When did your trek start? Asked our trek lead just the night before our Summit day. Many said when they booked the ticket, or when they started training for it. But what we all realized is the trek starts on the very day when it’s thought first settles in our minds.
For me it was about 3 months back when we (husband and me) zeroed in on this trek – Hampta pass. An idea that got both of us equally excited, which is rare for two people who hardly agree on something so quickly.
Here’s why we chose Hampta Pass over other treks –
- The views – It had almost everything to offer, meadows, snow clad mountains, beautiful riverside camps, lake (you will see through this blog)
- The difficulty level – Indiahikes rated this as easy to moderate. We assumed we would be able to do this with some amount of prep
- The weather – This being our first trek we wanted to do it in summers (but mountains had other plans)
- The start point – This starts from Manali, it gave us the opportunity to explore this city and places around.
For a few weeks before the trek my binge watching pattern shifted from Netflix to Indiahikes YT channel. With all the checklists of shopping and fitness routine in place, I started counting days to the D day equal parts scared and excited.
Day 1 – The Beginning
Campsite – Jobra (9379ft) , Trekking hours – 1-1.5
Highlight – Hot Jalebis at 9800 ft
We reached the Indiahikes Manali basecamp at around 10:30 am. After a few hours of briefing, we left for our first campsite. This started with a 2 hour drive. Just as we got out of our vehicles, the rain gods welcomed us with showers and set the mood for a trek that we expected to be dry and sunny but turned out to be far from it. But this was just the first day so walking in ponchos with a 7 kg backpack to the first campsite despite the slushy trail and blurry views was still super exciting!
Ending the trek for the day at such campsites was what kept us going.
We Warmed up to the group of co-trekkers over food and games. Smaller groups were formed, tent mates were found and we all slowed into the pace of the mountains, gazing into the greens and the blues. The days were always full of excitement, the nights were challenging. The cold got colder; the dark got darker. With headlamps we stood in queues to wash our utensils after having hot jalebis for dessert. The kitchen team here were a group of magicians who served such wholesome food with so much love, it almost felt medicinal to keep up our systems running at such heights. And then came the next challenge, getting into our sleeping bags for the much-needed rest. What was worse? getting out of the layers of the bag and the tents to attend nature’s call in the middle of the night, leaving behind any trace of body warmth generated so far. But then even this had a reward – the starry skies!
Day 2 – Rain rain go away!
Campsite – Jwara (11194 ft), Trek time – 5-6 hours
Highlight – I think I saw the Milky Way
If I had to rate the trek days, this one would have to be the most uneventful one. Started trekking at 8 am, amidst incessant rains throughout the 6 hour trek through boulders and patches of green. Though the trail was pretty, but we could hardly pause and appreciate it thanks to the rain scare. I hate how I didn’t even get to click any pictures on this day. All I have from this day is this plastic person in the middle of these beautiful frames.
After we settled into our tents post dinner is when the rain stopped for good. Around 2 am when I woke up for the dreaded walk up to the bio toilets, I saw a clear sky. Switched off the headlamps for a minute and I couldn’t believe my eyes! I think I saw the milky way. Although Amey thought I was hallucinating (possible at high altitudes), but I have a pretty vivid memory of what I saw. Billions of stars, and a shiny white path through it. This picture shall remain in my head for days to come and more I hope.
Day 3 – Hello Sun!
Campsite – Balu kaa Ghera (12411 ft), Trek time – 5-6 hours
Highlight – Walking through ice cold river.
Finally the weather started behaving like June! We had to start the day quickly to be able to make best of the sun. We got into our wet clothes and shoes with a hope to dry them through the trail. The cameras were out, the trail was filled with grasslands and blooming flowers. The ascent was gradual and luckily we got time to pause, relax capture the moments at our pace.
The challenge for the day was crossing an ice cold river bare feet, We screamed and shouted as we went through this feet numbing experience. It took good 10 minutes of jumping and moving to feel our legs again. It was thrilling nevertheless. As we approached the campsite, the mountains grew bigger, the tiny patches of snow also grew larger. This was the closest I had ever felt to snow clad mountains. This also has to be my favourite campsite. Mainly because of the extravagant views here but also because of the journey we went through at this campsite (more on that later). I think I took some 100 pictures here, I couldn’t get enough of this unreal site, although none of the pics do justice to the real view. Not to forget the hailstorm after noon this day, leaving us with tiny ice mountains outside our tents.
Day 4 – The fear, disappointment and then the hope
Campsite – Balu kaa Ghera (12411 ft)
Highlight – My First snowfall
This was supposed to be the summit day. 4-5 hours of ascend through the snow to 14065 ft and then 4-5 hours of descend, all in one day. The emotions were mixed. Bodies were tired but the excitement was high. This is what we all came for. But for the two of us, there was a twist in the story. From our campsite to beginning of the snow patch there was a boulder section. Once we walked through it, we wore our microspikes to start walking on the snow. After walking up a few metres, Amey (my husband) started feeling dizzy. I thought it was just due to lack of sleep. But it grew worse, he lost sense of direction due to snow all around. We had no choice but to descend.
The rest of the group had to go ahead, and we were sent back. The walk back to the campsite was quiet and long. We came back to our tents and kept staring at the mountains that didn’t let us climb up.
After a few moments of silence, I thought we can’t give up yet. We had one more chance to attempt this the next day with the next group of trekkers. Luckily for us, all this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The next group of trekkers met us with so much energy and warmth that all the physical and mental fear disappeared. The cherry on the cake was the seasons’ and my first snowfall ever which we would have missed if things had gone as per plan.
Day 5 – The Summit day
Campsite – Shea Goru (12864 ft), Trekking hours – 8 -9
Highlight – The crossover and the snowslide
Officially the most challenging and the most rewarding day. We were more aware of the challenges today and ready with hacks and strength to conquer it. Baby steps, deep breaths, will power and a group of motivating trekkers around us. Amey fought his fear and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this testing walk. Snow till the end of horizon, mountains bigger than my vision, it was a moment to be remembered forever. We made it to top, to the Hampta pass. It was an overwhelming feeling, and I’ll have to skip describing it because I possibly can’t put it into words. Leaving you with pictures of joy.
This was followed by a steep descent and probably the only time I was scared through the trek. Walking and sliding on snow, where slipping could do some serious damage. After having made it alive and fine I can call it fun though 😊
This super strenuous day again ended with another beautiful campsite. Rains were back. The changeover from the site we slept in and the site we woke up to was unbelievable!
Day 6 – The final descend and goodbyes
Campsite – Chatru (10,898 ft),
Highlight – The change in terrain to Spiti valley
The descend is tougher. I didn’t feel physically strained on the way up, but the way down challenges your calves and knees. The reward here was the stark crossover from Kullu valley to Spiti valley. It went from green to snow to barren, all different kinds of beautiful.
The most amazing thing about the entire journey is the varied experiences we gathered in a matter of 5 days! We saw sun, rain, hail, snow in one single day. Our physical and mental strength was tested. We saw such unique and beautiful views that a city dweller can only dream of. The mountains I saw in pictures or from hundreds of kms away, I actually walked on top of it. And ofcourse the amazing friends we made on the way.
Heartfelt thanks to the mountains and the people of the mountains. Till we meet again!