The Hampta Pass trek is not just grand for being one of the most stunning crossover treks in the Himalayas, but also for the uniqueness and variety of its campsites.
The campsites — Jobra, Jwara, Balu Ka Gera, Shea Goru and Chhatru — are located on the 25-km long trail in the valleys of Kullu and Lahaul, which are connected to each other by the over 14,000 feet high Hampta Pass.
“What makes the campsites unique is the stark change in the setting of each campsite. I’m yet to come across a trek with such dramatic changes in such short intervals,” says Ravi Ranjan, Slope Manager at Indiahikes.
While I was interviewing Ravi and other experts for this article, I felt a strong urge to see the landscapes of the Kullu and Lahaul valleys. To see the forests, a sea of flowers and the unusually shaped mountains.
In this post, I’ll be diving into the campsites on the Hampta Pass trek to give you a peek into the scenery changes and what to watch out for at each of the campsites.
Jobra: The only camp bordered by forests
Jobra is the first campsite on the Hampta Pass trek, situated right outside the treeline.
“You step out of the forests and suddenly, you are looking at a vast valley in front of you. Tall cliffs line the valley on your left. Undulating meadows extend across the valley floor where it meets the cliffs.
Lining the campsite behind you are terrific pine, green maple and silver birch forests. Given that you trek to Hampta Pass between the monsoon months of June and September, the forest is a beautiful sea of green at that time of the year. And a stark contrast to this sea is the ashen bark of the silver birch, almost resembling an assembly of gaunt elderly men.
The camp is set beside the lovely Rani Nallah, which flows nearby with its baby blue waters. “You constantly hear the tinkling water at the camp,” says Trek Leader Aditya Bodke. Along both banks of the river is lush greenery. Sometimes you see sheep grazing, sometimes, yellow flowers bloom in abundance.
Beyond the treeline rise perpendicular rock faces. “The first thing I saw when I entered Jobra was a 4,000-metre vertical wall guarding the valley. A sea of clouds hung on the cliff. That was one of the most captivating views for me,” says Ravi Ranjan, Slope Manager at Indiahikes.
Jwara: Himachal’s Valley of Flowers
People from across the globe visit the Valley of Flowers in Uttarakhand, just to see the flowers. Jwara, to us, is the Valley of Flowers of Himachal.
Flowers bloom everywhere here, especially in July and August. “These flowers grow in and around the camp, so much so that it’s hard to find a flower-less spot to even pitch your tent,” says Aditya.
The colours change too. You see fields of purple, then you see sections of pink, and then yellow. You spot yellow Marigolds, Himalayan Blue Poppy, Pink Hill Geranium, Himalayan Primrose and Himalayan Windflower.
What adds to the experience are the waterfalls you see from here. You can identify Jwara from afar by its tiny waterfalls. All of them spout from tiny crevices in the jagged rock faces that wall the valley.
“Even though it’s a narrow valley, because of the flowers, the waterfalls, the Rani Nallah by your side, Jwara feels very open and grand,” adds Ravi, our slope manager.
The cherry on top is that you look ahead and you see the first glimpse of the Hampta Pass in the distance. Look back, you see the Dhauladhar ranges touching the sky with its snow-clad peaks.
Balu Ka Ghera: camping on a river delta with beach-like sand
Not many treks give you the experience of camping on a river delta. Pin Bhaba Pass’s Khara campsite comes to mind, yet it’s a trek that requires almost double the effort of Hampta Pass. But here’s a river delta campsite that will remain a favourite among many trekkers for its camping experience and easy access.
The river fans out into numerous channels at Balu Ka Gera. Unlike the lower campsites, the water here does not gush. It meanders quietly around the campsite and sweeps its way into a larger stream, which forms the Rani Nallah.
The Balu Ka Gera campsite, which directly translates to “bed of sand” is formed by the sand deposited by the Rani Nallah. “The soil is soft, like the sand you find on beaches. And you camp right on its shores,” says Aditya.
Along these shores are patches of land that are covered with grass and flowers of different colours. “This entire area gets covered with blooming flowers, especially after July. You will find some areas covered with yellow flowers, while at other places there will only be white flowers or a mixture of the two with other varying colours. It is a sea of flowers,” Aditya recalls.
The mules, who carry your necessary camping equipment, are left in these patches of land during the evening. They graze on the grasses and sometimes wade into the middle of the river, where the water is below knee-length, to drink.
And you can watch all these sceneries from the river in the evening. “You can hop over the rocks to reach the middle of the river, where you can sit on a stone and watch everything around you. It is very beautiful. No other campsite on this trek offers you this,” he says.
The flow of the water is low during this hour, so you don’t have to worry about being pulled into the river. However, the flow increases in the afternoon, due to the melting of snow and glaciers that feed the river.
“Given this campsite is at an altitude of 12,411 ft, you also see abundant snow patches here, especially in June and July,” says Sneha Yadav, our social media manager.
“This is also the last camp in the Kullu valley from where the greenery starts reducing,” she adds.
This is another highlight of this campsite. You can see the snow-covered route ahead and the green Kullu valley behind you.
Shea Goru: An oasis in a desert
Perhaps the most photographed campsite on the Hampta Pass trek, Shea Goru is your first introduction to Lahaul. Barren mountains tower around you, connected to each other with knife-edged ridges. Yet, the lush green valley floor takes everyone by surprise.
What trekkers don’t realise is that unlike the rest of Lahaul, the valley floor is lush green around the camp, making it widely known as an oasis in a desert. You camp right beside the Shea Nallah, which flows further down the valley to meet River Chenab near Chhatru.
What’s surprising is the sudden dip in temperature when you enter Shea Goru. In fact, the name Shea Goru translates into “cold valley.” Even in June, you will set up camp with snow patches around you. It is one of the coldest campsites on the trek.
Apart from its rich environment, this campsite is also popular for the stars you can see at night. Aditya remembers a beautiful experience late at night in September 2019.
“I was looking at the stars and the milky way. I wanted to capture them in my DSLR. I kept clicking to get the perfect shots. After a lot of attempts, I got what I was looking for. I captured the different colours, including pink and purple, of the milky way and the shiny white of the stars. It was very captivating and it is one of the most memorable things I remember of Shea Goru,” he says.
Chhatru: A Ladakh-like place
In contrast to Shea Goru, Chhatru is in the most barren part of the Lahaul valley. It is surrounded by jagged mountains, completely devoid of vegetation. “You’ll be strongly reminded of the beauty of Spiti and Ladakh. It is dramatically different from all other campsites on the Hampta Pass trek,” says Aditya.
The Chhatru campsite is set on flat ground beside one of the several streams that join the Chandra river. The streams come down from glacial flows directly from the hillside right behind your camp.
Further on, about 100 metres away from the campsite, across some boulders, is the thundering Chandra river. It is an experience to witness its violent flow and deafening sound.
Lahaul, and thereby Chhatru, is also great for its night sky. The starry sky, which is visible almost every night, lights up the darkness. The milky way adorns the camp. It is not surprising to find our trekkers spending a lot of time gazing at the stars at Chhatru.
“I have seen a lot of shooting stars. Our camp has a rock, where I would lay down at night and just watch the stars,” says Aditya.
About 70 km away from here is the beautiful moon lake, Chandratal, also in the Lahaul valley. It is reachable by road in three hours. Given that Chhatru has easy road access, most trekkers make a visit to Chandratal Lake after their camping experience at Chhatru.
Hampta Pass is one of those rare treks where every campsite is starkly different from the other
You trek through contrasting landscapes of different valleys, camping in forests, meadows, river deltas and oases.
No other trek, except this one, gives you such scenery changes and differing landscapes within a short duration. And it is not very physically demanding.
I suggest you trek with us, because of our trek leaders. Not just because they are knowledgeable of the trek and its campsites, but they can point you in the right direction to have your own memorable experiences. They have had their own experiences that are now forever etched in their minds.
If any of you have visited these campsites and have more stories to share, please feel free to share it in the comments below. We will be happy to explore the campsites through your eyes.