The Kullu Valley is considered one of the most picturesque valleys in the Western Himalaya. It is surrounded by snow-capped mountain ranges that packed with conifer trees and lush green alpine meadows. At lower heights, fields are stacked with the apple orchards, cornfields and rice paddies merged with beautiful small villages and towns that sits along the Beas River. For trekkers, a stay in Manali is a space before heading towards on the trail. The option of doing short treks to Bijli Mahadev or Lama Dugh, without the need of expertise and much efforts, this is one reason why Manali is the most popular trekking-off point in Himachal Pradesh. For those more ambitious, there are challenging treks to Spiti, Lahaul, Zanskar and Ladakh. One of these is the famous Jagatsukh to Hampta Pass Trek.
Hampta Pass Trek
The Hampta Valley trek includes adequate time to acclimatise and imporve fitness before crossing Hampta Pass with picturesque views of Deo Tibba (6001m/19688ft) and Indrasan (6221m/20410ft) en route. The trek also provides an opportunity improve fitness before trekking over the Shingo La or continuing up the Chandra Valley to complete the trek to Chandra Tal and the Baralacha La.
|Jagatsukh to Hampta Pass & Lahaul|
|Summary||Despite being close to Manali this is relatively a remote trek exploring the forests and meadows en route to the verdant Hampta Valley before crossing the Pir Panjal to Lahaul.|
Best time for Hampta Pass Trek
While it is possible to trek the Hampta Pass in June, there are chances of normal snow on the pass until mid-July. In July & August, Manali and surrounding regions are subject to the heaviest rains. By September & October the weather clears and is ideal for the Hampta Pass trek.
Hampta Pass Trek Itinerary
There is no accommodation between Jakatsukh and Chatru so be prepared to camp.
Day 1: Jagatsukh to Sauroto
(4 hours, 12km)
Time should be reserved to visit some of the ancient temples of Jagatsukh before ascending trails through conifer forest that afford a bird’s-eye view of the upper Kullu Valley including the peak of Hanuman Tibba (5928m). The view also extends across to the road and pipeline built to service the dam above Sythen village that once marked the regular trekking route to the lower reaches of the Hampta Valley.
The origins of Jagatsukh date back to the 9th century and the foundations of the ancient Sandya Devi temple that was later rebuilt in the 15th century. After exploring Jagatsukh follow the trail immediately above the main market (1950m/6397ft) that leads up to the village of Boidara (2150m/7053ft). Continue through conifer forest to a small temple (2260m/7414ft), the trail then winds up gradually through the forest to a number of Gujar huts. Although this is only a two hour trek from Jagatsukh there are some good campsites in the vicinity if there are any concerns regarding acclimatisation.
Beyond the Gujar huts there is an ascent up a grassy ridge – steep in places – to reach the upper level of the conifer forest. The trail then winds around the contours to a substantial Gujar settlement known as Sauroto (3040m/9973ft).
Day 2: Sauroto to Second Camp
(4 hours, 9km)
A further stage to appreciate the high peaks of the upper Kullu Valley while following trails leading across lush alpine meadows set beneath the snow-capped ridges that form the Pir Panjal.
From camp, the trail crosses an open meadow before a short, steep, 200m ascent that leads high above a side river flowing on down to Prini village in the Kullu Valley. En route there are a variety of wildflowers including red poppies, wild roses and dwarf rhododendron that bloom late May/early June. To reach the river crossing involves a short, somewhat slippery descent through thick undergrowth. On the far side of the valley there is an equally steep ascent before following a trail that leads through holy oak forest to a clearing with more Gujar huts and on to another fine campsite (2900m/9514ft).
Day 3: Second Camp to Chikha
(4 hours, 12km)
Shortly after leaving camp, the magnitude of the dam construction in the lower Hampta Valley is evident. This is reason indeed to reflect on the benefits of trekking from Jagatsukh before joining the regular trail up the Hampta Valley ascending to the delightful meadow at Chikha.
From camp the trail winds high above the Hampta Gorge and the village of Sythen. A large skiing development is proposed for this area although to date the plans are still at the drawing-board stage. The site of the dam can be seen after about 1½ hours as well as the forests and meadows in the vicinity of Chikha. There is no necessity to descend to the dam site. Simply follow the grazing tracks that wind around to the Jabri Nallah (2850m/9350ft), which is about the half-way point on this stage. The trail continues on the true left of the Hampta River for 2km. Here there should be a wooden bridge in place (a snow bridge earlier in the season). If not then head on up the valley for a further 1km to where the river widens, and select a suitable spot to ford the river. This should not be an issue in the morning, but may present a few problems when the river level rises later in the day. Once
across the river the trail ascends gradually to Chikha (3000m/9842ft). The campsite is located alongside a side stream, while silver birch
on the nearby ridges mark the upper limit of the treeline.
Day 4: Chikha to Balu Ka Ghera
(3 hours, 9km)
A short walk to the base of the Hampta Pass. The trail is particularly attractive in July and August – the best time to appreciate the range of wildflowers including the delicate Himalayan blue poppy. Once at Balu Ka Ghera, the formidable peaks at the head of the Hampta Valley provide a tantalising glimpse of what to expect when crossing the Hampta Pass the next day.
Cross the side stream immediately above Chikha. This may entail getting the boots wet as the boulders over the stream can be slippery. The trail then enters a narrow gorge and ascends about 300m beneath impressive rock faces that drop sheer from the higher mountain ridges. It takes around an hour to climb out of the gorge to a vantage point where views extend back down the forested slopes of the Hampta Valley. Beyond the gorge the trail winds through flowered meadows that lead around to Balu Ka Ghera (3540m/11614ft). Early in the season the campsite is often occupied by Gaddi shepherds waiting for the snow to melt before continuing on their seasonal migration to the high pastures of Lahaul.
Day 5: Balu Ka Ghera to Siliguri via Hampta Pass
(6 hours, 15km)
The quality of the hanging glaciers and high peaks that enclose the upper valley together with spectacular views of Indrasan leave little doubt that the climb to the pass was worth it. To the north the Mulkilla and Lahaul Ranges never fail to impress.
From Balu Ka Ghera ascend the stony slopes to the true right of the valley. The trail through boulders is clearly defined by rock cairns. After an hour the trail reaches a broad alluvial plain (3690m/12106ft) with views back down and across to Hanuman Tibba (5928m/19448ft) on the far side of the Kullu Valley.
Cross the rivulet to reach the true left (south) side of the valley and continue across scree to a grassy meadow (3900m/12795ft) that defines the base of the Hampta Pass. The meadow is in a magnificent setting surrounded by high peaks and rock cliffs and could figure as an alternative campsite to Balu Ka Ghera.
The trail heads up a gully to the right of the valley – again watch out for rock cairns – before winding up and around to the eastern entrance to the pass. From camp to the pass allow 3½ to four hours.
The Hampta Pass (4270m/14009ft) is a 0.5km slot in the mountains with commanding views of Indrasan (6221m/20410ft), as well as the peak of Deo Tibba (6001m/19688ft). To the north are the peaks forming the main Himalaya Range that rise above the stark landscape of Lahaul.
Immediately below the pass, the trail descends steeply at first, and early in the season care should be taken, as the upper slopes will be under snow and a thin sheet of ice. An ice axe would be a useful asset. After about 1km the gradient eases and continues down a series of switchbacks to the large meadow at Siliguri (3750m/12303ft). The descent from the pass takes around 1½ to two hours.
Day 6: Siliguri to Chatru
(3 hours, 10km)
The descent to Chatru takes in the upper Chandra Valley and the windswept landscape of Lahaul. From Chatru there is time that day to either drive back to Manali, or drive to Batal and continue on the trek to Chandra Tal or head through Lahaul and prepare for a trek to Zanskar.
Fording the icy stream flowing from the Indrasan Glacier provides an exhilarating start to the day. Don’t be tempted to follow the alternative trail on the true left or east side of the valley. This is only for the Gaddi who are more sure-footed than the average mountain goat.
The trail down the true right of the valley leads through scree and boulder fields down to a grassy knoll from where there are views of the road leading up the Chandra Valley to Batal and the Kun Zun La to Spiti. A further steep descent leads to a bridge over the Indrasan River before continuing for 1km on the true left bank of the Chandra River to the road bridge and Chatru.
Chatru (3360m/11023ft) is just a line of dhabas along the road, on the north side of the Chandra River.
photo credit: rickonine via photopin (license)