The unlock process started and finally after 6 months of the lockdown the Himachal and Uttarakhand government opened its borders for tourists and in no time, my friends grabbed our gear and the “Hampta Pass Trek” plan was in motion.
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While descending from my Kedarkantha Trek in December 2019, I was still experiencing the adrenaline rush and remember promising myself to make 2020 the best year for my Backpacking and Mountain Trekking Journey. Little did I know back then what was about to hit the world on the gut.
In anticipation of 2020 Summer when the snow melts and altitude treks are scalable, totally looking forward to the challenging treks, comes the month of March, and the whole world is brought to its knees by an unknown virus which still doesn't have a cure and has recorded more than a million deaths in the world.
The unlock process started and finally after 6 months of the lockdown the Himachal and Uttarakhand government opened its borders for tourists and in no time, my friends grabbed our gear and the “Hampta Pass Trek” plan was in motion. I was always mesmerized by the landscape of this trek and it was the much-needed break to the beautiful landscape that I craved this entire lockdown.
We knew we needed to do this but the virus is still out there and there still is no cure to it. Hence we took the safety of ours and others as the top priority:
Precautions Taken by Us:
No Public transport
We decided not to take any public transport and drove to Manali and then to the Trek start point and parked our car there maintaining minimum contact with other people en route.
We didn’t stop for food at any Dhaba
Thanks to the married member of this trek we had a huge bag of food in our car and we never had to stop at any dhaba’s for food which eliminated contact with jam packed dhabas on GT road
No Trek Agency/ Trekking Group
We did our research and we planned to do this trek independently and did not go through any trek organization which eliminated the contact between other trekkers and the camp help. We packed our tents,sleeping bags, food, etc.
We stayed in the outskirts of Manali
We chose a guest house in Old Manali at the farthest corner near Manu temple where there were very few people and we had the advantage of a small hike in our backyard and also the glittering lights view of Manali at night from high above.
On the 12th of October, we started the trek from Prem Ji Dhaba where we parked our car. We were so excited to finally be on the Himalayan trails and we had planned to do it slowly and easily, enjoying every bit of it. Our backpacks were comparatively heavy as there was no intention of compromising on food. Our plan for the day was to reach Cikha and set up our camp before the sun sets but the universe had different plans for us.
We took a different route which was steep and harder to climb yet with a majestic view which explains why I ran out of space on my GoPro on the very first day and had to transfer content to my phone every evening after setting the camps.
We could see the original trail which was the definition of gradual from the top of the mountain we had climbed. We had to cross the river to join the original trail and as it was already 4 PM so we decided to set up camps. We know we were on the right trail now but we had no idea if we made it to Chika or not. We realized on our way back that we had camped a little bit ahead of Chika.
Note: Trek trick for solo trekkers for Hampta pass is to constantly be on the left side of the Hampta Nala through the valley and you will never lose the trail.
The first night of camping filled the void in our hearts that was created over the lockdown. The premix tea tasted great lying down on our camping mattresses and listening to our favorite tunes facing the sky unnaturally filled with the brightest stars.
Started early as we headed toward Balu ka Ghera. Today we were on the right trail along the Hampta Nala, walking toward the left through the mesmerizing colours of autumn. We crossed several streams, boulders, and meadows. It was the brightest day with the coldest breeze. The best part of the trek was that we had the entire mountain to ourselves as the trails were secluded and not crowded which is usually the case during the season for famous and beautiful treks like these.
Note: You don’t have to carry a lot of water on this trail as you walk by Hampts Nala throughout the trek.
We took our time, we took several breaks and stopped and spent time at various viewpoints, taking it easy and slow as planned. On day 2, we reached Balu ka Ghera early and set up camps for the night beside the river. The sun went down quickly and we sat down for some soup, suddenly the weather changed and the clouds started running wild and gathering all over us. Our game of UNO had to be shifted inside the tent.
There was another group (the only other group) who we met in the trail. They were basically not a group but a solo trekker with a big help team of locals and a guide. The locals indicated that we might witness the first snowfall of Hampta Pass and we got super excited but also a little concerned of not being able to summit if the snow is heavy. According to the locals, the previous year snowfall was around the same time, and looking at the weather, the chances seemed high. However, the next morning the sky cleared up and the sun was out.
We were almost running out of Gas cylinders and requested if we could use their kerosine stove to boil some water. Instead, they offered us dinner for the night. Apart from the food being tasty, we were also relieved that none of us had to go out and cook in the cold windy night.
Note: If you plan to cook your food and are dependent on the gas can make sure you carry enough. We were out on the trails for 3 nights and 4 days and we carried just 2 of 230g cans for 4 of us which was not enough.
On day 3
We started for the summit to Hampta Pass with only our water bottles and kept rest of our stuff back at the camp. We had our breakfast and did not carry anything to eat. We climbed big boulders and walked through a stream overlooking the valley with a magnificent view of autumn colors along with the raging sound of Hampta Nala.We climbed the final ridge from the right side which was opposite to the original trail which had loose sand and big boulders.
We reached Hampta pass and sat there for a while absorbing the magnificent view of Deo Tibba and the Glaciers. After the exhausting climb, we were hungry and we had bought nothing to eat which made our descent super slow. Once we were back to our campsite with almost no energy to move back to chicka which was the original plan.We camped again at Balu ka Ghera and promised ourselves to reach Prem Ji Dhaba the next day before sunset as we were also running out of food.
We started our descent and we were pretty quick to reach chicka before noon and decided to enjoy the last patch of the wilderness for a couple of hours by just lying down and eating the last maggie left.
We reached back to Prem Ji dhaba around 3 PM where our car was parked and these 4 days out in the wild, without masks as there was no one else was an escape from the current situation of the world and acted as a healing for the half a year of mountain craving we had during the lockdown.
Through personal experience, I can now say,’ It’s Time” It's time to go out, It's time to embrace the Himalayas and appreciate them more than ever.
And to be mindful while doing so, by leaving no footprints behind, by bringing back your trash as well as the trash you find en route, and most importantly by keeping minimum contact with people to keep yourself and others safe from coronavirus wherever you go.