Informative

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

Neeti Singhal

Last updated: 03-11-2021

Pin Bhaba Pass Trek is one of the most striking crossover treks in India. Rife with drama and poetry, this trek, which is full of surprises starts at a charming little Himalayan hamlet called Kafnu. Kafnu is tucked away in one of the folds in the Kinnaur ranges at an altitude of 2,400 M. The trek, which takes you to the highest altitude of 4,915 M, offers you a look into two starkly different but equally alluring landscapes - that of the abundant and alive Bhaba valley of Kinnaur on the one side and the dry, resilient and almost galactic Pin Valley of Spiti on the other. The experience is no less than witnessing a multitude of dimensions in a span of 8 days.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

Ending at a small village in Spiti called Mudh – which rests at an altitude of 3,810 M, this trek is full of mystery. The trail of Pin Bhaba Pass has a different kind of beauty to unpack each day. We recommend this trek to anyone who does not believe in extremes - because a trek of extremes is what Pin Bhaba Pass is! 

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

This trail that takes you through dense forests and shepherd’s trails on the Kinnaur side into the vast, arid lands of Spiti is a visual lesson in the coexistence of contrasts. It is not an exaggeration when we say Pin Bhaba Pass trek has some of the most beautiful campsites. Be prepared for an overstimulation of all your senses! From the strong visuals, to the breadth of colours you will experience, to the intense scents of medicinal herbs sprouting from the ground and the tall trees rising up to the skies, to the moody winds swooshing past you in a state of urgency; the trek makes all your sense organs come alive - driving them to perform at their highest capacity. 

It is extremely difficult to condense into one article all that the trek has to offer, but we are going to try anyway!

 

Day 1: Visual Stimulation: Drive to Kafnu

Treks in which you find yourself in the midst of beauty from Day 1 are a rare species. The head trail for Pin Bhaba Pass trek is Kafnu, a charming hamlet in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. To get here, from Shimla, is an adventure in itself. You are transported into another dimension from the get-go. Don’t be surprised if you find your worries and your stress dissipating in this fresh air already. 

The drive to Kafnu takes you on scenic mountain roads. The struggle of the soft round curves lulling you to sleep while you try to stay awake to soak in the views of the valley is real! With a cluster of brightly colored roofs every few seconds, the houses standing on narrow ledges on mountain faces and the patterns of step farming make the green landscape seem even more pleasing. Apple farming and plums are plentiful along the way.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

The murky Sutlej River nearly camouflages itself in its rocky background but its forceful march forward, almost with a sense of resolve, gives it away. You will drive through the famous resort hill station of Kufri which is popular with tourists. Breakfast and lunch, in local dhabas along the way make sure you get to indulge your tastebuds in some locally popular cuisine. The narrow roads with a deep gorge on the other side are prone to rock fall and landslides; do not expect this to be a smooth ride.  In some areas, the roads look like they are straight out of Need for Speed – smooth but narrow, under hanging boulders on top of a high mountain with a drop on the other side. After crossing the Wangtoo bridge, which is the last 1 hour of the drive, the expansive views of Kinnaur Ranges make themselves available for your viewing. This makes the drive and the rough patches interesting. The mountains in this region are distinct. They are made up of large chunks of rocks resting one on top of the other – much like a stack of Jenga 15 minutes into the game. 

At the end of the trail of this back-breaking journey will be a warm, wooden homestay with cozy rooms, waiting for you.

 

Day 2: Olfactory Stimulation: The Forests of Mulling

After a comforting stay for the night, in the midst of apple orchards right by the gurgling river, Day 2 pushes you straight into the heart of tall trees and the many morning songs of Himalayan birds. Before you enter the forest, you are accompanied by the turquoise Bhaba river which consistently cheers you on with its roaring sound and fills you with energy with its sharp turns, cold splashes and high falls.

The route is a gradual ascend which takes you through wide, open trails to thick forests with massive trees – rich with bovine, streams and the smell of pine.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

On entering the door of the forest, walking in the woods under the shade of sky-high trees, you cannot ignore the strong scent of the forest held within this cauldron, created by the closed canopy. The refreshing smell makes everything in your midst seem alive – the wood to your sides, the land under your feet and the small bits of sunlight that struggle to make their way to you. The woody scent makes everything around you appear like it is breathing and you begin to sense the smallest of movements.  

This magnificent first campsite does a good job of starting you off on a journey of awe. The forest opens up into a vast meadow with the tallest ferns you have ever seen as the Bhaba river distributes itself in little streams all through its lush green floor. The ground is covered in scattered colors in the form of wild flowers and the river flowing by your feet.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

If it was possible to walk around with eyes popped out of their sockets and your jaw dropped to the floor, that’s how you would find yourself through the trail of this entire trek! Does this give you a sense of how much beauty it holds? We hope it does. 


Day 3: Kinesthetic Stimulation: The vast meadows of Kara

Crossing over the forceful river to get to Kara from Mulling requires team work, a little technique and soaking your feet in the gushing flow of the icy cold water. If the joy of pointless existence couldn’t do the trick, to feel the cold water on your skin and the pointed rocks underneath will surely jolt the life back into you. 

Other elements join in to do their bit to keep you excited, too. The startling bit about being at that altitude (3, 700M) is that you never know when you will be hit in the face with a gust of cold air – the surprise keeps the drab bits of the walk interesting.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

The trail to Kara literally takes you ‘into the woods’ where everything suddenly turns darker and chillier till you cross the forested area across the stream and onto the other side of the mountain. Although the huge boulders along the way seem like they could be tricky to navigate, they actually aid the hike, proving to be like a climb up the stairs. What would make this section of the trek even more enticing is if you would watch out for the magnificent cloud shadows on the barren dips in the mountain faces creating a beautiful play of dark and light shades of green. The wild flowers in the meadows here are a deep yellow and the fairest shade of purple scattered across the valley like spilt beans. The last bit of the hike to get to Kara, involves dipping your feet once again in glacial water in order to reach the warm sanctuary of your tents. Oh! and some mucky land too!

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

The feel of the cold water, the touch of the rocks below, the gush of the air leading you into the meadows and the texture of muck on your skin are some of the things that simple joys are made of. What makes a beautiful day even better is to be able to enjoy some piping hot food with the snowclad mountains much closer to you than before. Save your plates from the sheep grazing across the meadows at your campsite, though – they might be in the mood for something spicy!

 

Day 4: Physical Stimulation: The challenge to get to Pushtirang

Pushtirang is at 4100 M. The trek from Kara to here is a bit hard on the legs – firstly because of the steep ascend and secondly because the trek starts with multiple river crossings which is a total of 30 minutes of bone-chilling water adventure. All this as the green, rocky-mountains look at you struggle to keep your feet dry. The cloudless sky makes the tall mountains look almost 2 dimensional against the solid blue of the clear skies. 

Once out of the freezing water, you start to notice other colors and forms getting added to the landscape around you. The color palette of the meadows here is much richer than it was on any other day.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

The route is full of steep incline and sections of glacier-walking, which require extreme caution and balance. The precarious sections of the trek take you on narrow trails resting on loose rocks with a drop into the valley on the other side.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

This hardship leads you straight into the land of meadows lying alongside glaciers. It is a sight to behold not just for the frenzy of colors but for the marvel of the coexistence of extreme cold and life in the form of summer flowers. Pushtirang is a sight for sore eyes after a challenging but extremely satisfying hike. The sense of achievement (or is it the relief of being alive?) might just be the only thing more beautiful than all the beauty this campsite lays out for you. 

 

Day 5: A walk to remember: Pushtirang to Baladar via Bhaba Pass

Today is THE day! Midnight climb, steep incline, walking in knee deep snow, micro spikes, pass crossing and a crossover into the other dimension!  

The climb is interesting from the get-go. From the minute you put one foot in front of the other, you will find yourself navigating big boulders on a steep incline – traversing through the zigzagging path on a loose mountain. The 6 hours of ascend is riddled with precarious sections with rock fall, glacier crossing, scree, moraine and navigating boulders – all in the dark of the night.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

At the crack of dawn, as the birds come alive, remember to look up and witness the pastel glow of the sky. Watch soft hues slowly getting deeper as the snow-clad mountain tops become a resting place for the rising sun. The crack of dawn presents a panoramic view of the Kinnaur, the Spiti and the Janglik Ranges with snow patches rolling down mountain faces like sweat.

The view from the pass, which is the highest point of the trek at 4,915 M, is nothing short of spectacular. The prayer flags, the panoramic view with the assault of greens on the one side and browns on the other, while you find yourself in knee deep white (snow), is an experience like no other. Prepare to witness an overdose of childlike glee as you slide down the steep slopes of ice to get to the other side of the pass.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

The change in terrain is so stark, it’s mindboggling. You have now entered the Pin Valley on the Spiti side of Himachal. You are invited to the barren landscape with hundreds of shades of browns and dirty red. The Pin River now adorns this landscape flowing calmly through sun tanned rocks. The straightforward trail takes you alongside the blue Pin River. Although, called the cold desert, it is not devoid of color and you learn to see beauty in elements other than the flora of the mountains. From the lip of the valley, you look down on the confluence of three rivers at Tiyaand, a trail junction. The land is rich in medicinal plants, and colorful shrubs spilling out of the barren ground – a strong, pleasant fragrance from these assortment of exotic plants follows you throughout. You will meet patches of snow all along till you reach the campsite.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

Day 6: Spiti – The Cold Desert

Today you head on from Baldar to Mudh Village through Pharka Village. The walk does not involve too many ups and downs but it does have a few river crossings over log bridges without ropes – but we are sure after all these days, you’d have conquered your fear of water, if any. Within 40 minutes of the trek, you start to see your destination for the day – Mudh Village – far into the distance. The colors of the earth, spill out of its dry cracks in the form of tufts and a strong smell of the herbs follow you on the trail like a stalker.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

The two last exciting bits to get to the village are:

  1. A 30 M long swinging bridge over the Spiti river. This almost unwarranted bridge, dangling between two mountains with nothing but two strings to support it, will bring back all the dizziness of the last 5 days. 
  2. A 20 minute, extremely steep climb to get to this tiny mountain habitation rife with cafes and homestays. 

Once you make it to Mudh, do not forget to explore the peculiar mountain culture and introduce your taste buds to their local Himalayan cuisine.

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF PIN BHABA PASS TREK

 

Day 7: The colours of Kaza

Kaza is the largest township and a commercial hub of the Spiti valley. Famous for its monasteries and local shopping, there are a lot of small hamlets close to Kaza, for you to explore. A window into how people co-exist with the exotic wildlife of the terrain, their peculiar houses, lifestyle and means of livelihood in this barren land are every bit as fascinating as the trail for the trek.

This article is a small testament to the wonders the trail unpacks for you each day. It is one phenomenon we urge you to witness first-hand. If our experiences of the trek are any indication, this short 8-day trek does everything in its power to replenish your soul.

Neeti Singhal

A psychologist, a developmental researcher, and a constant seeker of stories, Neeti is usually found Read more

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