Please visit Chandrakhani Pass Trek for pictures from my trek to Chandrakhani Pass in November, 2012.
Come November, I knew I had to go for another trek in the Himalayas. Among the options that I considered, Chandrakhani Trek stood out for various reasons. October end onwards and specifically in November, high altitude passes start receiving their first bout of snowfall. But there were many accounts online where trekkers have crossed this pass in December and even in January without much difficulty or equipment. A little bit of due diligence helped me in zeroing in on the Chandrakhani Pass trek.
This trek is a perfect trek for someone who has recently started trekking and is looking for something relatively easy yet enjoy the splendors of Himalayan trekking in true wilderness surrounded by the magnificent and imposing snow clad peaks. The trail head start from Naggar which lies only 20 kms from a popular tourist destination called Manali and ends at another famous town called Kasol. Its considered to be a perfect trek for first time trekkers and you are never away from civilization for long. It takes you to a modest altitude of about 3660 meters and there are even Dhabas (small shacks) right at the top of the pass from where you can buy refreshments, enjoy a steaming cup of tea or a plate of Aloo Parathas for nominal prices.
A friend and I took a late night bus to Chandigarh from where we took a connecting bus to Manali. After reaching Manali, we checked in a hotel and did some last minute shopping for groceries. Since we were in Manali after the tourist season was over, we did not have many options for hotels or dining places. The alleys usually buzzing with activity during summers resembled a ghost town with only a handful of souls to be seen around in those dark moon lit streets.
Note: Since the trek starts from Naggar, you can also chose to stay in Naggar instead of Manali. There are plenty of lodging options available in Naggar, usually cheaper than Manali and this will also save you time the next morning when you start your trek.
Day 1: Manali to Campsite above Pulling
The next morning we headed to New Manali to meet our fellow trekker from Bangalore and for a scrumptious and filling breakfast before we embark on the trek. A short bus ride from the bus station situated in the heart of the town takes you to a small village called Naggar which is famous for its temples, an ancient castle and the Nicholas Roerich Art gallery. Ask any of the locals the way for Rumsu and they will show you a wide trail cutting through the village going uphill. A steady 3 km uphill climb through the mixed forest of Blue Pine and Deodar trees takes you to the Rumsu Village. Alternatively, you can choose to hire a jeep and cover the distance from Naggar to Rumsu through the uneven dusty jeep road. From Rumsu, a broad and defined path frequently used by locals leads South East through a forest to the pastures of Stelling and Pulling. About 15 minutes from Pulling village, we entered a clearing in the forest and also spotted a perfect water source nearby. With a steady stream of water and plenty of dry wood scattered all around to build fire, we decided to pitch our tents here for the night.
Day 2: Pulling to Below Chandrakhani Pass
The next day, we took the trail heading left from our camp site which didn’t turn out to be a very bright idea! After ascending and descending on the trail for about 2-3 hours, we realized we were not on the right trail for the Chandrakhani Pass and were lost in the forest. After much discussion and finding our bearings, we decided to backtrack the trail and start over. Once near the spot where we had camped the previous night, we met a local who asked us to go straight up the mountain so we can intersect the trail to Chandrakhani Pass. After almost 5-6 hours of arduous steep climb through the birch trees and thick shrubs, we seemed to be getting somewhere when we crossed the tree line and saw the sprawling meadows just below the pass. Since it was getting dark, we decided to traverse the pass the next morning and got busy finding a spot to pitch our tents. With all the water sources frozen, we were left with the only option to melt the little bit of snow that was sprinkled around. Luckily, there was again no dearth of dry wood which was left behind by the Dhaba owners when they shut shop. We helped ourselves with the luxury of building fire to keep us warm as the temperature was well below freezing point. Water kept in plastic bottles would freeze within minutes if kept in the open and little icicles formed inside the tent due to the condensation which comes with breathing!
Day 3: Chandrakhani Pass to Malana
The next morning after breakfast, an hour’s walk took us to Chandrakhani Dhar (ridge) from where you get splendid views of snow covered mountains and wide valleys on both sides of the ridge. Compared to many other passes, the last stretch to reach the pass is fairly easy. From the top of the ridge, one can see Bara Banghal range to the west, Pir Panjal to the north and Parvati valley to the east. It is repeatedly stressed to cross the Chandrakhani Pass only where the cairns (a heap of stones piled on top of each other as a memorial or landmark) mark the passes, since it is easy to lose one’s way in bad weather. One can also take a short break at the top of the pass at one of the handful of shacks selling eatables and drinks in case you are traversing during season (May-September). The trail traverses the pass gently for some time and then begins the steep 4 Km continuous descent to reach Malana Village. The descent is through shrubs and thick conifer forest. While descending, I was glad I wasn’t doing this trek the other way around. Had I started from Kasol, the steep ascent from Malana to Chandrakhani Pass wouldn’t have been a pleasant hike.
There are a handful of Guesthouses in Malana outside of the village near the top of the hill. I had visited Malana Village in June 2012 and written a detailed information here: http://travellinghigh.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/a-journey-to-the-mystical-elusive-malana-village/. We decided to spend the night at one of the Guesthouses and proceed to Kasol the next day.
Day 4: Malana to Kasol
There are two options to reach Kasol from Malana village. Either you go to Jari (details given in the above mentioned link) or for the more adventurous ones, you can trek to Rasol from Malana and then onwards to Kasol which translates to 2 days of additional trek.
Some basic information:
Buses from Delhi to Manali can be booked at: www.redbus.in, www.hrtc.gov.in, www.hptdc.gov.in.
Total trek distance (Naggar to Malana): 21 Kms
Trek Gradient: Easy – Moderate
Best time for this trek: April to November