Where every day the landscape changes...
It isn’t a dime a dozen. Hampta Pass walks through a thick forest to the pristine, lush valley while approaching Spiti Valley to barren desert via snow clad landscape. Tricking? Yes!
Difficulty – Easy to Moderate
Altitude – 14,100 feet
Base camp – Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India
Duration- 05 Days
Time – June to September
Cost & Company– Around 9.5K incl taxes and Renok Adventures
So, we were late.
The other day, Mall Road was fastened due to some reasons (definitely not trivial) and we required to stock a rain sheet for the trek. Early morning, it was raining cats and dogs and we were too lazy to step out of our hotel on Mall Road.
After a few threats from our trek leader (indeed needed in that soothing weather), we checked-out from the hotel with our backpacks and swiftly purchased a poncho with no bargain. Ah!
We drove from cram-full Mall Road to the Renok Adventures’ set-up in a nearby hamlet. Unloaded our extra luggage (clothing for the surreal-not-so-toxic-land), filled bottles and headed for a short hike to catch our four-wheeler to Jobra. I feel this short, treacherous hike in the scorching sun has almost narrowed down the journey seekers’ indecisiveness. Soon, we all boarded for a swirling journey in the calming mountains and reached Jobra.
After a short trek via a suspension bridge, we stopped for a lunch-break to the picturesque mountain. In-a-quick-time, we were settled on the other side of the flooding river at our base camp Chika. The dusk and dinner marked the end of our first day. The day has pretty much acclimatized our team of sixteen with the changing weather and foot slogging.
It was pouring most of the dead of night and we were to drift in forty winks by the river. Unfortunately, it was chilled and the cascading river hasn’t fed me a slumber of five minutes.
And we woke up to.... with our team dwindled.
The break of the day is early, like around 5 AM. While brushing betwixt mountains, by a small stream, I could behold the heavenly sight of hundreds of sheep and goat dozed off in numbness. For the next half an hour while I toiled in my morning chores, awaiting, waiting, but I couldn’t sense a movement in them. Did it resonate unreal or surreal? Later, we breakfasted on oatmeal and bread in the stunning valley engulfed with the mighty fall, Petrichor, loyal herds, snow-clad peaks and the foggy skyline. I could sense an abode in the marshy valley here.
The trail follows the river throughout till the next camp, Balu Ka Gera. While the first few hours are demanding due to the steep ascent in a rough terrain, but the entire stretch of the river is a stunning sight from that height. Stand in awe with the snowy peaks as you look-back. One of the best experiences here is to quench your thirst from the clear stream waterfalls. In the mountain, the rule is no prodding and poking about nature and falls, and sank in the sweet, pure elixir.
And the faithful-unfaithful river.....
We were hoppin’ on some huge rocks, awaiting for the trek guides to trace the right trail. It was a difficult day as the current would wet our feet and spirit. 2 groups had already declined from here. We had our fingers crossed. The guides had settled a rope and we were balancing our lives on uneven rocks pricking our feet and water death-chilled. I couldn’t sense my feet for another half-a-hour. And here, we entered the territory of unspoiled Jwara.
In the mesmerizing valley, there were grazing cattle and a plethora of colourful flora marking our way gorgeous. Our tiredness petered out in the next few hours and we beckoned it to lay down in the lush valley for a quick-meal. From here onwards, the trail is easier to Balu Ka Gera but the tree line has disappeared until we head to Manali. We arrived early afternoon and the valley witnessed our sporting side till dusk. I learnt about the types of tent and how to pitch one. The campsite (about 50 mts from the river) was at an elevation of 11,900 ft and I could feel the difficulty in dozing off. The flow of the river wasn’t relaxing and the constant sound was taking a toll.
So, we were back to square one. Not literally! Every day on this trek feels new as there are dramatic changes in the landscape.
We were geared up after a healthy breakfast and down for the count. Today’s trek can be divided into two halves- an easy-moderate ascend till snowy Hampta Pass and a steep downhill walk to Siagoru in Spiti Valley. It was a pretty long, long day of 11 hours of trekking in 02 absolutely divergent valleys of Himachal. We were walking in the marshy (it drizzled, poured and rained) valley for a few hours while struggling our ways in the rocky terrain betwixt. On the trail, we were neighboured by the mountains, waterfalls, cattle, and river. There were pleasant and colourful flowers on the bank. And I was in heaven until...
Where the river gets calm, the climb to the Hampta Pass kicks on a rocky path. The trail consists of glaciers and snow mostly. The air gets thin while chasing the altitude of 14,100 ft and there is no backing out. In the next few hours, we mounted a few plateaus and ridges to arrive at Hampta Pass. The trek was heart-pumping steep, but the snow was fresh to aid. It was driving me nuts due to windy & chilled weather and thin air, literally hampering my day long spirit. And then we cuddled Hampta Pass with our six feet under will.
I thought this was it. We arrived. But, it wasn’t.
While descending, I was capturing this one landscape shot and to my fears, my feet hauled inside the snow 03 feet. It chilled my bone and ears for a few seconds. And then standing at the peak, I gaped at the absolute steep land we had to descend. I could swaddle my spirit to dispel the fears and weather chill. Life wasn’t good (LG). It was trickier than our way to Hampta Pass and had taken a toll on our knees and ankles. We were instructed to crawl down ensuring that not a single stone fell down and bestowing a way to the horses. One mistake and things will drop like flies. One of our friends was closely acquainted with the rocks while walking downward with a face chilled red in fear. Gruh! Imagine!
In the next 02 hours, we landed the base of the mountain that would further lead us to Siagoru. We were exhausted to rejoice the barren beauty of Spiti. By the time, we ended up at the campsite to retire, it was 7.30 pm. I swiftly wolfed down my meal and settled in the tent. It was supposed to a wintry night and the coldest of the trek.
So, it was a 5-hour long laid-backing in the mountains.
I was the last-bencher in the group today, walking slowly to the gush of the wind, exploring the desert vistas and rare colourful flora. Sauntering at my own pace, it was an easy downhill hike by the river side. But, but...
We had to cross a river today as well and it was piercing cold. We held hands in the name of thrones & lives and traversed to the other end without our shoes. At the other end, we were hopping, wobbling, walking to get the senses from the quivering current back.
While navigating our way to the next campsite Chatru, we had to cross two glaciers by the river Chandra. One of the glaciers was steep and ended in the river. So, if you trip, you shall end-up in Pakistan that’s what our guide used to tease. It’s a day to relish the barren & beautiful mountains of Spiti Valley while trekking downhill in the foothills of the Himalayas.
All roads lead to Chandra Taal
The weather had permitted our entry to the threshold of Chandra Taal. Fortunately, it didn’t rain any of the days. The bumpy roads were devoid of any extreme conditions. After 2-minute lunch, the driver pulled the accelerator and we were on the way. It’s a 3-hour journey via Batal, where we motored our way on waterfalls and suspension bridges. Stop at Chacha-Chachi Dhaba in Batal and natter with the couple who’re selflessly serving the travellers for several decades.
Chandra Taal (The Moon Lake), is a scrubbed, aqua lake affected by the snow-clad peaks of the valley. A short hike and you’re landed to a surreal experience. We reached Chatru in the late evening. By the time it was dark and dingy, so we slept off to the most amazing experience of our lives. The trek has ended.
At the break of the day, indulge in your daily chores for the last time in the valley. After the breakfast, certificate ceremony and morning hobnob, you’re off to Manali via Rohtang Pass. We reached Manali around 2 pm.
It’s pitter-patter in Pir Panjal.
Hampta pass is frequented by shepherds of the Himalayan region, looking for grassland to fodder in the chilled desert of Lahaul & Spiti Valleys during the summer days. Now, it’s a popular Himalayan trek among beginners seeking for moderate difficulties in the divergent terrains. You will be in awe with the tranquil setting every step while trekking the best of both the valleys and death lurking at a few steps. A path walked by shepherds is picturesque and the desert an oasis. The captivating nature can be intimidating with the hovering and un-climbed Indrasen in the backyard as well as the mighty rivers landing a chill to the bones.
Go, traverse the unknown!