Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mayank Doshi blogs on his experience of Trekking Hampta Pass in July 2012. I love Mountain Trekking and believe it helps me realize the true power of nature. Being my first Himalayan Trek, the experience I and my friends have had has truly been worth savoring for lifetime.Hampta Pass is a 5 day trek starting from Manali and is absolutely the perfect trek that you should be doing to start exploring the largest mountain range in the world - THE HIMALAYAS

"Anything That's Easy...Probably isn't worth it"
"Live Your Dreams..."

Trekked with Trekking Group - "Trek The Himalayas"
Click here to view their website

        If Variety is the Spice of Life, then Hampta Pass Trekking is surely one of the best spices available in the Himalayan market. Ok, agreed, it might not be the spiciest and neither it may be the most sought after spice, but it provides just an adequate amount of tinge to your tongues that makes you want more and more spices. Well, metaphors apart, the reason I say that is because Hampta Pass Trekking provides you a box of variety with respect to the geographical diversity it offers. The scenic landscape changes its nature gradually offering a visual delight to the trekkers. In the due course of the blog, I will reveal the different landscapes that Hampta Pass has to offer, but as a disclaimer I would like to state that no words can truly describe the feelings or the emotions, that we trekkers experienced over the course of five days.  A picture maybe worth a thousand words but an experience is priceless. However, my sole attempt of writing this blog is to inculcate a culture especially among the youth to start exploring the uninhibited beauties of nature through trekking and start feeling the true power of nature and hence understand the responsibility of an individual to preserve Mother Nature. 

Towards Hampta Pass

Hampta Pass Trek is considered as one of the easier treks in the Himalayan Region with a difficulty level of easy-moderate and I wouldn’t disagree.  However, the difficulty levels are pretty subjective and are only referential because even the most difficult trek in other low altitude mountain ranges wouldn’t have a closer comparison with one of the easier trek in the HIMALAYAS. The primary reason being that the altitude, atmospheric pressure and the number of days we need to be pumped up in order to enjoy the trek far beats any other terrain. The actual duration of the trek is about 4 days ending at Chatru - however most of the trekkers extend a day in the itinerary to visit the magnificent Chandrataal Lake which is just a few hours’ drive from the last village Chatru. Why waste an opportunity to visit this beautiful lake when we are just a few hours’ drive from there, whereas people from Manali drive especially a day to reach the lake and camp there. 

The Magnificent Chandratal Lake

        Now, talking about Hampta Pass, let me not go with the details too sequentially to avoid a feeling of reading an itinerary.  So, Lets Fast Forward… We have reached day 3 of the trek and we start climbing towards the final summit of Hampta Pass. Here is when snow stretches start and the feeling of trekking in the Himalayas start sinking in. Here is where it starts getting tricky because we need to balance our body while ascending on the snow with a backpack of around 8-10Kgs which is such a good friend of “Mr. Gravity”.

Climbing on the snow stretch

      If you lose your balance, you start sliding downhill on the snow, which is what happened with a couple of our team members who slipped almost around 80-100 feet downhill and just to be cheeky, it was fun watching them slide downhill on the snow :P. However, despite all those minor hindrances, our trekking group made it through to Hampta Pass well within time and that ecstatic feeling we experienced is simply ineffable. Imagine yourself sitting at a narrow 3 steps wide Pass at an altitude of 14100 feet (approx) and having a Veg Cheese Sandwich with a packed Mango juice for Lunch.   

Picture Perfect - At Hampta Pass

        Right in Front of you are high mountain peaks completely Snow clad and on the other side of the pass you see Rocky Boulders and fragmented rocks. The horizon is filled with the infinities of the sky and a unique tranquility surrounds the atmosphere. You can hear the sound of the wind and feel the true power of nature which is otherwise lost in a hustling city life. All you feel at that moment is completely ‘humbled’ in front of Mother Nature.


View From the Pass

        You realize how you had started the trek on day one in a dense pine forest which quickly disappeared making way for large green pastures that are used as grazing grounds by many shepherds wandering with their herds. That was the camping site for day one, a place named ‘Chika’ which literally means a ‘grazing ground’. The trail along the Hampta River on the second day of the trek then made way for a short stretch of marshy land followed by a magnificent short stretch of floral beauty – a botanist’s delight and a romantic’s true delight ;).  A little further and a little higher on altitude, that’s where we camped for day 2 at a place named ‘Balu-Ka-Gera’ which boasts of an excellent long stretch of grassland besides the Hampta river water stream making it an ideal place for camping. And if you thought this was about it in the variety-box, hold on because the descent on the other side of the valley is quite the opposite of what trekkers are used to on the first two and a half days. Bye Bye Greenery!!!...Hello Barren Land and Stone Boulders!!! That’s true; the other side of the valley known as the Spiti Valley in Lahaul District hardly receives any rainfall and contains very sparse vegetation. After climbing summit on day 3 and a steep descend on the other side of the hill, we camped at a place called ‘Sheagoru’ – which literally means ‘Cold-Place’ and hell, it did live upon its name.

Camping At Sheagoru

It became indeed pretty chilly in the evening and the gushing cold winds didn’t help us much either. The reason probably why it is such a cold place is because its situated right at a valley in between two glaciers and the glacier river flew right in parallel to our campsite. And just to add to the agony, the 4th day morning began with the crossing of that glacial river – Freak, the water was icy cold, but crossing that river was probably was one of the most memorable moment of the trek.


In Preparation to Cross Glacial River

River Crossing with Trek leader as buddy

       Talking about memorable moments and there is one moment in the trek which has taken its place right in the centre of my cerebrum which I shall never forget even if I suffer from Alzheimer’s. We were all sound asleep in our tents on the first day at ‘Chika’ and suddenly at around midnight there was a loud scream from the ‘ladies tent’. The shouts of  “HELP!!HELP!! Somebody Please help!!” probably broke everyone’s sleep.

Camping At Chika

       Now imagine the plight of people who were camping for the first time in their lives and you hear such screams from the girls (in fact ‘a girl’ as the other girl had probably lost her voice in the shock). It could be something as small as a bug that made the girl scream or even a burglar, nobody was sure. The yelling continued for almost around a minute and I am sure it must have even scared any ghosts wandering nearby. Thank God to our Trek leader who intervened and said that they were just some animals that were grazing in the night and hence they were moving the tents as perhaps they didn’t see the tent due to lack of light. The rest of the night went peacefully but deep down somewhere back of the mind, we were all cautious about the animals and would doubt if the tent was fluttering due to wind or were some animals flapping it? Nonetheless, its memories like these that are etched for lifetime. We would never forget the time when we played cards while eating Maggi surrounded by mountains on four sides and a nice water stream flowing besides us. We would also never forget the team spirit when each of us held hands and crossed the icy cold glacial river with a high water current on day 4. It’s so difficult to believe that while trekking our bed time (or rather should I say sleeping bag time :P) would usually be around 9PM in the night and even for all the lazy boners, we all used to awake by 5:30AM in the morning(My Grandma would be so proud of this :D). A totally unknown group of 12 people in Manali became pretty close to one another in a matter of Five days and such was the bonding that we all celebrated the success of the trek @Chopsticks in Manali.

        As I told earlier, this spice tinges your tongue, making you crave for more and most of us in the trekking group have already began our research for selecting a trek for next year. As they say, Once a Man-eater tastes blood, it can’t stay without it and we have been bitten by a venomous snake named “Himalayan Trekking”!!! CHEERS!!!

       To read my other blog on Trekking to Dhak bahiri (One of the toughest Treks in Western Ghats) click the below link Trek To Dhak Bahiri