The Hampta Pass, just out side of Manali is one of the most popular hikes in the area as it is reasonably short and takes you up and over the 4270m pass in the Pir Panjal Range. Many places say that the hike takes 4 or 5 days but this is quite slow and it can easily be done in 2 nights camping and one night at Chattru in the Spiti Valley at the end.

If you don’t have 10,000 Rupees per person to spare then don’t be disheartened, you can still do this trek alone by just renting the gear. We rented our gear from Raj’s north face adventures right in the centre of the Manali bazaar. If you are coming from old Manali it is on the left hand side as you are going down the hill. You have to go up some stairs to the office. They are a trekking company but will arrange your gear for you.
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You have to be prepared though because the equipment isn’t like what we are used to in the west. I arranged to get the gear and we were taken down the valley in a tuk tuk to the area where the treks leave from. Here the guy tried to give me a 5kg canvas tent with massive poles and a huge bag. I looked at him and was thinking oh no we can’t ever do the trek if this is all they have.
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I asked a few questions and found out that infant they had a 3 man quechua tent from France. It was perfect. The sleeping mats are also very bulky and not that great so if you are a keen hiker I’d definitely recommend to bring your own. we already had good sleeping bags and clothing so we didn’t need any of that.
 
We also wanted a good map of the area so without hesitation we were off to the Manali Mountaineering office. The latest maps they had were from 1975 so we took one as a souvenir and were on our way. You can also find the trail here on Alltrails.
 
We didn’t have a gas stove but I would highly recommend taking one. The guy we rented the gear off just said that we would be fine taking kerosene and burning the horses poo and finding some sticks along the way. This is a bad idea so please take a stove it will make your life much easier. I must admit though that we would spend the day walking along keeping a keen eye out for anything that we could burn. There is just something about it being freezing outside and sitting around a campfire keeping warm so take both.
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In our party there were 4 of us. My little brother Kalan, my wife Dani and our Canadian friend that we met in Manali, Ben. I already had a 2 man tent so I let Ben use that one and My brother, my wife and I shared the 3 man tent that we had rented.
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We went back to our guesthouse in old Manali, packed our bags, went shopping for food and got ready for our big adventure ahead. We left our computers and bags with things we weren’t going to bring at the guesthouse as we were going to be coming back there after the hike.
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Day 1 was upon us and we were off. We caught a tuk tuk back to the place where we rented the camping gear and they had arranged a truck to take us up the mountain to the start right near the Allain Duhangan Hydro Dam.
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You can walk this part but it will add around 1000m elevation to your trek. So for the cost of 1000 rupees split between 4 of us we didn’t really care to bypass this part. We had left quite late, around lunch as the hiking on the first day was just 2 or 3 hours. We reached the dam by 2pm and we were off on our hike.
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The beginning is picturesque and goes through fields where the shepherds herd the sheep. You just stay to the left of the river and continue on and up until you come across a campsite. The first campsite is called Chika and should be around 2-3 hours from the dam. This camp is located at 2800m and is just a dirt patch in the middle of a massive valley. We did this hike at the end of October at the very end of the tourist season so we didn’t actually see any other groups of people as the season was almost over. We did see some shepherds but only at the very start so for 4 days we didn’t see a soul.
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There are some people that have gone missing in these hills when they had gone off alone. One guy had gone to hike the Hampta Pass alone and never returned. No one knew where he went so its best to go at least with another person because who knows what goes on out there.
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Day 2 was a little longer and we hiked up the valley to our 2nd campsite at 3800m. We did pass another campsite but it didn’t take us that long to get there so we just carried on. You do have to cross the river a couple of times so you gotta be careful not to get too wet because your things will never dry. The 2nd campsite was right at the base of the final up section before the Hampta Pass and right at the start of the river. The whole area is amazing and with huge mountains rising in every direction. Its only really a days walk from the road but you feel like you are so far out there. The valley is a beautiful shade of green and will soon be covered in snow.
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Our 2nd night was cold with ice forming on the inside and outside of the tent. I had a thermometer with me and the temperature read -2 degrees. This was the coldest it got and it wasn’t too bad, you just need the right clothes for the trip.
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Day 3 was the longest and some of the most beautiful hiking of the whole trip. Today we would be hiking over the pass and all the way down to Chattru. Most tour companies would camp one more night after the pass but there really is no need.
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We were up at 8 and had packed up all of our things by 9 and were off to climb there pass. My wife has asthma and was struggling quite bad this day. We started very slowly and for the first hour we thought we would have to turn around. After an hour by some magic she came good and was like a different person, cruising up the hill.
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She just had to get warmed up and used to the 4000m+ altitude. We reached the pass before lunch and took some time out to take in the view. Its crazy because once you cross the pass all the green grass just disappears and it is like a mountainous desert. Its in the rain shadow so therefore nothing receives much rain on this side.
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The way down is very steep and over a huge boulder field. There is a path but you can essentially just walk down anyway you want by boulder hopping. Once at the bottom it is very important to cross the river as high up the valley as possible. The further you go down the bigger the river becomes. We followed the river on the left and couldn’t cross so we had to walk back up for an hour to where the river wasn’t as big to cross.
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It is no joke crossing these rivers. They are glacier run offs and extremely cold. Our legs went red after just 30 seconds walking through. The current is very strong and you can get caught out very easily. When you first come down from the pass you should cross the river to the right side of the valley because there is no way down on the left, take my word we did try unsuccessfully.
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Once you’ve crossed the river then its straight forward and you just follow the path all the way to the next valley. Its quite deceptive as to how far it is but once you can see the river in the Spiti Valley you need to take a left and go down towards Chattru. You can actually see the small town down below. You will need to get here before the end of Octiober because they shut for the winter season and you wont be able to catch a ride back to Manali.
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We got to Chattru at 5 in the afternoon, 8 hours after setting out from just below the Hampta Pass. We were so excited to get there and have a proper meal. There is an iron bridge that you cross over to get to the village from the hiking trail. The village is very basic with it more looking like a huge tent than a permanent structure. Here we asked if they had a room to sleep in as we were sick of the tent. To our surprise they had a storage room with 2 beds for 100 rupees so we jumped at the chance. That night we had the most amazing thali set and slept in our cement storage room like babies.
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The next morning is when the true adventure began, we had to get back to Manali. We asked the people in Chattru and they explained that there was a public bus at 1pm every day. We didn’t want to wait around so we ended up hitch hiking with a truck driver to a junction with the Leh road. We actually thought that the truck driver was going to take us all the way to Manali so when he kicked us out we were a little confused.
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We didn’t have a choice so we got out bags and waited with around 20 Indians at the intersection for the next bus. We were told a bus comes every hour so we just sat down on our bags and waited. It was around midday by this stage and the weather was brutal. We were at 3300m and it was very cold. The wind was strong and we had no where to hide. The bus finally came and all of the Indians jumped on but there was no room left for us.
We sat back down and waited once again for the next bus. The next bus came an hour later but the driver just looked at us, shook his head and kept driving. The bus was half full and we all went up the road chasing after the bus. We couldn’t believe what had just happened. We waited for the next one and to our astonishment this bus driver did the exact same thing – shook his head and continued on. By now we were starting to get worried. It was almost 3 in the afternoon and we were sitting at an intersection in the road. There were no buildings to hide in, no shops or anything. We didn’t know how we were going to get back.
Around 30 minutes later a jeep pulled around the bend and turned left to go up the Rotang Pass. We jumped out and begged the driver to take us back to Manali. There was an Israeli father and his son doing a tour with their driver. The Israelis were life savers but the driver wanted 300 rupees each from us to get a lift back. We didn’t hesitate and all piled in the back of the jeep. The road up the Rotang Pass is very windy and not in good condition. I started to feel very sick from the many hairpins and from being crammed in the back of the jeep with all of our bags.
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We eventually got to the top and then it was smooth sailing back to Manali. We got back to the old city at 6pm and were back in our guesthouse and showered before we knew it. The biggest adventure wasn’t even hiking the Hampta Pass it was getting back from Chattru to Manali.