Trichy Trekkers go on crossover expedition to the Hampta Pass in the Himalayas

Scene from the Hampta Pass trek.

Scene from the Hampta Pass trek.  

There were thrills and chills aplenty during a visit to the Himalayan vales organised by Trichy Trekkers

A group of 26 adventure enthusiasts from Trichy Trekkers recently had an opportunity to escape the oppressive heat of the plains and experience the snowy climes of the Himalayas.

Though it lasted only five days, the crossover expedition to the Hampta Pass, (14,035 feet) a small corridor between Lahaul district’s Chandra Valley and Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh on the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas, was a great exercise in inter-personal bonding, say the trekkers.

“When you are exposed to something very new, it is a little difficult to adjust, but then it becomes very interesting. You’re in the wild, and out of civilisation totally. With nothing else to distract us, we have to just bond over the basics,” says Ramesh Kamak, the founder of Trichy Trekkers.

Though the non-profit group initially started with just a website to gather adventure seekers in Tiruchi, today its membership of 1500 includes people from places like Madurai, Coimbatore, Thoothukudi, Thuraiyur, Kozhikode, Bengaluru and Gulf countries.

Route map
  • Day 1 (July 20): The group assembles in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, having travelled from Delhi by bus. After a two-hour drive, the trail starts at Allain Barrage. The first camp site is Jobra, 30 minutes by trek, at 9, 379 feet.
  • Day 2: Ascent to Jwara camp, 11,194 feet, 4.5km, 4 hours
  • Day 3: Trail to the base of the Hampta Pass. A wet and sandy trek up to the campsite of Balu-Ka-Ghera at 12, 411 feet. 5km, 4 hours
  • Day 4: From Balu-ka-Ghera to Shea Goru (12,864 feet) via Hampta Pass, 5km, 9 hours.
  • Day 5: Shea Goru to Chattru (10,898 feet). 6 km, 4.5 hours

Test of stamina

For the Himalayan trip, which began on July 20 and was organised by the online trekking club, the group of 18 men and 8 women flew from south Indian cities to Delhi, (2 members flew in from the Gulf) and travelled onwards to Manali, the nearest point to the trail, by bus. The trek on a scenic forest route full of pine, silver birch and maple trees, started from the village of Pirini towards the first campsite in Jobra, located at a height of 9379 feet next to the Rani Nallah.

The trekkers’ skills and stamina were tested most during river crossings, because the ice-cold water and uneven rocks below needed careful navigation.

The trail to the base of the Hampta Pass base camp on the third day was trickier due to the slippery rocks and gooey river sand. “We were all muddied and soaked wet before we even reached the Balu-ka-Ghera campsite at 12,411 feet,” says one trekker.

Despite the challenging terrain, the trekkers took care to reduce their carbon footprint on the virgin landscape.

“On all our treks, we make members collect their own rubbish and dispose it properly in a big city, so we try not to add to the litter that we see along the way. For this trek, we took along an eco-bag with a clip-on device, which we used to collect the rubbish, and then brought it back to the campsite where it was segregated before disposal,” says Kamak.

The trekkers also used a dry toilet system that is less harmful to the environment than conventional facilities.

Members of the Trichy Trekkers’ Hampta Pass crossover trek. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Members of the Trichy Trekkers’ Hampta Pass crossover trek. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

Snowy adventures

The most thrilling part of the trek was undoubtedly the snow-laden route on the fourth day. Kitted out in shoes with micro-spikes, the trekkers spent close to 9 hours on the ascent from Balu-ka-Ghera to Shea Goru via Hampta Pass. A dense cloud reduced the visibility considerably, and the rarefied atmosphere made breathing difficult.

“Though we reached top of the Hampta Pass in 5 hours, there was very little time to celebrate since the weather was getting worse, and we were unable to see much around us,” says a trekker.

The descent was not easy either.

A moraine (a mass of rocks and sediment carried down and deposited by a glacier), made it a near-vertical climb down for the trekkers.

To traverse the vast expanses of ice slopes overlooking the Lahaul Valley, some of the more adventuresome trekkers decided to glissade — sliding down the slopes with the help of friction and ice axes.

It took another two hours of walking through rocks and more ice before the trekkers reached Shea Goru camp.

Saying goodbye

The trek ended the next day with a moderate trail to Chhatru. The route, with a few ice patches, glacial flows and gentle inclines, included a crossing of the River Chandra and the Spiti Valley with the Chhatru Glacier in the background.

The dusty road to the Chattru camp was the first sign of civilisation for the trekkers, who came across dozens of bikers crossing the Spiti Valley enroute to the Chandrataal Lake.

The Trichy Trekkers exited the trail by road via the Rohtang Pass.

“We got to see a lot of biodiversity, and natural beauty spread out in one place, which is quite unusual when we go trekking,” says Naveen Krishnan, a Thuraiyur-based farmer and environmentalist who was the official photographer of the trip.

Nature was at her best during the trek. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Nature was at her best during the trek. Photo: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT  

Climb every mountain …

Physical fitness was a key concern for the group before they set out on the trek. “Some people misjudge how strenuous a Himalayan trek can be, so we had a few trial events locally to see how well they would hold up on the actual journey,” says Anita Ramesh, a Tiruchi banker who coordinated the trip. “Once we plan a trek, we form a WhatsApp group for those who have registered, and start communicating. Nobody needs to be a super-athlete, but we do advise them to take up some form of exercise like swimming, walking or yoga.”

For architect Hari Karthick, who nearly missed qualifying for the trek due to his lack of fitness, preparing for the journey was a motivation to get healthier. “If you are not fit, you cannot enjoy the trek, and you could end up with a medical emergency,” says Karthick, whose health, like that of all the other participants, was monitored through an app for two months before the trip.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 5:45:34 PM |

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