Our guide to trekking the Hampta Pass and the main points we think you should know before planning your trip...
We stayed in Manali which is one of the nearest spots to the beginning of the trek. It is also a great place to spend a few days. Surrounded by forests, mountains and rivers Manali is Indias adventure playground. Each day can provide you with a different trek or activity or just chill and take in the views. We recommend staying in Old Manali as it is much nicer than New Manali. You can find most of the tour operators and good cafes here. For breakfast head to Dylan's roasted and toasted which has probably the best coffee in India as well as some tasty breakfast treats. For an evening meal follow the signs to the Manu temple and continue up the hill past the temple, here you will find Rockys cafe. It has amazing sunset views which can be admired whilst eating Indian or western dishes.
July through to September are the best times to book a trek as well as visit Manali. The weather towards the end of September can be a little unsettled but you are more likely to see snowy peaks and ice covers glaciers. If the flowers in the valleys are what you seek then head out in July.
Most tour operators provide all your equipment except for walking boots. You can pick some up in the village but we brought our own. Under layers are also a good idea if you have room in your pack. We had 3-in-1 Berghaus jackets which were essential when going from the hot forest to the freezing cold mountain peaks. We don't really like walking poles but grab one if the tour operator has them available, it will come in handy.
Prices all depend on how many people you have in your group. When we arrived in Manali we expected it to be easy to join a group tour, however we had to wait a few days to get the group together and even tout a few bodies ourselves. If you were to trek on your own expect to pay between 12000-15000Rs however the bigger the group the lower the price. If you have a group of five or above expect to pay around 9000Rs.
5. What to expect?
We ended up with a group of 8, ourselves, two Israeli couples, a guy from NZ and a girl from Spain. A group of this size is great for trekking, safety in numbers as Philippa says and I just enjoy the company. The trek is 4 days and begins in the forest, expect to see Eagles and vultures feasting on prey. The rivers and mountains make for amazing backdrops. The first day is not too rigorous but the heat can make it a little harder. You spend the night camping in the valley with a perfectly framed view of the Hampta peak. The second day is much more strenuous, with the uphill climb to the pass. You will also battle with the weather as the snow and wind can be quite heavy near the top. We all huddled into a cave and made some chai to warm up whilst surrounded by clouds. You then trek down to the glacier and camp in the next valley. The red flower covered mountain sides and towering peaks is your view for this evening. Be aware that this valley is very cold, we even squeezed into one sleeping bag and we're still freezing. Also this is the point where many people start to feel the effects of altitude, so remember to pack ibuprofen, warm under layers and keep well hydrated. The final day begins with taking your shoes and socks off and crossing the Beas river which is not much fun when you are already cold but funny to look back at. You spend the rest of the day clambering down the mountainside to the nearest 'road'. The road back to Manali is a petrifying ride along the narrow winding cliff side but the views are fantastic if you dare to look.
We weren't expecting much and foolishly stocked up on snickers bars and nuts before setting off, however we probably ate better during our trek than the rest of our trip. Breakfast consists of chai, toast, an assortment of spreads, omelette and porridge. A packed lunch of parantha (really tasty veg stuffed Roti) a chocolate bar, a banana and fruit drink. Evening meal is made up of three courses beginning with soup and prawn cracker style crisps, veg Thali for main and a different dessert each night. We have even heard people claiming that guides have made cakes and lasagna at the campsites.
We can't recommend this trek enough, it is challenging enough to feel a strong sense of achievement but also accomplishable for most people. From the snow topped mountains and glaciers to the star filled skies this trek is well worth it just for the views. The guides were amazing and couldn't do enough for us. The people we met were great and allowed us to learn more about other cultures and even learn an Indian and two Israeli card games. A truly amazing experience.