The Dhauladhar Range is nestled with many mountain passes. This range has passes varying in difficulty from easy to strenuous. The Dhauladhar range rises abruptly from the valley floor. The climb thus to all the passes is very steep from Kangra side while the gain in altitude from Ravi Valley is moderate.
I had read about Singhar Pass in an old Kangra Gazetteer which said it was a rather difficult pass. Furthermore, another book on Trekking in Dhauladhar by S.R Saini said the same thing. He went on to name this pass as a Killer Pass.
It was already October and we didn’t have much time. In my mind I had already seen myself standing atop the Singhar Pass, just that I had to convert this dream into reality now. I and my trekker friend Abhinav went to Palampur to gather insights about this pass from the locals. As usual no one had clue about this pass in Palampur.
Our only asylum was Bandla Village which is a Gaddi hamlet. After wandering hither-thither for a while we then bumped into Bihari Lal who runs a tea shop in Bandla. He told us to head straight to Thala village near Kandi. Although we got all the information at Thala but not before people laughing at our overambitious idea of crossing the Singhar Pass. As I have said before, not many people cross this pass. Even the shepherds’ use this pass occasionally. Their astonishment at our idea was justified.
We met a young boy who claimed his brother once owned a flock and had crossed this pass many time. So Pinku Ram was our guardian angel who would guide us en-route Singhar Pass. The game was on!
From Dharamshala to Palampur to Thala, we kept looking at the Dhauladhars. Snow laden they were but it appeared that they were delaying their long winter slumber so that we could cross over. In no time, we reached Thala where Pinku Ram was waiting for us anxiously.
We all distributed our share of load and then started our trek seeking blessings from Lord Shiva and Mata Jotaa Waali to protect us on this trek.
The initial climb was along the barbed wire fences put up by the forest department. Soon we reached plain clearing which had a few huts and a family lived there. The view downwards from here towards the Bandla side was mesmerizing. Neugal River carves out this beautiful valley. After a series of turns we reached an open clear ground and we could look down towards Bindewasni Temple and the huge waterfall below it. The next target was reaching Khala where Gujjars stay in the summer and rainy season.
Since it was October already, they had already gone back to the lower reaches and the huts wore a deserted look. From Khala onwards the trek took a sudden gain in altitude and soon we were climbing those steep slopes. The climb ended atop a flat clearing called Thatri. Thatri is a wide green clearing which spreads over a few acres. A group of shepherds was already camping here. They had crossed the pass a few days back and were surprised to see us attempting the pass in October.
Since I am no mug in speaking the local dialect we soon became friends and the discussion didn’t seem to end. It was getting cold now and the sun had already set. They wanted us to stay at their place but we wanted to walk a little more so that our next day’s walk could become easy. We walked for another half an hour before it really started getting dark. We decided to call it a day at a Gaddi’s stopover called Bhui.
A shepherd had already pitched his tent at this place. He welcomed us to his place. He was happy to have us as his guests. The Himalayas all around us and silent whispers of the winds producing melodious music was nothing less than a dream. Our shepherd friend told us to be watchful and not cross the pass if it snows the next day. After having tea and bread we started our trek with a promise that we would meet soon.
The trek from Bhui started with a gentle climb and it crisscrossed the Nehar coming from the pass several times. The path climbed along the stream. Soon we left the stream and took a sharp left turn. The climb from here on was taxing to say the least. We met a shepherd on the way who had crossed the pass that very day. He told us to be watchful as the climb would get tough from there on. After a short lunch-break, we continued our untiring effort.
Now came the difficult part. It was a climb amidst boulders where cracks had been made in the rocks for footholds and handholds .Sometimes those big rocks had to be traversed vertically and horizontally. Somehow by grasping the grass in the cracks and handholds we kept climbing. I thanked GOD we were lucky to have clear weather and dry rocks otherwise on wet slippery rocks the climb would have become fatal.
A two hour grueling walk and we hadn’t even covered half the distance. We reached a place called Mata Ki Behi where we rested for a while. We told that the next 10 minutes climb would be the toughest and that we seek blessings at the temple. Not only was the climb tough but the fissures in the rocks were so narrow that the shoes hardly stuck in. Even the rocks were inclined which made it difficult to traverse them because the rucksack was constantly colliding with the rocks. We negotiated this zone with great care. Finally we were out of that difficult zone.
Since the streams had all dried up by that time of the year we had acute shortage of water. We reached the campground of the pass named Chunjha.
The task at hand was to look for a shelter. We found a rock overhang but it already occupied by herb collectors, as they like to call themselves. We had no other choice but to look for another shelter. After climbing for a while we found a small overhang where we could spend the night.
We were lucky to find firewood there which was left by some shepherd. The only problem left now was that of water. Again nature came to our rescue. It had snowed the last day and the hailstones were intact. We gathered them and melted them to have water which we would need to drink and cook.
Since we were at a very high ridge near the pass fierce winds blew from all directions. We lay down in our sleeping bags and tried to sleep but it was too cold to bear. The temperature was way below the freezing mark. We somehow spent that night sometimes lying down on the floor, sometimes sitting, and talking. Slowly the day set in and by 0700 Hours we were good to go.
The pass was we within our sight and didn’t look far away.
Surprisingly the route from here on was well marked as compared to the previous portion. Within 45 minutes we were atop the Singhar Pass.
Finally we had embraced this elusive pass of the Dhauladhar Ranges. We could clearly see Palampur, the bridge over Neugal leading to Thala. The entire Kangra Valley could be seen clearly.
Chamba Kailash Peak was visible up ahead. Panoramic view of snow clad Pir Panjal ranges was in front of us. A full 360 degree view was on offer and standing atop this pass one could behold the beauty of Dhauladhar Ranges. The Ravi Valley could be seen down below. We spent a good one hour at the pass exploring and clicking pictures. After all we had put in all that effort to reach atop the pass.
After offering prasad and pooja at the small temple atop the pass we decided to head down to the Ravi Valley.
Without water it becomes very difficult to maintain a brisk pace in the higher Himalayas. We had to take frequent breaks to cope for the water loss. The streams had frozen and we had to break a layer of ice to get water from the stream. At a brisk pace we reached camping ground of Bataula.
A rock overhang was spotted by my friend and that too was occupied. Herb Collectors you see! It has become a nuisance of late. In the name of collecting herbs, these guys are actually dancing to the tunes of MNCs.
After descending for a while we reached at the Holy Keur Lake which is believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva before he moved to Mnanimahesh. The trail had flattened out and now we could see Gujjar huts. Soon we spotted a village.
The name of the village was Tuh and we were welcomed by a shepherd family. We were offered the best room and food at their place. We were humbled by our hosts. They gave us a huge bag of Rajmah and apricots.We had nothing to give them in return. Giving money would be an insult and they would never accept it. All we had were a few ready to eat food items left and a few cookies. We had a first aid kit and medicines and we asked them if they needed them to which they said that they badly needed medicines because the medicine shop and hospital was quite away.
We were happy that we could help them.
A road has come up to Tuh Village but rarely a vehicle runs on this road. The last few miles always hurt and those last kilometers were really tiring.
And then I looked back at the Pass and thanked the almighty!
Rijul Shergill is a young child of the Himalayas. He has crossed more than 25 passes in the Dhauladhar Himalayas. You can follow him on Twitter.