The unforgettable trek to Hampta Pass

Trek to Hampta Pass -

 

It was my dream of two years to trek to Hampta Pass in the Himalayas near Manali. Everyday, I would open my tablet before going to bed to see the beautiful pictures of the trek posted by other trekkers on the internet. I would look longingly at the landscape, the colourful meadows and the deep valleys and let out a long sigh wondering when I would actually be there. Finally, in the month of July we decided to book our tickets to Manali. My brother and his wife were eager to join us and thereafter my brother took over all the planning for the trek.

 

We set out from Manali accompanied by our able guide Tashi, Gyan (our cook) and Kumar (Helper). We were also accompanied by two boys from France who had come to get trained in camping and trekking. It was a four day trek to Chatru from Manali taking us through Hampta Pass which is at an altitude of 14200 ft. Although I have successfully completed many treks so far, this trek has left an indelible impression on me both at a physical and at an emotional level. The unparallel beauty of the Himalayan valleys, the gushing streams straight from the melting glaciers, the imposing huge mountains and the clouds garlanding the snow peaks, the tall pine trees, the unpolluted air and the simplicity of the pahadi people forced me to turn within and introspect.

The first two days of the trek were a slow and steady ascent passing through vast expanse of valleys and lush greenery. Water streams were our constant companions quenching our thirst through the day and night. The sparkling clear mineral water seemed to energise the body and the soul. Needless to say, I had never realized the real ‘taste’ of water! The second day was a real treat to the eyes in that we had to trek through vast meadows dotted with beautiful and colourful wild flowers. There were the small white bunches, the pink ones , deep red flowers and the small yellow ones looking like miniature sunflowers. It was certainly a botanists’ delight and an artiste would certainly go mad not knowing which one to paint! Whenever, we stopped to take a deep breath, the tall pine trees would arrest our gaze and we would stand and stare in total silence. The distant snow capped mountains across the horizon seemed to hold a kind of mysticism for me and I would be filled with an awe wondering what existed there beyond the snow capped peaks.

 

 

 

The third day of the trek when we had to pass over the Hampta Pass was the most memorable one. We started from Balu ka Gera camp and it was a steady ascent to 14300 ft. We had to cross a stream gushing

with all its force –enough to destabilize our tired legs. We removed our shoes and socks and threw them across to the other side first and got into the ice cold water one after the other. Tashi and Gyan held our hands and helped us stabilize our body against the strong water current. Shrieks and gasps followed as the cold water rose above the knees. Finally, we were on the other side and we were conscious of only the upper portion of the body. The legs felt like logs of wood!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tashi assured us that the day held many more surprises for us. As we climbed, we had to walk on snow a great deal. The snow walk proved to be quite dangerous as we had to climb steadily on slopes by firmly anchoring ourselves in the footprints left by the earlier trekkers. As this was my first experience with walking on snow, I had to take the help of Kumar who was always next to me. As we approached the Hampta Pass, there was snow everywhere and all around us was a misty environment. I was reminded of the mythological movies in which Narada Muni would come floating out of the misty clouds. I felt like being in heaven watching the silhouettes of all my companions appearing hazy as they moved slowly up in the snow. Atlast, when we reached the pass, we were absolutely thrilled to see sheets and sheets of snow. It felt like being on top of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Hampta Pass.

Then, we started our descent which was very steep and dangerous. My knees obliged in the beginning but refused to take my weight as the descent became steeper. Somehow, we were managing until we came to a spot where there was a steep slope covered with snow. It was almost impossible to walk on the snow due to the incline but yet we had to reach the bottom. The experienced Tashi immediately came up with a solution that each of us had sit on the snow and slide down. In short, we had to play the sliding board on the snow. But there was danger at the bottom since we would pick up speed while sliding and might hit the rocks at the bottom. Tashi also taught us how to apply brakes with our shoes. The French boys who are agile on snow were a great help to us at this stage. They would go sliding down and wait and pull up each one of us as we slid down. I slid down with Tashi in front of me and by holding onto him like a pillion rider holding onto the rider on a bike.

 

 

I heaved a big sigh of relief as the dhabas of Chatru came into view. I thought that the adventure was over. But it was not to be. As we moved along the big boulders towards Chatru, we saw that there was another slope covered with snow to be crossed. This time, the incline was more and there was the gushing Chandra river at the bottom waiting to engulf anything that’s offered. One slip and we would land into the river and I am sure would be miles away within no time. Tashi and Kumar had to hold each of us by hand and safely lead us to the other end. I carefully avoided looking at the river flowing below. I followed the same trick of walking in others’ footprints. Tashi asked me with a twinkle in his eye “Ma’m, do you want any more surprises?” and I had no energy to reply.

We were picked up by a vehicle at Chatru and we camped that day at Dadarpoo. The next morning, we left for Chandertal which was partly a drive and partly a trek. En route, we had hot and delicious ‘Aloo Paranthas’ at a simple roadside dhaba run by an elderly couple. The smiling and hospitable couple provided hot food to all the weary travellers, trekkers, bikers, etc. They also had lodging facilities in case of need. It seemed to be a ‘must stop’ stop over for all those passing in that route. We met many daring and adventurous bikers and cyclists from different countries at their place. There was a certificate adorning the wall of the joint. Tashi informed me that two years ago, when a group of trekkers from Mumbai were holed up in Batal due to heavy snow, the couple had provided shelter to all the 22 trekkers for almost a week and never accepted money in return. The local Government had recognized their services and had also provided them with a satellite phone in addition to some monetary help.

 

The couple at Batal.

The foreigner who was cycling from Srinagar to Shimla.

 Chandertal

 

 

It was only when the time came for me to bid goodbye to those people that I realized the impact of the association. There was Kapil, the trek organizer who had taken care of every need of ours, Tashi who was very friendly, observant and sensitive to the needs of others and Kumar who was working all the time. I do not recall a single moment when Kumar was idle. He would get up early in the morning to serve us steaming tea. While he gave us a mug of warm water to wash our face, he was washing the vessels and plates in ice cold water from the stream. His job was to cut vegetables and keep everything ready for Gyan to cook and clean up everything. He was also bustling in the mornings packing up tents, utensils, etc and put them on the horseback. I am yet to see a person as active as him.  Gyan was sharp and witty and turned out so many dishes in no time in that small tent called the kitchen. We all huddled into the kitchen tent in the evening because that was the only warm place and pulled each others’ legs –all in fun. I realized that these very people who gave us such a luxury in such remote places probably could not afford them. But they had no bitterness or frustrations, they gave us comfort with great happiness. The simplicity both in their lifestyle and in their thinking is something we are not capable of.

I learnt from Tashi that there is great freedom in moving away from one’s comfort zone. It seemed like Tashi had no attachments to home, food or anything. He would just eat each meal happily, treat all those around him as his kin and sleep like a king in the small tent. During the tourist season, he would be on such treks one after the other with different groups of people for days and months. His general knowledge on various topics was quite amazing. He had even assisted many botanists and geologists in their field research. He had many foreigners as friends who kept in touch with him. He had braved the fury of nature on many such expeditions but looked very calm and confident. Due to his association with tourists for a long time, Tashi has become quite intuitive and knows exactly what would please each trekker.

 

I found a great philosopher in Kapil who narrated an interesting incident in his life which totally transformed him. He takes life as it comes without running after money. He is an avid trekker himself, a very good skier and conducts skiing camps for school students / youth during winters. I was quite astonished to learn that he is also a poet and has penned many poems - his inspiration being the mountains.

 

As we were returning, tears started rolling down my eyes and I just couldn’t hold back. I had to struggle to hide my tears. The movie of the last six days were getting repeatedly played in front of my eyes – the smiling Gyan cooking happily in the small tent, Kumar washing the vessels in cold water, Tashi helping each one of us across the snow and the river without ever thinking of the dangers to his life, the warm and happy faces of the Batal couple. I came to realize all that we have lost in the so called pseudo sophisticated urban existence. My mind yearned to get back. I remembered Kapil’s poem…

 

I stand on the first land of Earth

I feel the impact of first Wind from the mountains

I taste the first drop of Water melting down from the glacier

The infinite embrace of purity slowly evaporates all negatives from me

Lighter and lighter – I feel like a cloud sailing through the intense blue.

Wow….its amazing. I like

Wow….its amazing. I like nature 

Thanks for your comment..

Thanks for your comment.. keep dropping by...

Hi Kalpana, this is so

Hi Kalpana, this is so temptingly writtten! 

Im headed to Hampta pass now, would you please share the contact of your guide?

Great! The best time to trek

Great! The best time to trek to Hampta Pass is upto end of Sepember. My contact at Manali is Mr Kapil 9816257777. He is very good. There are also many units like Indiahikes, etc who also arrange treks. Please post your experience.

 

Thanks for sharing details.

Thanks for sharing details. it would be really useful for fellow trekkers.

 

Thanks for your comment. I

Thanks for your comment. I will try to reach Kalpana for passing contact number to you.

I like Hills on vacation. My

I like Hills on vacation. My Favorite place is Shimla himachal pradesh.

Thanks.. Shimla is indeed

Thanks.. Shimla is indeed beautiful

Thank you Kalpana for this

Thank you Kalpana for this wonderful blog. well definred in true sense. this is really amazing to read all. 

Thanks for your comment..

Thanks for your comment.. keep dropping by

Well discibing the blogs and

Well discibing the blogs and highly define all the things in true sense. so thank you so much for all your efforts. 

Thanks for your comment. keep

Thanks for your comment. keep dropping by

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