The Complete Guide For The Beautiful Hampta Pass Trek

Chandra Valley After Crossing the Hampta Pass
Chandra Valley After Crossing the Hampta Pass sherpafeet

 I had been waiting to trek the Hampta Pass for a long time, but like most other people, getting a break from work was the challenge. I love my work and taking time off at the expense of work was unacceptable to me, but what was even more unacceptable was breaking a friends heart. So when my friend set his heart on this trek, I just could not refuse.

It was that lucky phone call during one of my busy work days from Nikhil that got me thinking of a suitable trek for him. This would be Nikhil’s first high altitude Himalayan trek. We were considering doing either the Hampta Pass trek or the Hampta Circle trek. I wrote another piece comparing these two treks, if you are in two minds like I was.

Hampta Pass Trek Starts From Manali

Early Morning in Manali - Pigeons near the bus stand.
Early Morning in Manali - Pigeons being fed near the bus stand.

The Hampta Pass Trek starts from Manali and the trek ends at Chhatru. The trek can be done after June and till about October, when the snow level reduces. In the other months a guide can customize the trek so instead of crossing the pass a trekker could return back to Manali. 

From Chhatru I had planned to continued my travel to the district headquarters of the beautiful Spiti Valley, Kaza. Usually trekkers also choose to include a visit to the Chandrataal lake after the hampta pass trek. Chandrataal lake sits below the Kunzum Pass.

I had reached Manali before my friend and was there to pick him up from the Manali Bus Station on his day of arrival. 

It is recommended that trekkers spend a day in Manali to rest and get prepared for the trek rather than planning to start the trek the same day!

Hampta Pass Trek From Jobri to Jwara

We started our trek from Jobri. Jobri is nearly a 2 hour drive from Manali, mostly because of the bad roads. Our guide Ravi Thakur had arranged a cab for us from Prini Village, the cabs in and around Manali cost a fortune, but then looking at those terrible roads I assume the cab drivers spend half of what they earn fixing their vehicles after the trip. Duh.

A little ahead of Jobri on the Hampta Pass Trek
Mountains Near Jobri On Hampta Pass Trek

On the first day we trekked from Jobri to Jwara.

The views on the trail from Jobri to the Jwara camp kept changing as we started ascending the valley.  From the beginning of the trail itself we could see big mountains, some of them made of vertical rocks. It felt like, someone brought a knife and sliced the mountain from a side! The views around us were stunning, we saw the trail disappear into the clouds just a few hundred meters ahead of us. We were surrounded by greenery sprinkled with brown black rocks of different sizes. 

The Hampta Pass Trail Dissapearing into the clouds
The Hampta Pass Trail Dissapearing Into The Clouds

The landscape with steep mountains covered in green, with trees rising vertically up presented us an awe inspiring sight. The massively tall trees created an illusion of being tiny on these massively big mountains.

The trail was clear at most of the places till chikka, thanks to the popularity of this trek.

The valley itself changed size from becoming narrow and wide in places. We crossed over a wooden bridge soon reached the chikka campsite.

Wooden Bridge On The Hampta Pass Trek
A photograph here is almost mandatory on the hampta pass trek!

The trail was made of rocks of different sizes, our guide told us to be alert and not place our foot on small or loose rocks as it could cause us to slip and fall. He said it is always recommended to place the foot on a big rock.

We took a picture while crossing the wooden bridge, this has become a must do for anyone doing the Hampta Pass trek! The hampta pass trek will go all the way near to the source of this river which is above the Balu ka gera campsite.

White Coloured Flowers On the Hampta Pass Trek
White Coloured Flower On the Hampta Pass Trek

The hampta pass trek trail from here on will be sprinkled with flowers especially in the monsoons months.

Purple Coloured Flowers On The Hampta Pass Trek
Blue and Purple Coloured Flowers On the Hampta Pass Trek

Flowers of different colours from dark red, pink, white, blue, yellow,  purple, they adorn the landscape like jewels.

Red Coloured Flowers On The Hampta Pass Trek
Red Coloured Flowers On The Hampta Pass Trek

We saw the mighty hard rocks surrounded by delicate beautiful flowers, on these mountains we have them all, the beauty and the beast.

Pink Coloured Flowers with a Rocks in the Background
Pink Coloured Flowers with a Rocks in the Background - Beauty & the Beast

There were a couple of streams for us to cross, it wasn't very difficult for us as I am an experienced trekker and our guide gave us a hand whenver things got tricky. An inexperienced trekker needs to exercise caution as the chances to slip a foot and fall is much higher while crossing a stream.

The Valley. Picture Taken Between Chikka and Jobri
Picture Taken Near Chikka On the Hampta Pass Trek

Talking about the stream, on the hampta pass trek our trek was along side the river for most of the time. At places when the valley widened the river went out of sight but the sound of the flowing river always kept our ears filled. The pristine white water of the river flowing in seeming fury over huge rocks in its path, made an amazing sight and also some beautiful photographs.

River On The Hampta Pass Trek
The Beautiful River On The Hampta Pass Trek

We were trekking hampta pass in the month of july, in this month we experienced not only the monsoon rains but also the sun and the clouds playing their courting games with the mountains. We saw each one trying to beat the other with their moves and in turn changing the ever beautiful landscape in a multitude of ways, enticing and charming us, surprising us with their every move.

I felt privileged to witness this lovely enchanting game of nature, high up in no mans land. The wind was playing cupid in this beautiful valley, blowing the cloud any which way it wants.

Romancing the Clouds On The Hampta Pass Trek
Romancing the Clouds On The Hampta Pass Trek

We saw the trees on the mountains look like dark green bushes from a distance. Who says trees are not social, on these mountains, the trees grow together, next to each other, forming  dark green patches, similar to the shola forests of the western ghats but not that big.

Different Shades Of Green On The Hampta Pass Trek
Different Shades Of Green On The Hampta Pass Trek

We did see a few solo trees though, these trees stood all by themselves like a lone warrior, who having seen the world has given up his lust for company.

Humming a sweet melody we kept walking, feeling the beauty in our hearts while the wind caressed and whispered in our ears. This is where we wanted to be. Always.

Just before Jwara, there is a big river crossing. It is a difficult river crossing and what makes it really difficult is that -

  1. The water in the river comes up to a little above the knees AND flows with a lot of force.
  2. The water in the river is ICY cold!
  3. The river bed is full of rocks big and small. Sharp & flat. And it is impossible to see where we are going to keep our next step.

So crossing this river meant, we were going to get our legs numb & cold and possibly hurt as well by the sharp rocks. We took off our shoes, hung it around our necks, held each others hands and crossed the river carefully.

This river crossing could get dangerous and needs to be crossed carefully.

Don’t try crossing this if you don’t have the help and guidance from a local person who has crossed this before. It is much more difficult to cross than it looks.

There is a rope which is fixed permanently on top of a few rocks across this river, to use this rope you would need someone to send a msg to the person who has put this up, he runs a dhaba at Jwara (Hopefully he will be available).  He can bring the needed carabiners and support needed to be able to cross the river using the rope.

It is best to cross this river crossing before 2 pm, as the flow of the water increases from the melting snow as the day passes.

We reached the Jwara campsite well in time. Jwara is a beautiful campsite surrounded by the beautiful Himalayan flowers of many colours.

The Beautiful Jwara Campsite On The Hampta Pass Trek
The Beautiful Jwara Campsite On The Hampta Pass Trek

We had the river flowing not very far from the campsite, with huge mountains as our backdrop we settled down in our tents. The Jwara campsite makes a picture which seems to comes right out of the pages of the National Geographic.

River Close to the Jwara Camp On The Hampta Pass Trek
River Close to the Jwara Camp On The Hampta Pass Trek

Thats when I realised those pictures in the National Geographic are for real, as in real real, and for all the good deeds I have done in my lifetime, I find myself right in between this beautiful scenery, becoming a part of this wonderful untouched creation of nature. But wait, our happiness was not to last long.

At the Jwara campsite a company had pitched its tent permanently, at a time and place when we were looking for some solitude and peace we found ourselves crowded with a big group of 30+ trekkers.

A big group of trekkers on the Hampta Pass Trek
A big group of trekkers on the Hampta Pass Trek

At a time and place, when I wanted my ears filled with either the silence of the mountains or the gurgle of the streams or the whisper of the wind, instead I heard excited voices of trekkers playing dumb charades or a similar sounding games. At a place, where I expected to find untouched stone and crystal pure water, I found the earth dug up, so the trekkers can take a dump in them.

Well, it wasn’t that bad as it sounds. As the size of the magnificence of the place was such, it couldn’t have been snatched away by the few human transgressions.

The brilliantly majestic mountains, with their brown and black stone walls - gleamed in the sunlight - partly due to the July rains.

On the mountains on the other side of the river, I could see wide open parrot green coloured meadows, with the meadows extending all the way into the sky.

On reaching the campsite of Jwara, and after having some hot tea, I took a stroll around, exploring the area. After monkeying around in the beautiful place, I eventually found a big flat rock, I sat on it and enjoyed the surroundings for a while before heading back to the camp.

Monkeying around in the Jwara Camp
Monekying Around The Jwara Camp

With dusk also arrived the rains, which made us get into our tents and in there, we enjoyed some more hot tea while chatting about anything and everything.  The rains seemed incessant with the constant pitter patter sound of the rain drops falling on the tent. The rhythmic sound of the rain like lullaby put us into a deep slumber. We slept like rocks.

I guess it rained the whole night. We had good tents and sleeping bags which kept us well protected and warm through the night.

Hampta Pass Trek from Jwara to Balu Ka Ghera

Our plan for the next day was to trek from Jwara towards Balu Ka Ghera and camp above Balu Ka Gera, at Ratan Tholi.

Treking from Jwara to Balu Ka Gera
Treking from Jwara to Balu Ka Gera

By the time we woke up, the sun had risen quiet a few hours ago. It was a lazy morning, we got freshened, had our morning tea and breakfast. Today we were trekking till Ratan Tholi, which is above Balu Ka Gera. 

On the way to Balu Ka Gera on the Hampta Pass Trek
On the way to Balu Ka Gera on the Hampta Pass Trek (Trekker in the background of the flowers)

What does Balu Ka Gera mean?

There are different stories about the origin of the name Balu Ka Gera. Some folks say, the name Balu here stands for Bears, as Bears live around this area. The person at the Dhaba, said Balu stands for Sand, as there is a lot of sand accumulated at this place. How did the name really originate, I still haven't figured, drop a comment if you have an idea about this.

The two Balu Ka Gera Camp sites!

Did you know there are actually two Balu Ka Gera campsites!

Within a couple of hours of starting our trek from Jwara, we reached the first Balu Ka Gera camp site. To our pleasant surprise we found a small tea shop here, which also stocked some food and could provide shelter to a few trekkers for the night if needed.

We had some tea and biscuits at this dhaba and set forth ahead towards the second camp of Balu ka gera, which is about an hour away from the first camp. The trail from the Balu ka gera camp one to the second camp is a gradual climb, We saw the valley here has widened quiet a bit and the river was on our right hand side with the trail being more or less in the middle of the valley, we did not see the river for some parts of this trail, till we reached a sort of lake.  We found rocks scattered all over the valley during this part of the Hampta Pass Trek.

Balu Ka Gera on The Hampta Pass Trek
The Second Balu Ka Gera Camp(On the right hand side of the lake on the grass, notice the yellow tents there) 

On reaching the second Balu Ka Gera campsite. We saw a few tents pitched on the other side of the river (Towards our right). The trail to Hampta Pass continued on the left hand side of the river stream. The trail here is not clear. In fact the trail from Jwara to Balu Ka Gera also dissapears and reappears at places.

The Last Camp Before Hampta Pass.

The last camp before Hampta Pass is popularly believed to be the Balu Ka Gera camp. But there is yet another spot which is good for camping, provides water, has grass and away from possible rock falls. I am talking about Ratan Tholi. And thats where we had planned to camp for the night.

Balu Ka Gera to Ratan Tholi On the Hampta Pass Trek
Balu Ka Gera to Ratan Tholi On the Hampta Pass Trek (Picture taken slightly ahead of Balu Ka Gera Camp)

It took us about an hours time to reach Ratan Tholi from the second Balu Ka Gera camp. After the previous nights experience, I had resolved to camp far away from the fixed camps!

On the way to Ratan Tholi, the last camp
On the way to Ratan Tholi, the last camp. Trail is on left hand side of the stream

The trail to Hampta Pass continued on the left hand side of the river from Balu Ka Gera. We climbed all the way up the mountains ahead of us, it was a steep climb.  It took us about 45 minutes to reach a place close to the top (Front view picture below). From here we looked back and we could see an eye warming view of the wonderful Hampta Pass valley below. In the front of us and a little below, we saw some grass on which the river was trying out a dozen different paths. We found the place itself covered with beautiful yellow flowers. The river by now had reduced to a stream. 

Beautiful Place With Flowers and Streams On Hampta Pass Trek
Just Before Ratan Tholi  After climbing, close to the source of the river.

We had to climb a little more to reach the camping spot of Ratan Tholi, from here on looking back we could see the majestic Hanuman Tibba peak which was at a distance in the horizon, the peak covered with snow protruded into the sky.

The Ratan Tholi camping spot on the hampta pass trek was one of the most beautiful and secluded camping spots I have seen. It was a small camping spot and could probably accommodate three to four tents beyond which it would get overcrowded and lose its beauty.

The camping ground had the river flowing to its right, while facing the direction of the pass.  The picture below has been taken facing the opposite direction of the trek, so the river is seen on the left hand side.

Huge massive mountains peeping through the clouds can be seen in the backdrop of the picture.

Ratan Tholi Camp Site On Hampta Pass Trek
Ratan Tholi Camp On Hampta Pass Trek. (Notice our blue tent!)

We pitched our tents, enjoyed the beautiful views around, did some photography, before we retired for the night.

Hampta Pass Trek From Balu Ka Gera to Shea Goru 

On day 3 we trekked from Ratan Tholi camp which is an hour above Balu Ka Gera to Shea Goru and from there to Chattru.

Ratan Tholi Camp On Hampa Pass Trek
Ratan Tholi Camp. Hanuman Tibba Can be seen on the horizon.

Good luck was with us, we had a clear sunny morning and there was just an occasional shower the previous night. We were a little apprehensive about the weather, especially since the night earlier it had rained - all night. Today we planned to cross the Hampta pass, having good weather while crossing the pass was important.

Second Day Morning On Hampta Pass Trek
The View From Ratan Tholi Camp, Towards Hampta Pass. Early morning 7 am (July End)

The beauty of the campsite and the excitement of the journey ahead made us all energetic and we woke up early to start our trek. The first thing we did on coming out of our tents was to appreciate the beauty of Hanuman Tibba with its snow covered peak.

We started our trek by 7 am. 

The trek till Hampta Pass was a steep climb and took us about 2 hours. Many parts of this climb was through snow and over boulders. I had a good pair of shoes on and managed the snow walk with relative ease. Having a good pair of shoes is important to avoid slipping here.

Snow On The Way To Hampt Pass
Flowers Grow where ever they can!

To our luck, it was a nice bright day. The sky was dark blue with white clouds scattered in beautiful formations. The clouds continued to play their hide and seek game on this vast playground of theirs. The beauty of the place took away our attention from the steep climb. We walked up over rocks of different sizes which lay scattered all over. At some places there were beautiful yellow coloured flowers growing between the rocks.

We could see peaks jutting out of white clouds. It looked like castles in a fairyland.

Peaks Jutting Out Into The Sky On The Hampta Pass Trek
Peaks Jutting Out Into The Sky On The Hampta Pass Trek

The snow we walked on was mostly hard, it was kind of soft on the top but hard beneath it. It was white in colour with black and brown coloured dust and mud accumulated at its edges and sides.

Snow On The Hampta Pass Trek
Snow On The Hampta Pass Trek (July End)

Our guide had dutifully reminded us that Ratan Tholi is the last water point and there will be no water source for the next four hours of the trek. The next water source was a little before Shea Goru. We were carrying sufficient water to keep us hydrated.

Just about reaching the Hampta Pass
Just about reaching the Hampta Pass

The trek till the pass was without doubt the most tiring part of the trek. We felt overwhelmed and simultaneously relieved when we reached the top of the pass. On reaching the top, we spent some time admiring the beauty around and relaxing. It is a beautiful place, the rocks here look like they were designed for us to sit on. It felt like an amphitheatre which is now in ruins.

THE HAMPTA PASS TOP (An amphitheatre in ruins!)

The trek from Hampta pass to Shea Goru took us about 2 hours. From Hampta Pass, we found the trail to be a steep downhill with some tricky sections.

Descending to Spiti Valley from Hampta Top
Descending to Spiti Valley from Hampta Top

I find downhills more difficult than uphills. So I walked this part with extra caution. Which is also important because of the loose sand and small rocks scattered on this trail, which can get slippery. Unlike on the other side of the mountain, I found this side of the mountain to be a riskier prospect.

While descending, we had a few horsemen with their horses coming up from the other side, probably going back to Manali.

Horsemen going towards Manali From Spiti Side
Horsemen & their horses going towards Manali From Spiti Side

The trail here was narrow and I got off the trail, towards the mountain side giving way to the horses to pass. Our guide told us that it was critically important to stand on the mountain side and not on the edge while giving way to the horses. As the horses could get clumsy and a slight push could end in a fatality.

Our guide said, this is also the case when we carry a bagpack. We need to be careful while passing by any rock which is protruding on the trail. The bagpack could push on the rock and hence pushing us off balance.

We got some beautiful views while descending to Spiti, this was towards the end of july and we got to see the slopes covered with grass and beautiful flowers. (Picture below)

Flowers while descending to Spiti Valley On the Hampta Pass Trek
Grass covered with yellow flowers while descending to Spiti Valley On the Hampta Pass Trek

And then we saw some more flowers ...

Flowers On The Hampta Pass Trek
Flowers On The Hampta Pass Trek

The steep descend from hampta pass lasted about an hour and at the end of the descend we were welcomed with snow again.  Our guide told us that the snow here lasts till the the month of August and would have to be crossed carefully as it is downhill and slippery. With the help of our guide, I sat on the snow and did a small slide to reach the other side. That was fun!

It took us another hour to reach Shea Goru and all through the way we are presented with such amazing views, that distance stopped mattering!

View Of Spiti Valley - Approaching Shea Goru
View Of Spiti Valley - Approaching Shea Goru

The views on crossing Hampta Pass was of the Spiti Valley, which was much different from the views in our earlier part of the trek. We hardly found any trees here, there were lots of small bushes & flowers.  Our guide told us that during the monsoon months of July and August, we can see parts of the slope covered entirely by bright yellow flowers, like the ones we saw.

On entering spiti, we suddenly found ourselves in a landscape devoid of trees. From the mountains covered with dark green trees on the other side, we now found ourselves surrounded by greyish mountains with light green grass. The change in view was refreshing, the vast expanse of space energised our minds!

In this beautiful valley, we saw longish pink spitian flowers, growing in abundance. The huge boulders which we saw on the other side were replaced by relatively smaller rocks. It was such a welcome change, that it raised our spirits.

Pink Flowers Just Before Shea Goru
Pink Flowers Just Before Shea Goru - After Crossing Hampta Top

Hampta Pass Trek From Shea Goru to Chhatru

The liesurely trek from Shea Goru to Chhatru took us about 4 hours.

The River Crossing after Shea Goru on the Hampta Pass Trek

 After Shea Goru we had to cross the river to the other side. Our guide said that,  this river crossing is best done as early as possible in the day when the water levels are relatively lower.

We found this river crossing to be a bit harder than the previous river crossing before Jwara. (But this could change depending on the flow of water which changes as they are different valleys). As usual our guide made us hold hands to form a chain and with our shoes hanging around our necks, we crossed the river. After crossing the river it took us a few minutes to relieve our foot from the numbing cold and pain of the experience.

The Trek from Shea Goru to Chhatru on the Hampta Pass Trek

Our trek from here was pretty easy as it was a gradual descent all the way till the Chandra river and then a flat one kilometer walk till Chhatru.

It was an awesome walk through this valley, with a nice light feeling in our hearts, our minds relaxed in the beauty of the environment around us.

On the way to Chhatru from Shea Goru
On the way to Chhatru from Shea Goru

The trail just got more and more beautiful.

The Beautiful Surronding Between Shea Goru & Chhatru
The Beautiful Surronding Between Shea Goru & Chhatru

After about 2 to 3 hours of trek we were able to see a tiny road in the valley below right in front of us. It was on the other side of the Chandra river. This is the road which goes to Batal, Chandrataal and Kaza.

A peak into Spiti & Chandra Valley
A Peek into Spiti & Chandra Valley

Right in front after the road we were able to see another valley which seemed endless! It was a brilliant view of the magnificently expansive himalayas.

The Endless Valley Right In Front
The Endless Valley Right In Front

Chattru is on the left hand side of the picture above. It is about a kilometre away after descending. On the way we also had a small river crossing. On reaching Chhatru, we had some nice hot tea in the Dhaba there.

Satisfied and happy our Hampta pass trek had come to an end!

Spiti Flowers
Flowers On The Way To Chhatru