TREKKING IN LAHAUL AND SPITI

Trekking in Lahaul, Kinnaur and Spiti

The border areas are being opened to trekkers with permits. At the same time the local tribal people are being exposed to outside influences which started with the introduction of television in these valleys. Now enterprising families open their homes to paying guests, youths offer their services as guides and muleteers and shops stock bottled drinks and canned food. However, anyone trekking in this region is advised to carry food, tents and all essentials.

LahaulLahaul, like Zanskar and Ladakh immediately to the north, is an ideal trekking destination during the monsoon, as it is not nearly as wet as most other regions. The best time to go is from mid-June to mid-October but some passes, eg Shingo-La, Parvati Pass, may remain snow bound until mid-July or even later.

You can take a trek from
Darcha
. Padum is linked with Leh. Shingo-La is over 5000 m so some acclimatization is desirable. The route is well marked.
An alternative route to Zanskar is up the Chandra valley and over
Baralacha La
. From here a trail leads over a high pass to Phuktal, where you join the main trail coming from Darcha. Most travellers drive into Darcha; however, a fine trek past the ‘Lake of the Moon’ or Chandratal makes a nice and less known addition for those with a little more time. The route taken from
Manali
 is over the
Hamta Pass
 with good views of Deo Tibba (6001 m), weather permitting, to
Chhatru
village in the Chandra Valley. Here, there is camping in the grounds of a rest house and local families can put up visitors in very basic homes. It is four days’ trek from Manali. Two days along the dirt road brings you to
Batal
 (to save time you can take the bus from Manali over the Rohtang Pass). The next stage of both variations is to Chandratal.
Chandratal
 (4270 m) is 18 km from Batal. The first section up to Kunzum Pass is on the bus route. The remaining 8.5-km trail is open June-October and brings you to the beautiful clear blue-water lake, about 1 km long and 500 m wide, which lies on a glacial bowl. Carry your own tent and provisions. The lake can also be reached on a lower 14-km trail that directly runs from Batal (no regular buses from Manali). From Chandratal the route crosses several fast flowing streams before reaching the Baralacha La (usually three days). You need to be very careful and take adequate safety precautions while negotiating these stream crossings. It then goes over another pass along the same ridge as the Shingo-La, to join the main Darcha-Padum trail. From here you can continue on to
Padum
 or return to Darcha in Lahaul. This second option makes for a very good circular trek.
Another possibility is to trek down the Chenab Valley and either cross the Pir Panjal by one
of a number of passes into the Ravi Valley via Bahrmaur, to Chamba or carry on to Kishtwar.
Around lower Lahaul, you can trek from the district town of
Udeypur
 at the base of the Miyar Nullah, the upper section of which is glaciated. To the east, high passes give access to the Bhaga valley and to the west to the Saichu Nala (Chenab tributary). The Trilokinath Temple nearby is well worth a visit .
Trails run into the Miyar Nullah, renowned for flowers, then over the 5100-m Kang La pass to Padum. Alternatively, you can follow the Chandrabhaga River to the scarcely visited Pangi valley with its rugged scenery, then over the 4240-m Sach Pass leading to Chamba District.
In the Pangi Valley, the Chandrabhaga flows at over 2400 m after the two rivers meet in this desolate and craggy region. The cheerful and good-looking Pangiwals keep their unique heritage alive through their singing and dancing. The Mindhal temple to Devi is their focus of worship.
Kilar
 is the HQ which has a rest house and the Detnag Temple nearby. From Kilar a wide trail follows the steep slopes above the Chandrabhaga (Chenab) River to Dharwas on the Himachal/Kashmir border and then onwards to
Atholi
 in the Paddar region of Kishtwar, known for its sapphire mines.

Kinnaur

Close to the Tibetan border on its east, Kinnaur has the Sutlej flowing through it. Garhwal is to the south, Spiti Valley to the north and Kullu to the west. The rugged mountains and sparse rainfall make Kinnaur resemble Lahaul. The Kinners are Hindu but the Tibetan Buddhist influence is evident in the numerous
gompas
 that can be seen alongside the temples. The
Phulaich
(Festival of Flowers) takes place in September when some villagers leave for the mountains for two days and nights to collect scented blossoms, then return on the third day to celebrate with singing and dancing. Kinnaur, including the lovely side valleys of
Sangla
 and
Bhabha
, is now open and permits are easily available from the District Magistrates in Shimla, Kullu or Keylong. These treks are immensely enjoyable; although there are stone huts and the occasional rest house, always carry a tent in this area.

Baspa Valley

Starting from
Sangla
 (2680 m), you can take a fairly level forest walk up to Batrseri (5 km), then along the road up to Rakcham (8 km; 3130 m) and climb gradually to reach
Chitkul
 (18 km; 3450 m), passing through Mastrang. Another option is to start at
Morang
. The trail follows the Sutlej River bank for a short distance until the Tirung Gad meets it. Here it turns southeast and after going through a narrow valley reaches
Thangi
, a village connected to Morang by road (4WD only) where mules are available for hire. The track continues along barren hills to Rahtak (camping possible), before rising steeply to Charang Pass (5266 m), then drops down following a mountain stream to Chitkul.
Bhabha Valley

Starting from

Kafnoo
 (2427 m), 22 km from Wangtu, this is another beautiful valley to trek. Permit details have to be entered and stamped at
the police post 1 km before Kafnoo reservoir. They are checked at Tabo.
There is level ground at the end of the road by the reservoir suitable for camping, but it can get flooded. Local guides are available. From Kafnoo, the trail follows the right bank of the river for about 1 km before crossing to the left bank over a new bridge. From here, the trail gradually ascends to
Chokhapani
, about a five-hour walk away. The riverside trail is slippery and not recommended. The upper trail climbs past Yangpa II then through fields around Musrang hamlet. There is an adequate campsite at Chokhapani (10 km, 3000 m).
From Chokhapani to
Upper Mulling
 (3470 m) is a beautiful 8 km, four hours’ walk (including lunch stop), following the left bank of the Bhabha stream. Initially going through forests the track then crosses open meadows. At the far end of the meadows is an ideal camping site by the river. The trail from Mulling enters a forested section leading to a snow bridge across the stream. Cross the stream and follow the steeply rising trail to the
Kara
 meadows where the Government Animal Husbandry Department has a merino sheep breeding centre. Ford the Bhabha River with care (either on horseback or by wading across with support from a fixed line), to the campsite at Pasha. This section takes three hours, so you can continue to the
Kara-Taria Pass Base
. The 5-km walk up a steep trail along the right fork of the Bhabha stream takes another four hours. Taria Base Pass (4290 m) camp is below the steep slope leading to the Pass. Camp well away from the slope as it is prone to rock falls.

Pin Valley

There is a steep descent over scree for the first kilometre from
Taria Pass
, followed by a five-hour 15-km walk along a narrow but clear trail to the first camp in the Pin Valley. None of the apparently promising campsites on the way has a good water source. The
Bara Boulder
 site has a stream and good grazing for horses.
The 11-km stretch from Bara Boulder to
Mudh
 (3925 m) takes four hours. It is the highest permanently inhabited village in the Pin Valley and is surrounded by summer cultivation. Log bridges cross several streams feeding into the Pin River. There are places to stay and food is available but some villagers charge up to Rs 200-300 for a room. It is possible to camp outside the village. One campsite is on the flat plateau over- looking the river near the summer hut of the lay
lama
 (before crossing the narrow foot bridge on the river), another is near the fields immediately below the village where a side stream runs below the old monastery into the Pin. It is worth visiting the old
gompas
 in the village.
From Mudh to
Gulling
 is a gentle five-hour trek (15 km) along the right bank of the Pin. A single log bridge takes the path into Tilling village, followed by a gentle climb to the big village of
Sangam
 on the opposite bank . The track crosses a rocky spur and descends steeply to some small fields beside the river. Descend to the sandy riverbed and cross diagonally to the single wire rope strung across the river. A makeshift pulley and harness crossing has to be rigged up here unless a suitable shallow spot can be found further downstream. Camp can be set up in the fields just below the road immediately above the crossing point.
From this point arrange to be picked up to drive to Spiti. You can visit the small but locally important Nyingmapa Gompa of Kungri (Ghungri), just above the road, and if you have an extra day based here you can walk up the short stretch of dirt road towards Sangam, then turn right into the virtually unknown Parahio River valley, an important tributary of the Pin.

Spiti

Spiti is a high-altitude desert, bare, rugged and inhospitable, with the Spiti River running from the slopes of Kunzum La (4551 m) to Sumdo (3230 m). Kunzum La offers seasonal access by road to Kullu from the valley, and it is also directly connected with Shimla via the NH22 and the SH30. Like neighbouring Lahaul, Spiti is famous for its
gompas
. Foreigners are allowed to trek in this region up to Kibber with permits.
At
Tabo
, the Buddhist monastery is one of the region’s most famous . There is a dispensary and two adequate teashops. Foreigners are now allowed to stay overnight in Tabo. There are other important
gompas
 at Dankar, Ki, Kungri and Lalung. Trekkers interested in
fossils
 choose a trail starting at
Kaza
 and travel to
Langza
 (8.5 km), which has a narrow track accessible to 4WD. The trek goes to Hikim, the Tangyut monastery, Komik (8 km) and returns to Kaza (6 km). From Kibber (4205 m) there is a 6-km track through alpine meadows to
Gete
(4520 m) which claims to be one of the highest permanent settlements in the world only reached on foot.
Keeping in view the altitude and various factors related with it, trekking has been categorised in two broad categories, i.e., Low Altitude Trekking and the High Altitude Trekking. In the first category trekking activity is limited below the snow line, whereas in the latter type a trekker finds himself crossing high passes, snow fields, difficult terrain and camping at rarefied sounds. This necessitates mastering of some techniques and proper acclimatisation and equipment to avoid mishaps and mountain sickness. This does not mean that trekking should be construed to be climbing or mountaineering. Climbing is a specialised field requiring intensive training and sophisticated equipment. Trekking is only a first step towards that direction. It requires a pair of strong legs, will power and some easily available equipment.” However, there’ is no denying the fact that some experience of rock climbing proves good in high altitude trekking. Knowledge of mountains, glaciers, valleys and terms connected with these can make trekking immensely enjoyable and educative exercise. Therefore, some terms pertaining to mountains and glaciers have been included in Appendix A. This will help a beginner to appreciate mountains, glaciers and such like phenomena in a better perspective.
Although schools and colleges, various government and private .agencies and organisations have started conducting trekking and hiking tours in the Indian Himalayas, trekking continues to be a low-key activity. When compared to Nepal, trekking in India is unorganised and uncontrolled activity. The north-eastern states, Kumaon and Garhwal hills of U.P., Jammu camp; Kashmir and Himachal.Pradesh attract a sizeable number of Indian as well as foreign trekkers, but the potential has not been fully exploited. As far as Himachal pradesh is concerned trekking is confined to Shimla, Dharamasala, Chamba and Kulu districts. D.M.I. Manali has given a much required impetus to this activity. Kinnaur has also started attracting trekkers after vigorous advertisement campaigns launched by Himachal Tourism Department. Lahaul continues to be one of the most neglected trekking regions despite a plethora of trekking routes. The flow of Indian trekkers is almost negligible. Most of the trekking in Lahaul is being done by the local clubs. About two thousand foreigners visit this valley every year during the open season. The trekking programmes of the foreigners are mainly confined to the classic trekking routes to Padum in the Zangskar region of J&K. Some of them trek to Chandra-Taal via Darcha and by the Baralacha la. From Chandra Taal they usually go to Manikaran in Kullu district. Some choose Myar valley for going to the Zangskar region or the Pangi valley in Chamba district. Rarely do they take trekking routes from Lahaul to Chamba, Mani Mahesh and Dharamasala.
Earlier lack of roads and very limited knowledge, about Lahaul deterred people from undertaking trekking and climbing expeditions in this beautiful area. In the past these expeditions could not materialize for want of road communication upto the base camps. Now equipment and rations can be carded in the automobiles right upto the base camps. Rations like dehydrated and tinned foods, mineral water, etc. are easily available in Keylong at competitive rates. With the creation of infrastructural facilities the Lahaul valley offers all s. orts of opportunities to explore the region. Much Will depend on the taste, interest and aptitude of the individual. One thing is certain that Lahaul’s magnificent peaks, snow serpents, i.e., glaciers, awe inspiring precipices, spectacular gorges, blue water lakes, refreshingly verdant valleys, potato fields, alpine-himalayan flora and fauna, mystique monks, monasteries, its myth, legend, folklore and a totally different tribal culture will leave an indelible impression on the minds of the visitors.The best trekking season in the Lahaul valley is between July and October. Because of climatical and geographical factors trekking in the Lahaul valley requires detailed and careful planning.

Trekking Routes

KULLU-MANALI/LAHAUL SECTOR :
Lying to the south of Lahaul, Kullu is known as the valley of Gods. Some call it district of orchards too. Kullu is famous for its week long Dusshera festival when the reigning deity Raghunathji is brought out in his Rath or Chariot. Gods & Goddesses of the valley come to this festival to pay homage to the supreme deity.
  • MANALI TO KEYLONG OVER ROHTANG PASS
  • MANALI TO KEYLONG OVER HAMTA PASS
  • MANIKARAN TO KEYLONG OVER SARA UMGA PASS
  • KEYLONG TO MANIKARAN OVER BARA SHIGRI GLACIER
CHAMBA-LAHAUL TREKS :
Famous for its folk embroidery and rumals, Chamba, a small district of Himachal, attracts a number of tourists every year. Chamba abounds in indigenous hill styled temples and Shikhara temples. most of the temples are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Chamba is also called valley of honey and milk. 
  • KEYLONG TO MANI MAHESH OVER ASHA GALLI PASS
  • KEYLONG TO BHARMOUR OVER KUGTI PASS
  • KEYLONG TO BHARMOUR OVER KALICHHO PASS
  • KEYLONG TO BHARMOUR OVER CHOBIA PASS
  • KEYLONG TO KILLAR (PANGI VALLEY)
  • KEYLONG TO KILLAR OVER GURHDHAR PASS
LAHAUL- J & K SECTOR :
This hill state of India called J & K has three regions namely-Kashmir, Ladakh and Zangskar. The himalayas separate the valley of Kashmir from the Zangskar valley. Zangskar is separated from Ladakh by the Zangskar range. On the south-west, the Kashmir valley is bounded by the lower Pir Panjal Range.
  • KLG -LEH TREK
  • KEYLONG PADUM OVER SHINKUN  LA
  • KEYLONG-PADUM OVER BARA LACHA LA
  • KEYLONG-PADUM OVER MON LA
LAHAUL-SPITI SECTOR :
The Spiti sub-division of district Lahaul & Spiti presents a more difficult terrain, climate and habitation because average mean elevation of the great and middle Himalayas of Spiti is over 5,485m above mean sea level. There  are a number of virgin peaks and treks in the area. The arid landscape without any sort of vegetative cover has its own spellbinding effect.  In this valley is Kibber the highest village in Asia connected with road. Its monasteries-Kye and Tabo are world famous. The moonland is totally different from Lahaul.
  • KEYLONG TO KAZA, SUMDO TREK OVER KUNZOM PASS
  • KEYLONG TO KAZA OVER PANGPO LA
  • KAZA–MANIKARAN OVER PIN PARBATI PASS
  • KAZA TO BHABA (KINNAUR)
CIRCUIT TREKS :
    • CHOKHANG VALLEY TREK
  • KEYLONG — CHANDRATAL –KHOKSAR TREK
  • KEYLONG-DARCHA-KHOKSAR–OVER TEMPO LA
  • KEYLONG TO KHOKSAR OVER RANGCHA GALI PASS
  • MYAR VALLEY EXPEDITION
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