WALKS TO REMEMBER – HIMACHAL PRADESH
Every walk is a pilgrimage. And we have stood by this adage of ours even when walking down the street for household errands. Like we have heard so many times that it’s the journey which matters not the destination, similarly it’s the walking which matters not the purpose. Walking puts you into rhythm with your breathing, in tune with your physicality, recall the last time you were humming a song while walking, completely oblivious to the fact that in fact you were. Yes, walking makes you happy. Walking is ‘The Aphrodisiac’.
Every mountain top is an energy center, a naturally consecrated space for us to explore and seek up. To reach these heights one has to walk, and walk well. Walking releases positive hormones in our city life afflicted systems, and like mentioned above puts the rhythm into our breathing, synergizing our steps with our breath. By the time we make it to that mountain top, we become receptive wholesomely to its energies, only by virtue of walking. Yes, every walk is a pilgrimage.
Nestled in the cradle of the Himalayas, is Himachal Pradesh. The cold desert of Spiti to its north east, Pir Panjals, Dhauladhar range and Kashmir to its north west and the Shivaliks to its south; it’s a paradise for outdoor lovers, especially hikers and cyclists. Numerous trails and bridle paths through the intermediate valleys connect and bind the state, its people, customs and culture together. What’s more interesting is that these trails and paths offer rest houses (dak bungalows) every 12 kms, thereby making it safe and relatively easy to explore and experience Himachal Pradesh by walking. The high altitude trekking paths although would require an expedition kind of preparation in terms of equipment.
I cannot recall who said this, but it goes like - Hope is like a country road. There was no road till many people walked and the road finally came into existence.
We walk, we evolve. Here is presenting you with a few walks/hikes/treks in Himachal Pradesh, something for everyone with a spirit for adventure. You will find these walking adventures physically active and culturally rewarding. You will venture into the great outdoors, enjoy close contact with native people and their customs, get close up views of the snowcapped precipices and feast your eyes on the incredible scenic vistas of the great Himalayas. Invariably you’ll come back a different person with a whole new perspective on life and an enhanced perception, making the world a better place.
Before you read further and start planning your next walk, just bear in mind the basic dos and don’ts. Most treks and hikes in Himachal are not mapped to the GPS and in most of the walks there would be paucity of mobile network. Should you choose to do it with a trekking outfit or DIY, remember to have someone to guide you along the way. Insist on local guides and local produce. A guide just does not take you along the correct route, he/she also ensures of your well-being and timelines to be followed (what time to cross the river, wildlife spotting, flora and other fauna). Local produce stays fresh and contributes to the local economy, so over the years these collective contributions would just make our trails get better and encourage independent outdoor travel. The most important thing to ask a trekking outfit – safety measures, their adherence to responsible tourism and their contribution to the local economy for livelihood and enhancing the experience.
1. THE MURAL KANDA (DANDA) WALK
(Moderate – Shimla Region)
I am laughing while looking for an apt description for this walk and as I type ‘Instant Gratification’ I am reminded of how to reach here. Not far from Shimla (roughly a 3 hour drive to its start – Sungri), we drive through mostly apple country, first up is Narkanda and we all should seek blessings here by hiking up to Hateshwari Peak (named after the Goddess who adorns this mountain top), to which you can also drive through a very narrow climb of 6kms. Getting out of Narkanda towards Kotgarh/Thanedar and you catch up with what once used to be the Hindustan Tibet road, we reach Baghi. Driving through the ridgeline, affording views of the Uttarakhand Himalayas to the east and the Srikhand range to the west; we make a brief stopover at Khadrala and finally reach Sungri our base for the climb to the ‘Mural Danda’. All these destinations have well-kept Dak Bungalows (rest houses) dating back to the pre independence era (after every 12 kms), and a stay is recommended; if only for the novelty of the heritage. Narkanda is a winter skiing destination and it has above average hotels and Baghi (including nearby villages of Ratnari and Kalbog) have very charming bed and breakfast options in the apple orchards. From Sungri you can also drive down (40kms) to Rohru on the banks of the river Pabbar, and further to Chanshal pass, which is fast becoming a tourist spot.
Plan your hike in advance with your outfitter (for equipment, route expert, and logistics and safety team) and ideally reach a night before you intend to start your hike. The altitude is moderate at 2800mts, however a little acclimatization is always considered a good practice, before embarking on any trek or a climb. Liken it to any practice before a game of cricket, football or hockey. And once you are on the hike, do not rush. Just be aware of the existence of time. It’s a short trip/trek/hike; make the most of the opportunity you have given yourself.
2. THE SHALI TIBBA HIKE (EASY – SHIMLA REGION)
The Shali Tibba (2867m) is the highest peak in the vicinity of Shimla. It is a magnificent isolated pinnacle with a Kali temple on the top. The ascent up to Shali is an ancient trail through dense pine forests and rolling alpine pastures. It is a steep and steady climb to the often mist enveloped peak. The peak commands an unforgettable view of endless snow covered ranges along with the Sutlej valley and the densely forested hills of Shimla, Fagu and Narkanda. For the avid photographer and nature lover, this one-day trek offers the experience of a lifetime.
1) SHIMLA (2205 m)- MASHOBRA - KHATNOL (1850 m)...45 km.
Depart Shimla early morning by cab and proceed towards Mashobra, noted for its apple Orchards and thick woods of oak and pine. Proceed via Baldhea along a fascinating dirt track to Gulshaini, a tiny hamlet (1250 m) situated at the base of the peak. From Gulshaini it is a steady climb along a rough road till Khatnol, an isolated village perched amidst rolling fields. Here we start the ascent.
2) KHATNOL - SHALI TIBBA (2867m)...5 km.
Halt at the Khatnol Forest Rest House for a well-deserved break along with a sumptuous lunch. Begin the climb to Shali after a short rest. The landscape changes dramatically as we follow the ancient trail towards the peak. It is a three-hour climb at a leisurely pace with ample time to stand and stare at the surrounding magnificence and the imposing peak looming ahead. The final climb is a tough one and is amply rewarded by the breathtaking view from the top.
3) SHALI TIBBA - KHATNOL - SHIMLA
After a visit to the historic temple and a frenzied session of photography, we start the surprisingly quick descent down to Khatnol. One is back in the cab by sunset to start the drive back to Shimla. Reach Shimla by late evening for a well-deserved and satisfying sleep with the memories of climbing the highest peak of the Shimla hills. Distance Walking 10kms, Vehicle 100kms
3. NAGAN TO GIRI GANGA TREK
(Moderate – Shimla Region)
Nagan - Giri-Ganga Trek is a best way to trek in the close vicinity of Shimla, and to experience, an undisturbed thick pristine Pine cover with stunning views of snow-capped Himalaya. The trek offers to admire one of the remote Himalayan countryside deep into numerous intersecting valleys. Meandering over the ridgeline, this bridle path of the Shivaliks affords stupendous views of The Greater Himalayas, The trans Himalayas as far as Kinnaur and Spiti. The highlight would be Kuppar Dhar, with a 360 view of the Pabbar valley, Chanshal peak and other far away Himalayan ranges.
Old temples and these ancient routes reveal the deep faith in the mountain Gods here as natives today trek many kilometers to get blessed from these spiritual Himalayan abodes. Also, a symposium of rare Himalayan flora adores the lush green meadows in the thick clearings. Concluding, at the source of River Giri-Ganga, one of the most sacred rivers of the region, this is the best trekking introduction to unexplored Himachal Himalaya.
4. THE BASHLEO PASS (Moderate – Tirthan Valley, Kullu, Shimla)
For this one let’s try to talk about the famous hill station and the capital of Himachal Pradesh first; Shimla, which during the pre-independence days was the summer capital of India. Its enticing location and weather, makes it the best place/base camp for exploring the Shivaliks – the foothills of the Himalayas. Did you know? During the period before 1947, owing to its location (proximity to the Indian plains and the Himalayas) Shimla was a chosen destination for some of the world’s first trekking agencies. By 1921, Shimla had a branch of the Himalayan Club which assisted with expeditions across the Western Himalaya. To the north and north-east lies the Great Himalayan Range dividing the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. Slightly to the west is the Dhaula Dhar, cutting through the heart of Himachal Pradesh into eastern Uttaranchal. And beyond these mountains lie the complex Trans Himalaya that include the Zanskar and Ladakhi ranges.
The Bashleo pass trek is akin to the first chapter on trekking in the western Himalayas, taking you into a region which yet to an extent, untouristed, pristine and devoid of modern day rigmarole. This is a walk to feel blessed with nature and take a brief pause. The pre trek gearing up involves getting to Shimla and then driving to the beautiful meadow of Baga Saraun (a.k.a Kullu Saraun), across the Sutlej in Kullu region. Baga Saraun also serves as a base for the annual monsoon pilgrimage to Srikhand Mahadev, a Himalayan precipice worshipped as the manifestation of ‘Lord Shiva’. Our route, which borders the Great Himalayan National Park, takes us through classic village landscapes with some splendid regional architecture and across the forested slopes of the foothills. The majority of the trek is on good trails and village paths. A short section is along a jeepable track but traffic is not frequent. Some sections are steeper but not technically difficult. This trek provides a wonderful opportunity to combine walking in superb Himalayan scenery with the cultural and historical highlights of the region. Detailed historical descriptions of the area can be found in the memoirs of Penelope Chetwode, daughter of Lord Chetwode who was Commander in Chief of India shortly before Independence. Her book, “Kullu, the end of the habitable world” recalls her retracing most of our trek in 1963. Also of interest is the website of the Great Himalayan National Park: www.greathimalayannationalpark.com.We end the trek in the Tirthan valley, again on the vestiges of ‘The Great Himalayan national Park’ and on the banks of the River Tirthan; a very well-known angling destination. We would also allow ourselves one more day, to explore the region and make a quick dash to Sereolsar Lake, a one walk from Jalori pass, at a distance of 35 kms from Tirthan valley, and also appreciate the beauty of quaint villages of Shoja, Ghyaghi and Jibhi, a photographer’s delight.
5. THE HERITAGE DAK BUNGALOW TRAIL OF KINNAUR – RECOMMENDED WALK (Moderate – Shimla – Kinnaur Region) Excerpts taken from ‘Kinnaur and Spiti in the Trans Himalaya by Deepak Sanan and Dhanu Swadi’ and Harish Kapadia.
When we say recommended for this walk, it’s for the sheer novelty of an era gone by, when trekking and mountaineering was guts, resolve and glory without an over emphasizing reliance upon gizmos and technology. It was pursued, achieved and accomplished with finesse, with complete eye for detail, human acumen and experience of being in the outdoors. This came in with its rewards and that is how most trekking routes were explored and mountain peaks scaled.
In the absence of roads, trails came into prominence traversing the bridle paths of the natives used for commuting and trade from village to village. Most trekking paths are thus defined and over the years what once used to be resting spots saw the spots as favored for making dak bungalows. In Himachal these Dak Bungalows (rest houses) are 12 kms apart on the old routes (sometimes 8 and 15 kilometers too) and located at the most exquisite of destinations.
One such trekking route which explores the bridle paths of yore is this trail which connects Sarahan (famous for the Bhimakali temple) with Nichar. Now that a road (NH 22 renamed NH 05) is also there, in earlier days this route would also connect Narkanda with Sarahan (via Baghi, Khadrala, Sungri, Bahli, Taklech, Daranghati, Kashapath, and Sarahan). This is the vintage Hindustan – Tibet road. From Sarahan the trail would continue towards Wangtu and Tapri, on the banks of the Sutlej and then ascend to Urni (very steep overlooking the Sutlej valley) towards the cliffhanger village of Roghi, followed by Kalpa. Kalpa would mark the beginning of the Kinner Kailash range and in those days one trekking would progress deep towards ‘The greater Himalayan range’ via Rarang, Jangi, Kanam, Pooh, and Namgia and finally cross over the Shipki La into Tibet. This is also the shortest route to approach the revered ‘Maansaraovar’ lake in Tibet, the eternal abode of Lord Shiva and the origin of our rivers – The Sutlej, The Indus, The Ghagara (important tributary of Ganga) and Brahmaputra respectively. The Sutlej enters India just before Khab where it meets the Spiti River. Did you know - The deep gorges of the Indus, the Sutlej, and the Brahmaputra clearly indicate that these rivers are older than the Himalayas.
Getting back to our trek, ‘The Dak bungalow trail of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh’ here is a little excerpt from Harish Kapadia which he shares in his book.
‘We reached Sarahan (2165 m) via Shimla. The ancient Bhimakali temple was livened up by its backdrop, the view of Gushu Pishu (5672 m) and Srikhand Mahadev (5222 in). We started our trek of Sarahan from Chaura, a little ahead on the national highway to 'Climatic. The 14 km to Rupi village (2350 m) took six hours and we settled down at, what someone had called, 'the best rest house in Kinnaur'. Going through the register was revealing. The first entry logged was on 12 November 1915. H.M. Glover (a contributor to early Himalayan Journals) and Mrs. Glover had stayed here from 22 to 26 October 1916. Their article on the trip appeared in the H.J., Vol. II. G.D. Kichingam was another famous forester who had stayed here in 1922. N.D. Jayal, District Commissioner, Kinnaur, and his wife had paid Rs. 2 for their stay in 1961. In red ink below his entry it said 'Re 1 refunded by Money Order for excess paid'. Capt. W.F. Chipps had stayed here many times between 1920 and 1930. The charges were 50 paise for officials on duty and Re. 1 for others. Now they are Rs. 10 and Rs. 75 respectively. The only entry, relating to mountains was by B.B. Negi (11 July 1974). "Met team from Calcutta 'The Trekkers'. Deepak Sanan, the then District Commissioner's entry here was on 22 October 1992, and below that another entry slyly stated 'On confidential duty'. We entered our names in the visitors' book on 14 May 1993 and went about our non- confidential work’.
6. SARCHI, LAMBRI, JALORI PASS (MODERATE, Seraj, Tirthan valley)
Here is a little about Jalori Pass in the words of ‘Manoj Biswas’, friend and mentor. I copy this more with my cheerful disposition rather than nonchalance, to share with you an ode to perhaps our favorite region in Himachal Pradesh.
“Situated 100 kms. from Shimla in Kullu district, the Jalori Pass is far away from the urban rigmarole, in the silent wilderness of the Himalayas where every flower truly enjoys the air it breathes. The seasonal blossoms set the hills on fire in their rich variant hues. Cradled within a yet untouched forest heartland, the Jalori Pass offers Nature’s breathing life – bountiful flora and fauna amidst the pristine solitude of the highlands.
Birds, butterflies and flowers of various hues line the alpine meadows, woods and valleys all along the slopes of Jalori. The fragrance of Lillies, Primulas, Asters, Gentians, and Rhododendrons along with various rare herbs and medicinal plants please the senses while the stunning views make a winning snapshot for the camera -friendly. Twittering and gushing forth their songs, a plethora of Himalayan feathered species are annually visited by the Gujjars and Gaddis during spring, which return in the months of October and November. For the adventure seeker, the chance meeting with a wandering leopard, a shy Himalayan black bear or a rare Pine Martin for wildlife lovers adds to the excitement. The forests of Jalori are a tribute to the magnificence of nature”.
Treks to unforgettable places like the Sereolsar Lake, Shoja, Lambri, Sakiran, Bashleo Pass and the Great Himalayan National Park as well as the forts of Raghunathpur, Kalagarh and Fatehpurgarh offer endless options to the explorer. Nature trails all across the Jalori region are unfolded by our expert naturalists describing the myriad species of flora and fauna that infest the slopes of Jalori while the unassuming hamlets dotting the forests unfold a warm and unique rural culture. Trout fishing in the Tirthan River at Larji and Gushaini add to the charm.
Also The walk from The Jalori pass to Raghupur fort and further to Chach Galu is worth it, a four hour walk through rolling meadows and a verdant cedar and oak forest. From Chach galu descend to Khauli and Gadah Gushaini, into the remote interiors, great for cycling and walking. Bahu 12 kms from Gadah Gushaini is another idyllic setting with a very good guest house run by a local couple amidst an apple orchard. For those who have time the walk from Chach Galu to Magru gala and to Janjehli is refreshing. Janjehli in Mandi district is an untouched corner of Himachal offering walks to Shikari Devi (16kms) and Chindi a place to be in the monsoons enveloped by the mist. From Chindi one can drive back to Shimla with a brief stopover at Tattapani and Naldehra and Mashobra. The other option from Janjehli is to drive to Mandi (63 kms) or ride it down and further to Parashar Lake. All these are beautiful walks in this region, The Seraj Valley in Kullu, The Great Himalayan National Park and the Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh.
For this relatively easy and fabulous walk through the most beautiful alpine scenery we shall just stick to a very basic itinerary which one should follow.
7. THE CHANDERNAUN LAKE (MODERATE, Shimla, Pabbar Valley)
The Pabbar valley, formed by the river Pabbar is relatively less popular than other regions in Himachal Pradesh, and probably that might be the reason that the tourist rush here comprises only of nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Bordering The Jaunsar Bawa region of Uttarakhand (Mori, Chakrauta, Hanol, Sankri, Netwar) to the east and The Baspa (Sangla valley) to the north, Pabbar valley is charming, serene and tranquil. I have always believed though; no adjectives can ever describe any experience of the nature of any place, however then their usage is always an ode heartfelt.
The heights of the valley is simply ‘Apple Country’ reaching out from Narkanda, Kotgarh and Kotkhai nearby, which is the mainstay of the economy. Possibly another reason that mainstream tourism has eluded the valley till now. Slowly however steadily some of the most scenic places in Pabbar are coming into prominence. The Chanshal Pass (Highest pass and Peak of Shimla district), Treks leading to Sangla valley (Buran, Rupin, Gunas), Trout fishing at Chirgaon, Kuppar Dhar, Giri Ganga, the still elusive twin villages of Dodra and Kwar and other treks leading to Jaunsar Bawa region, the Pabbar valley is endowed with these natural jewels.
The Pabbar river originates from the Chandernahan lake. The lake falls on the trek route to Sangla valley below the high passes, at an altitude of 4200mts, surrounded by towering precipices and high altitude meadows. The route to the lake has been likened by many to the much more famous ‘Valley of Flowers’ in Uttarakhand, and likewise this region’s flora is also medicinal and of course exquisitely beautiful. As is the custom in the mountains, Chandernahan is held in high esteem by the natives of the region who believe it to be the abode of ‘The Goddess Kali’. The presiding deity (Devta) of Rohru (the headquarters of Pabbar) ‘Shikru Devta’ is believed to visit the lake once in 8 years or so for a holy dip and the natives who hold him in high esteem say the lake is the origin of the ‘Devta’. Stories and legends from the mountains, which hold your attention and resonate forever.
The trek to the lake is ‘walking defined’. Every walk is a pilgrimage, a melody which puts you into tune within, bringing the outside within. Starting from Janglik, a traditional village in the architectural sense of it (which is a rarity now in 2019) the walk gradually comforts you into itself. Past the ‘fields of joy’ we ascent to high altitude meadows (Thatch/Kandas in Himachal Pradesh, Bugyals in Uttarakhand) and beds of flowers. Make your choice of camping spot here, at Dayara Thatch. The next day start your ascent towards the Lake. From the sprawling meadow of Dayara Thatch to Litham Thatch, the base for the climb to Chandernaun. Spotting and distinguishing Chandernaun can be a little tricky in the beginning, as it’s a natural spread of seven lakes, some could be dry too if the winter has not been good (less snow). Invoke your good spirits. The walk back is the same path. The trek Usually takes about four days though one could do that in three as well.
EXTEND THE CHANDERNAUN LAKE WALK AND YOU CAN APPROACH THE RUPIN PASS AND THE BURAN PASS. HERE IS THE ITINERARY FOR BURAN PASS TREK.
8. BURAN PASS (MODERATE, DIFFICULT, Pabbar Valley, Sangla Valley)
Day 01: Shimla – Theog - Khara Patthar - Rohru – Tangnu - Janglik
(Driving duration 07 hours)
(Hiking duration 01 – 1.5 hour)
As per your travel plans drive to village Tangnu, the drive passes through Kufri, Theog to reach Khara Patthar. The final leg of drive brings us to village Tangnu. The drive follows bank of river Pabbar and is the most scenic valley with the remote countryside. Trek start before Tangnu village to Janglik village. The latter is last village of district Shimla. The dirt track ascends up from a gushing river to village Janglik. Reach early evening and check into your camp near village for overnight.
Day 02: Janglik village – Dayara Thach
Elevation 3100 m
(Hiking duration 04 – 05 hours)
Today after breakfast, leave the habitation and hike up to the meadows of Dayara. The hike passes through a thick coniferous and Brown Oak forest, the final leg of the walk give way to alpine meadows of Dayara. En route enjoy your packed lunch by a gurgling stream in the clearing of the forest. Dayara Thatch welcomes you with a bounty of rare Himalayan flowers blooming mirrored by snow-capped mountain range.
Day 03: Dayara Thach – Lithum Thach
Elevation: 3900 m
(Hiking duration 04 – 05 hours)
Today after breakfast, get ready to trek to Litham Thach. This gradual walk follows alpine meadows and offering magnificent views of snowcapped mountains on the other side of Pabbar River. The entire trail is intercepted by gushing glacial streams and offers ample opportunity for acclimatization. Reach your campsite on a flat green stretch across River Pabbar. This valley is well known as Chandernaun valley. Explore the area around.
Day 04: Lithum Thach – Chandernaun Lake – Lithum Thach
Elevation: 4200 m
(Hiking duration 04 – 05 hours)
After breakfast, today, ascend up to Chandernaun Lake above your camp, the entire trail thrills the hiker and you progress along the gushing waterfall of Chandernaun which gives rise to River Pabbar. Reach the lake surrounded by range of wildflowers and offering distant views of snow clad mountain range! Continue hiking further to acclimatize and enjoy a leisure day. Post lunch hike down to your camp.
Day 05: Lithum Thach – Dunda Thach (Base Camp)
Elevation: 4000 m
(Hiking duration 04 – 05 hours)
Today trek ascends up to the neck of the Buran as we stay overnight at the base of Buran Pass! The narrow trail now passes through the rough stretches of the River and a sharp ascends to reach the base camp. Due to elevation the pace of steps recedes and the last leg to the base camp tests your walking skills. Reach the camp, stretch your body and evening is at leisure to gaze snowcapped Buran and Gunasu pass bathed in moonlight.
Day 06: Lithum – Buran pass – Moolpani (Buran Pass - 4570 m.)
(Hiking duration 07 – 08 hours)
Today’s walk Tests the patience of the trekkers as we cross Buran pass. After an early breakfast a demanding uphill on narrow trail and hard packed snow bring us to the top of Buran pass. Enjoy your packed lunch at the top of the pass. Post lunch a sharp descend on the other side of the pass thrills as you negotiate it with the assistance of a qualified mountaineer.
Reach you campsite Moolpani by early evening.
Day 07: Moolpani – Barua village – Sangla
(Hiking duration 05 – 06 hours)
Today after a leisure breakfast, descend down into Baspa valley to the road head below village of Barua. The full day hike plunges down sharply giving way to tree line, series of terraces on sharp slopes and apple orchards to reach village Barua. Finally get down to the road head and travel to Sangla or Shimla as per your travel plans.
9. CHANSHAL PASS AND SARU TAL (MODERATE, Shimla, Pabbar Valley)
Chanshal pass and peak (3700mts and 4250mts respectively), the highest in Shimla, is a delight. What was once an offbeat delight is steadily seeing an upsurge in tourism, with the connectivity improving because of road development and its proximity to Shimla. On the heights of the Pabbar valley across the river, the road journey is a delight, with expansive meadows and stupendous views of the Himalayas, where to the north we can feast our eyes on the peaks of Kinnaur and to the south east the peaks of Uttarakhand (Banderpoonch, Swargarohini etc) Various trekking routes in the Pabbar valley lead to Kinnaur and Uttarakhand, specifically to the Jaunsar Bawa region. These trekking routes also offer some short hikes (two to four days) for the ones looking at fairly easy walking over trails coupled with the majestic views of the Himalayas. The Chandernaun Lake trek, Chirgaon to Kashapath, Treks to Kinnaur and Uttarakhand all are a hiker’s delight. This one, The Saru Tal (Lake) is a short trek which brings you up and close with beauty of this region of the Himalayas and what’s better is that it has two approaches. One is the 4 day of walking past villages and thick pine forests and the other is a short hike of about 9 kms from Chanshal pass road head itself. However do remember to take a local guide with you as there are definite chances of one hiking all the way to Uttarakhand, should you lose way. Do not rely on your network dependent GPS for this (as such there is no network). Read on for a Brief itinerary.
Journey from Shimla towards Rohru. The highway is great all the way till Chailla, from where for short stretches there can be a little problem till Khara Pathar because of occasional landslides and road broadening work. At Khara Pathar you can make a dash to Giri Ganga, and if you are not pressed for time an Acclimatization hike to Kuppar Dhar is fabulous. Anyways the road after Khara Pathar is a breeze all the way till Rohru. Do remember to seek blessings at the Hatkoti temple on the way. The trail head Kharshali is another 34kms after Rohru, Chirgaon and Gadsari. Be sure to check if the road is through till Kharshali else one can also start from Gadsari. Kharshali is a small village with a forest rest house and it’s relatively easy to find a camping spot.
Take it easy, boots out with your comfort, as we start our hike today through a deep forest, and ascend to Naulti Thatch (5-6 hours), affording the fabulous views of the spectrum of the Kinner range, specifically the heights of the Baspa valley. The meadows are welcoming and it’s easy to find a good camping spot.
A little more ascent today, followed by a gradual ridgeline walk will bring us to Saru Tal. Landscape photographers rejoice for the most beautiful frames of the high peaks of Uttarakhand and the meadows overladen with forests, as the clouds find perfect spots in the blue skies. It’s a great spot for camping and one should ideally camp here if not pressed for time; else walk for another 4-5 hours to reach Chanshal top and camp there or drive back down to Rohru in the early evening.
Only if you camping at Saru Tal walk through the Ridgeline towards Chanshal peak and then descend to the Road head at the Pass. Drive back to Rohru and decide further if you are inclined to drive towards Jaunsar Bawa region of Uttarakhand (Hanol, Mori, Chakrauta) or simply the same way back again to Shimla.
You can also do this trek in three days, drive Chanshal, hike to Saru Tal, camp there overnight and the drive back the next day.
10. BAROT, RAJGUNDHA PASS, BILLING (MODERATE, Barot, Bir Billing)
Barot, bordering the Nargu sanctuary, on the banks of the Uhl river, is a remote valley (not so remote after the road connection) in an idyllic setting. The Uhl is harnessed for electricity and not so long ago Barot was also popular for ‘winch trolley’ used for transportation from Jogindernagar. The winch trolley now only becomes operational upon coaxing some officers for considering a special request for granting permissions. Numerous day hikes in the sanctuary and nearby spots for angling (rainbow trout), Barot is an ideal weekend getaway, though there is much more to this ideal escape than just this. The heritage PWD rest house is a marvel of yore and there are other clean and simple bed and breakfast establishments that have mushroomed in the not so near past to accommodate the rush of tourists. Barot used to serve as the base for starting the expedition style trek over the Bara Bhangal to Kullu, which has now shifted to Baragran, not so far away by road. A day’s excursion to Lohardi is recommended and so are short (4-5 hrs) hikes to the park, notably Poling. On the way to Barot, perched amidst the ‘Deodars’ (The tree of the gods – Himalayan Cedar) is Jhatingri, where the hike to Sholidhar top is recommended for it’s 360 degrees view of the Dhauladhar’s and nearby attractions like Barot, Rajgundha, Billing and Bir.
Here is something we wrote about Barot in another article
“It’s been over 12 times now that I have traveled to Barot and every memory of the place still resonates. There is something which makes me go back to those forests again and again. It could be the sound of the river, the smell of the deodar trees, the sights of the village and simple mountain life, the touch of the ice cold water, the taste of the trout of the Uhl river, all my senses bathing in the purity and serenity of Barot, a small village on the banks of the River Uhl, within walking distance of the Nargu wildlife sanctuary.
They say that traveling is the cure to most of our eccentricities and phobias. I cannot say about eccentricities, however surely I can understand phobias. Candidly sharing, I get scared in cars/jeeps, motorcycles while traveling on roads with scary cliffs hanging on the side, and somehow strangely I can never get over this phobia. There have been two or three instances when I have actually managed to jump out of the car door, with the driver braking in utter dismay coupled with confusion and disgust. I sheepishly admit to those moments. The drive to Barot was one of them. Not that it is dangerous or scary, however my habit of pressing my brake foot hard in my navigator seat looking at the cliffs and distant mountains got the better of me and when we pulled over to the cliff side embankment to take some photographs I jumped out of the car thinking we had rolled over. I ignored that moment and just giggled, knowing I had just fooled myself again. The road to Barot branches off at Ghatasni on the Mandi - Jogindernagar road. It climbs for the first 14 odd kilometers through small villages and forests of Chir pine overlooking the Jogindernagar and Kangra valleys. And suddenly, the Chir pine is replaced by Deodars (Himalayan Cedar). It happens so suddenly that we do not realise it’s time to take out a warm summer jacket, and enjoy the fresh breeze blowing through the Deodars. That could also be one of the reasons I keep going back to Barot. When we were being raised as kids in Shimla, I often heard one uncle say about the constant charm of Shimla. "It's the Deodars" he used to remark with his eyes looking up at the forest cover "They keep calling you back to their fold". So driving through the forest, ascending on a narrow road we reach Jhatingiri, a small village on the road to Barot. It’s good to take a break here for a warm chai uplifting your spirits and enjoying a short walk. The locals inform us of two Palaces which used to be here some years ago now defunct. However the palaces didnt matter as long as we were told of a nice walk into the woods. The path is used by locals to descend to Ghatasni and takes about an hour and half. I decided to walk some part of it and yes it was great. A singletrack meandering through a forest, some 7 kms and perfect for mountain biking. With these thoughts I turned back. For the adventure lover and for those who love driving in the mountains; the drive from Jhatingiri to Barot is a thrill. Cliffs hanging, the road descending, the river Uhl flowing about 1500 feet below, I chose to turn the music off and concentrate on the road. We descend to reach the bottom of the valley and start our ascent again. Here one road branches off to Tikken and Barot is very near. We can see the first glimpses of the Nargu Wildlife sanctuary and even though it is late afternoon, the forest cover being thick, only some rays of the sun get by on the road. We continue on the road and I put my music back, the curves and the trees rolling by in perfect unison to the rhythm of the music.
Barot is an Idyllic setting. Sometimes it reminds me of Children paintings - Mountains, Sun, A river, Forest and a house. Yes, Barot defines that innocence. Mainstream tourism has not yet made inroads here; a blessing! and there are just a few options to stay. The PWD rest house is remarkable and other options include a few home stays, a forest rest house and a few guest houses. The river Uhl has trout in its waters and there is even a Trout farm in Barot. The locals will cook Trout - Mandi style and trust me, it's delicious. Barot is also known for the winch trolley. Now no longer in use, the haulage trolley in old times used to ferry people from Jogindernagar to Barot over the mountains in just a matter of hour and a half. The total distance of 40kms from Jogindernagar covered in just 12 over the Haulage trolley. The winch was a part of the Shannon power project commissioned by the British Col Betty in 1924.
Barot is also the gateway to The Nargu wildlife sanctuary, home to the Himalayan wild cat, leopards, ghoral, black bear and the state bird of Himachal the western tragopan or Monal. On a certain visit in October 2012 we had run into a pair of Leopard cubs right in the middle of the drive to Barot. We halted to see what they would do, and there it was; their mother staring right into us through the windshield. We quietly rolled up the windows and waited our hair already on its strands and behold! in a matter of just a few seconds the family vanished into the forest. A visit to the sanctuary is worth it and spending a few days there will certainly take the city life out of your system. You can hike up to Thaltukhod and Silbadhwan and stay at these places.
The road further up Barot leads to Baragram in the Chotta Bangal valley. Treks from here lead to Rajgundha pass from where one can hike to Billing, famous for Paragliding. These are the remotest corners of Himachal and the natural beauty is unspoilt, perfect for a quiet getaway. The more adventurous and having more time can hike over the Bara Bhangal valleys to Kullu. There is also a high altitude panoramic lake at an height of 14000 (4150m) feet known as Dianasur lake where holy journeys are started during August and September. Lord Hanuman is believed to have stopped over this place while killing an evil witch. The route to this lake requires a little experience in trekking.
As I write this I am already buzzing with so many memories of the place. I am sure one of these days I am going to head out again towards Barot and lose myself completely within me, may try and write a song this time or may simply sit on a rock by the river and soak in the sunshine, or even possibly go into the forest and put life together in tune with the song of the birds”.
Back to detailing out the trek we are talking about here and so here is a sample itinerary we can follow.
Arrive in Barot from where ever you are. Ideal to arrive by noon and after settling down make a short road trip to Lohardi or go about for a short couple of hours walk into the sanctuary. Depending on where you are staying, and if you partake fish, do not miss the trout here, cooked in local style. It will be a gentle reminder forever of good food.
Journey the scenic drive to Baragran. This is the base village for many treks in the region, Bada Bhangal, Dianasur Lake and the one which we are writing about. The walk starts from where the road ends and follows past the village into the forests. It’s not a walk where when one is pressed for time, it’s more like you are intent upon arriving, lets savor this moment and soak in the essence of the natural beauty. Not long before reach Rajgundha pass and set up camp by early afternoon. Worth exploring and a must do is the walk from Rajgundha to Palachak, rolling meadows country. Meander about and by late afternoon or early evening return back to the comfort of your camp.
Another climb awaits us, as we bid adieu to Rajgundha and make way towards Billing. Billing is touted as one of the best take off sites for Paragliding in the world and a world cup takes place here every fall. We reach the meadows of Billing in about 3 hours of relaxed walking. If you are inclined, it’s just about 20 minutes of flying down like a bird to Bir, at the base of Billing. By road the same is 18kms. Another place worth exploring nearby Bir is Dumehar village, made famous for its boutique home stays and fine art leanings of its inhabitants. However the ideal way to make the most of the short trip would be to travel by road towards Jhatingiri again and climb up and stay at the most beautiful homestay on Sholidhar top.
Options Galore! Palampur is very near, famous for its tea gardens and the majestic views of Dhauladhars. Or you could drive further up to Dharamshala and visit Mcleodganj. The more enthusiastic could look at driving up to Kareri village and hiking up to Kareri Lake or even further to Lamdal or Minkiani pass. I am just trying to lure you into options, if you are not inclined, just make your way back home and soak in the moments of your Rajgundha pass trek.
11. CHURDHAR PEAK (MODERATE, Nauradhar, Chopal)
Every mountain lover (categorically in North India) would know of ‘Churdhar’, the highest peak (3630mts) of the Shivaliks range, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Shivaliks mountain system is older than the Himalayas, and as such Choordhar is part of so many legends and folklore. The name of this highest peak would translate to ‘Bangle of snow’, ‘Moonlight gleaming on snow’; the breakup of the word would be Chur – Bangle – Dhar – Ridge’. Well, that’s for the name, Churdhar is surely one of the best short treks in the region. We have been raised in Shimla and I recall towards the onset of winters, our elders would point towards the faraway peak of Churdhar from the many vantage points in town its visible from and remark ‘There is much snow now on Churdhar, it should be here in no time’ and then when during monsoon it would snow because of high altitude on Choordhar our elders would be quick to point out of the looming dip in temperature. So much for the weatherman talents. That said, Choordhar being the highest in the Shivaliks, is visible to advantage from Shimla, Chail, Kasauli, Solan and Chopal in Himachal Pradesh. Such is its reverence that being approachable from almost four places, there is an annual pilgrimage during the ‘Saavan’ (monsoon) season to its heights. The peak is revered as one of the abodes of Lord Shiva and a temple is dedicated at the top. Another legend says that this was the place where Lord Hanuman found the ‘Sanjeevani Booti’ to treat Lakshmana when he was injured in the battle with Ravana. Culturally Choordhar is a part of many folk songs from the region.
The hike up the mountain is moderate, gradual ascending over a well-defined trail, through meadows and forest of almost every variety of pine. We never go over the tree line, so its alpine beauty at its best. Choordhar is also the perfect snow trek in the winters. Do not let confidence get the better of you, it is suggested to take the climb at an easy pace and ideally take a break of one night in between before you hit the top spot. Also be aware that there are many snakes in the region and there are chances to lose your way as well, choose your local guide who knows the place. Choordhar can be approached from Nauradhar, Pulbahal and Saraha near Chopal. The most popular route is the one from Nauradhar, which over the years has seen some fairly nice hotels and guest houses mushroom to host the visitors. Saraha near Chopal is another recommended point of starting the climb. Chopal is approximately 80kms from Shimla, and it’s a beautiful drive through apple country.
We recommend climbing up from either of these two places and getting down to the other side. Both are well connected, however the Nauradhar side would make it more interesting, so one can make a full round trip. Here is a suggested itinerary.
Arrive in Nauradhar. The road winds off from Solan on the Kalka to Shimla highway (NH 05) and takes about 2 hours from Solan. Rajgarh on the way is another idyllic spot and so are nearby destinations like Dadahu, Giripul and Haripurdhar. During the start of the summer, this valley aplomb with stone fruits. Such is the produce, that this valley is very popular as the Peach bowl of Himachal Pradesh. Another produce of the region is Garlic, again very large quantities, and yes – it’s size. Good options for stay can be found in Rajgarh, Nauradhar and nearby at Dadahu.
Boots out early after breakfast and start your ascent. Reach Tesari meadow after an easy ascent of about 4-5 hours, through an oak laden trail. This is a very good and a recommended camping spot.
The top is another 3 hours from Tesari. The final climb is steep and you will definitely make stops to catch stunning vistas of the Himalayan ranges afar, from the Trans Himalayas and Greater Himalayas (Kinnaur), Dhauladhar and Pir Panjals to as far as Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand. The wide expanse of the Doon and the Chandigarh plains is a sight to remember and so are the views towards Shimla and Chail. Seek Blessings at the temple and start your descent down towards Saraha on the Chopal side, which should take you about 6 hours.
From Saraha drive to Chopal and stay at the rest house. The next day you drive to Shimla.
12. KAMRU NAG AND SHIKARI DEVI (MODERATE, Mandi)
The trail network in Himachal Pradesh is extensive. Numerous treks in Himachal Pradesh are on the ‘postman route’; what we have defined as the Dak bungalow trails of Himachal Pradesh, where there are these ‘Dak Bungalows’ every 8 – 12 – 15 kms apart on the route in which earlier days Post was delivered on foot. That being one facet of the existence of such routes, there is another paradigm as well, which defines the reason behind the well-marked bridle paths throughout the state, especially in Kullu, Kangra, Mandi, Shimla and Kinnaur. We call Himachal the ‘Land of the Gods’. To witness this in its truest sense, plan someday to visit the world famous ‘Kullu Dusshera’; when the ‘Gods and Goddesses’; in local parlance, usually ‘Devtas’ descend from their abodes, in the high villages and interior valleys for their annual sojourn of being together with their coterie from all over the state. This way, Himachal is blessed! Every village, mountain, rivulet, mound has a dedicated ‘Devta’ which takes care of and blesses the natives, tells them of the weather and in many stories I have heard over the years, also settles land disputes, solemnizes marriages and sometimes is also the final authority whether a road should be built to the village or not. Such is the reverence in Himachal Pradesh. And that exactly is another reason that these well marked Bridle paths are in existence. Over the years many of these ‘Bridle paths’ are now roads connecting people, temples and binding the cultural fabric of the state together. Notable would be the road to Parashar Lake, Gadah Gushaini, and the recent road halfway up to Shikari Devi etc. Such a trail network makes Himachal Pradesh one of the best destinations in the Himalayas for trekking and hiking.
The Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh is popularly also known as the ‘Kashi of the north’, owing to its temples and shrines. The annual Shivaratri festival of Mandi is a huge draw and has now come to be one of the major festivals of the state. Where most of the tourists make a beeline towards Shimla, Manali and Dharamshala in the summers, Mandi district with its idyllic and ‘off the beaten track’ villages and hamlets, has been only on the priority list of pure adventure seekers, including trekkers and cyclists alike. Janjehli, Devidarh, Saroa, Parashar Lake, Barot, Thunag, Gada Gushaini, Chindi, Karsog, Rohanda, Kamrunag and Rewalsar lake etc, are what you actually call ‘The escape route’. Destinations Galore! What is noteworthy here, is the trail network connecting these destinations together and beyond with another jewel in Himachal ‘The Seraj Valley’ and ‘Shimla’.
Personally, The Jalori pass region has to be our all-time favorite in Himachal Pradesh (including Tirthan Valley of course) and not take away our professed love for other regions of Himachal (Kinnaur, Spiti and Kangra). Why I have bought up the Jalori pass region here is for its network of trails which connects with the Mandi district and offers magnificent opportunities for trekkers of all initiations. From the Baga Saraun to Bashleo Pass further to the Lambri ridge descending to Sereolsar Lake, towards Jalori pass, ascending to Raghupur fort and then a descent to Chach Galu (Galu is a pass) climbing and reaching Janjehli and again ascending to Shikari Devi and stepping up towards Kamru Nag and then the final descent to Rohanda. This route fairly defines the spectrum of Low alpine and Tree line trekking in Mandi district.
For our trek here we can take a few considerations from where to start, keeping the end point at Rohanda. Shikari devi is perched 3300mts on a ridge that has some of the finest views of the Pir Panjals and the Dhauladhars. The top is dedicated to the reigning ‘Goddess’ who is manifested in the stone idols inside the temple. Most visitors are surprised by the fact that this is perhaps the only roofless temple in India (If you know of some others, please do let us know). And as the rest houses of Himachal Pradesh always find a mention in our trekking write ups, the one at Shikari devi is an exception. Someday I will contemplate on ‘everything and nothing’ here.
The last point of our trek (could be the first too) is Kamru Nag – a manifestation of the main ‘Devta’ of Mandi. The Kamrunag manifests in the form of a lake here. The place is highly revered and every year before the monsoons an annual fair takes place here to invoke the rain gods with the blessings of ‘Kamrunag’. Atop Kamrunag it is just forest and forest and miles of forest. Kamru is best approached from Rohanda, a rewarding walk of 12 kms and takes usually around 3-4 hours at a very relaxed pace.
Please Read on for a Sample itinerary
PS: Depending upon your choice to start there are three options
Chindi – 4 hours from Shimla, this quaint village, surrounded by forests and fields is a good start option for Shikari Devi through an initial ascent and then a walk on the ridgeline. Roughly about 16kms/7-8 hours. Another option from here is to drive down to Karsog nearby and Start your hike from Shankargarh. This is an offroad all the way till Raigad from where Shikari devi steps begin. (Roughly about 7-8 hours again). Raigad is also near to Janjehli.
Janjehli – On the Manali highway the best way to approach Janjehli is via Pandoh, driving up to Kanda, descending to Bagsad and reaching Janjehli. Janjehli has a trekkers hut and a few home stays to base yourself. From here, Raigad is not far (about 1hour drive) and then from there climb to Shikari Devi.
Devidarh – This is totally an unexplored region, also known as the Jiuni valley in Mandi. Base yourself in the forest rest house here or a couple of Home stays and start your trek the next day. Devidarh is best approached from Chail Chowk, on the highway to Kullu. The hike from Devidarh should take about 5-6 hours to Shikari Devi, the trail leads on to the Forest hut.
At Shikari Devi you can either camp, stay at the temple complex or the best is to pre book a room/s at the forest hut.
The Shikari Devi to Kamrunag trail is fairly easy through the ridgeline again. Roughly about 16kms, it takes about 6 -7 hours of easy pace walking. At Kamrunag you should be able to locate plenty of fabulous spots for camping in the forest clearances.
From Kamrunag to Rohanda is a descent of 11kms and takes about 2-3 hours. Rohanda has a couple of beautiful home stays in orchards, or you can drive to Pangna from here and further to Chindi or Shimla.
13. KARERI LAKE (MODERATE, Dharamshala)
This is a great trek for beginners as well as experienced trekkers and has a variety of elements in it which make it a very interesting option for both. Set in the beautiful and unique Kangra valley, it is filled to the brim with hiking pleasures. On this trail one gets fabulous views of the Dhauladhar range. We get to visit sacred lakes, ancient temples and quaint Hindu villages hidden inside the valleys and waiting to be explored. There are some great camping sites and other options as well to explore around – The Indrahar pass, Minkiani Pass, Laka Got are all high altitude passes and pastures which can be approached from Kareri Lake and one can plan for extending your short hike to include these Himalayan jewels into your holiday. We get unending views of the snow-capped mountains of the Pir Panjal range, underlying Kangra valley and Mani Mahesh Kailash peak from the top. This trek will take you to the beautiful high altitude Kareri Lake through the enchanting Kareri village. This is not a very demanding walk and one gets to enjoy the charms through verdant forest sections and beautiful villages. One of the best camping sites in the region, The Kareri lake. The trek starts from Dharamsala/McLeodganj which over the years has become a well-known hill vacation destination. This trek can also be approached from Shahpur on the Kangra highway, before the airport, from where an offroad leads us past Kareri village. However for the novelty of it, it is best to start from Dharamshala.
14. CHANDRATAL LAKE TO SURAJTAL LAKE (MODERATE, Lahaul and Spiti)
This 7-day adventure trek is like a short and very sweet treat. In about a week you are able to hike through some of the finest trekking destinations in the Indian Himalayas. This is a moderately challenging trek which involves camping and trekking at reasonably high altitude and crossing a few glacial rivers. Fit first timers in the company of experienced guides will also enjoy the trek.
In the first stage we drive from Manali over the Rohtang pass into the Lahaul valley to reach Batal from where we start our trek the next day. This halt is planned to help one get acclimatised to lower levels of oxygen at these altitudes. Next day we trek from Batal to Chandratal (Moon Lake), a high altitude lake at 4300m. This glacial lake gets its name from its half-moon shape and is a fantastic sight to see with high mountains all around, no wonder that several gaddis (shepherds) camp around it. Camping near the lake is nothing short of bliss!
From Chandratal we start climbing up and for the next couple of days we trek in the upper reaches of the Chandra valley. There are great views of the Mulkila range and its glaciers. In this stage we walk on scree slopes and stark yet stunning semi-arid landscape typical of the Lahaul & Spiti region. Adding to the adventure quotient will be the river crossings at Tokpo Yongma and Tokpo Gongma which will need to be handled carefully depending upon the conditions. Our guides might use rope and some equipment to assist crossing if required.
In the last stage of the trek we ascend the high slopes of Chandra valley and come out at the beautiful meadows below the Baralacha La which play host to a lot of wild flower varieties. The expansive views of the Himalayan ranges beyond Baralacha La provides a good contrast to the views of the earlier stages. We will finish our trek at the pass at the famous high altitude highway connecting Manali to Leh. From here you may continue to Leh or drive back to Manali.
DAY 01: Manali (2000m) – Batal (3907m) Drive/5-6 hrs
After breakfast we set out on the drive to Batal. This is an interesting drive which crosses over from the lush green valleys of Kullu & Manali into stark dune-like landscape of Lahaul & Spiti valley via the famous Rohtang pass. We will spend some time at the pass and then start descending into the Lahaul valley. We will stay at Batal today to get acclimatized to the lower levels of oxygen. Upon reaching Batal we will set up our campsite and towards early evening head out on an acclimatizing hike.
Day 02: Batal (3907m) – Chandratal (4300m) Trek/6 hrs
After breakfast we set out on the trek. We cross over the Chandra River and start moving up from Batal. It is a reasonably long walk all the way up to Chandratal and will take around 6 hours. We get very fine views of the Bara Shigri glacier and some high Himalayan peaks enroute. Chandratal is a jewel in the mountains and the minute you set your eyes on it the exhaustion of the day’s hike will vanish. The scenery at the lake is quite remarkable with the lake surrounded by high mountains. The lake also called Moon Lake and gets its name from its half-moon shape. There are several gaddi shepherds scattered around the lake giving it a beautiful character.
Day 03: Chandratal (4300m) – Tokpo Gongma (4320m) Trek/5-6 hrs
We set off early in the morning from Chandratal to Tokpo Gongma. The trail is gradually ascending and we Chandratal will be crossing many small streams on our way, all of which meet the Chandra River below. The landscape is stark and arid with lots of scree slopes and boulder fields. Our final river crossing of the day will be the large stream “Tokpo Yongma”. We will cross it from a suitable point and camp for the night after crossing the river.
Day 04: Tokpo Gongma (4380m) – Tokpo Yongma (4640m) Trek/5 hrs
Again today, we start our day early as we need to cross a couple of rivers while the water levels are low. The trail is picturesque and the snow-capped peaks of the Chandrabhaga range stay with us through the morning. The first river we cross is relatively easier than the second one of the day which will be Tokpo Yongma. We cross the river over a snow bridge of wade across depending upon the conditions. The campsite at Tokpo Yongma is beautiful and has a few shepherds close by.
Day 05: Tokpo Yongma (4640m) – Baralacha La (4900m) – Manali (2000m) Trek/5 hrs & Drive/7 hrs
Today we ascend the high slopes of the Chandra valley to get great views of the snow clad Himalayan ranges beyond the Baralacha pass. It’s great for photography with plenty of photo opportunities. We will first climb up to the Baralacha La South summit and from here move down to cross a river and trek through a beautiful and long meadow section to reach Baralacha La North summit where we have the Manali to Leh road meeting the pass. Baralacha La means “pass with cross roads on summit” as roads from Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti and Lahaul meet on top of the pass. It also gives rise to the three rivers of Chandra, Bhaga and Yuman.
15. TARIKHANGO PASS (MODERATE, DIFFICULT, Kinnaur, Spiti Valley)
The trek combines the green of the Kinnaur region with the stark desolateness of the Spiti valley. The trek begins at Kafnoo in Kinnaur and crosses over the Tarikhango pass 4865mts also known as the Pin Bhaba pass to the Pin valley national park in Spiti. The trail ascends along the left bank of the Wangar River after crossing a footbridge. The path climbs through single crop fields of Mastrang and passes through a mixed forest of conifers and temperate broad-leafed species. The trail climbs through little clearings of potato and buckwheat till it reaches the meadows of Malling 3350mts, fringed by birch and bird cherry, leaving the Wangar River far below. From here the trail continues to Pistarang, a sheltered glade with a spring at one end and over a steep ascent to the pass. The descent is more gradual to Pin valley, over boulder strewn glaciers, making it a sharp contrast to lush green Kinnaur.
DAY 01: Shimla - Kafnu Drive/7-8 hrs
Drive to Kafnu, in Kinnaur district of Himachal, at about 7 hours from Shimla. One can hire a cab for the same or take HRTC buses till Wangtu and then change at Wangtu for the connection to Kafnu.
DAY 02: Kafnu – Mulling (3100m) Drive/3 hrs & Trek/6 hrs
From Kafnu we set out on the beautiful trail leading to the Bhabha pass. We walk through apple orchards initially and then through a nicely wooded area with a well-marked trail. Gradient is moderate and we should take about 6 hours to reach the meadows of Mulling. On reaching here you will surely wonder how other places on the trek are prettier than this and also why trek any further. This is truly nature play at its best!!
DAY 03: Mulling (3100m) – Phustirang (4000m) Trek/6-7 hrs
Today we have a few interesting river crossings involving traverse by natural bridges (rocks) and wading. You will also come across beautiful carpets of alpine flowers and mostly meet a few gaddi shepherds along the way. Chatting up with them is highly recommended. We will take a pit stop at the meadows of Kara and enjoy lunch in the beautiful surroundings. We will reach the campsite by the riverside early in the evening and relax.
DAY 04: Phustirang (4000m) – Bhaba pass (4850m) – Baldar (3900m) Trek/7-8 hrs
We start the day climbing up on the trail leading to the pass. The trail is steep and if there is lots of snow it might require good effort on our part as walking on snow is more energy/time consuming. On reaching the top of the pass your effort will be suitably rewarded with fine views all around and a feeling of having achieved something. You can see many mountain ranges and the famous Pin Parvati pass from here. After a brief stop we descend towards the Spiti side. After a couple of hours you will tread upon a stark trans-Himalayan landscape confirming your arrival in Spiti. Spitian landscape is a wonderful collage of grasslands and mountains of different hues.
DAY 05: Baldar (3900m) – Mudh (3740m) – Kaza (3800m) Trek/3-4 hrs & Drive/2 hrs
It is pleasure walk right through to Mudh. The gradient is gentle and landscape awe inspiring. There are purple coloured mountains, Pin river flowing by and miles of open space all around conjuring a beautiful picture. We will drive to Kaza after spending a couple of hours exploring the quaint village of Mudh. On reaching Mudh we spend some time in this quaint village before driving to Kaza.
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