Himachal Pradesh has some of the most picturesque trekking trails in India. The routes have become popular among trekkers as they are taken through the dramatic stretches of scenery that change only in mere moments. The heavy contrast between Himachal's lush green valleys and barren mountain slopes, sparkling blue river water, and snow-capped massifs never fails to attract thousands of visitors every year.
The Hampta Pass Trek is one such crossover trek in Himachal that offers the best of both worlds. It is the narrow corridor between the Chandra Valley of Lahaul and the Kullu Valley, located at 4287 meters. With the beautiful verdure of Kullu, accompanied by the River Beas, one crosses the Hampta Pass only to encounter the arid expanse of the Spiti Valley with barren mountainous slopes.
Some of the main highlights of the trek are given here.
Variety of the crossover landscapes:
The Hampta Pass trek route starts by hiking through forests of pine, birch, oak, and rhododendrons, dotted with the occasional maple trees. This alpine vegetation slowly morphs into grasslands rolling down the valleys with several streams running side by side. Colorful wildflowers like marigolds, blue poppies, and long pink flowers called 'distorts' grow here in late July. The fallow grey Chandra Valley lies on the other side with its rugged beauty.
The Himalayan ranges and peaks:
Many famous peaks can be seen throughout the trek to Hampta. Mt. Indrasan (6221 meters), Mt. Deo Tibba (6001 meters), Indrakila (4940 meters) can be viewed closer from the pass.
The Pir Panjal Range of the Lesser Himalayas stands guard at the sides of the Kullu and Chandra valleys that the trekker crosses. The impressive Dhauladhar, Mulkila, and Chandrabhaga ranges can also be seen from here.
The Chandratal Lake:
"Chandra" means moon, and "tal" means lake. The name of this alpine lake refers to its crescent structure, imitating the sliver of the moon. Its crystal-clear blue color changes throughout the day as the sun changes its position. The underground source of water of this lake is rather unusual at such an altitude. The Samudra Tapu plateau overlooks the lake at an altitude of 4295 meters.
The first day's campsite is at Chika, which lies ahead of a lush green meadow. The scattered cattle grazing on the pastures against the clear blue sky paints a breathtakingly serene image. The Rani Nallah cuts through the sprawling Chika campsite, making it just picture-perfect for pitching the tents for the night.
Balu ka Ghera is the following site for camping overnight. The name refers to a bed of sand – geographical researchers and locals alike believe that this area was formed by the sand and dust particles deposited by the river here.
The following day, trekkers rest at Shea Goru, a glade surrounded by snow-covered peaks. Once again, the river follows the trail here. The mesmerizing beauty of the Shea Goru campsite finds mention in several ardent travel bloggers' journals.
The final night's campsite is at Chatru - the confluence of three paths leading to Hampta, Spiti, and Rohtang Passes. This is an oasis of greenery in the cold, barren desert.
Network connectivity, electricity, and other facilities:
A working mobile network will not be available on the trek. On the way from Manali to Jobra, the village of Prini is the last site where network connectivity is available. Beyond it is an off-grid area.
Electricity is unavailable throughout the trek, so charging your electronic devices will be impossible once Manali has been left behind. Therefore, minimal and effective use of your electronic equipment is recommended, along with a set of backup batteries and power banks.
ATM facilities are last available at Prini while starting the trek. On the other hand, such facilities are unavailable while returning until one has reached Manali.
The crossover trek to Hampta in Himachal Pradesh has often been compared to the Valley of Flowers trek in Uttarakhand. For both these treks, the landscape changes in a matter of minutes - from a valley rich with the Himalayan biodiversity to dry, rugged dale nestled between equally torrefied gradients of the mountains.
Jobra is the starting point of the Hampta Pass Trek, which can be reached from Manali, a popular hill station in Himachal Pradesh. The 35km trekking route from Jobra onward can be covered in 5 days and 4 nights.
There is little human settlement en route, and only shepherds use it in summer to let their cattle graze in the high-altitude grasslands when Lahaul lies infertile. Vertical rock walls, hanging glaciers, an alpine lake, waterfalls, small pine, and rhododendron forests are the main highlights of the trek.
The Hampta Pass trek package may vary from USD 134 to 161 (INR 10000 to 12000) per head. This estimate includes accommodations, food, transportation, camping facilities, and trekking equipment. These rates are negotiable if some trekkers decide to make the journey and reservations independently without going through any trekking companies.
The Hampta Pass trek difficulty level is moderate. Usually, experienced trekkers undertake this trek because of certain risk factors – crossing multiple streams with frigid water, steep ascent, and descent, and the possible sub-zero temperatures at night in the early summer or rainy season. These factors test the trekker's ability to withstand, endure, and overcome these challenges.
The quick altitude gain commonly leads to altitude sickness. Even the extremely steep descent from Shea Goru to Chatru may cause nausea in some trekkers. Staying hydrated for this journey is of utmost importance to avoid all these traits of Acute Mountain Sickness.
The road to Chandratal is dusty enough to trigger dust allergies; therefore, asthmatic patients should take necessary measures. It is best to consider an added emergency fund while calculating an estimate of the Hampta Pass trek budget to have a factor of safety while traveling.
The best time to trek to Hampta is from June to late October. During the months of summer, monsoon, and early Autumn, the trek changes its appearance dramatically.
From June to mid-July, the trekkers can expect quite an amount of snow, blanketing the landscape from Balu ka Ghera and onwards. The valley here is narrow, and it is not located right in the way of the sunrays.
Trekkers can experience the monsoons on the trekking path from July to August. However, after the pass, the trail lies in the rain shadow region of the Pir Panjal Range of the lesser Himalayas. Hence, there is no rain on the Lahaul side while the rest of India encounters rainfall.
With September, the weather improves, and colorful varieties of wildflowers can be spotted. The skies are clearer with no rain clouds around this time. Temperatures come down as much as 10°C in the daytime.
A fast-approaching October makes temperatures drop every week around this time, slowly inching towards a frigid winter.
For trekking the mountainous regions, one should always pack just the essentials and be ready to deal with any consequences and eventualities.
Here's a detailed list of all the necessary gears a trekker needs to carry.
Apparel and footwear:
Packing light clothing to layer up according to their needs is the key to maintaining an optimal body temperature during mountain treks. 3-4 Polyester full-sleeve t-shirts are especially good for treks as they are quick to dry and take up less space. A set of thermal innerwear will keep the body warm in low temperatures near the pass. Layering light fleece sweaters with padded jackets will also help in sub-zero conditions. This padded jacket must also have a hood to protect your head.
Woolen caps and beanies that cover the ears or a balaclava are ideal for wearing under the hood of the padded jacket to ensure no loss of heat from the head. If the collars of the pieces of clothing aren't enough to protect the neck against the cold, woolen mufflers are quite useful to wrap around. Woolen gloves will keep your hands warm. Aside from carrying 3-4 pairs of quick-to-dry, synthetic sports socks, a pair of woolen socks should also be taken to layer up at night.
Your Hampta Pass trek budget should consider proper footwear that will help cross the multiple streams on foot without a worry. Sturdy and good-quality trekking shoes with a robust body, good grip, waterproof body, and ankle support are ideal for wearing on treks.
Backpacks, waterproof covers, and sleeping bags:
A backpack of 40 to 50 liters of capacity is sufficient to carry your belongings on the trek. Offloading is permitted on this trek, whereby a hired mule carries the extra luggage. In such a case, the trekker must remember that they cannot access this luggage until they've stopped at the campsite overnight. So, a 20 to 30 liters daypack is ideal for carrying the absolute essentials like water bottles, warm layers, medicines, rainwear, electronics, wallet, and a headlamp.
Waterproof covers for backpacks must be taken to protect them from getting drenched in the rain. Water-resistant bags can also be carried to put in your electronics, wallet, and essential documents.
When you stay at the various campsites on the trail, you will encounter frigid weather at night. Temperatures often go sub-zero. So it is essential to carry a good-quality, thick sleeping bag to keep you warm and help you sleep peacefully at night.
Other important accessories:
Sunglasses with UV protection, suncap, headlamp, and a pair of strong trekking poles are required on this trek.
Carrying stainless steel cutlery is the best choice since they are reusable and easy to clean quickly. A spoon, a lunchbox, and a mug will be sufficient.
Medical kit with first-aid:
General medicines like paracetamol, antihistamines, anti-nausea, antacid, and painkillers should be carried. Since the dusty road to Chandratal may trigger asthma patients, a prescribed inhaler (if used) and anti-dust 5 ply masks should be kept at hand. An emergency first-aid kit should contain bandaids, antiseptic liquid, ointment, gauze swabs, crepe bandages, and a pain-relieving spray.
Toiletries and Hygiene Products:
Preparing a personal set of toiletries containing a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, biodegradable soap, lip balm, moisturizer, and deodorant is always recommended. Toilet paper, tissues, and wet wipes are particularly useful to freshen up quickly. Women should carry enough menstrual cups, tampons, and sanitary napkins to maintain their menstrual hygiene.
Important documents to carry:
Any government-issued photo ID with address proof, photocopies of the same, and two passport size photographs are to be carried. A voluntary medical declaration certificate is to be submitted with these documents at the forest guard check post for the officials to issue a trekking permit. The Hampta Pass trek package that a trekker has availed may not include this.
Once back in Manali, the Bhuntar airport or Joginder Nagar Railway Station can be accessed for connecting return journeys to various cities around the country. Another option is to take a cab to Chandigarh and embark on transit from there.
The Hampta Pass trek difficulty level is moderate, so building cardiovascular endurance is crucial to stand the strenuous parts of the trek. Jogging, walking, and swimming are good exercises for your lungs. Squats and skipping are good for strengthening your core. It is good to set certain distance and speed targets and increase them gradually for maximum fitness. Multiple gym sessions under the instructions of a trainer will also help to prepare.
Aside from building your physical strength, looking after your mental health is also essential. Meditation and pranayama, with light yoga exercises, work well to relax one's mind, focus on their goal, and improve breathing.
The Hampta Pass crossover trek is one of the most popular trekking trails of Himachal Pradesh. With its breathtaking scenic beauty and adventurous challenges along the way, it will appeal to any trekker looking for a low-budget Himalayan trek. Following safety protocols and precautions is of utmost importance to make wonderful memories on this trek.