Since the day I uploaded the post ‘A trek to Himalayas’ describing my experience of a recent trip, I’ve been receiving messages from people, inquiring more about the trip.So I have decided to write a full account with all the details and I hope this might help someone looking forward to make a trip into the mountains.
The trek was through an old trade route of Hampta pass and the highest altitude was around 14,100 ft. It took 5 days to complete and each day of the trek was a different uncanny experience. The route connects two different valleys i.e the beautiful lush green valleys of Kullu and the barren deserts of Spiti. The trek level is moderate to difficult and it is advisable to be physically and mentally prepared for long hours of walk, tough terrain, and fatigue.
How we planned the trek :
During the planning phase of the trek, there were three main concerns:
- After tons of research and brainstorming, we were clear that the trek would involve an uphill climb of around 9-10 kms daily. As we had started our preparations 2 months prior, we indulged ourselves in activities and exercises that would help us build up our stamina. We also participated in few one day treks in and around Maharashtra before we took it a step further .
- Being an employee of a IT industry, the next challenge for us was to plan our leaves substantially. Managing to get a long vacation of 10 days approved, involved working on weekends and doing overtime. As soon as we had the required approvals, we booked our seats with a reputed trek group YHAI– Youth Hostel Assosiation of India. For Himalayan treks, its preferable to do it through a trekking group. We did not take any chance with the IRCTC bookings either and got our reservations to Delhi done immediately.
- The final and the major challenge was Shopping! There was so much to be bought and packed. To be honest, the shopping had cost us a lot more than the cost of the trek. We spent almost every weekend researching on internet the best deals and visiting different stores for buying trekking shoes (I used Forclaz 500), jackets, poncho, bag pack, cap, gloves etc. It is recommended to pack very very light. Remember that it is you who has to carry all the weight.
Journey to the Mountains:
The train journey from Pune to Delhi was a long and tiring one. It took us almost 35 hours to reach Manali. We reached Hazrat Nizamuddin station at around 5:00 pm and took a cab to Kashmiri gate. There are multiple government and private buses that run from Kashmiri Gate Bus station for Manali. We took a Himachal Govt Volvo Bus. It was a 12 hour journey. As the bus entered Himachal, we could feel our lungs inhaling the cold and fresh air. The spectacular view of Beas river and the trees and greenery on the way, made us forget all the exhaustion. The bus driver dropped us at the 15 miles Base Camp set up near River Beas which was 20 kms from Kullu. We got ourselves registered at the reception and submitted our Medical fitness forms and ID proofs.
Since it was our first day at camp and there was no plan scheduled by the trek leader, we were free to visit the city and report back by 6:00 pm. We freshened up and left for Manali with a few other people we befriended in our tents. We spent the afternoon roaming around Mall road and went for a visit to Solang Valley. The bus driver dropped us at a place 3 kms before the valley starts and so we had no other choice but to walk the remaining distance. There were innumerable apple trees on the way and we had a good time clicking pictures and searching shortcuts through the mountains to reach the valley site faster. After a long walk of 1.5 hours, we could see the snow covered mountains. The scene was stupefying and we spent some time relishing the beauty of the place. We reached back to the base camp and met all the remaining fellow trekkers and introduced ourselves during the camp fire. There was music, dance and laughter. A perfect camp fire on the mountains!!
The next morning , the trek leaders took us for acclimatization walk of about 4 kms. We were asked to carry our trek bags along in order to accustom our bodies to the weight. We visited a Trout fish farm, and saw the fish cultivation. The farm was by the side of Beas river, with a beautiful view and variety of birds and animals.
After reaching back to camp, the trek leader demonstrated us what and how to pack the bag. He gave a briefing of the trek route and the camp sites and explained us the back up plans in case of any emergency.
Trekking the Himalayas :
Now starts the most exciting part, the trek !
Day 1 : Trek to Sethan (9184 feets)
We began early morning and a bus arranged by YHAI dropped us at Prini village,40 kms from the base camp. It was a warm and sunny day and we started walking uphill. There were steep slopes and we had to trek 8 km till we reached our first camp site at Sethan. It was more of climbing and less of walking. We took frequent breaks to pluck and savor the taste of juicy Himalayan apples. The difficulty level was moderate and almost all of us managed to reach the camp site on time.The trek route was flourished with thick alpine forests and the landscape was awe-inspiring. We reached Sethan and spent the rest of the day getting to know one another and playing team games.
Day 2 : Sethan to Chikka (10824 feets)
Himalayan weather is unpredictable. It was raining heavily the next day and it was getting colder. Though the trek path was easier as compared to the previous day with less climbing and more of walking on plain surfaces, the rains had made the path slippery and the the wet mud made it difficult to walk. We crossed multiple streams and the lush meadow of Chikka. The river came into view and flowed directly in between the meadow.There was a wooden bridge, which could be crossed by one person at a time and was a scary adventure. We continued walking on the bank of river, and the climb was mainly through stones and boulders. It was a tiring and long walk but the mesmerizing view of the trek camp set by the River side sucked away all the pain.
Day 3: Chikka to Balu Ghera (11808 feets)
The next day we started off towards Balu ka Gera, our next camp location. Balu ka Gera means mound of sand, and is said to have been formed by sand and dust brought by the river. The trek leader explained us the trick to climb the vertical rocks and briefed us on crossing the glacier water of the fast flowing Hampta river. We passed multiple water falls, formed a human chain and crossed the icy cold water! The trek was tougher than I had anticipated, in terms of terrain. Balu ka Gera was the most beautiful camp site during the entire trek. It was set between the snow covered Himalayas and near a peacefully flowing river.
Day 4: Balu Ghera to Hampta pass (14,100 feets) and Night halt at Siagoru (10824 feets)
This was the longest trek route in one day. Our target was to cover a distance of almost 13 kms in not more than 10 hours – from Balu ka Gera to Siagoru via Hampta Pass. We could feel the Oxygen level dropping as we ascended higher. Most of the trek route was through rocks and boulders. We passed through melting glaciers and also enjoyed the view of the mighty Mt. Indrasen peak on our left and Hanuman Tibba on our right.It was getting colder and foggy as we were gaining height. After a long climb, we finally reached the Hampta Pass. It was a proud moment for the entire group of 53 members. We could see Deo Tibba from the plateau.Reaching the summit was exhilarating! We spent some time at the Pass, catching our breath and clicking loads of pictures.
The remaining part of trek was mainly descent. As we entered Spiti Valley,the path was mostly rocky patches. As we continued to descent lower, we could see our camps set near the Chenab River. The site was just enthralling !
Day 5: Siagouru to Chattru ( 9512 feets )
The next day we crossed the icy water of one of the tributaries Chenab river. The water was so cold that it made our feet numb and body shiver. It was a 9 km downhill walk and took us approximately 5 hours to complete. There was a sense of satisfaction and broad smile on each one’s face as we reached the last point. We reached Chattru to Manali by a bus via Rohtang Pass.
We spent the night at YHAI base camp and departed in the morning after breakfast. The next day we wandered a few hours exploring Manali and then took a bus to Delhi in the evening. Since our flight to Mumbai was at 7:00 pm, we had 6-7 hours to see the major attractions of the Capital. We visited few of the places like India Gate, the Central Secretariat and the Parliament House.
It was an amazing experience and I am so happy that I took this decision to go on a Himalayan trek. YHAI trek to Hampta pass is a professionally planned and skillfully executed one. The entire crew including the Field Director, trek leaders,guides and even the cooks are extremely supportive and talented. We are always free to consult any of them in case of any mishaps.
Good luck to all those who look forward to trek the Himalayas for the very first time!! I am sure, it will be an experience for a life time !