Hampta Pass

Nov 12 2019 to Nov 12 2019

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Ketan Ghatode
Nov 12 2019

The Hampta Pass is one of the many passes in the Himalayas. Passes have played a key role in trade, war, and both human and animal migration throughout Earth's history. To traverse one of them was not just an opportunity to relive history but also an opportunity to rendezvous with nature and it's incredible nuances first hand. The journey started with a flight to Delhi from Mumbai and from Delhi a government-run HPTDC bus journey to our pick-up location Manali. A tip for travellers: do not book any of the Volvo buses run by a plethora of privately held bus travel companies-they are not just mis-managed, stop at restaurants with dirty toilets but also take longer to reach Manali. Another thing to note: Since the route to Manali goes through mountains, it is affected by some minor accidents or landslides and hence the time of journey is usually unpredictable-it took 15 hrs for the onwards journey and the return journey took almost 19 hrs. Hence always plan your travel in such a way that you keep sufficient buffer before your pick-up time. After reaching Manali, our trek leader briefed us about the do's and don'ts of the trip and ofcourse the slayer of mountaineering dreams- Acute Mountain Sickness(AMS). He told us that AMS has nothing to do with your fitness levels and is dependent on your body's ability to cope with the lack of oxygen associated with higher altitudes. His only advice to avoid AMS was to drink 4-5 liters of water every day.

Jobra Campsite IndiaHikes
Jobra Campsite IndiaHikes

We started our journey to the Hampta pass in a pick-up van which took us to our basecamp. The brief journey was interesting in terms of it involved scaling 40 hair pin bends to reach our starting point of trek at Jobra. We treated ourselves with some nice Maggi and omelette and refilled our water bottles with fresh mountain water from a nearby waterfall. Here's the thing with mountain water- it is not just refreshing but also is blessed with incredible taste. Though I would advise you to trust your local guide for which sources of water to trust and which not to.

Jobra Campsite IndiaHikes
Jobra Campsite IndiaHikes

Jobra Campsite IndiaHikes
Jobra Campsite IndiaHikes

Chika Camp Site
Chika Camp Site

We started from Jobra towards our first basecamp Chika. It was 3.5 hrs trek through mesmerising variety of geography which included forest, meadow, river, towering mountains on both sides and waterfalls all packed into one-a feast to the eye. During the journey, we were also greeted by local shepherds assisted by the Himalayas Sheepdog and their sheep, goats and mules. You have to actually give way to them and stop your trek- it is fun to do so though. The animals litter the path by fresh shit-this, my friends is a life saver-more on this later. We were blessed with some nice sunshine during our journey-this not just made the surroundings beautiful, it also filled us up with lot of excitement and energy. Another tip- in the Himalayas, the moment you see sunshine and you are trekking through it, always apply sunscreen lotion-this will help your skin from not getting peeled off due to the high intensity of UV rays in high altitudes. After some toil, we reached our first campsite-Chika(10,100 ft).

Chika Camp Site
Chika Camp Site

This campsite, like all the other campsites was situated at the base of a mountain besides a riverbank. We were served with some nice and hot soup by our trip organizers-Trek the Himalayas followed by dinner. As we got into our respective tents, we were first greeted by our troublemaker-the rains. When it rains in the mountains, the temperature not just drops drastically, it also breaks your spirits to a large extent-especially when the rains are accompanied with lightning and thunder. The possibility of a storm cannot be written off. It is scary since there are very few places where you can take shelter if things worsen. You have to trust your survival instinct and the people around you for support. While it was pouring outside and I was trying to sleep inside the tent, I was trying not to think about a probable cloud burst, which would mean everything being swept off with a flash flood. In situations like these, you start building your character and your temperament. Such situations provoke you to appreciate for your "normal" life beyond measures. You feel gratitude towards what you have and this kind of attitude is just what you need to triumph in the situation.

Chika Camp Site
Chika Camp Site

Luckily, after raining the whole night, the rain subsided in the morning. That is when, we were stuck by the news that one of our team mates has been affected by AMS and that she has to drop off from the trip. Putting that behind us, we got ready, looking forward to the second day of the trek and what it has in store for us.

Balu Ghera Campsite
Balu Ghera Campsite

Blackie guiding us through the journey. He was one of the sweetest dogs you will ever meet.

Balu Ka Ghera Campsite
Balu Ka Ghera Campsite

Our destination today was Balu ka Ghera (11,900 ft)-a beautiful campsite perfectly situated between mountains and a riverbank. The act that stood out during this trek was the river crossing where we had to form a human chain to cross the flowing freezing glacial water. The key to succeeding at this is team work. The moment you get out of the water, you can't feel your legs-they become numb and it is only after several minutes that you start feeling normal. This activity not just gets you to face your fears, but also provokes you to go beyond them.

Balu Ka Ghera Campsite
Balu Ka Ghera Campsite

After we reached Balu ka Ghera, it was the sweetest of experience-the site is picture-perfect and it was nice and sunny. We did some stretching exercises followed by hot tea-just want the doctor ordered. Our excitement was short-lived though since our tormentor-rain had returned and this time it was fiercer. It was gloomy with negligible visibility during the day. There our trek leader announced that people with blood oxygen levels less than 75 mm hg will not be allowed to continue the trek. We anxiously waited our reading in the blood oximeter. Thankfully we all passed and this was the ray of hope we all needed in the bloomy weather. We had our dinner early and went to our tents to get some sleep.

Balu Ka Ghera Campsite
Balu Ka Ghera Campsite

When I had registered for the trek, one thing I was looking forward to was enjoying the campsite at night gazing at the stars imagining there whereabouts and marveling at the universe and while doing so capturing them and the Milky way with some long exposure shots. But with rains and cloudy skies, that was hardly a possibility. Late into the night, thankfully, the downpour stopped and next day morning, we started for the most difficult part of the trek- the hampta pass summit. We had to scale a total of 2200 ft to reach the summit. The ascent was quite steep in patches and our resolve and mental strength was tested to the fullest. Here's what I discovered about our bodies-trekking has less to do with your physical strength and stamina and more to do with your mental strength. It's a mind game and people with greater determination end up becoming victorious.

Hampta Pass Trek Camp Himalayan Mountain Sojourns
Hampta Pass Trek Camp Himalayan Mountain Sojourns

We started scaling at 7.30am in the morning and at around 12 in the noon, when we were just 500 ft below the summit, it started raining. At higher altitudes, where oxygen is less and temperatures are freezing, last thing you need is rain. As our misfortune with the rain continued, we were now faced by a daunting task- to scale, maintain our body temperature so that we don't freeze and maintain our balance in the slippery terrain.

Hampta Pass Trek Camp Himalayan Mountain Sojourns
Hampta Pass Trek Camp Himalayan Mountain Sojourns

By the time, I reached the summit, my hands had become numb due to cold and I could not hold the trekking stick. At the summit, something worse happened-the rain turned into a hailstorm and we were faced by a new demon. Instead of enjoying the victory, we had to vacate the summit to run towards safety.

Sheagoru Campsite
Sheagoru Campsite

The only safety as we knew it was at our next basecamp at Sheagoru. This meant that we had to descend in a stormy weather and nothing can be worse than that. This part here is the scariest part of the trek for me. Experienced mountaineers tell you that descending is the trickiest part of the trek. You have to be careful where you plant your foot and maintain your balance. In our case, after the rain had created a havoc, we took up the daunting task of descending through a slippery terrain. Since most of my team mates were lagging behind, our team leader who is supposed to be the last person in the trail to make sure everyone is fine, was left behind so there was no one to guide us the route to descend. At this time we remembered our guide telling us that if you ever get lost, the follow the droppings of sheep and it will get you to the right path. There we invented our own saying-'where's there's shit, there's way!'. We did just that and succeeded. When we somehow managed to reach the basecamp after an hour of descending, the trauma of the experience had left me speechless for a while.

Sheagoru Campsite
Sheagoru Campsite

We had now descended to the Spiti side of the terrain. Spiti is known as a cold Himalayan desert. Barren but stunningly beautiful to say the least. Our basecamp Sheagoru was again, a beautiful spectacle. I was hoping to see some stars that night, but weather had other plans-torrential rain started. By the evening, rain had dampened our spirits. Dumsharades in the dinner tent kept us all together. We managed to keep each other's spirits alive that day.

Sheagoru Campsite
Sheagoru Campsite

At higher altitudes, it becomes difficult to get some decent sleep-especially when it's wet and cold. But that night at Sheagoru, when I was fighting with sleep, something counterintuitive happened. A feeling of confidence set in. The fact that even after facing so many challenges in during the trek, I managed to survive and triumph gave me goosebumps. It gave me a different perspective towards life. The complaints about our slightest discomforts in our urban lives seemed trivial. The thought that was running through my mind all throughout that day after the scary descend was, "why the heck have I come here to die". This thought was eventually replaced by, "I can conquer it all-human body and mind is capable of doing some incredible things". At dawn next day we could witness the mesmerizing scene of sun rays falling on mountain peaks and the mountains shining with all their glory.

Sheagoru Campsite
Sheagoru Campsite

We started the day's trek at 7.30am. The trek was a 3000 ft descend into the Lahaul-Spiti valley. We were blessed with some decent weather and could witness the breathtakingly colourful rocks of the region. The descend was fairly moderate level. At one moment we could also witness the majestic Himalayan Eagle, which is a rare sight.

Lahaul And Spiti
Lahaul And Spiti

We then decided to start for Manali via the Rohtang pass since last destination had to be cancelled. There awaited our last adventure of the trip-driving to Manali in a 2×2 Tata Sumo. What seemed like a normal ride back to civilization turned into an off-roading experience due to non-existent roads and torrential rain. As if the bumpy ride wasn't enough, our vehicle got stuck in the mud on the roads. Now here's the thing about drivers in this route- they are not just experts in manoeuvring through the difficult road conditions, they are also quite deligent in terms making their way out in difficult road conditions. It took the experts more than an hour to manoeuvre through a 50 mts patch of road. This involved some intense amount of pushing the vehicles from our end to get them off the mud while the driver put it in full throttle. At this point, we had started to love the adventures and challenges. We were looking forward to something challenging coming our way and we responding to it with grit. But unfortunately, we reached Manali without any further difficulty.

As I look back at the trip, the challenges we faced have made the journey so interesting and memorable. Here's the time for an unsolicited advice- if you can, plan to go for a Himalayan trek. Mind you it will no be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but what it will bring out of you will be worth marveling about.

Hampta Pass Trek Camp Himalayan Mountain Sojourns
Hampta Pass Trek Camp Himalayan Mountain Sojourns

Wonderful rock formations of Hampta

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Comments

Satyajeet's photo
Satyajeet Jadhav

Nov 12 2019

Incredible travel story Ketan! Inspiring and entertaining! This feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Thanks for sharing it!

Ketan's photo
Ketan Ghatode

Nov 12 2019

Thanks :)

Alok's photo
Alok Soni

Nov 12 2019

Great story :)

Sujata's photo
Sujata Jadhav

Nov 12 2019

Apratim wonderful description

Christina's photo
Christina Bodra

Nov 12 2019

Hi Ketan! I want to ask you few queries related to the trek. Please do reply.