If you are looking for a trek that takes you through different landscapes, beautiful meadows, waterfalls and streams around your campsite and mesmerizing views of snowcapped mountains then Hampta pass is the answer. But it doesn't end there if the weather permits and you have enough time then you can visit a beautiful lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains of Spiti. If not the trek itself, then this lake known as Chandrataal will definitely leave you with a blissful feeling. At the end of it you will be going home with a lot of amazing moments and memories.
I planned to go on this trek with my friends Abhay and Nikita whom I met in January 2015 on Naag tibba trek which was also organized by Bikat adventures. So we chose 25th July to 29th July 2015 batch as it suited all of us and were set to spend our five days in the Himalayas. We reached Manali on the morning of 25th July and met our trek leader Wakeel in a restaurant on mall road. There we also met our batch mates for this trek Shabbar, Imran, Taheer, and Yusuf. Four friends from Indore, excited for their first trek. We had parathas for breakfast and then left for Jobra.
When we reached Jobra, the weather was pleasant and there were many groups assembled, all ready for a refreshing walk through the forest. We started our trek and as we walked a few hundred yards into the forest, the fresh air and the tranquility was enough to forget the fatigue from Delhi to Manali 14 hour long journey. After a while, we reached a point where we got a clear view, a beautiful view of fact. There was a stream which is known as Rani Nallah flowing in the center of the valley and far away. The valley was lush green and full of vegetation. We could see horses and cows grazing here and there. I took this picture at the clearing before reaching the wooden bridge that we used to cross Rani Nallah.
We took a lunch break after crossing the wooden bridge. Watching and hearing the roaring stream we had one of the most delicious veg biryanis I have ever tasted. I think Wakeel bhai got it packed at Manali, I didn't ask him though because the biryani deserved to be savoured. After lunch we started walking towards Chika and far away into the valley I could see a white spot, not sure of what it was I kept on walking. After a while I could identify it. It was a waterfall and it was at the Chika campsite. Now with our destination in sight, we had quite an encouragement to reach it soon and spend some time at the waterfall. After an hour or so we reached Chika and it was far more beautiful than we expected. To my left was the waterfall and a stream from it was merging in to the main stream to our right. A little confluence that added to the beauty of the scene. We crossed the stream made by the waterfall through a wooden bridge and pitched our tent.
This is what the Chika campsite looked like from where we pitched our tents.
And this is the beautifull stream from the waterfall. I wish I had taken a long exposure shot also.
And this was the view of campsite and the confluence of two streams. This was shot from a point below the waterfall.
We climbed the rocks near waterfall to reach a point where we could see it from above, sat there for a while then came down and sat for a while again just to enjoy the view. Before dark we reached our tent and had our dinner. We stayed in the kitchen tent for a while as it was warm due to the kerosene stove later we went into our tents to sleep. During the night it was raining but in the morning the weather was clear and later someone told me that I missed a rainbow.
We had our breakfast and packed our backpacks and tents. Soon we were ready for the trek to Balu Ka Gera our next campsite. The initial part of this patch is a climb through boulders with a stream running on the right. After this climb we reached a point where we had to cross the stream and seriously its not easy to do when you are doing it for the first time. The water was bone chilling and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of it. At the other end people were sitting and rubbing their feet to feel them again. Fortunately the sun was shining and our feet started feeling normal after soaking the sun for a while. We ate the sandwiches Panna bhaiya (our cook, guide and a beautiful human being) had made for us. And just to give you an idea what the stream crossing was like below is a picture of one of the participants from other group crossing the stream with his guide.
Now the next part of this patch was even more surprising. It was as if we were in "Valley of flowers" because all we clould see was flowers. A perfect meadow consisting of different kinds of flowers with rich vivid colors was in front of us and we had to walk through it. You will get to see this if you do Hampta Pass trek post monsoon.
As soon as we crossed this patch of flowers we found another stream, this one was flowing at a much higher speed than previous one. But the good part is we don't have to cross it. We just have to walk the trail on its left which ascends gradually. Instead of continuing I and Abhay decided to climb and sit on a boulder that provided a perfect spot for enjoying the view in the picture below.
After 15 or 20 mins we decide to move on and follow others on the trail. After sometime I started feeling the fatigue and I was slowing down. The campsite was not in sight and I didn't know how much distance is left to be covered. But I kept going on, Abhay was walking at a better pace and I and Nikita were following him. All I was waiting for was to reach a point from where I could see the campsite. But the Balu Ka Gera campsite appears suddenly and surprises you. As soon as we reached the point where the valley turns to the left, we had to walk for a few more minutes and then the campsite appeared and it was not far. We reached, relaxed, pitched our tents and had tea and snacks as refreshments. The weather at Balu Ka Gera keeps on changing frequently. It becomes cloudy in one moment and then clears the next. Probably because its windy here. When I had gained my energy back I went for a walk to take some pictures of campsite and the mighty Indrasen that was looking over us from behind. Following is a view of Balu ka Gera campsite.
And this how the Indrasen looked that evening.
When I came back to our camp I could smell our dinner being cooked and I saw Panna bhaiya putting a covered utensil into the chilled water that was flowing near our tents. I wondered what he was doing but didn't ask. Later when our dinner was ready there was a rumor that it was Panna bhaiya's birthday. After we had our dinner in the kitchen tent Panna bhaiya went outsite and brought something, it was the same utensil he had put in the water. We all were surprised to see what was in it, it was the best dessert I have ever had. It was frozen strawberry custurd with nuts and it was garnished beautifully with edible flowers. We celebrated Panna bhaiya's birthday and had our delicious dessert. Here is a picture of his cake cutting ceremony. :)
Soon we went to our tents and slept as the next day was going to be exhausting. We had steep climb to do and cross the Hampta Pass to reach Siagoru. When I crawled out of my tent next morning, I went back in to grab my camera as the mighty Indrasen was posing with a crown of clouds. Once again I was astonished.
After having our breakfast and backpacking we started the long journey to Shea Goru. After walking on rocks for a few hundred metres we reached the first patch of ice and realized walking on it was not easy as walking on rocks. Soon it was over and we reached the pool of water that we had to encircle. We stopped here for some photographs and I captured the reflection of mountain in the water.
After the pool of water we had to walk on the partially dried up glacial river bed. After we crossed it we had our lunch break and relaxed for a while. I remember eating an apple that was plucked from Panna bhaiya's orchard. We also had some plums and peaches that day, all from Panna bhaiya's orchards. Later I asked him about his orchard and he told me he owns some 1200 apple trees. Hearing this my first reaction was to ask him to send some apples to us in Delhi after the harvest. He agreed right away and when asked how much it will cost, he said its free for us. We tried hard but he did not agree to take any money. He is a very simple, kind and generous human being.
The trail from here was steep and required us to go at a steady pace and take small breaks regularly. During one of these breaks not so far from Hampta Pass I heard sounds of rocks falling from far away, but the visibility was not so good and I couldn't figure out whats happening. But this place was beautiful in its own way with a feeling of solidute and I loved sitting here even though I was nervous. So I decided to make this short video before moving on.
Now a long patch of ice was waiting for us and walking on it continuously was irritating. When I thought it was about to get over after the next steep, there was more and it kept on going like this for sometime. The more I wanted it to be over, the steeper the climb became. Thanks to Abhay for keeping me busy by walking before me and making me click him as he ascended.
We kept on ascending and after a while we reached a place where the ground was leveled and we realized that we have reached the pass. There was a sense of achivement and we were quite happy. This was time for little celebration but it was just I and Abhay, so we started clicking some pictures. Soon we moved on as temperature was quite low here and weather in such places changes frequently. Here is one picture of Abhay posing on the Pass.
As we moved on large rocks started appearing and after a few hundred yards we reached a point where the descend starts. One should be very careful here as it is steeper than the climb and one mistake could result in an accident. When this initial steep part of the descend was over we were walking on a narrow trail and gradually the view of the valley below was getting clear. Crossing another patch of ice we reached Sea Goru valley but the campsite was still quite far, so we took a break. From here the whole valley was visible and it looked amazing.
We started again and reached campsite in 40 minutes from here, taking a few breaks along the way. When we were about to reach our camps some more beautiful views were waiting for us. I found this place very picturesque and clicked many pictures here before going to our camp. This is the view of campsite.
And the precipices I could see far away were glittering as the sun shined on them during its last hour before setting down somewhere in the Himalayas.
I had read somewhere that Indrasen is visible from Shea Goru and when I looked around I found him peeking at us through the cloulds.
After wandering around for sometime and clicking pictures, I went to our kitchen tent where rest our group was resting and Panna bhaiya was preparing Tea and Soup for us. We had a delicious combo of pakoras and tea followed by some soup. Some of us had many cups of tea and soup as it was getting cold. After sunset I went on for another round of clicking pictures but this time I took my tripod to capture some long exposure shots and indeed it was a nice experince. Below is one these pictures showing the river's flow at Shea Goru.
After taking some more shots, I went further for a walk under the clear sky and also gazed upon the stars for a while. The sky was looking beautiful with its million little lights. When I reached back to our camp the dinner was ready. Not having a good appetite I tried to stuff myself with some daal and rice and shared some of it with the friendly dogs around the camp. After this long day I went to sleep hoping for another beautiful morning and a little less tiring day. In the morning when I woke up and crawled outside my tent, I went back inside right away to grab my camera because the view was breathtaking. Here is a picture and a video showing the beauty of this valley.
While clicking pictures standing at the edge of the chilling stream I didn't know that I will be crossing it in a few hours. I was pretty much frightened by the previous experience of bone chiiling stream that made my legs numb as if I don't have any. I really did not want to cross it but when I saw every one getting ready for it, I thought of giving it a try. So we created a chain by holding hands. Soon I realized that I can't go back, I have to cross it no matter what. This time the water was so cold that in a few seconds our legs went numb. Our slogan while crossing this stream was "Paer hain? Nahi hain!". It felt like eternity reaching the other end. As soon as we reached, everyone was rubbing their legs for warmth. It took a few minutes to feel them again and they were working perfectly. It was really an experience of a lifetime.
Soon we wore our shoes again and were ready for the descend to Chhatru. We asked someone to click this group picture before moving on.
Most of the trail to Chhatru was quite easy and we kept on walking on the right side of the stream we crossed in the morning. The view of the mountains was awesome and the flowers among the trail made the descend more pleasurable. Almost half way we stopped and sat around the bank of our little stream that had turned into a rushing torrent. Leaving this beautiful sight we moved on to a point from where the descent was steep and the destination of our stream, the Chandra river, was visible. Descending the trail further for a while we could see our destination too, a road head and a bridge over the river, Chhatru was in sight but still quite far.
Just before the confluence of our beloved stream with Chandra river, we stopped at a small meadow for a break and some refreshments. Chhatru was about half an hour from here and most of the steep descent was over, it was an easy walk now. But Wakeel bhai seemed worried seeing our slow pace, he told us reaching Chhatru on time was important to make our journey to Chandrataal possible. Soon our legs started working as they should and we reached Chhatru with enough time to rest and have lunch before we leave.
The journey was to be made in a traveller, excited for the destination we took our seats. Crossing the bridge we were on the road across the Chandra river, I had seen many cyclists on this road in the morning while descending but now I was feeling surpised, how could they be riding on this road which was in pretty bad condition and there was no asphalt, even the traveller was having trouble. But soon I saw more cyclists and realized they are quite used to it and this is what they enjoy, that's why they are here. Then there were motorcyclists, cabs and trucks and our fellow trekkers from other groups in their travellers and it seemed like every one was going to Chandrataal that day. After covering some more distance our vehicle stopped due to a traffic jam. A cab was stuck and it had blocked the road and later a truck got stuck trying to pull the cab out of the way. All this delay made me worry whether we would be able to make it or not. But after waiting for almost one and a half hour we were moving again. Next stop was Batal after which we crossed a bridge and now we were on the other side of the river. It was a totally different landscape in Spiti and the mountains all around looked superb.
Another hour or so into the journey, a campsite came into view and I got the feel that that we are about to reach Chandrataal. But it was another hald an hour drive. As we crossed the campstite, we started moving uphill entering a wild life sanctuary zone. I guess it is known as Chandrataal Wildlife Sancturary, a part of the Cold Desert biosphere reserve, famous for Snow leopards.
Soon the vehicle came to a stop and an amazing walk was about to begin. We walked almost 1.5 KMs to reach the lake. As soon as we reached I was stuck with a feeling of awe. I looked around and there was not a single thing that didn't seemed beautiful in this landscape. The snow capped mountains, the sky, the clouds, the rocks and cairns and the lake itself with such clear water, all seemed to constitute colors on nature's palette to paint this landscape. Sort of hypnotised by this beauty of nature, I started walking towards the other end of this lake. The best one I have ever had. Lost in another world, admiring the lake's beauty and surroundings and taking pictures along the way, I forgot to keep track of time. When I reached back most people had left. Abhay was calling me from distance and I was not able to hear him properly, I realized he is telling me to hurry. I started running towards our cab bidding my good byes to this astonishing place. Thinking about that I have given another reason to Wakeel bhai to be worried about. Even though we were late and everyone was waiting for me and all other cabs had left, people my in the cab seemed quite happy. I think this journey to Chandrataal left everyone with a feeling of bliss. Here are some pictures of Chandrataal that I took.
Reaching the lake
From the other end
While coming back from the walk
Around Nine in the evening, we reached Chhatru and our dinner was waiting for us. A great day had passed, starting from Siagoru valley in the morning and now reaching Chhatru again after experiencing one of the most beautiful lakes in Himalayas. I think we do a lot more in a day when we are on a trek than we do in our usual daily lives, on a trek you seem to make most of the day. After dinner we slept like babies, for a long day it had been we deserved this rest. Next morning was fun, there were dogs all around the campsite asking for food, again they found me as they sensed that I would share my breakfast with them. Here is a glimpse of that moment.
We packed our backpacks and our journey to manali started soon. The song that our cab driver was playing was interesting, fun and our favorite song for rest of the journey, it was "Hawa Hawa" by Hassan Jahangir. Singing along over and over again time passed and we reached Rohtang Pass. We stopped here for a while and took some pictures. Here is a group picture (Panna bhaiya second from the right).
We stopped again at Marhi for lunch and after our little feast Manali was another half an hour away. When we reached Manali, saying goodbyes was the next task and it is never easy when you have been together on such an adventure. Our beautiful trek ended here. A trek that has so much variety of landscapes and experiences. No doubt Bikat Adventures call it The Sholay of treks. Hampta pass is indeed a trek of a lifetime and one must do it for the variety in its beauty must be admired.
After a month as promised by Panna bhaiya, we got the apples. It came as a surpirse because we didn't expect the guy to send so many apples for free. I called him and thanked him, asked him if we could pay him for the apples but he insisted to keep them as a gift. I was speechless as such qualities are rare to find in people in our cities. It is not just the journey but the people you meet during the journey make it beautiful and a memorable one.
For more pictures you can follow me on instagram @nitinsta .