I struggled giving a title to this post..should I have said “Hampta Pass, 14500 feet – done and dusted”? But that’s far from what I feel!
It’s not a personal victory over the mighty Himalayas but the feeling of gratitude to the multitude of people who helped me cross the pass, gratitude towards nature for having let us see the sights we saw, for the weather being in reasonably good condition, for the slips that didn’t turn into major falls!
I think gratitude and an understanding of the abysmally unimportant and minute nature of human-life are my biggest takeaways from this trek.. and this sets me free!
We all live in our own personal worlds within the larger world. A personal world where we are all important, where our decisions have huge impacts, but somehow, being with the mightiest of mountain ranges sets me free from this self-imposed prison! To understand that I am but a very small speck in the cosmos, gives an entirely new perspective to the worries and the daily grind. It makes me live my life with a lot more freedom of mind..
I know this philosophical rant is not what you look for in my blog..especially one on a trek! you want to see beautiful photographs(All courtesy my trek mates..I am the worst photographer there is!), blow-by-blow details of the ascent, of the people and the place…and I nor the Himalayas are going to disappoint you! So here goes.. A motley crew of nine from Bangalore, a few of whom i had trekked with before, but most of them who turned out to be wonderful new friends I made, left for the mountains.

Day 1: Travel to Chandigarh by air and then a tempo traveler to Manali. 

Since I had traveled to Manali pretty recently, this seemed like the shortest route . We reached Manali by around 12:30 AM the next day. Had an awesome nights sleep in one of the most comfortable cottages I have ever stayed in. we booked the double room cottages. http://www.treehillcottages.com/ Not to forget the jolada rotti and shenga chutney provided by Guru through the journey!

Day 2: Manali – Jobra- Cheeka

Late wake-up and awesome breakfast of Gobi paranthas and we headed to the Rambaugh Circle on Mall road to meet up with the rest of the trek team from IndiaHikes – http://hamptapass.com/ Met up with the trek lead Ashish and the very handsome and dashing Arjun (I think that was the name…all the girls in the team had a mini heartbreak when they got to know he wasn’t going to be leading our batch but was leading the batch coming after us! ) Since we had to wait for a couple of people who were yet to arrive (their bus had broken down a couple of times the night before, as we came to know later..), we hogged on bikaneri jalebis, ice-creams and chai to pass the time. We left from Manali to Jobra by around 1:30 PM and reached Jobra within an hours time. The drive is beautiful and gives you a teaser of whats in store for the rest of the trek! Standing in between clouds, with a light drizzle, we ate ‘Siddu’, a Himachali delicacy, which was described as the ‘big brother’ of a ‘momo’. Let us suffice to say that none of us were a huge fan of this dish, but it did help fill our tummy and caused all sorts of tummy troubles for the majority of us!! Jobra to Cheeka was an uneventful easy 2-3 hours trek through a slight ascent and pine forests and a meadow. On the eve of the trek , I had had a brain wave and decided to take my laptop bag as my backpack…since it was supposed to be ergonomically designed et all. Huge mistake! It weighs you down so badly and now I know there is a reason there are light-weight backpacks manufactured! Lesson learnt!

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Day 3: Cheeka – Bhalu ka ghera. ‘Bhalu-ka-ghera’ – it instantly brought to my mind ‘Bhalu the bear’…and in my imagination there were a lot of bears, holding a round table conference, roasting marshmallows over a bonfire…now, hold your horses, it doesn’t match my imagination one bit, but Bhalu ka ghera means a huge pit/mound of sand, which is left over once the rivulets passing through the area dry up! So off we went from Cheeka..slightly difficult ascent, had a phase of around thirty minutes where breathing became extremely difficult, but it passed and with a lot of encouragement from Sunil, one of my trek mates, we reached ‘Bhalu ka Ghera’. Beautiful campsite as usual!

Day 4: Bhalu-ka-Ghera – Shea Goru (After crossing Hampta pass)

I had wisely given up on guessing the meaning of names by now! Ashish, our trek lead explained to me that Shea Goru meant the ‘road of winds’ and so it was! But before that let me give you the low down on crossing the pass itself, the dreaded and steep Hampta pass, which the trek leads had us believe was just after the next slope. We had to cross many a steep blanket of ice before we could reach Hampta Pass! The clouds were so close and would envelop us like a blanket, making visibility a challenge. We also had to use crampons/micro spikes to help us through this climb! I have to mention about ‘Superman – Sid’. He climbed the pass with a torn ligament in the knee, without taking a moment’s break, but kept trudging on when the rest of us would take a break just for the heck of it! Sid, you were an inspiration to all of us!

Superman Sid!

Superman Sid!

The exhilaration on reaching the pass was awesome! A lot of photo sessions later, our tummies started rumbling, but the packed lunch of soya pulav had frozen and had become inedible! We were saved by the rations of dry fruits and dates and chocolates that we had brought along! That said, the trek team were very open to suggestions on the food quality, but I do not think, there might be anything that would survive the temperature at the pass and still be eatable! The descent into Shea-Goru and thereby the Spiti valley was the steepest I have done so far and was lots of fun! Camp at Shea Goru, next to the river was the most beautiful.

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Day 5: Shea Goru to Chatru/Chandertal

It rained heavily during the night and our trip to Chandertal was hanging in balance, when the skies suddenly cleared up and a very faint rainbow appeared on the horizon, as if to say that our trip to the moon-lake will be done! The walk down to Chatru is a gentle descent and beautiful at the same time. You will start to see a long winding road as you near Chatru and this is the first sign of civilization that you get to see after so many days in the mountains! I was not really sure if i liked being close to humanity again or not! Chatru to the Chandertal lake, was done in vehicles and i would be lying if I don’t admit that i was glad there was no more walking! Spiti valley has a beauty all its own…it is barren, cold, majestic, sporting a myriad different hues in the dry dust…the mountain peaks all look to be of varied colours ranging from brown to red to a dull bluish grey! Chandertal lake, like all alpine lakes is crystal clear and beautiful and shaped like the moon, as the name implies! We fooled around in the icy cold waters, stayed on till it was too cold to stay put at one place. Another thing that I observed, is that even the slightest of activity in Spiti valley will cause breathlessness initially. This is because the air is so thin here and the oxygen content is very less due to the near absence of any vegetation! Back to our camp in near Chandertal lake, to be followed by a night of music ,dance and revelry! Panna Lalji,the cook – our anna daata, redeemed himself that day with amazing carrot halwa! He also proved to be one hell of a musician as he sang lovely Himachali songs accompanied with drums on an empty plastic can! I will always remember this mad caper of a night with Guru singing ‘Jumma chumma’ song and we adding our own ‘Bhalle bhalle’ twist to the Himachali dance steps!

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Day 6: Chatru/Chandertal to Manali

Next day back to Manali, freshened up in the same cottage that we had booked earlier, had dinner at a place called Ilferno. Amazing Pizzas, lasagna and salads and an amazing fresh oven baked biscuit topped off with chocloate mousse – fiametta I think, it was called….yum, yum! Oh and not to forget, the roadside leg massage 😉 Early next morning, we were off to Chandigarh. My backpack, that I hated so much during the trek, got stolen in Chandigarh! Maybe I had grown too trusting, sticking for so long with the mountain people! But I also lost all the small little trinkets I had bought for friends and family back home along with my gloves and cap which were four Himalayan treks old!

Oh! I am forgetting to mention so many things.. Especially the ‘cliff hanger’ type save of a fellow trekker by our assistant trek lead Mahi! Also a special feeling getting to know that Mahi was the same shy fifteen year old I had met on VoF trek a few years ago and now he is such a handsome, confident albeit still a bit shy and very emotional and a wonderfully endearing person! In his own words “gaane se meri phatthi hai!!” and off he disappears before the music and dance begun!!

And also our river crossing adventure and sliding down a steep descent on ice, scraping my back totally in the process!

Oooh..how can I forget finding ‘nandini’ good life milk at a tea shop in Spiti and me and Naga going all gung-ho about seeing kannada there!!

The last one, I promise…no explanations, except that the memory is going to bring out the giggles in many!! IMG_6617 Still in the same head-space and finding it very difficult to come out and work in the rigid cubicles of a corporate environment. Till the next time the mountains call, I shall wait and prepare and dream away!

Picture Courtesy: yashu, Divya, Sid, Jairaj, Nagashree and others if I have missed out, please remind me!