A trekking trail connecting two valleys; Lahaul and Kullu, which gives to your eyes almost everything nature has to offer. Glaciers, pine forests, meadows, water-crossings, moraines, beautiful waterscapes, awe inspiring spires, and adventure of touching about 4300 meters at Hampta Col.
20.9.2015; 2:30 A.M. Camp 1 at Chikka
“Dada, someone is whistling out loudly”, said my team-mate from Orissa while waking me up from deep slumber, “Are there any bear around?”, he asked.
“Don’t worry, these are shpeherds’ whistling around and their dogs are trained enough to take care of bears”, I replied casually.
Hearing these comforting words, my friend returned to his dreamland while I pondered upon my last statement. Doubts crept into my mind and suddenly I started thinking of flash floods. Kullu had experienced massive flash floods in 2015 and we were camping right next to the stream. The gurgles of stream that sounded harmonious all day long, suddenly started to sound like a cacophonous distraction.
Four strangers were stitched by destiny to embark upon this journey together. And ours was quite a colorful group, comprising of colors from four different parts of our vibrant country; Abhinash from Orissa, Vinod from Kerala, Sandip from Punjab, and myself Sameer from Himachal Pradesh.
Three of us met with our trek operator in Manali the day before to chalk out the fine prints of the trek. Sandip though landed on the very day of the trek itself, and he brought massive clouds and gloomy weather along with. The forecast was gloomy for the next couple of days and snow was an absolute certainty at higher reaches. Despite these subtle warnings, we marched on, stuffing our backpacks with rain-covers and ponchos’.
The trail starts from Prini Village and one has to enter the restricted zone of AD Hydro Project. You need permission to pass through this region (for vehicles) and our passes were arranged beforehand for this passage.
Within an hour or so, we reached at the barrage site of the project at Jobri where we got off our taxis and our padyatra, that were to last for five days, started. The moment we stepped down, the weather Gods’ greeted us with cold showers.
Soon we hit the trail with light drizzle around, and an hour’s walk lead us to this….
After about 2-3 hours of hiking with lots of pit-stops in between, we finally landed at our camping site for the day at Chikka.
Chikka is a beautiful location with a stream gurgling nearby, meadows running wild and free, peaks and clouds all around, as if a landscape has been painted by Van Gogh himself, emulating his Starry Night. While we soaked in the views, we were called for dinner in the kitchen tent, where we had a hearty meal while we discussed our future plans vis a vis the Himalaya.
It was around 2:30 at this camp when we got up to the whistling sounds of God knows what. Later next morning, we got to know that one of the shepherds’ was drunk and he was dancing and whistling around the whole night.
Day2: 6 A.M. (20-10-15) Chikka to Balu Ka Ghera
Everyone woke up, amidst light rain, to steaming hot tea. The threat of flash flood proved to be false and soon we gathered ourselves to our next destination for the day; Balu Ka Ghera (11000 feet). At the beginning of the trail, we encountered a rivulet that was to be crossed over a makeshift bridge. It was a slippery pathway treaded with caution.
A beautiful green zone with well marked trail took us to a stream crossing after about two hours from Chikka Camp. Though water was not ferocious, it was too cold for our mortal selves. So much so that we had to dance around a while to get our circulation going once we crossed the stream.
A short walk took us to the meadow called Jowara. The meadow looked stupendous in September, I wonder how would it look in the peak summers. From this point onward, the hike became taxing and since it was raining heavily with dense fog around, I covered my camera and focused entirely on the walk. I took us about five hours to reach at Balu Ka Ghera.
At Balu Ka Ghera, it was raining cats and dogs, as if the hell broke loose. We pitched our tents in a jiffy but even then a lot of water managed to seep into our sleeping bags and tents. It was only a healthy meal later that night that could cheer us up. It rained the whole night and it was not before 4:30 A.M. that the rain stopped. I waited for the dawn and somehow managed to click the early morning scene.
With the summit within the sight, we hushed up our morning affairs for the climb ahead.
Was I nervous? Yes! Mountains were playing with my psyche. The sky was overcast but the rain Gods had held their horses for a while. Probably they were excited and nervous about our crossing the pass.
The terrain became rocky and steep and soon we found ourselves negotiating moraines and gigantic glaciers. Huffing and puffing, in about 4-5 hours we reached atop the col, or as it is popularly called; the Hampta Pass (14100 feet). Vinod placed a prayer flag atop the Pass and it started snowing soon. All we could manage at the top were thirty minutes. But those minutes were blissful, down to the very last second.
The journey downhill was steep and full of scree. It took us another 3-4 hours to reach Camp3 along the banks of river Siagoru (13000 feet). My fondest memories of the trek are around this little campsite.
The day was spent well running wild and free clicking those sky high mountains. We were so close to the pride of Pir Panjal, Deo Tiba and Indrasan, but somehow I couldn’t see them. Even if I saw them, I had no means to identify them.
Day4: Siagoru to Chatru
It was an easy decline with only a few tricky patches here and there. It took us about 4 hours to reach at our next campsite. Post breakfast, we gathered ourselves for the last time, and crossed the gentle but nerve wrecking Siagoru River. It was an easy walk with several pit-stops. By the time, we reached Chatru, it started to drizzle again. Our initial plan was to head towards the Moon Lake but the rain gods didn’t want that to happen.
For me, as a trekker it was a wonderful experience. But as a photographer, I
was am a tad disappointed. I’d love to see those spires full of snow, and those valleys blossoming with flowers, and them streams turning blue in winters. Purposefully, I have left my favorite cap behind a boulder at Hampta Col.
Got to have it back. My starry solitude is still awaiting me.
P.S. I experienced this trek with 250/- ankle high gum boot. They stick to wet surfaces and snow like a leach sticks to our skin.