Along the Charang Ghati Trail
One of the most exhilarating and Challenging treks in the Kinnaur region of Himalayas. The difficult part is the climb to the pass charang La 17,200 feet and descent till Chitkul on the glacial moraine. It is something that will test your endurance levels. A high altitude trek that you include in your must-do treks.
As I take a step, the next prayer follows. I am grabbing onto loose pebbles, trying to climb the almost flat face on a mountain pass. There is not much distance left to the top. I am panting for breath and my heart is beating and added to it the drop below is 2000 ft. Charang la ( Ghati pass ) at 17,200 ft, the mountain pass in the Kinnaur Kailash range, is in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
It has been four days since we left Lumbar, the last motorable road at 9850 ft. We have crossed the alpine meadows, walked down to the valleys, crossed several streams seen waterfalls and snow-clad mountains all just a few hundred feet away. It is monsoon and while everything around seems pretty, walking in the rain is not advisable. The bugyals (alpine meadows) are bloom with wildflower creating a kaleidoscope of colors.
Clouds form a cover just a few feet above the ground and it seems I am literally walking on them.
Our journey begins from Kalka in the morning. The route runs through Shimla-Narkhanda-Rampur-Karcham. The hills begin thereafter and the whole character of the journey changes. The serpentine road meanders almost parallel to Sutlej river through the mountains, pursuing a sinuous rhythm that is dictated by the terrain it weaves over and passes through. The fragrant air and the cool serenity of the surroundings work like a sedative. The sudden appearance of the upcoming mega power projects at Karcham and Wangthu threw us back to the Indian political apathy. A real eyesore in the Himalayan grandeur. The construction of the dam and littering the area around with concrete and cacophony were like festering wounds.
But lofty mountains were potent enough to lift us to their summits from this ugliness. Snow-capped peaks now and then compel us to leave behind any lingering negative thoughts. That is the magic of the Himalayas!
After a couple of days of trekking, we make an early start the next day to reach the Charang Ghati pass base (15,750). The weather is clear and the route from here is very broad; a ‘U’ shaped valley indeed! After two hours of trek, the route deteriorates to a virtual succession of jumps from one boulder to another. There have been massive landslides on the surrounding mountainsides. The last few hours to the base camp is a very steep climb and with no water under a scorching sun — a test of endurance indeed.
We reach the base camp, an open ground surrounded by mountains and pitch our tents beside a glacial lake with difficulty as the cold winds blow from the glacier. Everyone is dog tired by now. We crane our necks to the limit to see the tops of the peaks and path beside the glacier. The weather is clear and we can see Mountain peaks mirrored in nearby lakes.
Our guide Negi points at white depression in the mountain top, high along the ridge and explains the route. The clarity of the night sky never ceases to amaze at such places. A short campfire followed by hot khichidi with pickle fortifies us for a good night’s sleep.
The next day, the final day we are lucky to have yet another clear morning. The initial climb is on the moraine and after crossing the stream flowing from the snout of the glacier we climb uphill crossing huge boulders with difficulty and reach the base of the pass.
The climb from here becomes even more steep at an 80 degree gradient indeed. The last steps to the summit really checks ones endurance and inner strength. The sudden appearance of prayer flags, thangkas, flickering in air makes us happy
The pass offers a vast and interesting panorama of snow-clad mountains, valleys, and bugyals. The trail continues for a couple of hours down with a steep descent, zigzagging down the green slopes and leads directly to Chitkul village at 11,320 ft situated in the Baspa river valley.
The next day we start early to retrace the route and travel along Mastrang-Sangla-Karcham and stop at the midway at Jeori to bath in the natural hot springs. We visit Bhimkali temple at Sarahan which is 16 km and are back to Kalka late-night exactly 14 days after we had left.