I have not walked much in the Dhauladhars’ as yet. I have done only one pass and that happens to be the Jalsu Pass.
An ancient trail connecting two of the holiest Shiv Dhams namely Baijnath and Manimahesh Kailash. The Jalsu Pass will launch you at Holi where from you can embark on a journey to Shiva’s another abode; the Manimahesh Kailash over the Kalah Pass.
The Jalsu Pass unlike other passes of the Dhauladhars’ has grasslands, rhododendrons, plenty of water, and herb smugglers across the trail. The rocky nakedness which happens to be a characteristic property of the mighty Dhauladhars’ takes a break on this trail. The mountains welcome this colourful change by showering incessant rains on this trail, all the way from Baijnath to Holi.
Crossing this pass without being caught in rains (irrespective of the month of the year) is just next to impossible. The pass stands at a height of 3450 meters above the MSL and it offers a spectacular view of the Chamba Kailash, Kuja Peak, and several other prominent peaks of the Pir Panjal Ranges. This is a must do pass if you want to gain acquaintance with the Dhauladhars.
The trail is well marked and elevation gain steady, whichever side you choose to start your trek from. The trek starts from Utrala Village on the Baijnath side and you have to walk exactly 19.300 kilometers before you reach at base of the pass.
How did I get to know the exact distance? Well, the state government proposed to construct a road here, then abandoned the project after preliminary survey.
The first campsite is at Surehi Village, if you start from Chamba side. The next is at Channi and then comes the magnificent Yada Campsite. You ought to spend a night here.
Lucky ones get to see the Chamba Kailas.
There is a Forest Rest House at Yada but it is roofless. Not that it was constructed this way. Just next to it is Munish Bhai’s shop where you get to taste delicious Rajmah and drink the National Drink of India – Old Monk.
Another interesting thing I came to know during this yatra was that not only Muslims are Gujjars. Even Hindus are Gujjars and most of them can be found here during the rainy season.
These Hindu gujjars usually come from Paprola, Palampur, Chamba, and Baijnath. Unlike Gujjar-Gaddi rivalry, these tribes sitting atop the Jalsu Pass are quite fond of each other.
Another interesting story I got to know was about the Great Battle of Jalsu Pass. The Muslim invaders were confronted by the Hindus’ of the region. I was told that there is a huge graveyard atop the pass which could be seen on a sunny day. Muslims, I was told, come every year to pay a tribute to their ancestors.
Although I did not see anything atop the pass because it was raining and I was all alone.
During the Chamba Kailash Yatra season, you will find tea shops and stay huts across the trail. If you start from Utrala side, stay at Parei and if you start from Holi side, a night stay at Yada Goth is a must. You get to see the mighty Chamba Kailash from Yada.
Jalsu Pass is one of the most frequently used passes by the gaddis’ of Kangra and Chamba. Even today, they prefer walking for 6-8 hours to reach Baijnath from Chamba rather than rotting in the rickety state transport buses for more than 12 hours.
I met an old (sic) lady, 66-67 years old (she wasn’t sure of her age), limping on one leg. She had started at 5 in the morning from Utrala and it took her just 9 hours to reach Channi campsite (>25KM)
A road was proposed here long ago and the state government even spent crores of rupees just during the preliminary survey. Later, the MLA changed his mind and abandoned the whole project.
Now the same MLA and his clan proposes that a road will be constructed between Kangra-Chamba over the treacherous Talang Pass near Chamunda.
We shall see!
Start Point: Utrala/Laaka Approximate Distance: 30KM Campsites: Laaka, Channi, Yada, Jalsu Ka Padhar, Parei
Recommended that you start from Chamba, elevation gain is steady.
Recommended for First Timers. A perfect introduction to Himachal Himalayas, that’s what the Jalsu Pass is.
P.S. A Man Made wonder at Utrala Power House.