Hampta Pass Trek – A Story of Changing Landscapes
Located in Himachal Pradesh, Hampta Pass trek (14,035ft.) is among the most ancient treks. It connects Kullu (4,196ft.) with Lahaul (14,009ft.). Mentioned in the Hindu Mythology Mahabharata, Hampta Pass trek was the route Pandavas took to physically reach heaven. The route from Hampta Pass to Chandrataal Lake (14,107ft.) is called the ‘staircase to heaven.’ The 5 days’ moderately difficult trek starts and ends at Manali (6,726ft.). You should have done at least 1 Himalayan Trek already. You should be physically & mentally fit and groomed on stamina.
This crossover trek is packed with drastic landscape changes with almost all major landforms representing themselves. While the Kullu Valley until Hampta Pass is productive with lot of greenery and colorful flowers, Lahaul is mostly barren but strikingly pristine due to its warm colored chiseled mountains and clear water bodies. On the Kullu side, you come across beautiful forests, stunning meadows, river delta, of course rivers and streams, and even the plateau, that is Hampta Pass. June-October are the best months to witness the wonders of changing landscapes.
The trek begins from Jobra (9800ft.), a short drive from Manali. You mostly tread along or across Rani Nalla until Hampta Pass. The starting itself sets the mood as you cruise through a small but beautiful forest of Maple, Pine, and Silver Birch trees. Walking further you reach sprawling, open grounds of Chika (10,500ft) with Rani Nalla flowing there too. You fix your first camp here. The first day itself, you have seen forest and flat ground.
The next morning is cruising through some rocks. Meanwhile, snow clad Dhauladhar Ranges at the back and Indrasan Peak (20,410ft.) in the front keep motivating you, when a waterfall appears to complete the setting. Cross the Rani Nalla to step into incredible and vast Jwara Meadows (11,072ft.). The sight is heavenly with lush grasslands and wildflowers far and wide. You see horses grazing, the sight is to die for. Tread further and you reach a river delta called Balu ka Ghera (Balu=sand and Ghera=heap) (12,411ft.). Rani Nalla dutifully flows here too, while a glacial brook adds to the sight. The delta ground is your second campsite. You experienced rocks, meadows, and river delta today, with sighting a couple of prime peaks.
The third day, through sharp inclines, you reach the plateau of Hampta Pass at 14,100ft., the highest altitude of this trek in India. This Pass offers an unbelievable view with the majestic mountain ranges, including Deo Tibba (19,688ft.) & Indrasan Peaks, and glaciers of Kullu at one end and the deserts of Lahaul at the other. The difference of scenery takes time to sink in. Climb down through sharp descends to reach the scenic, green but cold grounds of Shea Goru (12,254ft.), surrounded by the mountains of Pir Panjal and Spiti (14,009ft.) with a river flowing in the middle. This is your third campsite. You covered challenging ascents & descents, ‘the’ plateau, and the flat ground, while witnessing the contrasting landscapes.
The fourth day is Chandrataal, the biggest highlight of Hampta Pass Trek. The irony is due to weather or bad roads; the route is often closed. Therefore, if luck is by your side, you will get to see this indescribable Moon Lake in Spiti. You reach Chattru (10,898ft.), the last but certainly scenic campsite of the Hampta Pass trek, and go to the Lake.
Chandrataal Lake is a divine place to be. The placid clear waters reflecting the serrated ochre mountains of Spiti contrasted by azure sky, you need to be there to understand what pristine means. Words cannot do justice to this heaven on earth. You don’t want to, but you will need to come back to Chattru, but then this too is a place to explore. Surrounded by mountains, Chandra River flows below the site. From here, you also see a confluence of Hampta Pass, Lahaul & Spiti, and Rohtang Pass trails. This day is the day to remember for the longest, if you got to see the outstanding Moon Lake. The next day you return to Manali in India.