a practice it is better to take water in a container away from a water source for bathing. In recent times, I have started to prefer using organic products when going to the mountains but am still not sure if there are completely free of chemicals.

Maninder Kohli is an avid adventurer, climber, trekker, skier, rafter and mountain biker. He heads the Himalayan Club in Delhi and is a member of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. He can be contacted at

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