Rupin Pass Trek
Rupin Pass is a high altitude pass at an elevation of 4650 m. (15,250 ft.) situated on the Himalayan mountain range in the state of Himachal Pradesh. There are several passes that connects Baspa valley of Kinnaur to the Garhwal of Uttarakhand and Rupin pass is one of them which is used by shepherds. Rupin Pass trek is a well-known trail for its scenic beauty and sudden variation of the terrain that makes you feel the urge of proceeding more further.
The trek starts from Dhaula, a small settlement in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Dhaula can be accessed by car from its nearest railway station Dehradun, estimated 8 hours drive via Mussoorie Rd and NH 123. There are privately operated buses available as well from Dehradun. The bases start at around 5:30/6/7 in the AM near Dehradun railway station on Gandhi road and goes to Sankri. You need to get down at Naitwar which is 190 km. away and may take up to 10 hours in a bus. From Naitwar hire a private/shared jeep to Dhaula.
The trek ends in Sangla, a major town in Baspa valley of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. Sangla valley is very close to the Tibet border. From Sangla a govt. the bus is available at around 5:00 PM, which will take you to Shimla by covering around 235 km., and the journey could take 10-12 hours. You will reach Shimla in the early morning and connecting buses are available to Delhi (another 10 hours journey) or Chandigarh (another 4 hours journey). Rather going to Shimla, you can also take a private cab to Kalka (takes around 12 hours by road). Leave Sangla at around 4:00 PM and catch the early morning Shatabdi express from Kalka (departs at 6:15 AM) to New Delhi (reaches by 10:30 AM).
Very rough estimates of cost en route (excluding porter/guide/mules cooking etc.):
- Dehradun to Naitwar: approx. INR 200 – 250 for bus ticket
- Naitwar to Dhaula: INR 50 – 70 per head for shared jeep, it’s around 10 km. so you can do an acclimatisation walk as well
- Stay and fooding at Dhaula village: INR 150 – 200
- Dhaula to Sangla: Should be within INR 300 – 350 (Meal/Stay at Jiksun and tea/snacks at Jhaka)
- At Sangla: Good meal and freshen up approx. INR 400 – 450
- Sangla to Chandigarh: approx. INR 180 – 200
- ** Now along with this you need to add the cost of guide/porters/mules, cooking raw material cost, and equipment hiring costs.
Chandan Rana, he is a good and experienced NIM certified guide. Mobile number is +919510959040
Chain Singh also known as good guide on this route, his mobile number is +919412918140
Rupin Pass Trek Itinerary (Delhi to Delhi):
Day 1: Pick up from Dehradun railway station and proceed towards Dhaula
Day 2: Dhaula 5,100 ft to Sewa 6,299 ft.
Day 3: Sewa 6,299 ft to Jhaka 8,700 ft.
Day 4: Jhaka 8,700 ft to Saruwas thatch 10,250 ft.
Day 5: Saruwas thatch 10,250 ft to Dhanderas thatch 11,680 ft (lower waterfall camp)
Day 6: *Buffer day. Dhanderas thatch 11,680 ft to Upper Waterfall camp 13,300 ft.
Day 7: Upper Waterfall 13,120 ft to Rupin Pass 15,250 ft to Ronti Gad 13,420 ft.
Day 8: Ronti Gad 13,420 ft to Sangla 8,800 ft.
Day 1: Pick up from Dehradun railway station. Whole day drive to Dhaula base camp via Naugaon, Purola and Naitwar. Night stay at Dhaula
Day 2: Daula 5,100 ft. to Sewa 6,150 ft. 12 km. 6 hrs. Level: Long climbs with short gentle walks in between.
Day 3: Sewa 6,150 ft. to Jhaka 8,700 ft. 14 km. 6.5 hrs. Via Jiskun 7,600 ft. Level: Long climbs with short gentle walks in between.
Day 4: Jhaka 8,700 ft. to Saruwas thatch 10,250 ft. 8 km. 5.5 hrs. Via Uduknal Level: Mostly climbs with one gentle walk in between.
Day 5: Saruwas thatch 10,250 ft. to Dhanderas thatch 11,680 ft (lower waterfall camp) 5 km. 4.5 hrs. Level: Initial short climb followed by easy undulating walks.
Day 6: Dhanderas thatch 11,680 ft. to Upper Waterfall camp 13,300 ft. 3 km. 3 hrs. Level: Steep climb.
Day 7: Upper Waterfall 13,120 ft. to Rupin Pass 15,250 ft to Ronti Gad 13,420 ft. 9 km. 10 hrs. Level: Steep climb initially, followed by a gradual ascending trail. Short sharp climb to the pass followed by a steep descent.
Day 8: Ronti Gad 13,420 ft. to Sangla 8,800 ft. 12 km. 6.5 hrs. Via Sangla Kanda Level: Gradual to steep descent. Night stay.
Day by day trek details:
1. Each year as the snow thaws, it engenders varied ideas and no wonder this year too at the same time, an idea to go for short, thrifty but equally challenging trek mushroomed. After a bit of research, RUPIN PASS seemed a doable trek within a week of stipulated leave.
2. And SO began another sojourn but this time with a difference. With no individual in the civilised world on our side of hemisphere willing to partake his leave, there was no option but to go alone.
3. The weather at lower reaches in mountains is equally onerous and from Dhaula(1400m) where this trek commences till Jiksun (2450m), 25 km. beyond, where the first day culminates, survival instincts reign supreme especially with a very heavy rucksack encumbering each stride and the simmering sun burning those barren stretches, enervates every ounce of sanity out of you.
4. The landslides at some stretches does slow you a bit but it is the perilous rock falls near the bridge at the latter end of the day, from where the steep climb to Jiksun commences, that is somewhat unnerving and this coupled with the heavy weight unbalancing each step compounds the miseries for a minor slip is potent enough to slither you into the turbid turquoise blues of raging Rupin River. (Two to three days before I crossed the bridge, I was told a local lad had slipped and his body was yet to be recovered)
5. So early in the evening as the lower Jiksun or Bawta village was arrived at, the smell of hot food was overpowering enough to call it a day and seek shelter. Fortunately enough, a small house with a hoarding declaring it a hotel ended the fruitful search and god bless those old couple who offered not only shelter in an open room with a nonpareil view but also sumptuous hot food that one usually savors after a tiring tread.
6. The next day started early and within 2 hours and a steep climb, Jhaka village (2700m), the last habitation was reached. The village has few well-stocked shops and one can add to their provisions if required. Since I was walking alone, a young lad from Jiskun who was a teacher in a local school willingly offered to walk alongside me till noon and learn the intricacies of why we come from far to trail in these mountains ?
7. Beyond Jhaka and forests bordering it, at a point called Udusknal (3100m) , the scenery changes rather abruptly and here on the route traverses along the river till you reach the acme at the tip of the glaciated pass. There are few excellent camping sites astride the river but with an entire day left, one is saddened to walk past these lush verdant patches. However, a hot meal of MRE packets and a strong brew cooked on one of these turfs is enough to revive the sagging spirits. In view of the weather packing up rather menacingly, the village lad accompanying me decided to revert back else he be declared missing.
8. Lest you are are a naturalist and walking light, you are not unusually enamoured by the beauty of the firs, pines and rhododendrons and the next challenge is to cross Rupin River via a large snow bridge. Beyond this, the ascent is rather steep till the valley suddenly opens up into an area which the locals refer to as Buraskandi. The sight of small green patches amidst rocky river bed beckons a halt for the day but then you realise its only 1500 hrs and there may be more camping sites further ahead as the Rupin valley seemingly broadens.
9. Within no time, your patience pays off as there is a well laid out turf along the escarpment astride the nascent river providing all permutations of snow, stones, rivers, streams etc. I perforce decided to camp on the softest turf directly opposite a snow wall. SO ended the second day but before the day ended, an event of consequence occurred when a local GADDI (nomad) who too was walking alone towards Kinnaur suddenly appeared out of blue and willingly decided to accompany me till Rupin pass which he hoped to cross the next day.
10. The weather on the third Day was packed with intermittent outpours throughout the night. However, as we proceeded along the river, the weather brightened up and the next halt, at my behest, was planned beyond DANDERAS THATCH somewhere below the lower waterfall. Moreover, my friend spotted the only graziers in the entire valley who also happened to be his close cousins. SO when a family reunion occurs, a feast follows and this time a welcoming hot meal was prepared and equally willingly devoured under the shade of rocky outcrops opposite Danderas thatch. Thereafter it was decided to call it a day after having trekked along moderate contours for merely two hours and the tents were duly pitched at an idyllic site below the lower waterfall.
11. However, the consequence of this parley with nature was that the day four would be the most consequential day of the trek and would require steep ascent to cross the Rupin pass with a caveat being to cross it before noon when as per my friend the probability of rocks hitting the climbers are enhanced. SO ended day three at a locale whose beauty and desolation can only be surmised as exemplary.
12. The problem with snow is that it takes inordinate effort to ascend it and this effort is directly proportional to the vertical incline one has to carve along the snow hugging the slope. So The first challenge of the Day four involved climbing a snow wall approx 150m in height hugging the slope at absurd angle adjoining the lower waterfall. It is only when one reaches high on this wall that a glimpse of the ground below dawns the gravity of the seriousness of any fall and with snow still hard and reduced friction, the effort to carve each step farther on is enhanced manifolds.
13. We had started the day at 0500hrs raring to meet each challenge that were on offer. The first wall took an hour of deliberate and tiring effort with each step being carefully crafted so as to prevent a dangerous fall. The next challenge was to reach the top of the upper waterfall which involved crossing an arched snow bridge between upper and lower waterfalls. However, the most dangerous challenge was to cross the last nullah before one reaches the top of the upper waterfall and onto a beautiful valley from where the Rupin river emanates.
14. The peculiarity of this rather innocuous vertical nullah, which is no more than 25 m. wide, is its solid frozen ice-inclined at absurdly precarious angle throughout and it is this hardness and tricky nature of this ice which has resulted in oft mishaps since a small slip or misstep can slide you few hundred metres vertical into a icy grave between the upper and lower waterfalls. Three years ago not only one tourist but one local had also fallen and the danger is omnipresent. No wonder my friend was cautious and concerned for me knowing how much difficulty I was facing balancing myself on icy patches. Fortunately, I was carrying an ice axe and it was used to carve few flat steps on that hard ice. Once across this dangerous obstacle, the top of the waterfall is reached and to ones surprise another large valley dominated by huge snow covered mountains opens up. in this large valley a small nascent Rupin River slowly meanders towards the waterfall.
15. After a quick brew and much-needed breakfast, we began our move towards the Pass. The ascent for next hour is steep and involves crossing few dangerous icy nullahs where every step is unnerving but once across the relief is palpable. The glacial snow starts soon at approx 4100m. Initially, the walk on snow is easy as the slope is very moderate and firm enough to support any body weight. However after an hour, one reaches a point from where the ascent becomes steep and the so-called RUPIN PASS which at first glimpse seems to be top of an icy nullah, between two protruding ledges, looms menacingly .
16. One actually wonders how this funnel shaped narrow pass was actually discovered but then the challenge is to climb and cross it unhindered. It is here that the effort required to carve each step increases manifolds as the effect of altitude and fatigue take their toll coupled with a realisation that a small slip can turn into a disaster. The weight on the back is equally desisting and an absence of crampons unnerving. For locals like my friend who is used to climbing on such steep snow patches, the difficulty is moderate or non-existent but for ilk of me snagged by the heavyweights and a naturally disappointing body balance, the issue of ascent at such absurd inclines is seriously overwhelming .
17. It was only around noon when after gruelling three hours of step cutting involving innumerable difficulties and much requisite assistance rendered by my local friend in terms of sharing part of the load, I was able to reach the top of the RUPIN PASS (4550m) pass. It is only at the top when one looks down at the effort and the height attained that a realisation and relief dawns for the consequences of any mishap in such desolation forebode grevious outcomes.
18. Having reached the pass, the glacier towards the Kinnaur side is simple to traverse and in few slides and in utmost half an hour one reaches the ablation point. The route hereon is all down the hill and by 1400 hrs we had reached the camping site of RONGTI GAD (3900m) where few tents were already pitched for tourists.
19. Day Four finally ended when we pitched our tent in the wind strewn camping ground. This was the most tiring day and involved non-stop climbing from 0500 till 1200h with only one major rest break en route. The importance of stamina and will can never be undermined and it is only at these places that the mettle of men is tested. My friend despite having no affinity towards me decided to help me at most precarious points on the day four including sharing of loads in the middle of steep veritce. This required cool nerves and skill which these GADDI nomads have in no dearth. I can merely wonder as to how could I have crossed the pass with such heavyweights and under such extreme condition of snow and altitude. Moreover, my friend had no reason to meet me or accompany me since his kith and kins had told him to move with them.
20. SO finally after the eventful fourth day, only SANGLA needed to be reached downhill from RONGTI GAD and by all calculation it was not going to take more than four hours of leisure saunter downhill. My friend parted company hereafter and as I retrospect, maybe it was a quirk of fate that I had some help during the most precarious part of the trek.
21. Day five started early at 0630 and by 0830 h the SANGLA KUND , a small fresh water pond was reached. After preparing a much-needed breakfast beside the lake, SANGLA village was finally reached by 1100 hrs.
22. The lessons learnt from this trek are: AVOID GOING SOLO IN MOUNTAINS AND IF YOU HAVE DECIDED TO GO SOLO TAKE PROPER EQUIPMENT AND GUIDANCE. If the locals say it is dangerous, believe them and seek their guidance where-ever and whenever possible. Finally, humility in mountains is the mantra. There is no substitute and dearth of knowledge that these semi-nomadic and semi-illiterate GADDI and GUJJARS people possess about the mountains. It is imperative that as a trekker we befriend them and respect them and their way of life and learn from them the survival in mountains.