A land of austere beauty characterised by a barren landscape, its monotony intermittently broken by ancient monasteries perilously perched on craggy hilltops; Spiti till very recently forbade admission to outsiders and remained inaccessible to all. Located close to the Tibetan border the windswept plateau of Spiti lies in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, and there are still many peaks to be climbed and hidden valleys to be explored here.
After a whirlwind tour of Delhi we make an overland journey to Manali - a very popular hill-station located at the top of Kullu Valley, close to Beas River; from here we drive over a high pass and enter Spiti Valley. Our trek originates here, going over passes and along broad arid valleys ensconced in forbidding environs. Do not expect to see lush alpine meadows glowing green in the morning dew, or dark and deep Himalayan woods; this stark landscape has its own unique and haunting beauty. We pass by villages scattered sporadically across this Himalayan wilderness, and gradually climb higher into the mountains to reach our Base Camp from where we shall make our assault on the Hidden Peak (6140m). The peak provides thrilling snow scrambling, with incredible views out across the Tibetan plateau.
After the climb, a four day trek eastward towards Tibet, takes us out of the mountains into the open plains to Tso Morari Lake. From here we drive to Leh, the fascinating capital of Ladakh, before flying back to Delhi.
Best time: July to mid September
To join the Hidden Peak expedition you need the following specialist equipment: Ice Axe, Crampons, Harness, Plastic or Leather Mountaineering Boots, 3/4 Season Sleeping Bag
Day 01: Delhi - Nalagarh:
After breakfast we drive 5hrs across the plains of Punjab to Nalagarh, and stay in the delightful Nalagarh Fort, a Heritage hotel, with fine views of Shivalik hills. Afternoon visit to the nearby temple or just relax and take a dip in the pool. Dinner & overnight in hotel.
Day 03: Nalagarh - Manali:
A picturesque (8hrs) drive over rolling hills and through dense forests; and from Kullu along the bubbling River Beas. The route is also dotted with lovely villages, apple orchards and temples. Arrive Manali late evening.Lunch en route; breakfast, dinner & overnight in hotel.
DAY 04: Manali - Chatru:
After breakfast we drive (175km/5hrs) to Chatru over Rohtang Pass (3978m), which offers spectacular views of Pir Panjal range. We drive along the Chandra River to our overnight stop at the beautiful camping spot of Chatru. Overnight in camp.
DAY 05 Chatru - Kaza:
Today we drive (127km/8hrs) into the remote district of Spiti, crossing over Kunzum La (4551m), with spectacular views on the way. From the pass, we descend into Spiti valley over a rough road to our camp site at Kaza. Overnight in camp.
DAY 06: Kaza - Kibber:
We visit Kye monastery in the morning and in the afternoon we make a short hike to Kibber village (4205m). Overnight in camp.
DAY 07 Kibber - Dumla (4200m):
We leave Spiti valley behind, and enter the zone of plateaux and gorges, that pave the way for the higher ground and the peaks ahead, around Parang La pass. We negotiate a rough road as far as Kibber village perched on the edge of the gorge of Paralungbi Chu, and then head off into the wilderness. After Dumla, the next house is 17 days away at Karzok! A steep descent into the gorge is followed by a more gradual ascent, past water-powered corn mills to the sheltered fields of Dumla. Overnight in camp.
DAY 08, Dumla - Thaltok (4600m):
It should take us 3hrs to reach the next campsite. It is a long steady climb up and across a ridge at 4760m and then a quicker descent to our campsite in a cirque overlooking a deep canyon, with great views to the 6100m peak of Kanikma far beyond. Overnight in camp.
DAY 09: Acclimatisation day at Thaltok:
A break at Thaltok to catch our breaths (quite literally) and get used to the rapidly increasing altitude. This is a good day for a range of activities: fossil hunting; washing in the stream; lying on your back and contemplating the clear blue skies overhead; or maybe strolling out across the plateau to a headland that teeters above a 400m drop into the canyon of the Paralungbi Chu. This is also the first chance to see Parang La, slung between two peaks, some 1000m higher than this viewpoint. Overnight in camp.
DAY 10: Down, then up, to the base camp of Parang La (5100m):
A steep descent into the gorge, then a river crossing followed by a long stony climb takes us literally to the doorstep of the high peaks. A herd of Bharal or blue sheep might watch quizzically as we make a very measured ascent to over 5000m. The campsite is an arid corrie, and the silence is absolute! Overnight in camp.
DAY 11: Across Parang La (5600m):
It should take less than 3hrs to reach the pass; a steady climb over scree slopes and a final zigzag, to climb out near cairns festooned with prayer flags. Behind are ridge upon ridge of rocky peaks, in front of a broad glacier leading down to the valley of the Pare Chu. On either side, there are ice walls and hanging glaciers. To walk gently downhill at this altitude is sheer joy! The glacier is benign but eyes must be kept wide open to avoid a mishap. As the glacier gets steeper towards its snout, we clamber off onto the true left bank and continue down to the first of the gravel plains that characterise the Pare Chu valley. We camp at Kharsa Gongma (4950m), where we find a small stream of fresh water. The main river is a murky grey torrent at this time of day, and its crossing must wait until morning. This is a place of inexplicable beauty - the immense plains, the abrupt steep slopes of surrounding peaks, and high snowfields catching the rays of the evening sun. Overnight in camp.
DAY 12: Valley of Pare Chu, to near Thaktote (4840m):
This valley is a glaciated trough cutting straight through a maze of 6000m peaks; many unclimbed and with side valleys yet to be visited. After three river crossings, passing occasional small oases, and 5hrs of walking, we reach their confluence; we camp in a side valley. The side valley has no name�it is such a place! Overnight in camp.
DAY 13: Move up to Base Camp (5140m):
As we begin marching up, the side valley appears to lead nowhere as it gets narrower and narrower with frequent river crossings, scrambling over piles of loose scree and circumventing the debris of old avalanches. After a while, a high snowy wall seems to fill the end of the valley and the valley sides open out, where a tributary descends steeply from a series of glaciated cirques. Base Camp is on a terrace, high above the streams, littered with fossils and rare ground-hugging plants. Overnight in camp.
DAY 14: Rest day:
A chance to take a break and rest our tootsies. For the more enthusiastic there is a convenient peak (5850m) right above the campsite; the route following quite a steep well-defined but technically straightforward ridge to the top. From here there are superb views of the possible objectives for the next few days. Overnight in camp.
DAY 15: Ascent of "Hidden Peak" (6140m):
The ascent is fairly straightforward, following moraines in the lower part of the glacier; the ascending trail over the glacier getting steeper near the main ridge. As the glacier is likely to be snow covered from here onwards, we rope up and continue up the sharpening snow slopes. The views get better and better, glaciated peaks in all directions and you can regale in the knowledge that you are the only people in the entire area that falls within your vision! The snow slopes lead to the summit ridge and a huge drop to the north side. A short scramble brings us up to the summit itself and a 360� panorama unfolds around us, from the Tso Morari Lake to the north, the inaccessible and difficult peak of Gya on the Tibetan border to the east, and a tangle of peaks around the beautiful snow pyramid of Shilla to the south. Ascent time should be no more than 7-8hrs. We descend to Base Camp. Overnight in camp.
Rest day at Base Camp: A morning to stir up lazily; wash in the river; have a leisurely breakfast; wander around taking in the fresh Himalayan air (though a bit low on oxygen); in short, simply chill out and feel delighted at our triumph! Overnight in camp.
Trek to Karzok (4600m):
Not to be underrated as a 'stroll back to the road'! It takes four days to do so! The trail now goes down to the valley of Pare Chu following this broadening, grey, glacial torrent eastwards towards Tibet; it turns sharply to the north, rounding a corner to reveal an entirely new world! After the hot, dusty, enclosed valley of Pare Chu, the mountains pull right back to reveal the open plains surrounding the Tso Morari Lake; this high, brackish lake are home to migrating birds, marmots, the rare Kiang (Equus hemionus kiang) the Tibetan Wild Ass, and the Snow Leopard! Of course, they won't come wandering into your camp, but it is likely that you may see the spoor of a female with her young, imprinted in the sands of the lake. You can also expect to meet the Chang pa people, the nomads of these high plains - they gallop across the grasslands towards you and you await them with some trepidation, but all they want is to shake your hand, grin broadly and ride off towards the horizon in a cloud of dust! Savour the beauty of your surroundings - the superb campsite, the aquamarine waters of the lake, the open space, the all pervading peace, and the dramatically sited Karzok village untarnished by the modern ways of life. Overnight in camp.
Drive to Leh: Keep your camera handy for this spectacular drive, initially along the banks of Tso Morari, and then up into the arid hills and mountains to the north, before dropping down into the confines of the Indus valley; on the way we pass the salt lake of Kiagar Tso in this truly alien environment. The hot granite gorges of the Indus eventually lead to the wider valley of central Ladakh, passing the famous gompas (monastery) of Hemis and Tikse. The hotel at Leh comes as a welcome refuge of shade, greenery (the novelty of trees again!) and hot water. Overnight in hotel.
Every effort will be made to adhere to the above itinerary, but as this is adventure travel in a remote mountain region, we cannot guarantee following it to a T. Weather playing truant, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns, the health of climbers, are all factors that can individually or collectively precipitate last-ditch changes. Though the Expedition Leader and our local guide will try to ensure that the trip runs according to plan�having a cheerful disposition will definitely be an asset! Hidden Peak is graded 3B: It is suitable for those with previous ice axe and crampon experience on Grade II winter climbs. The expedition is a long journey and members should be prepared for the relative isolation and stark landscape, distinctive features of this region which lies in one of the remotest parts of the Himalayas.
Cost incidental to any change in the itinerary/ stay on account of flight cancellation due to bad weather, ill health, road blockages due to uncalled-for-incidences/natural calamities and/or any factors beyond control.