CHHATRU, HIMACHAL PRADESH, INDIA.
Photographed and penned by: Rahul Sud
Chhatru is a lonely little spot in the remote landscape that is Lahaul. All through the winter it remains inaccessible and isolated from the world. But in early summer when the snow melts, the hardy mountain people who call the place home, trek over thawing snow and glaciers to once again farm the land. Photographer Rahul Sud writes of his experience in this desolate part of the world in the Photographer’s Journal.
I had always dreamt of documenting the glaciated icy desert of landlocked Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh, India. This year in April when the weather softened a bit and the Rohtang Pass that remains inaccessible throughout the winter months opened its frigid doors ever so slightly, my team was able to cross into Lahaul for a 24 day trek covering 18 kms of glaciers, biting cold and pristine wilderness – accompanying the people who reside there. It was a unique chance to experience the land like the natives who call this inhospitable terrain home and I did not want to give it up for the world.
What I didn’t expect was in the process I would gain the privilege of being the first to document the glaciated landscape that lies between the Rohtang Pass and the region of Chhatru along the Chandra River, in this early summer season.
“The purpose of undertaking this trek was to document the landscape, winter wildlife, and experience the remoteness and isolation”.
At Chhatru we took refuge at a farm located at an altitude of 11,500 ft. The owners were known to me and very kindly provided us shelter for the duration of our stay. Since they have to start the sowing session early, every year they are the first people to make the tough trip.
During the trek, I was also fortunate to photograph some of the rare and endangered wildlife inhabiting these high altitude Himalayan terrains. We were not only the first to reach Chhatru this year but the only inhabitants living between Khoksar and Losar (a distance of 103 km) for more than 3 weeks.
Chhatru was our base for exploring the area which spread out like a gigantic snow carpet in all directions. Whenever I let my eyes wander over this endless breathtaking wonder, it made me realize Lahaul slumbering under the snow can be so similar to areas around the Polar region. Perhaps this is the reason why some explorers affectionately refer to the Himalayas as the third pole.