“The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot” ― Werner Herzog
The beautiful Hampta Pass located in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas in the Himachal Pradesh District in India is one of the most beautiful and dramatic treks and offers a varied transition in the landscapes which takes you from lush green meadows to the cold desert.
Best Time to visit Hampta Pass: June – September end (Look for the weather forecast, several groups have turned back from Balu ka Ghera campsite because of the extreme conditions and were unable to complete the trek)
Trek Length: 32Kms
Duration: 5 Days
Highest Altitude: 14,100ft.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
How to reach Manali: From Kashmeri Gate (Delhi), you can book bus online through zing bus app, also you can travel HRTC (Government Buses)
HRTC Website: https://online.hrtchp.com/oprs-web/guest/home.do?h=1
It takes around 12-14 Hours from Delhi to Manali (Take a bus which leaves around 5-6pm from Delhi, so you reach Manali right on time)
About Hampta Pass: Hampta Pass is a small corridor between Chandra valley of Lahaul and Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh. It is a fascinating crossover from Manali to Spiti.
At Hampta Pass, the breathtaking view sweeps you off your feet. Colossal Mount Indrasen, Deo Tibba and numerous snow-laden peaks rising as high as 19,700 feet stand tall at a distance and welcome you into a magical embrace. The arid landscape of Lahaul Valley interspersed with naked mountains presents the most widely panoramic sweep, down below.
Tucked in between the majestic folds of the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas. Hampta Village is located below Sethan Village, which falls on the way of the trek to Hampta.
Hampta Pass trek is known for its higher grasslands, which the trekkers would eventually cross on their journey up to the highest point. Sometimes, these patches of open land are used as campsites as well.
These meadows are visited by shepherds from the foothill regions during the summer months when the cold, deserts of Lahaul Valley are left too barren for the cattle to graze. The locals also believe that a certain kind of grass that grows in this region, which they call ‘Neeru’, is a great source of nutrition for the herds and therefore is a good feed.
History and Mythology
Hampta Pass derives its name from the tiny hamlet Hampta, snuggled in the laps of the Kullu Valley.
According to a legend, Hampta Pass also got its name after a Rishi, Hampta Maharishi who meditated there.
According to the Hindu mythology Mahabharata, this trek route was travelled by the Pandavas on their quest for heaven. In fact, the route from Hampta Pass to Chandratal is often touted as the ‘staircase to heaven'.
How to reach Hampta Pass from Delhi
The best way to reach Hampta Pass from Delhi is via Manali. Reaching from New Delhi to Manali is probably the easiest part of the whole trip. The distance between Delhi and Manali is around 537 kilometres. There are three options available-
There is no direct train to Manali. From Delhi, you can either take a Shatabdi train to Chandigarh or a train to Pathankot and then hire a cab or take a bus to Manali.
The distance between Delhi and Manali is around 537 km. The distance between Chandigarh and Manali is 305 km. You can either take a direct bus from Delhi to Manali or reach Chandigarh from Delhi and then take a bus from Chandigarh to Manali.
There is a flight of buses that run between these cities and Manali. From Delhi, it takes around 13 hours to reach Manali by bus. It takes around 8 hours to reach Manali from Chandigarh by bus.
Fly to Bhuntar. Located 52 kilometres away from Manali, it is the nearest airport to Manali. There are many private and Indian Airlines flights to Bhuntar that operate on a regular basis. From Bhuntar, you can either take a cab or a direct bus to Manali.
Mobile Connectivity: Mobile connectivity is available till Manali. As you are away from civilization, it is suggested that you take a technology-detox and keep your mobile aside to enjoy this beautiful trek. Throughout the trek, you won’t get network. The first time you’ll get network is when on the way back home when you’re Atal Tunnel.
One of the best part about this trek is the ever-flowing streams of pure water are a delight. One can actually place a water bottle in the gushing water to fill it up. The Water is so pure and crystal clear and so fresh! You get enough water on Day 1 and Day 2 of the trek. On the third day of the trek, carry sufficient water from Balu ka Gera as you won’t find any water sources till your next destination. On Day 4, you will again get enough water sources on the way.
- 55L/65L Rucksack (MUST)
- Waterproof Gloves (MUST)
- Fleece Jacket
- Poly-fill Jacket (MUST)
- Woolen Socks (MUST)
- Head Torch (MUST)
- 2-3 Full Sleeves T-shirts (MUST)
- Thermals (T-shirt & Pant) (MUST)
- Rain Poncho (MUST)
- Hiking Pole (If not a regular trekker, then can simply take a wooden stick)
- Trekking Shoes (MUST)
- Extra Pair of Slippers/Sandals (MUST)
- Face Cover, Woolen Cap, Balaclava (MUST)
- Energy Bar, Dry fruits, ORS, Glucose (MUST)
- 2-3 Quick-dry Hiking Pants (MUST)
- Waterproof Snow Pants
- Polarized Sunglasses (MUST)
- Sunscreen, Moisturizer
- Sleeping Bag
- Camping Tent
Day 1 – Manali to Chika via Jobra
Till Jobra, private vehicles can go. After Jobra the trek starts. The trek from Jobra to Chika is an easy trek. The trail takes you through a green forest full of pine & green maple trees. Around 6pm in the evening, we reached the campsite. The sunset which we experienced was mesmerizing. Our campsite was situated on the banks of Rani Nallah, after pitching up the tents & having some light snacks we came out with our jackets & balaclavas to enjoy the picturesque location. It was a wholesome experience over there filed with laughter, joy & different experiences. After having our nutritious meal, we sat outside the tents and enjoyed the clear night sky with many planets clearly visible above. (App Name: Sky View) (Gears Used: 95L Colonel Rucksack, Adventure High Ankle Shoes Olive, Hiking Pole, Convertible Hiking Pants)
Day 2 – Chika to Balu ka Ghera
The trek today begins from Chika and takes you through grasslands and rocky paths, after crossing a few streams to the next site. Carry enough drinking water along with you and keep yourself hydrated. At Chika, This point is itself a great view point, as you look behind and find the Rani Nallah dividing into small streams along a green endless pasture, you just walked through. To the opposite side of the river from your viewpoint, the vegetation includes dwarf Rhododendrons and Birch trees exactly contrary to what you find on your side.
The trail further leads you through boulders and you encounter a small stream of about 10 ft, with ice cold water and current enough to disturb your balance. Take precautions while crossing the stream, remove your shoes, as getting yourself wet may ruin your further days. The trail will last about an hour walk with gradual ascent, initially walking through a path of meadows and then leading you to a path carved between the boulder, and lifts you up to the beginning of the flat trail to Balu ka Ghera.
Balu means sand, which gives you a clear identification to your destination. It's a flat plane composed of sand brought down by this stream Rani nalla. The gushing sound of the river also follows along the trail as we ascend but as the slope decreases the gushing also dampens. The trail further walks in to the flat area, covered with sand depositions, and you realize that you are not far away from your destination.
The flat area is surrounded by sky high rocky cliff and a number of random waterfalls arising from them as many of these cliffs are covered with snow and remain the same throughout the year. A Half an hour walk further leads you to your campsite.
The campsite is beautiful and has a number of small streams which further sum up to form the Rani nallah stream. The site is surrounded from three sides by high cliffs, among which one of them will be your path for tomorrow's trek. The fourth side is your route you crossed till now and far away on this side you can see the Bandarpunch peak of the Dhauladhar Range.
Day 3: Balu Ka Ghera to Shea Goru via Hampta Pass (14,000 feet)
This was the most thrilling part of the trek, filled with fear, excitement & most importantly HOPE.
Of all the group which we met during the trek, none of them completed the entire circuit. All were coming back from Balu ka ghera because of the extreme weather conditions. In the Himalayas, you can never predict the weather. Its extreme and it changes every other moment. We have clearly seen a clear sunny sky turning into a dangerous zone in which you cannot even step out of the tent. The ascent from Balu ka ghera is the most serious incline you face in the entire trek. Today's trek is the final ascent to Hampta Pass; but that's not all, the descent further to Shea ghoru is itself a challenging task.
Before leaving the campsite carry sufficient drinking water,as in this final ascent to 4270 meters you don't want to get yourself dehydrated and spoil the trek to the summit. So, keep drinking enough water throughout the ascent.
Also, for the inexperienced trekkers, walk at a constant pace and don't exhaust yourself. Take rest at equal intervals and replenish your body with water and other snacks like dry fruits etc., take rest on something like walking poles, don't sit as it makes it difficult to start again. On descending from the Pass, be careful. Take firm steps, make grip, because falling here spoils the fun of crossing the Pass. Also the path is carved on scree and that makes your fall, a rough one.
The slope, now onwards is a tough one, pre-monsoon it snows a stretch up to the Pass, itself. The steep snow makes the route a little adventurous. Post monsoon, the route trails through a rocky path. Between the Pass and these rocky steep incline, you encounter two ridges which are steep and you gain altitude rapidly as compared to your earlier ascents.
Crossing these ridges takes you to U-turn to the left from the second ridge and this is your gateway to The Hampta Pass. Reaching the Pass is a rewarding feeling. The panoramic view of several sky high snow clad peaks mesmerizes you.
The snow clad Mt Indrasan peak standing tall justifies the true meaning of its name, 'the throne of the rain god'. Just behind it, stands mighty " Dev Tibba ", the gods abode.
From here, trace the route you came along and you will realize your potential, this accomplishment surely doesn't fill your pocket but it surely boosts your determination, power and confidence.
And now once you realize your potential, this experience will surely benefit you in facing the big mountain challenges that you face in your careers and life.
At the Pass, stay and relax for a while, but do not take long, leave the place and descend. It is advised to avoid staying for too long at the summit points, as sudden weather changes are usual at this height, and in case of fog and rain, the route becomes difficult.
The descent from the Pass is a difficult one, carved on screen and needs to be negotiated carefully. It is seen that most of the accidents happen at the time of descending as this is the time when a person is least careful. So, take care and walk by firm steps.
Also take care, to not make any rock fall by your carelessness as it might hit and cause someone a serious injury.
With the required precautions, we walk safely to our next campsite, Shea Ghoru. It's the coldest place in your trek so keep yourself packed with woolens. It's a levelled pasture surrounded by huge rocky cliffs, with a stream flowing next to your campsite. You need to cross this ice chilled water stream tomorrow in the morning, as at that time the water current will be weak.
Day 4: Shea Goru to Chhatru
The meaning of the word “Shea Goru” is the coldest place.
During the night, it started snowing out. The snowfall gradually increased and the outer layer of tents was full of snow. Because of this extreme weather, all the sleeping bags got partially wet. It became really difficult to sleep inside those. This was the first snowfall of the year. It was altogether a thrilling experience. Waking up beside a water stream is always a good thing to start your day with.
Today's trail is a simple descent up to Chatru, the last campsite nearby the road connecting Manali to Kaza. The stream flowing by your campsite, which added beauty to the boring campsite otherwise.
This stream need to be crossed, in this chilling hour. It is advisable to cross the river in the early hours of the day, as at this time the water level is low, as the low temp in the night prevents the ice from melting.
Hence, low water level and also weak water current makes the morning hours the best time to cross a stream.
The trek, further, after crossing the river is a simple path carved in grasslands and further along some boulders. At the end, there is a little steep descent, but this time it's a piece of cake for you as you crossed the tougher one earlier while descending from the Pass.
Further, crossing a small stream, across a small bridge, be careful here, it's a weak one so cross one person at a time. And then plane tour along the Chandrabhaga river lands you to your last campsite, Chatru.
In our plan of action further, we were supposed to go to Chandratal, but because of the snowfall & unpredictable weather, we took a call not to go to Chandratal.
Day 5: Chhatru & Drive Back to Manali via Atal Tunnel.
Also, after waking up early in the morning. I went to explore the nearby Chattru Village, it’s a small 30-45mins hike from the Chhatru Campsite. it’s a beautiful secluded village in the Spiti Region of Himachal Pradesh. Also meet a few locals and interacted with them, understood the way they live, when we compare our city life to theirs, you see & get to know such diverse changes. It was a wholesome experience meeting them.
With smiles on our faces & with mixed emotions in our heart, we packed our bags & geared up for our journey back home. This wonderful trip was about to end with a bag full of memories & basket full of experiences.
During this trek, we experienced everything, like rainfall, snowfall, hailstorm. It was a surreal experience. After all this experience, it was a great learning journey and I would like to conclude this by saying if heaven exists, then it is the MIGHTY HIMALAYAS.
Hampta Pass Route
Before planning a trek in the Himalayas, these things you should keep in mind:
Tips & Precautions:
Trek in a group preferably.
Hire an experienced local guide.
Study the weather conditions & weather forecast through a local guide & also recheck through a trusted website.
Check all your gears properly before the trek. Also, if any new gears are there then test them before and get used to it.
Always carry a first aid kit & the necessary medications.
All the trek related information stated above is from my own experience. It may vary from person to person. Additionally, stay updated about government norms and weather conditions before planning the trek.