Why Hampta Pass is a superb trek for mid May
Every since Indiahikes launched the Hampta Pass trek for the May 15, we have been repeatedly asked about the choice of mid May as the start of the trek.
Let me clarify something, the Hampta Pass is a grand trek for any season. And the Hampta Pass is open to trekking for more months in the year than our other treks like the Roopkund, Rupin Pass or Goecha La. There is a simple reason for this: Hampta Pass at 14,500 feet is at a lower altitude.
The special thing about the mid May attempt on the Hampta Pass is the snow. The amount of snow that you will see on Hampta Pass is something that will make you believe that you are in the arctic. I make no bones about it – snow is a big draw for most trekkers. And the way it is laid out on the Hampta Pass, it brings on a different dimension to the whole trek.
It has also got to do with the terrain. Most treks that we conduct are over very open valleys – like the Rupin Pass or the Roopkund. The Hampta Pass on the other hand is a crossing that starts out in a narrow valley and stays that way until the very end, when we descend at Chatru. The narrowness of the valley accentuates the gathering of the snow, making a trekker believe that the setting in snow is somewhere in New Zealand or Europe.
In Mid May you will find the first patches of snow even on day 1 – lining the sides of the valley walls. On Day 2, as you climb through the Jwara meadows, snow patches start increasing – they are everywhere and almost immediately you hit the first snow bridges over the Rani Nalla.
That day when you camp at Balu-Ka-Gera, you are on a wide river bed with snow mounds rising all around you. The temperature drops. Quick acclimatization climbs on the snow patches around the camp make for a perfect preparation for your next day’s adventure of the Hampta Pass crossing.
The next morning, just as you step out of the Balu-Ka-Gera campsite, the Rani Nalla disappears under you – under a vast snow bridge. It reappears briefly as it widens to a flat bed of clear water – in fact, your last water source – to go under snow and ice never to be seen again. It is strange to think that a good part of your trek to the Hampta pass is actually over a snow glacier on the Rani Nalla.
The next few hours of trek are entirely on a snow valley that stretches end to end. Climbing the next 2,500 feet over multiple snowy ridges, you reach the Hampta Pass at 14,500 feet, a narrow flat snow plateau. Mt Indersan and Deo Tibba tower over it. The monochrome snowy setting is everywhere.
Getting down from the pass, it is almost a vertical descent through narrow snow ledges and gullies to the open valley of Shiagoru. If the climb to the pass on the snow isn’t thrilling enough, the arctic valley of Shiagoru makes you think that the view cannot be in this world – so surreal is the setting. The entire valley is like the arctic with a total cover of snow. For the first time you pitch camp on snow.
The next day the descent is again on snow over mounds of moraine. The trail re-enters an even narrower valley. At times the sides of the valley are two steep to hike and you have to drop down to the snow at the valley bottom to continue your descent. The trail finally ends at Chatru, crossing glaciers and snow patches. Some of the snow patches stretch forever. We camp at Chatru right next to tall snow patches under which clear brooks bring us water for the camp.
In a nutshell, mid May is a great time to do the Hampta Pass if you want to experience snow – and see snow in its various hues. It is special because it is accentuated by the narrow valley of the Hampta Pass. A few days later in June the grandness is lost.