Rupin Pass is an amazing journey through the lower Himalayan ranges (Shivalik) tracing the source of the River Rupin. It begins with a gentle walk through forests and villages and thereafter gets exciting with rocky trails, flowery meadows, edge of the cliff steep curves often leading to crossing the river Rupin jumping over stones and wobbly wooden bridges.
The real thrill is in spending a stolen moment in a hanging house allowing the Himalayan magic to seep in; to drink the pure Himalayan water from the many streams, enjoy the orchestra of the small and large waterfalls, gaze at the million stars in the sky, cross snow bridges in measured steps and finally cross the steep Rupin Pass only to slide down a snow field into vast green meadows. If you trek and Rupin Pass is not in your bucket list; I am sure at the end of this read it surely will be or if you have never trekked, it will urge you to pack your bags. The Himalayas are addictive in some way, their mysticism revealed to the fortunate ones who experience their grandeur from close quarters.
- Duration: 8-9 days ; Location: Starts in Dhaula -Uttarakhand and ends in Sangla-Himachal Pradesh
- Highest Altitude: 15250 feet. ; Difficulty Level – Moderate
- Views: Rupin and Baspa River, Dhauladhar and Kinnar Kailash Range, Green Valleys, Flowers, Waterfalls, Hanging Houses, Snow Bridges and Snow Pass
- Best Time:
- Mid May to Late June- Snow can be seen in May whereas in June it is more green with flowers and waterfalls.
- End September to End October-September is green and full of flowers whereas October is clear skies and beautiful mountain views.
- Travel Tip: Dhaula is a 8-9 hour road trip from Dehradun. Shared cabs are available from Dehradun rail station. Dehradun is well connected by air and rail to rest of India. Sangla is about 8 hours drive away from Shimla. The nearest air and rail head for Shimla is Chandigarh (4 -5 hrs) though many prefer Delhi (7-9 hrs)
Day 1 and Day 2 – Dehradun to Dhaula(5100 ft)) to Sewa(6300 ft): The 10 hour drive from Dehradun to Dhaula along the muddy Tons river was least eventful and the brief breakfast and lunch stops were nothing worthy to write about. Somewhere during the journey we had entered Govind National Park located deep within the Garhwal Himalayas. As we approached Dhaula, the clear waters of the roaring Rupin river merged into Tons. We camped between Pine and Deodar Trees in Dhaula in the banks of the Rupin. Next morning, the sudden pre-monsoon showers was a welcome breather during our 6 hour trek to Sewa. We crossed the Rupin and walked on an undulating trail through the forests. The earthy fragrance of wet mud after the sudden showers and the invisible singing birds lost in the trees were ardent company through the walk. The pebbled path had pine cones of different sizes strewn all over.
The winding road led us through small hamlets dotted with apple and aprocot tree and children waved past with alluring smiles. The apples and apricots on the trees had a long way to ripen so a kind lady offered us some ripe apricots from her home. We passed by the temple in Sewa village, the tall pagoda like one adorned with medals won by the village teams in various sporting events. The wood carving on the walls and doors depicting different Hindu deities was pleasing to the eye. We camped a little ahead of the village after crossing a narrow wooden bridge across a gurgling stream which was the unofficial border between the two hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal.
Day 3- Sewa to Jakha (8700): The sun was out by 5am in all its glory and the birds chirped away till we emerged from our tents to watch them take a quick dip in the icy waters of Rupin. The initial climb was steep and it progressively got steeper with intermittent descents. At one such steep ascent, we were held up in a sheep jam who decided to defy the shepherd and went helter skelter at the sight of green patches to feed on. We walked on a narrow trail by the side of the mountains trying to keep as close to it as possible often casting a glance at the deep gorge on the other side. I took multiple breaks along the mountain side, resting my back on the hard rock and admiring the depths of nature while Rupin roared in agreement. It is that moment when you meditate with open eyes and your mind willfully gives in to the commands of your soul. Soon the meandering trail brought us to the village of Jiskun where ladies sat around trees gossiping in hushed tones after a hard days work at home
I was particularly moved by the bonding of the great great grand mother with the little girl. Her toothless smile and sparkling eyes conveyed hope and made me fall in love with life all over again. The last village on this trail Jakha is pretty and picturesque. It can be easily renamed hanging village with almost every house appearing to hang out from the mountains. I sat on the edge of one such house soaking in the Himalayan beauty. It was that thoughtless moment when you stop breathing and become one with the one!! The last time I felt like this may have been at birth 🙂 We trekked up a mile to the Dhara Devi temple revered by locals. The older one was shut and the new one was being constructed with local wood and carved by skilled local craftsmen. It closely resembled the one in Sewa village.
Day4 – Jakha to Saruwas (10250) : We stayed at a homestay in Jakha; cozying in my sleeping bag with 8 others in a large room. We started off with a steep ascent which slowly led into wide valley where eagles soared high up in the skies. There were Bhoj Trees on the way – the leaves of which were used by our ancient sages to record history of those times. After a while we descended down towards the river and snacked at the tea stall who also served Maggi. Since I was not up to both I opted to buy packets of peanuts to munch on the way. The owner walked miles every week, to stock up on supplies and yet charged everything at MRP (maximum retail price). His honesty shone through his eyes as he narrated stories of the receding glacier over the years due to climate change. Beyond this point, a narrow trail ascended through the mountains and led us to our campsite through a lush green patch dotted with rocks.
There was a sudden burst of color as flowers bloomed on the sides though the rhododendron trees were nearly barren with a few white and pink flowers that had almost wilted. I was humming my favorite tunes for the flowers, the rocks, the clouds, the river when a rat peeped out of his hole and joined in the audience !!
Day 5- Saruwas to Dhanderas Thatch (Lower Waterfall)-11700ft: The road ahead from the campsite was rocky and we had to watch our step on small and large loose rocks. After a short walk we crossed the first snow bridge across the thundering Rupin.
Slow measured steps saw us through this adventurous stretch and it opened out to a wide expansive valley with waterfalls trickling and thundering down from all sides. We walked on a green carpet adorned with blue and yellow flowers where cows and sheep walked around in gay abandon and birds hopped from rock to rock crooning their welcome song.
It was drizzling off and on and the view from my tent was enough to entice me to experience the mountain rain with music on my lips.
At the far end was the thundering waterfall that partially covered the Dhauladhar range. The rocky mountains on the side were simply perfect for a rock climbing adventure and the GIO team leads guided the enthusiastic ones through this experience.
Day 6- Dhanderas Thatch to Upper Waterfall (13200 ft) :This was the shortest walk in the entire stretch but rather slippery with incessant rain. We climbed the waterfall, gingerly stepping on a glacier and a snow bridge lest it give away. Though feet were unsteady I reveled in the joy of the trickling raindrops on my face, reminding me of my existence. Between the haze and the mist, the clouds kissed the green grass on which we walked, it was a walk in paradise. In between the adventurous moments, I looked at the thundering waterfall more than once; the continuity never interrupted except during harsh winters when it is lulled into frozen inactivity- nature was, nature is and nature will be. It was a relaxed day and I lingered around the water fall admiring the uber green Rupin Valley stretched out lazily under the warm glow of the fading sun, the river meandering through the folded mountains etching out its own course. The sky was blue, the kind of blue that we would paint on paper during childhood when everything seemed pure and pristine. The fluffy white clouds held the mountain tops in tight embrace, it was the kind of natural romance you get to see only in the hills and slowly the near full moon made a quiet appearance waiting for night to set in to make its presence felt.
Day 7- Upper Waterfall-RupinPass-RontiGad (13200-15250-13200) : It was the longest day on the trek and we had to ascend nearly 700 metres to cross the snow covered high mountain pass. We started at 5 am in the morning slowly ascending towards the pass which was partly snow covered. We trudged on patches of hardened snow which brought back memories of the Chadar Trek; and all I could hear was my own breath and the click clack of the micro spikes. The steps cut on the hardened snow were slippery and steep and soon it was only sharp rocks that had to be negotiated carefully. As we passed through the narrow passage onto the other side, it was a vast expanse of snow shimmering under the morning sun. We prayed at the chorten adorned with Buddhist Prayer Flags and after one last look at the sprawling Rupin Valley we were ready to descend to the other side. It was easier to slide down the snowy way; straight into a rocky patch which soon merged into a grassy meadow.
We walked for hours (3) in the meadows; stopping more than once to roll on the grass. The yaks, sheep and cows lazed about often giving us a disdainful look to not spoil their peace.
Day 8 & Day 9 – Ronti Gad to Sangla to Shimla: The descending path from Ronti Gad to Sangla was quite gentle except for the small pebbles and rocks that made it tougher. With the river ( tributary of Baspa) on our right and vast meadows ahead; it was a pleasant trail.
We could sight Sangla Valley from a distance and it so appeared that we were were walking straight into Kinnaur Kailash range. After about 3.5 hours we were in Sangla Valley walking into a pretty town blessed by the Baspa River and snowy peaks around. The 9 hour bus ride to Shimla from Sangla was along the muddy Baspa River which seemed to be also the life line of various Hydro Electric Power projects in the Valley !!
Every time, I travel to the Himalayas ; I count my blessings of having been privy to yet another aspect of the mysticism of these mountains. who seem to reveal themselves to their chosen ones. I return home yearning for more secretly expanding my list of places to explore within the mountains.
I traveled with GIO Adventures who are specialists in treks and other adventure activities in India. Their trek guides are experienced mountaineers were always present to extend a hand when most needed.
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