HAMPTA PASS TREK - RENDEZVOUS FOR MEN AND MOUNTAINS
To all Game of Thrones (GOT) fans: remain calm, and stop visualizing a knight in the golden armor behind Cersei every time you see the word Mountain.
Not a GOT fan? See you later...
Just kidding, we'll love you anyways.
But just an FYI for all you readers immune to the GOT craze, Mountain is a profoundly famous but ever hated character on the show, the very thought of whom creeps me out.
Anyways, I must get back to the topic at hand- the real mountains, that is.
The moment I saw pictures from the Hampta Pass trek, I thought: "Wow, this is where I want to go."
At last, after countless planning, I was on the trek.
And guess what people asked me?
"Are you trekking for the first time?”
It was the first impression of me from the other participants in my group.
After all who carries a tripod (unless you are a professional photographer) on a multi-day hike?? But yes I was carrying one.
I kept my eyes wide open through the roller coaster ride all the way from Manali (which, by the way, is a sight to behold in of itself- see our list of must-visits in Manali) to Jobra...and the view was spectacular.
Somehow, I did manage to take a few naps despite the steep 41 curves that don't let anyone sit peacefully, let alone sleep. Call me a sleepaholic but I would say I was just tired after the overnight bus journey from Delhi. The little glimpses of the mountain were overwhelming;y exciting.
The trek starts from the Guhugal hydro project site, near Jobru Nalla. Also, the last place where you have mobile signals if you're lucky.
The signals there can be finicky, and one should make all important calls in Manali itself. Take it from me, I was ditched by the signals there and could not inform anyone that I would be not reachable for next 5 days.
We may be addicted to this small toy, but that "no signal" status on its left corner was truly a blessing in disguise.
The hike was easy (or maybe the month of running and walking up and down the metro station stairs made it seem so).
Our first day blessed us with trails through the sun-kissed valley, magnificent rocky mountains on both sides and endless cascading waterfalls.
Besides the Rani Nala (water stream), was our first campsite Chika.
At some distance, a Waterfall was pounding the rocks. The moment I laid my eyes on it, my heart ached to touch its milky water.
An hour later we were having our acclimatization walk right beside the fall. A spectacular sight to behold but not to touch. I let out a contented sigh. I felt as happy as if I were walking on the moon.
While slurping hot soup back at the campsite, I made a few friends out of strangers.
Varun - A DSLR-loaded guy with photography skills to die for.
Rachna - One charming girl, who is truly my inspiration for Zumba.
Disha - I call her wonder woman; she is an avid cyclist, a trekker, and mother of boys.
We were all very different from each other but connected by our love for mountains as a common thread between us all.
After gorging ourselves with dinner, we went to sleep in order to have an early start in the morning.
Early Morning Day 2 of the Trek: Chika Camp site
Alas! It was drizzling. Looks like the rain God's intention was not good.
But we were also up for any kind of challenge and started before the scheduled time. Blimey!
Walking on the left of the stream I realized how my decision of coming here was absolutely right.
When I saw the beautiful colors of a Rainbow over a small water stream while walking on the trail, I felt magical.
I can't even remember the last time I saw a rainbow. Indeed one of the many perks of trekking during Monsoon
The highlight of the day was the river crossing (check the link for some tried and true saftey tips on how to get yourself successfully to the other side), for which I was eagerly waiting.
Tripping into the cold water, getting some bruises and almost drowning my iPhone... It was thrilling!
Thanks to the heavens though, the phone decided not to rest in peace.
Though the phone didn't die an early death, the anxiety was still there. But what followed next was an instant reliever.
The air was sweetly fragrant due to vibrant flowers in abundance. It pleased all my senses. It was the valley of flowers at Hampta pass. Yes, that's what I would call it.
I felt strange!
This was not planet Earth, but must be some kind of heaven. The beauty was beyond any kind of human imagination.
Only the missing chariot and the weight on my shoulder kept me grounded. I walked away from that enchanted place but honestly, it wasn't that easy.
Balu ka Gera was the name of our next camping site.
It boasted a long, stretched valley, where one side the hill slopes were covered with thick snow and the other side was playing peek-a-boo with silvery clouds.
Through a bed of flowers, we walked up to the glacier and had our learning session there.
Yes, we did some learning, not from books but something from our trek leader's practical experience. We were taught how to walk on the snow, info that came in handy the next day.
Whatever time left in the sun down, I dedicated it to my camera and clicked hundreds of pictures. Wanted to capture every possible thing to cherish afterward.
By the time I was back in the common tent, it was almost dark.
Alas! I did get a good scolding for having run off, and a friendly, but stern ban on going any farther than 100 meters from the campsite. Disobeying was out of the question.
I saved my energy to try some night photography with the help of my partners in crime (mentioned earlier), but we failed miserably. We decided that the sky full of clouds was to be blamed.
The only good option left was to sleep.
Midnight was when I woke up. It was drizzling again. My soul was so attuned to it that every drop falling on the tent felt like a musical note. Happy me.
Aye! The Pass day.
After all, who needs an alarm to wake up? The adrenaline rush is enough.
As always, we were ready with our backpack, packed lunch, and chocolates ahead of schedule. To our surprise, the sky was clear and we could see the Indrasan Peak which wasn't visible the previous evening because of clouds.
Then we received a warning from the trek leader:
"Beware of the falling rocks. They are lethal to your head, could disturb your facial features and will not be to your liking.."
Though the view was worth dying for, and my fingers were itching to click some pictures, I didn't want the trek leader to unleash his wrath on us. So without any break, we kept on walking, until we were in the so-called safe zone.
This day was a little on the tough side courtesy of the huge boulders, glaciers and the continuous rain. Hey, no pain no gain, right?
Despite last night's learning session, walking on the snow wasn't a piece of cake. Some of us tripped, fell and hit our bums hard, but nothing could stop us our high spirits from conquering the pass.
And it was 100% worth it. We crossed Hampta pass at an altitude of 14,000 feet. Most of us were not avid trekkers, so this was quite a moment to cherish.
And here comes the sharp and daunting DESCENT.
The most difficult part of the trek, according to many of our hiking mates. Personally, I did not find it that difficult, yet still tiring due to constant heavy rain.
Like a hawk, the landscape and I were keeping an eye on each other. After all, nobody wanted to get tripped over and fall in the valley.
Completely drenched we reached our 3rd Campsite, Sheaguru beside River Chandra
Our tents were pitched just next to the river. The bright sun cheered us up. Though the moment did not last long, the brief encounter warmed our bodies and our hearts.
This rendezvous for men and mountains left me awestruck. Everything felt so tiny against this majesty of Nature. Glad we had the evening by ourselves to take the view in.
The morning was bright and clear and the most difficult part of the trek (as per me) was next.
Crossing river Chandra
10 seconds in the river and time froze. My brain snoozed, body turned into a zombie that could feel only one thing.
Like thousands of needles had pierced my feet in a nontherapy fashion.
In the middle of the river, I wanted to give up. But we were a human chain and I didn't dare to take everybody along. I had a team alongside me.
Daydreamimg, I fancied myself turning out to be an ice woman. Call me Weirdo!
The icy pain was a challenge but subsided eventually.
And here comes the barren beauty! Spiti
The blow to our human ego.
The stark-naked, yet breathtakingly beautiful mountains tower without a care in the world for anyone else, and without their asking, you bow to their grandeur.
There was no vegetation, only some patches of flowers adding charm to this exceptional place.
"I have seen enough, nothing could be more beautiful than what I have seen so far..."
That's what I thought during a short break on the way.
The last campsite was Chatru, well connected to the road network.
A short break at Chatru to get rid of our backpack, and we left for the last leg of the trek.
Chandratal - The Moon Lake.
The natives of Spiti have reverent faith in this tiny but gargantuan beauty.
Intimidated with the surrounded peaks, I decided to take a detour.
The little hike was worth the pain because from there, you witness the sheer beauty of the lake and its guarding mountains.
"I have not seen enough.. just tasted a drop from the Ocean..."
So little time and so much to see. The realization hit hard!
Here is the end of my beautiful meeting with the mountains only to have the next one very soon. I know I will be summoned again in no time.
And now my question for you there, staring at the screen, is what are you doing at home?
Waiting for the summon? ....