Surrounded by high pine trees I am listening to the briefing of our Indian guides. I am slightly nervous if my condition is good enough for the Hampta Pass, but also uber excited for my first real high altitude trekking in the Himalayas. Important things definitely not to forget are sunglasses, check, warm socks, check, a warm beanie, check and of course a lunchbox. What? I haven’t owned one since sixth grate. So last minute Sunday evening we find ourselves again strolling alongside the endless little shops in the centre of Manali in search of a lunchbox.
Sharp at 07:00 we arrive at our meeting point, our lunchboxes filled with a delicious western breakfast from our hotel. We are ready to take our India trip an impressive step up. By a four-wheel drive we drive up to Jobra the start point of our trip. Today starts easy with a 4 km hike through a mixed forest of pine trees, bright green maple trees and birches. Our experienced guides explain us that as trekkers, it is our responsibility to ensure we leave the trails in a better state than we find them. We hike with respect for the environment, so if you see trash you always pick it up and bring it with you.
After a 30-minute hike the forest opens up to the sloping grasslands full of yellow flowers of Chikha. The valleys are full of immense large rocks, I feel small in between the dazzling heights and strong elements. The shapes and colours of the valley intrigue me and I am looking constantly around me to don’t miss out on anything. Slowly I feel a headache coming up the higher we climb. Manali lays on 2050 m. a height we were completely used to after a week of writing, socializing and enjoying Old Town. I hoped a week well spend on that height would definitely rule out an altitude sickness. In the distance we see the first snowed peaks appear, a majestic sight, that immediately makes me completely forget about my headache. Soaked in sweat of the effort we take a rest on the warm rocks in the sun. We chat with our friendly experienced Indian group members and eat a delicious Indian lunch. The weather changes quickly in the mountains and with the sun disappearing behind the clouds we get up to walk the last part to our campsite Jwara.
I step out of my tent in the bright morning light to stretch and happily enjoy the gorgeous views of our camp. An excellent breakfast with pancakes and chai is served and we are full of good energy to go on. Walking out of Jwara the valley gets narrower; we walk slalom through tumbled down rocks, only stopping to refill our bottles in the river with ice water. Our speed is up high and we arrive at noon at Balu Ka Gera, our next campsite. For us girls a great moment to take a quick ice-cold dive into the water, to refresh after two days of trekking without shower. In the distance the Hampta Pass is already visible and the time left until sunset I spend taking snaps of the splendid view and the mystical mountain reflection in the broad river.
The real deal: the Hampta Pass
This is what we came for the Hampta Pass, a little challenge with technical snow climbing. Up until now, besides a little headache, I am feeling completely comfortable with the level of our group. The morning sun shines bright in my face. The blue sky, snowed mountains and even a small rainbow reflect brightly in the water. The beauty dazzles me and I can’t imagine being anywhere else then here. Careful we walk slowly up, first balancing from rock to rock over endless boulders and then up slippery snowed slopes. The valley we trek through looks almost like a gorge, intimidating mountains rising on either side. These are our final days in India and I am all in my head during the trek up. I can’t believe we are back in Europe in three days. I think of my friends most of them sitting behind their desks at the very same moment I am climbing Himalayan slopes. How happy I am with my free lifestyle, how far we have yet come and how much work is still ahead to reach our goals. I want to do something good, make a change, be different then the overload of travel blogs that is already there. Walking here I realize more and more that being responsible and leave no trace is our bridge into the future. Lost in thoughts I reach the highest point of the Hampta Pass at 4270 m. An incredible twist in scenery unfolds before my eyes: from the green and snowed valleys to an expense of desert mountains of Spiti. Les and I and our super hot guide high five. Huh what? Yes! Seriously digging India Hikes! From here it is only down, with a little snow slide in between. Tired but fulfilled we reach the outlandish Shea Goru campsite. A beautiful sunset paints the evening sky pink and purple and I feel literally and natural high. For the first time I shoot for the stars and with success thanks to my helpful fellow hikers. The night sky filled with endless stars is clearly visible in my snap.
Last but not least
Slowly I dip my feet in the cold rapid streaming river behind our tents, with a reflex I pull my feet immediately back out. It is definitely a fresh start of the day to cross the river. The scenery is breath taking in the soft morning light. We walk deeper and deeper into Spiti Valley’s barren landscape, a sharp contrast to the green landscapes of Kullu Valley, I feel like we are doing two trekkings in one. The sun is out bright and to end our trip we drive to Chandratal, an equal of the famous Panong Lake in Ladakh. Swimming in the deep blue lake set among hash brown mountains with snowed tops is a deserted surreal crown to a fantastic hike and first visit to India.