"OH MOTHER DHAULADHAR BEND A LITTLE!
ON THIS SIDE LIES MY PARENTS HOME AND ON THE OTHER MY IN LAWS
OH MOTHER DHAULADHAR BEND A LITTLE!”
MIGHTY DHAULADHAR RANGE ( KANGRA VALLEY)
The first image that comes in mind when one thinks about KANGRA VALLEY is the magnificent DHAULADHAR RANGE which rises abruptly like a serpent from the valley floor. This divine mountain range separates KANGRA and CHAMBA acting as watershed of BEAS and RAVI rivers.
DHAULADHAR is derived from “DHAULA” meaning WHITE and “DHAR” meaning MOUNTAIN RANGE. This granite wall is crowned with snow throughout the year hence the name also called as the OUTER HIMALAYAS because it is the outermost range of the Himalayan Chain.
Having grown up in the lap of this beautiful mountain range as a kid I would wonder if we could cross this range to the other side or climb to its top. I would often take out my dad’s binoculars to have a closer glimpse of this beautiful mountain range. Being a Pahari, mountain love comes automatically. I had heard of people going to the Triund ridge but I wondered if actually we could be at the top of this range. I would often wonder if this range is equally as tall as the Everest Massif. Those days Google or Smartphone thing didn’t exist and as a kid I was far more content playing outdoors. The only thing I was told that it’s impossible to cross this range. Being very fond of geography in my school days I had learnt and read about all the wonderful places in Himachal & Kashmir like MANALI, KEYLONG, KAZA , SRINAGAR etc. The wonderful landscapes mountains, lakes would spark an adrenaline rush in me. I would so long to visit these places. It was only when I turned 11 that I had my full access to internet. Slowly but gradually as Google became a massive hit did I discover that the DHAULADHAR MOUNTAIN RANGE next to my home had some high towering peaks , passes and beautiful lakes. The “GADDI SHEPHERDS” who are the true wanderers have crossed these passes for centuries. The mystery surrounding this range was slowly getting demystified. By the time my mountain love could actually take off I was heading a crucial stage of my life (career), 10TH GRADE. Coming from an educational background meant that there are very high expectations from me and they did take a toll on my mountain love which was lost somewhere in these expectations.
I entered grade 11 then 12 but somewhere this dormant love would knock my doors on and off. It was not before I entered 3rd year of my college life did I actually gave a thought of climbing up some hill. The modern lifestyle had taken its toll on me, I had become highly unfit. I realized that I was going nowhere so I started my fitness regime. One fine day in July 2010 my friend called me up and said “Lets climb MON PEAK”. I asked him where this peak was and the route. He told me that it was beyond TRIUND and INDRAHARA PASS leading to CHAMBA. Curious as I was I googled it to get some info. From the information available I could make out that it would be a tough walk. I agreed for this trek. Little did I know that this would change my life forever. What happened in the course of those two days that I shall narrate in a different blog post. We did not reach MON PEAK (Thank GOD) but yes, we did reach the top of INDRAHARA PASS. Mind you this was the first trek of my life, I hadn’t been to Triund till that date and being at the top of INDRAHARA was a big feet.
It’s been that day and since then I haven’t looked back. My love for the Mountains has grown manifolds. This love is blind, so pure and true. I have spent days and years to get info on all the possible treks, passes, peaks and lakes. My area of fascination has always been the beautiful DHAULADHAR RANGE which we all worship as “MOTHER DHAULADHAR”. She has been very kind, loving and it’s with her blessing that I have managed to explore so much in my life. Today I am highly obliged to my “MOTHER DHAULADHAR” for having guarded me on all my yatras.
The Dhauladhar Range broadly lies between DALHOUSIE in CHAMBA to MANALI in KULLU. This range rises gradually from west to east. There are innumerable passes in its crest beginning with DAINKUND and BASODAN which happen to be the only motor able passes in this vast range. Then there are some other passes which are cross-able on foot by men and wildlife and eventually there are those passes which only men and flock of sheep and goats can cross. The passes DAINKUND, BASODAN(JOT), KALI NALI & LOA which all lie on the main axis are in the jurisdiction of CHAMBA district while the THAMSAR , MARALA , GAIRU & MAKORI lie in the jurisdiction of KANGRA district. Some passes on the side axis divide KANGA/ CHAMBA (JARALU PASS) and some divide KANGRA and KULLU (SARI PASS).
The main focus being laid here is on the DHAULADHAR PASSES dividing KANRA & CHAMBA valley. These are the passes that I have managed to cross with the blessings of MOTHER DHAULADHAR.A short description on each of these passes will be provided below :-
DHAULADHAR PASSES CONNECTING KANGRA / CHAMBA
1) BOHAR PASS (3550 METERS) – Don’t go by the height of this pass. Mind you it took us three attempts to finally be at the top of this pass. Some of the densest jungles surround this pass and as expected wildlife thrives here. If you get lost which is very likely you are sure to encounter a bear, leopard, wild goats and so on. This pass connects the BOH VALLEY of KANGRA with the RAVI valley of CHAMBA. The trek to this pass can be undertaken from BOH village near SHAPUR and terminates at RAKH on CHAMBA side (BHARMOUR-CHAMBA road). Steep ascend, long jungle unmarked trail makes it hard for one to find the way to the top of this pass. It’s ideal to cross this pass in 1 day but doing it in 2 days makes this trek really enjoyable. Camp Day 1 at KALIKYARI where the herders of cows and buffaloes will welcome you to their KOTHAS. Milk, BUTTER, GHEE, LASSI, KHOYA, PANEER all is available here in abundance. The hosts are really happy to have guests at their place. It’s a must night stopover. Day 2 one should start early and head for the ridge top from where a right turn takes one atop the BOHAR PASS.THE beautiful PIR PANJAL RANGE can be seen unobstructed from this pass. The DUMGOL TWINS, KALICHOO PASS, DRATI PASS and other prominent peaks and passes can be seen. A small temple dedicated to GODDESS BHAGWATI is situated at the top of this pass. One can behold the beauty of KANGRA, BHATTIYAT and RAVI (CHAMBA) valleys from this pass. Follow the left ridge from here on and head straight to the two GUJJAR KOTHAS on the ridge top, keeping to your left you will soon reach a junction point from where a trail comes from SIHUNTA side .The trail is wide from here on. Keep following the ridge top which will lead you to RAKH village. Rakh is at a good distance from the pass and it nearly takes 10 hours from KALIKYARI campsite to RAKH village.
|ATOP BOHAR PASS|
|BOHAR PASS SEEN FROM RAKH|
2) BLENI PASS (3810 METERS) – The DHAULADHAR RANGE actually begins to attain it grandeur from this pass onwards and keeps rising abruptly from here on. The trek to BALENI PASS ( BALAIN PASS) can be undertaken from SALLI village near SHAHPUR on KANRA –PATHANKOT highway. One has to walk long distance to the base of this pass at CHARKHOTU. One passes through beautiful campgrounds en-route the base camp. A steep ascent from CHARKHOTU leads one to the top of this pass. This pass is very widely used by Gaddis and pilgrims alike. GADDIS use this pass in early summer to cross over to the RAVI VALLEY, DONALLI village while this is a popular trail among locals to visit the holy LAM DAL LAKE which is a good one day walk from CHARKHOTU and so is the trail leading down to RAVI VALLEY. It takes nearly 2 hours from the base camp to the top of this pass. The route is very well marked all along the way. From the pass one has the option to descend to RAVI valley or climb up the LAM DAL LAKE. The route is very well marked. A temple dedicated to GODDESS BHAGWATI is situated at the top of this pass. This passes offers wide view of PIR PANJAL RANGE, DHAULADHAR RANGE, KANGRA VALLEY & CHAMBA VALLEY.
|BALENI PASS SEEN FROM CHARKHOTU|
|LAM DAL VALLEY SEEN FROM BLENI PASS|
|HIGHER PIR PANJALS FROM BALENI PASS|
3) MINKIANI PASS (4250 METERS) – This is one of the popular route to LAM DAL which is used by pilgrims and shepherds alike. The route for this pass begins from GHERA village which is on the DHARAMSHALA-CHARI road or one can walk from NADDI / STRAWBERRY HILL to this village. Following the left ridge one climbs up the KARERI village where a motor able road is coming up. From Kareri village head to KARERI Lake following the NYUND stream. It takes nearly 5-6 hours from GHERA to KARERI LAKE. The trail climbs moderately and is long. One can take an alternate route and climb straight up the JAMMU GOTH to save some time and walking distance. KARERI LAKE is a beautiful alpine lake in the lap of DHAULADHARS nearly 500 meters long. A temple sarai and huts are night say options but it’s always good to carry one’s own tent and camp at this wonderful lake. Minkaini Pass is a good 3-4 hours trek from KARERI Lake. The route is marked but there are a few tricky points where one has to traverse sideways. After a tiring ascent one is welcomed by BHAGWATI MATA’S temple atop the pass. This pass offers panoramic views of KANGRA VALLEY, KARERI LAKE, PIR PANJAL range and RAVI valley. It takes nearly 2 hours to descend to NAGARA campsite from where one trail heads to LAM DAL LAKE and the other to DUNALLI. The trail coming from BALENI pass also meets at this junction. It takes 2 hours from here to LAM DAL LAKE and nearly 5-6 hours to DUNALLI village on CHAMBA-BHARMOUR road.
|TEMPLE ATOP MINKIANI PASS|
|NAGARA DAL CAMPSITE|
4) GAJ PASS (4410 METERS) – This is the shortest and most popular route to LAM DAL LAKE from KANGRA side. The route for this pass also begins from GHERA village but instead one has to head towards the KHARI BAHI village on the right ridge. The ascent to this pass is very steep on a marked trail. It’s ideal to camp at BAGGA campsite from where the climb to the top of this pass is near to vertical. It takes 4 hours to BAGGA from GHERA and 6 hours to the top of GAJ PASS from BAGGA campsite. Many legends are associated with this pass which dates back to the PANDAVAS period of exile. A small temple dedicated to GODDESS BHAGWATI is situated atop this pass. This pass is situated directly above LAM DAL LAKE. The view towards the CHAMBA side is closed because the DHAULADHAR ridge of ARTHUR is situated in front of this pass which limits the view to LAM DAL Lake only which is a 30 minute walk from this pass. The view towards KANGRA valley is very wide and panoramic. From the pass one can head to LAM DAL LAKE and then climb further to CHANDERKUP DAL Lake (2 hours) or climb down to NAGARA and then RAVI valley (1 hour & 7 hours respectively)
|KANGRA VALLEY (NEAR GAJ PASS)|
|ARTHUR'S RIDGE and view towards LAM DAL from GAJ PASS|
|LAKE LAM DAL & LAKE CHANDERKUP DAL NEAR KARAN KHAL|
|BHIMGHASUTRI PASS from LAHESH|
|MASSIVE ROCK BOULDERS (NEARING THE BHIM GHASUTRI PASS)|
|PIR PANJAL RANGE FROM BHIMGHASUTRI PASS|
|ATOP INDRAHAR PASS|
|SACRED NAG DAL LAKE|
7) KUNDLI PASS (4550 METERS) – KUNDLI PASS also known as SARALI KA PHER is undoubtedly the toughest pass of DHAULADHAR RANGE. SARALI KA PHER (SKP) a glacier coiling like a python gives it the name SARALI KA FER and it gives an impression that a snake is ready to attack its prey hence called the “KUNDLI”. This is one of the permanent snow deposition which has stayed intact till date and it is visible from the entire KANGRA Valley. The route to KUNDLI Pass is via KHANYARA village near DHARAMSALA which is famous for its slate quarries. The route to this pass is totally trackless and engaging the services of a good knowledgeable guide is a must on this route. From LOONTA village a road leading to power project over MANUNI stream heads to Chakke Ke Nehar. It’s a steep climb from the project to CHAKKE KE NEHAR. One has to climb leftwards over long grass. Thorny bushes make it difficult to find way to the top but one has to somehow find a way through these bushes. CHAKKE KE NEHAR has a small Gaddi hut and is a good 3 hour walk from the power project. From CHAKKE KE NEHAR the route further gets steep and tricky. It’s only after sometime that one reaches a clearing, a dried nallah JAMOG where Gaddis can be seen camping. From JAMOG one has to climb straight to HAUDI KA KANDA. It takes nearly 5 hours to HAUDI KA KANDA from CHAKKE KE NEHAR. From HAUDI KA KANDA onwards the boulder zone begins and it’s a relentless walk over the huge boulders. The only aim one must keep in mind is to head straight up. Khabrotu campsite is reached after 2 hours. The climb further steepens to BAKHLUDDU which has an open rock cave for night shelter and an open temple dedicated to HEENDI WALI MATA. Bakhlodu is another 2 hours from KHABROTU. One must start early next day to make it to the top of KUNDLI PASS which is a good 6 hours climb from BAKHLUDDU. The first target is to climb to the SARALI KA PHER GLACIER which has debris of a crashed plane. From here climb to the left and keeping to your left you will reach a slightly flat boulder bed. The entire climb is over massive rock boulders involving hopping, jumping, climbing on all four (hands and legs). Keeping to the left the final gulley is climbed straight up and one finally makes it to the top of this pass with great difficulty. A small temple dedicated to MATA BHAGWATI is situated atop this pass. Sitting atop this pass one can behold the beauty of KANGRA valley, PIR PANJAL RANGE AND MANIMAHESH KAILASH. One has to head down straight over a snow ridge and keeping in sight the valley below head straight to CHULETAR campground which takes 3 hours from the pass. Continuing the downward descend one reaches the MANDRALA campground which takes 2 hours. From MANDRALA keeping to the left of the stream one reaches GALODI DHAR followed by BHANGERI MATA and abode of MARIJUANA BHANGERI GOTH. From here on a jungle trail leads one to KWARSI VILLAGE and the trail coming from INDRAHARA and KUNDLI pass meet at CHANOTI.
|SARALI KA PHER below KUNDLI PASS|
|MANIMAHESH KAILASH & PIR PANJALS from KUNDLI PASS|
|DHAULADHAR MATTERHORN PEAK seen from PALLU KA TAPPA BELOW TORAL PASS|
|TEMPLE ATOP TORAL PASS|
|LONG DESCENT INTO RAVI VALLEY|
|ADI HIMANI CHAMUNDA TEMPLE|
|ARJUN KA TALAB LAKE NEAR TALANG PASS|
|TEMPLE ATOP TALANG PASS DEDICATED TO LORD TALANG|
|THATHRI GRAZING GROUND|
|TEMPLE ATOP SINGHAR PASS|
|KEUR DAL LAKE|
11) SATNALO PASS (4200 METERS) – The discovery of this pass was almost accidental. No map or a book gives info of this pass as it doesn’t exist there but I went through an old KANGRA/CHAMBA gazetteer which had given the starting point and end point reference of this pass quoting it as a rarely used pass and a difficult one. It became a dream pass for me and I also did not rest until I crossed this pass. SATNALO PASS popularly known as GHORA JOT gets is name “GHORA” because of the huge boulder field near the pass. SATNALO means the 7 glacial streams which one crosses en-route this pass. The trek for this pass can be undertaken from VINDEYWASNI Temple near BANDLA, PALAMPUR. The route heads to OOKHAL MOOL and then climbs to PIYUNGLA. The trail is very confusing here and one reaches WRONGLA from where a number of routes divert in all direction. One must take a right turn followed by a left to be at the right track and not lose precious time in finding the trail. Steep risky trail leads one to CHUKHRELA campsite which is a good 7 hours walk from Bindeywasni Temple. From CHUKHRELA base camp the pass is nearly 4 hours and involves taxing climbing over huge boulders thus living upto its name “GHORA”. The 7 glaciers and the streams are crossed after which a steep climb to the top leads one to the top of this pass. A small rock temple marks this pass. KANGRA valley and PALAMPUR can be seen on a clear day while the higher DHAULADHAR RANGE (BADA BHANGAL RANGE) , PIR PANJAL and MANIMAHESH KAILASH can be seen on the other side. From the pass one has to head down towards the left crossing a few snow patches and then cross a turbulent stream. The route is poorly marked because of the infrequent use. A number of Gaddi campsites can be seen all along the way. From KALLI MITTI ridge one heads down straight to KIUR village. It takes 7 hours from the pass to KIUR village which is now a road head.
|NEARING SATNALO PASS|
|RAVI VALLEY FROM SATNALO PASS|
|HIGHER DHAULADHARS (BADA BHANGAL RANGE) from SATNALO PASS|
12) WARU PASS (3850 METERS) – ARU (W being silent) means the mountain of strong winds. This pass is flatter at the top as compared to the other passes of DHAULADHAR. DHAULADHAR RANGE suddenly loses prominence on this side before rising majestically once again near BADA BHANGAL. The reason for the flatter lower altitude accounts for the fierce winds which blow across this pass. The trek for this pass begins from Kandwari village near PALAMPUR. The route is very well marked and used by GADDIS and GUJJARS alike and heads to SATCHALI campsite with 7 natural springs. SATCHALI is the base camp and in summer and monsoon months GUJJARS can be seen here with their livestock. It takes nearly 5 hours from KANDWARI to SATCHALI. From Satchali the route weaves across the Nehar and one finally turns left and takes a well marked trail to the pass. It takes nearly 3 hours to the pass from SATCHALI. The trail climbs moderately and is steep at places. Atop the pass one gets magical views of MANIMAHESH KAILASH, PIR PANJAL RANGE and RAVI valley on one side and KANGRA VALLEY and PALAMPUR to the other side. The top of the pass is a flat meadow and there are small rock huts for night shelter. There is a small temple dedicated to GODDESS BHAGWATI made of rock slabs and Trishuls atop this pass. The route gradually heads down till it reaches a stream and then the drop becomes sudden till the TUNDA MUNDA campsite which is a 5 hour walk from the pass. From Tunda Munda campsite THANETHAR village is 2 hours away which is a road head. The route all along the way is well marked.
|PALAMPUR and KANGRA Valley as seen from the top of WARU PASS|
|RAVI VALLEY / CHAMBA VALLEY from WARU PASS|
13) JALSU PASS (3500 METERS) – One of the most popular and relatively easier pass of DHAULADHAR this pass connects BAIJNATH to NAYAGRAM / LAKKE WALI MATA. The locals, pilgrims, gaddis and gujjars use this pass alike. The mighty DHAULADHAR dwarfs a bit on this section before rising vertically on the BHANGAL side. The rugged boulder terrain of DHAULADHAR is missing here and is replaced by green meadows all over. This pass is also called PARAI JOT or SUREHI JOT. The route to this pass is from PAPROLA near BAIJNATH. A link road from here takes one to UTTRALA power project. The trail to this pass is very well marked. The trail heads to PARAI campsite which is about 5 hours walk. From PARAI it takes nearly 4 hours to the pass top. The route is very well marked all along the way. Long distances have to be covered on this pass. The trail becomes slightly steep near the pass. This pass is very flat at the top with very vast grazing meadows. The GADDIS can be seen camping here. A rock temple made of TRISHULS and sothus marks the top of this pass. One can behold the beauty of KANGRA valley, BAIJNATH and PIR PANJAL and MANIMAHESH KAILASH from the top of this pass. The route descends to JALSU KA PADDAR where there is a seasonal dhaba. From Jalsu Ka Paddar the route meanders along the stream. One reaches the YARA campsite which again has a few dhabas and old FOREST REST HOUSE. It takes nearly 3 hours to YARA from the pass. Walking along the well marked trail one crosses the bridge to CHEHNI and the route climbs to SUREHI village from where one can see LAAKE WALI MATA. It takes nearly 3 hours from YARA to SUREHI village and 2 hours more to LAAKE WALI MATA temple which is on a road head and 3 kms from NAYAGRAN. The trail is very well marked on this route and there are many makeshift dhabas all along the way so one does not need to carry his own rations on this route.
|TEMPLE ATOP JALSU / PARAI / SUREHI PASS|
|LAAKE WALI MATA|
|TIP OF MANIMAHESH KAILASH from THAMSAR PASS|
JAI MAA DHAULADHAR!!!