Well, I had been writting this usual post IJC trip writeup, when I was told that Hayzin had already done a writeup as well. So I suggested to use Hayzin's one for the title post and I will put mine up when I finish it. In between posting pics and editing vdos I forgot about the write-up, anyway here it goes now
IJC annual Snowcross 2013
Even before the start of the year, all of the IJC gang was anxiously looking forward to our fifth annual snowcross. Various destinations were discussed and eventually Kalam came out at the top with lovely memories from last year's event fresh in everyone's mind. The dates were finalized and arrangements were confirmed. The usual preps including coolants, batteries, snow chains and all of the rest were taken care of.
Unlike last year, plan was made to spend two nights in Kalam. On D-day, 14 4X4s gathered at the motorway toll plaza. As NPP has still not returned from Karachi after Jhal Magsi rally, it was TLCs turn to make its first visit to Kalam. TLC has been to kaghan valley many a times, but somehow it always missed the opportunity to visit Kalam. Rizwan Bhai was going to company me our snowcross trip, unfortunately he caught a nasty stomach bug and had to cancel his plan. Anyway my preps were complete with about a million chargers for camera, gopro, mobile phone, satellite phone, torches, iPod and probably some more as well.
We started off an hour late at 9am. Our journey progress was steady, considering such a large convoy. On the motorway, Salman and friends joined us from Lahore on his LC II 1KZ. As planned our first major stop was Mingora City for a hearty Chappal Kebab Lunch. After the tummy fuel top-up it was vehicle fuel top-up time and finally we moved towards Kalam. Our friend Capt Hamid travelling with Zeb had arranged a lovely Hi Tea at Khawaza Khela EME barracks. Thank you Kaptaan Sb! We also came across some very interesting 4X4s, and 6X6s in the Barracks.
When our journey towards Kalam re-started, the road ahead became very rough and broken, so I decided to reduce LC tyre pressure to 21psi. That soaked up the bumps n thumps amazingly. As the convoy was progressing rather steadily, and the battery of my radio had died, it was a turning a bit boring so I pushed up my pace, eventually reaching our Kalam Hotel by 6:30pm. After parking TLC and putting my stuff in my room, I just lazed in the front reception, waiting for the rest of the gang. Slowly n steadily others started arriving after half n hour or so. Most who had been to 2012 snowcross shared similar thoughts like mine, that the snow this time is less comparatively and weather also seemed milder, well -4 rather than -12 last time.
Once everyone had settled in their rooms, hot food was served and everyone jumped at it as soon as it was served, dinner was followed by lovely hot doodh patti. Afterwards the Bonfire was started and stories shared, with plenty wise cracking and leg pulling. Despite a long day with plenty driving / travelling, everyone was extremely excited about the next morning's snow rally cross in the Kalam grounds next to the pine forest. A group of us even visited Greens Hotel where Deedee and rest of the gang from Lahore had arrived earlier today. Unfortunately, all the doors and gates were locked, and with no phone signal, we could not raise them, so we returned back.
I was sharing room with Ali Zafar, and our discussion on various topics just went on and on and on, eventually we decided to shut-up after 5am to catch some sleep. Next morning were woken up by door knocks around 8am. The first views outside of snow covered mountains was mesmerizing, everyone was snapping pictures of themselves with the lovely backdrops. After a hearty breakfast, everyone started their vehicles, and we proceeded towards the wide open fields of Kalam next to the Pine Forest. Even though the total amount of snow was a lot less compared to last year, the wide spread snow on the ground was very tempting just to jump in with the vehicles.
As planned, the team got on to making a small autocross style snow track of approx 1.5 km. It was marked with cones and flagged sticks. Than draws were taken out of a hat for the firing order. A sizeable crowd of locals had gathered already to watch the spectacle. Runs of track were than initiated and were timed with stop watch to make them interesting. Team Unimog / and 4x4 engaged vehicles joined us soon on the playground. All of them also went ahead with the rally cross run. It was great fun to watch and cameras were snapping pics and capturing vdos all round. This was followed by a small presentation ceremony and souvenirs distribution.
It had started snowing gently during the rally cross runs, this increased in intensity slowly but surely. After the ceremony, everyone went into the remaining snowfield and ran circles to their hearts content. It was a free for all, and each n everyone enjoyed on their 4X4s to the max. It reminded of the good ole school playground scene!
It was than time to return to the hotel for the hot lunch awaiting us. As planned a small group of 6-7 vehicles left for the Anakar village, where IJC has been providing various kinds of flood relief support and also help re-start n run a local School. The track to Anakar has always been very narrow n twisty. With constant snowing the track became rather slippery. Eventually, we decided that it didn't seem safe to continue and after crossing the IJC funded wooden bridge we turned around back towards Kalam. But before heading back to the hotel, we had to make a trip into the magical snow covered Pine Forest. As imagined it was truly fairy tale like. No amount of pics n vdos can do justice to the actual serenity n calmness there! One had to be thereeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!
By the time we returned to the Hotel, it was almost dark. Few of us sat in the porch, a few in the balcony. The snowing continued relentlessly. It was getting really cold so we all moved up to the rooms inside. The chit chat session over packets of crisps and the lovely Dates sent by Rizwan Bhai went on till eventually dinner was served. As usual, hot food in such extreme weather is thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Hot tea was a must after every meal, and thereafter people started moving back into their rooms. With only 2-3 hours sleep the previous night, I decided to hit the bed before mid-night. Ali was chatting with the gang next door till later.
Early next morning, from my bed, had a quick peak-out thru the window, and ..............................it was all absolutely white. I had to go out, and what a scene awaited outside.........................a true whiteout. It was hard to recognized any vehicle, or structure. The pics do not convey the same feeling, because the freezing wind-chill just numbed everything and yet it gave the most spine tingly amazing feeling looking around. And to top it all, it was continuing to snowing heavily.
I banged on few doors, for people to come out n witness the whiteout. All jaws dropped and most rushed back in to get their cameras. Everyone was using different superlatives to describe what they were seeing.
After the morning breakfast, packing of stuff started, followed by everyone starting to clear over 2 feet plus of snow from the top of their vehicles. Than we started putting on snow chains. Trying to get out from the side lawns of the hotel, my TLC got stuck behind a mountain of snow accumulated in front and I had to be tugged out by Ali. Than Ali helped me put on my front snow chains. We decided that we will put on rear ones if needed later on. Than we helped a few others with snow chains.
Our hotel was almost over 100 meters away from main road and that too down a slope. Zeb who had put on snow chains the day before, lead from front and worked magic with his Rubicon Wrangler. He just ploughed thru the snow relentlessly all the way to Madayn!! That almost 40km. The pics posted by Zeb will give you a rough idea of what kind of hostile conditions we were facing. The rest of the group followed steadily behind, some with snow chains and some without. Most had reduced tyre pressures to 18psi or less for better traction. The progress was slow but steady, we reached Madayn around 5pm, over seven and a half hours after we left Kalam. On the way few were stuck and had to be tugged, winched and pulled thru, but we all made it without any damage.
Surprisingly it was still snowing quite heavily even in Madayn, we decided to have the much needed late lunch there. After a quick bite we set off again. Gradually there was less n less snow on the road, and by the time we were close to Mingora, there was just some sleet n rain! It was fuel top-up time at Mingora and also air-pressure top-up to normal road tyre pressures.
The convoy than moved briskly on homeward bound journey. Ali n I had been tail enders most of the day. Yasir was keeping me company on this return journey. There was brief Green tea stop on the way. My self n Ali had another stop for a minor repair done by Ali on my front left wheel. The snow chain had bent a small brake pipe holding metal support and it started rubbing on the wheel. It was hammered back into position after removing the wheel. Thank you Ali!
Eventually, I dropped off Yasir at Mardan where his car was waiting to take him to Peshawar. Ali headed towards Nowshehra with his friends. Asad and Shabab waited for us at Mardan as we were delayed in the TLC repair. Soon we were on motorway to home, the battery on my loaned handheld radio had died again, so this part of journey was very boring n quiet. Finally I reached home safe n sound, at around 2:30am, an almost epic journey lasting nearly 17 hours. The trip of nearly 737km finally ended with a big Shukr Al-Hamdolillah!
As usual it was an absolutely Zabardast trip arranged by IJC and am sure everyone had a blast of time there. As always am extremely thankful to Almighty Allah for his countless blessings upon us all.