Arjun Majumdar is often asked about the “surprises” on the Rupin Pass trek. He puts down a list here of the 12 surprises of the Rupin Pass trek in Himachal.
It is common knowledge among trekkers that the Rupin Pass trek is full of surprises. Not every trekker watches out for the changes in sceneries though. Here, he makes a checklist of all the surprises that’s in store on the trek. Look out for them.
1. The trail starts to climb immediately out of Dhaula, your base camp for the trek. Around 20 minutes into the trail, the climbs levels out. Look out for a sudden appearance of the entire Rupin River fanning out into a wide bed below you.
2. At Sewa, ask villagers to direct you to the temple. Those who have never seen a temple of the Kinnauri tradition will be in for a surprise. The temple looks like a watch tower – tall, standing on a base that runs at least 4 storey high, ending in a kind of a cabin with a sloping roof. So unique is the architecture that it is unlike anything you would have seen.
3. Further on, the trail briefly meanders on the Rupin river bed before climbing on to the embankment. The trail soon runs into a dilapidated wooden bridge over a smallish tributary of the Rupin. Spend some time on the bridge because it is the first surprise of the day – the bridge separates the two states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
4. Stepping past the post office of the Jiskun village, peer straight ahead and high up in the horizon. A cluster of houses, marking a village hangs out of the mountainside – so incredulous, that it takes time for you to fathom how a village can hang from the walls of a mountain. The village is Jhaka, your next camp site.
5. Half hour outside Jhaka village, the trail flattens out and plunges into a fir forest, so sudden that it is almost like a gate has opened up. Pine trees over 100 feet tall tower over the trail. And within the enchanting forest Maple trees play hide and seek. The forest ends as suddenly as it starts over a confluence of the Rupin with a tributary.
6. Later, past Udukanal and just past Buras Kandi, around a bend in the trail a sight leaves you gaping. Rhododendrons bloom everywhere and climb a thousand feet into the slope. It is a riot of colours: pink, violet and white Rhododendrons – all of the dwarf kind. Some of the Rhododendrons even swoop over the clear waters of the Rupin, their flowers falling into the river to be carried downstream forever.
7. After a while, stepping over the roots of the Rhododendrons, the trail suddenly tunnels into a view of the U-shaped Rupin glacial valley. In the far distance, at the end of the valley, are the famous three stage Rupin waterfalls. They appear to be falling from the clouds.
8. Soon after Saruwas Thatch, the trail climbs over a bump to suddenly stand on the lip of the glacial valley. The sight in front is straight out of a picture book. The Rupin flows gently, slowly through the middle of the greenest meadow that you have seen. On the sides of the valley, snow patches stick to the valley walls.
9. Look out for the snow bridges that you have to cross on your way to the lower water fall camp site (Dhanderas Thatch). Snow bridges are common on slopes but to see them on a wide open valley is a surprise.
10. Getting to the upper water fall camp site is a series of switchback climbs over the three water falls (and many on snow bridges and patches). Climbing the final ridge, the Upper Waterfall camp site is unlike any place you have seen before. It is a large basin where icy flanks of mountains surround it. Below the flanks snow melts to form hundreds of little streams that join together to form the Rupin.
11. The final climb to the Rupin pass is through a gully. In the narrow snow laden gully voices echo and reverberate through its confines – something that is new to most trekkers.
12. Getting out of the Ronti Gad campsite on the Sangla side, the trail descends harmlessly along over meadows, when a sudden bend on the trail brings you face to face with the towering summits of the Kinner Kailash ranges.
There are many other twists and turns on the Rupin Pass trail. I have listed the most significant ones here.