OverviewThe Himalayas can be accessed from many points. One of the prettiest and closest to the capital of India, which is New Delhi is heading north towards Shimla.
Shimla was the erstwhile summer capital of the British India, when the officers used to go there to enjoy the summers. It used to be known as "Simla". It is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Himachal Pradesh shares a border with Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (U.P) and Uttarakhand. The literal meaning of Himachal Pradesh is "Region / Land of Snow-Clad Mountains"
Like Uttarakhand, where lies the range of Garhwal and Kumaon, Himachal boasts of the majestic Dhauladhar range. This range spans from the North-West to the South-East of the state, and boasts of many high mountains.
Rohtang Pass is a very critical and strategically placed pass in this range, which connects the Kullu Valley to the Lahaul and Spiti Valley. In Winters, this pass is closed, and hence the contact with Lahaul and Spiti is disrupted. The Rohtang tunnel is being created especially by the Indian Army for this reason, so that the Lahaul and Spiti valley doesn't get disconnected from the northern part of Himachal.
In summer, these two valleys get connected, when the pass opens, around the last week of May. As green is the Kullu valley, the Lahual and Spiti Valley is exactly the opposite, i.e. hardly any trees - it is complete barren beauty.
While the Kullu Valley boasts of many peaks in the region (IndraSan, Kullu Pumori, Hanuman Tibba, Deo Tibba, DharamSura, KshitiDhar, Ladakhi, Friendship, Seven Sisters, Makerbeh, Shikarbeh etc.), the Lahaul and Spiti Valley as well boasts of many peaks (Moulkila 1 to 10, Chandr-Bhaga (CB) 1 to 10, Stok Kangri, Devachan, Behali Jot, Kao Rong, Menthosa, and many unnamed peaks).
Getting ThereTo get to Manali, there are regular bus services from Delhi, both by state transport (government owned) and private operators.
The buses take between 16 - 18 hours to reach Manali, and it is an overnight journey. Also, quite a few people visit The Great Himalayan National Park,
There is also an airport at Bhuntar, which is about 25 kms south of Kullu. The drive from Bhuntar airport to Manali is about 2 hours. Kingfisher Airlines is one of the airlines that operates this flight, but the flight is an expensive one, when compared to the bus fares.
Also, some people prefer taking a private taxi, which can take you from Delhi to Manali, although the fare of a private taxi is quite steep. The journey in a private taxi gets cut short to about 13-15 hours.
Red TapeThere is pretty much no red tape in this region. There are certain peaks in India, which are quite few, that requires the permission of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, based out of Delhi.
But, most of the peaks in Himachal Pradesh doesn't require a permit from IMF. A list of "open peaks" is given here. This is where you can download the forms needed to book a climbing trip.
Apart from the local tolls which one has to pay on the way to Manali, for using the bridges and highways, there is pretty much no problem. Nowadays, in Manali, they have started a "Green Toll Tax", which is INR 300/-.
Also, from Solang Nalla to Dhundi, the distance is 8 kms. If the local driver can get you a permit by talking to the concerned Army authorities, then you can save the 2 hours of hike on paved road, which gets very boring. The permit requires precisely how many people are coming in the vehicle, who is the driver, what is his name, his age, his driving license no etc.
CampingWhile climbing the following peaks,
- Hanuman Tibba
One starts from Solang Nallah, and walks towards Dhundi. Solang Nallah is 13 kms from Manali, and it takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach Solang Nallah. If somebody feels that acclimatization is a problem, then one can camp at Solang Nalla. When I went to Beas Kund and Patalsu Base Camp trek in 1995, we had our base camp at Solang Nallah. From there, one can walk to Dhundi, and make camp there.
After Dhundi, the next campsite is Bakkhar-thach, which has pretty much ready campsites because the Basic Course in Mountaineering uses this as their base camp site. Water is readily available at this campsite right from May end. But, if one goes to this region in Early May, then this campsite might be completely in snow, and running water streams might be hard to find.
Next from Bakkhar-thach is the campsite of Bhoj-patthar, which falls exactly in the middle of Bakkhar-thach and Beas Kund. The problem with this campsite is that it does not have any water source.
After Bhoj-Patthar, the next campsite is Beas Kund, which is completely in snow, till the 20th of June. People going in late June will find this place entirely green, with running water.
One has to go via the Rape Ridge, and set up camp 1 at the top of rape ridge. This camp 1 serves as a summit camp for KshitiDhar, and for Ladakhi and Manali, some people set up camp 2 after climbing the col above rape ridge.
- Hanuman Tibba
One has to set up Base camp at Beas Kund, and go in a different direction towards Tentu Pass. After climbing Tentu pass, Camp 1 for Hanuman Tibba gets established. After Camp 1, some people establish a camp 2 and some people directly establish a summit camp.
One has to take a detour just before Bakkhar-thach, to go to campsite called "Lady Lake". This serves as a base camp for Friendship. From lady lake campsite, one more camp, Camp 1 is established before attempting the summit. The Camp 1 serves as a summit camp.