The Complete Guide to Darati Pass Trek
The Darati Pass Trek is easily accessible from Chamba, which is the base camp of their Panjals of Chamba and offers some of the best treks in the entire Indian Himalayan ranges. Some of them are as high as 5200 meters. However, that’s not the difficult part. The difficult part is reaching Chamba by road. Whichever way you opt to get into Chamba, be it the convenient Dalhousie, Kangra side or the treacherous Sach Pass route, reaching Chamba by road is difficult. Special tribute needs to be paid to the ‘rickety’ bus drivers who make this possible and the conductors who do this 15-hour trip over and over again with hardly any rest. So next time you go to Chamba in those rickety buses, just say a word of appreciation to the bus conductor. I am sure he would like your lovely gesture.
➤ Highlights of the Trek
- One of the best treks in the Pir Panjal mountain range.
- The Darati Pass, 15,420 ft (4700 meters) connects the Churah Valley of Chamba to the Tindi Valley of Lahaul and Spiti Districts.
- Tindi is the last village in the Lahaul district across the Chandra Bhaga River. Other than the gaddis’, the general public too frequent this pass usually during the festival season.
- Churahis cross the pass to take part in the religious festival at Triloknnath Temple at Udaipur and Lahaulis cross to pay a visit to the Manimahesh Kailash.
➤ Trail Information
The Pir Panjals of Chamba offer some of the best treks in the entire Indian Himalayan range. Some of them are as high as 5200 meters. However, that’s not the difficult part. The difficult part is reaching Chamba by road. Whichever way you opt to get into Chamba, be it the convenient Dalhousie, Kangra side or the treacherous Sach Pass route, reaching Chamba by road is difficult.
Special tribute needs to be paid to the ‘rickety’ bus drivers who make this possible and the conductors who do this 15-hour trip over and over again with hardly any rest. So next time you go to Chamba in those rickety buses, just say a word of appreciation to the bus conductor. I am sure he would like your lovely gesture.
The Darati Pass, 15,420 ft (4700 meters) connects the Churah Valley of Chamba to the Tindi Valley of Lahaul and Spiti Districts. Tindi is the last village in the Lahaul district across the Chandra Bhaga River. Other than the gaddis’, the general public too frequent this pass usually during the festival season. Churahis cross the pass to take part in the religious festival at Triloknnath Temple at Udaipur and Lahaulis cross to pay a visit to the Manimahesh Kailash.
Tindi Bridge. Image from Indiahikes Archive
Day 1 – Seeking Refuge in the Village
The trek starts from Dantuin village in a remote corner of the Churah Valley. Simply put, this means another extended bus journey of five hours. The best thing to do is to halt at the Dantuin Village itself. One can either camp at Dantuin or seek refuge in the village. There is a popular ‘Maral Khundi’ Temple at Dantuin, a grocery store and ample space to pitch a tent there. All this makes for a brilliant rest night before the real trek starts.
Mural Khundi Temple. Image from Indiahikes Archive
We, a team of three, opted to seek refuge in the village. Then we started our hunt for a guide but did not succeed because it was the harvest season and no one was willing to step out of their fields. Secondly, the younger generation in our villages prefers the road route so you rarely find a youngster willing to walk across the high passes. With a heavy heart, we decided to walk on our own, which is usually the case with most of our treks.
We were told that we can make it across in just one day. We weren’t them so we didn’t believe them. We simply gathered the information that it was going to be a difficult and a long walk to the top, and beyond. Two days later we realized that we had underestimated the past. This was extremely difficult and an unbelievably lengthy walk.
It rained the entire night and with the hope of a bright and clear sky the next morning -we went to bed. The next morning nothing changed except for the fact that the weather was getting furious, as predicted by the MET. Sometimes, the Sarkari predictions do make sense.
Dantuin Village. From Indiahikes Archive
The first few hours were a zig-zag walk until we reached a temporary settlement. The trail was not marked properly and going without a guide is unclear weather was crazy. The entire stretch was foggy but we were lucky to find people returning from the high grasslands with their cattle. We were guided by them and it took us exactly 8 hours to reach the Gujjar settlement.
View towards Darati Pass From Gujjar Settlement
Unlike other passes I have done, this Gujjar settlement was placed on a narrow ridge with practically no grazing grounds nearby. It was getting dark when we settled. The Gujjars, like always, we're happy to welcome us in their huts. All of them looked happily at us and our sleeping bags, and our mobile phones. They even wanted us to exchange our phones for theirs but the deal didn’t work out.
It rained the whole night again. The next morning was gloomy and we half-heartedly decided to wait for another day in the Gujjar settlements. We asked those Gujjars to take us to the top. One of them agreed to 500 per day per person. That suited us because it wasn’t going to take more than a day to reach the top. We could easily afford to pay him 2000. But then he kept changing his mind and the per-day-per-person price rose exponentially.
From Dantuin to Gujjar Settlement. Image from Indiahikes Archive
We stopped asking him when he asked for 1500 per person. The rainfall stopped for some time in the evening and that’s when we got the first glimpse of the mountain ranges. This is one of those hidden passes that appear only when you are physically and emotionally drained out while walking towards it. You just get overwhelmed at first sight.
Day 2 – Meeting the Mountain Gods
The dark green Pir Panjals was standing in front of us with an open invitation. We were so desperate to climb yet we could do nothing. That’s how Mother Nature tests your patience. No doubt the fruits of patience are always sweet but it becomes extremely difficult when you are so close to the mountains. With the weather all messed up we were hoping to see a miracle.
Enroute to Darati Pass. Image from Indiahikes Archive
And then it happened. A miracle. Out of the blue, we heard the sweet whistling sound of Gaddis gathering their cattle. That was the best thing to happen. Crossing a pass with Gaddis is the best thing in a life of a trekker. We rushed back to the Gujjar settlement and packed our bags hurriedly. Within 15 minutes, we were following that gaddis. We didn’t know that we were staying just half an hour from the Lahesh Cave.
We were happy to have those Gaddis as our guiding angels. But before that, we had to cross one more hurdle. A major one.
It rained incessantly for the third night on the trot. The streams had already swollen up and they were way past their safe boundaries. At night, when we were asleep in our cosy sleeping bags, we heard noises of sheep and the Gaddis.
Day 3 – Surviving the Flash Floods
It was a flash flood. A stone probably had blocked the water stream up in the mountains and then because of relentless rains, it gave in. Water had entered the Lahesh Cave and all we could manage to do was to run and save our lives. The entire geography of the base camp changed within minutes. We were feeling hopeless but the gaddis’ were busy rescuing their cattle from the frozen waters of the stream that went berserk. I casually walked up to the leader of the gang and asked him about the plan of action. Whether we were going to cross or not?
He said, “We have been granted permission by the Bhagwati. Now the only way is up.”
That’s how they do it. They seek permission at the Maral Khundi temple and once they have been given a go-ahead, they never stop. At the same time, they do not cross at all if it is a no. After spending 8 long hours under a tarpaulin cover, we dared to march ahead. For lesser mortals like us, not the Gaddis, it surely was a daring act.
The next eight hours were a learning lesson. Walking with the Gaddis is an amazing experience. You just can’t differentiate between a sheep and a gaddi when they are in the mountains. Just like a sheep, a gaddi would climb a difficult patch of slippery rock without any trouble.
Approaching Darati Curve. Image from Indiahikes Archive
That’s what I call a miracle. A sight to behold. The man who stayed outside the tarpaulin cover to keep a check on the cattle was the fastest. It took us exactly 8 hours to reach the top. The walk was long and tiring and the pass was hidden. As I have said already, a hidden pass brings unlimited joy in comparison to a pass that is visible, say the Indrahar Pass. We parted ways with the Gaddis after they helped us achieve the unattainable. And Tindi was just 7 hours away from the top.
Now imagine someone walking from Dantuin to Tindi in just one day. Sounds unreal, doesn’t it? Those Gujjars we stayed with do it frequently. In a day. From Chamba to Lahaul over the mighty Darati Jot.
➤ How to get fit for the Trek
The Darati Pass trek is classified as a difficult trek.
For two days, you will cover a distance of 42 km and you will be trekking at an altitude of15,125. The secret to covering this distance comfortably lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging every day. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace every day. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.
This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your workout.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however, light can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.
Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
➤ What to take on the trek
- Trekking shoes: There will be several slippery patches on the trail, and you will need trekking shoes with a good grip. Sports shoes will not be comfortable enough. You can watch this video to learn to choose the right trekking shoes.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for the backpack is essential.
- Two warm layers: At the campsites, especially the higher ones, the temperature after sundown will drop to around 2-6 degrees. You will need at least three warm layers (two lights layers such as fleece and woollen and one padded jacket) for this trek.
- Two trek pants: One pair of pants should suffice for this trek. But you can carry one spare pair in case the first one gets wet. Wear one pair and carry one pair.
- Two collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sunburns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry one.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. There might be snow closer to the lake, so carry a pair of sunglasses.
- Suncap: The sun is more
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woollen hand gloves. One pair of waterproof/resistant, windproof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, a medical kit and some light snacks.
- Toiletries (Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their cutlery for hygiene reasons.
- Two water bottles: 1 litre each
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry a few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
- Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
- Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
- Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
- Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
- Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
- Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhoea)
- Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
- Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
- Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
- Gauze – 1 small roll
- Band-aid – 10 strips
- Cotton – 1 small roll
- ORS – 10 packets
- Betadine or any antiseptic cream
- Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
Please carry the below documents. Documents two and three need to be downloaded (PDF), filled in, signed and handed over to the trek leader at the base camp.
- Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
- Medical Certificate and Disclaimer (to be filled by the trekker) – Download PDF
- Medical certificate (to be filled by a doctor) – Download PDF
If you’re shopping or packing for the trek, you can download this quick and simple checklist for offline use.
➤ Trek Contribution –
Author: Tarun Goel
A thought wandering in the Himalayas.
Nothing more. Nothing Less…
➤ Alternative Indiahikes treks you can do.
Kuppar Bugyal is a great trek. No doubt about it. But if you’re a first-time trekker, the process of organizing a trek by yourself might get a bit overwhelming. If you want to trek with your family or friend then you might not want the hassle of doing it. In such cases, we have a couple of great treks for you.
Beas Kund is a great alternative. The starting point of the trek is Solang, just an hour’s drive from Manali. That makes it very easy to access. If you’re a beginner, it is the perfect trek with great views of the biggest mountains of Manali. Moreover, you get to stand right at the base of the Pir Panjal Range.
View of Hanuman Tibba on the way. Image from Indiahikes Archives
Read more about Beas Kund Trek here
If you don’t have as much time though, the Pundrik Lake trek is just perfect for the weekend.
Surrounded by giant pine and fir trees, Pundrik lake is a hidden treasure in Himachal Pradesh. The thick forests through which the trail winds are a bird watcher’s paradise
Views on the Pundrik Lake Trek
The dense forests on this trek are filled with pine, fir, spruce and a variety of other trees. Pundrik lake, covered by tall grasses runs for 400 metres and is surrounded by forests on three sides.
Read more about Pundrik Lake here