For this one let’s try to talk about the famous hill station and the capital of Himachal Pradesh first; Shimla, which during the pre-independence days was the summer capital of India. Its enticing location and weather, makes it the best place/base camp for exploring the Shivaliks – the foothills of the Himalayas. Did you know? During the period before 1947, owing to its location (proximity to the Indian plains and the Himalayas) Shimla was a chosen destination for some of the world’s first trekking agencies. By 1921, Shimla had a branch of the Himalayan Club which assisted with expeditions across the Western Himalaya. To the north and north-east lies the Great Himalayan Range dividing the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. Slightly to the west is the Dhaula Dhar, cutting through the heart of Himachal Pradesh into eastern Uttaranchal. And beyond these mountains lie the complex Trans Himalaya that include the Zanskar and Ladakhi ranges.
The Bashleo pass trek is akin to the first chapter on trekking in the western Himalayas, taking you into a region which yet to an extent, untouristed, pristine and devoid of modern day rigmarole. This is a walk to feel blessed with nature and take a brief pause. The pre trek gearing up involves getting to Shimla and then driving to the beautiful meadow of Baga Saraun (a.k.a Kullu Saraun), across the Sutlej in Kullu region. Baga Saraun also serves as a base for the annual monsoon pilgrimage to Srikhand Mahadev, a Himalayan precipice worshipped as the manifestation of ‘Lord Shiva’. Our route, which borders the Great Himalayan National Park, takes us through classic village landscapes with some splendid regional architecture and across the forested slopes of the foothills. The majority of the trek is on good trails and village paths. A short section is along a jeepable track but traffic is not frequent. Some sections are steeper but not technically difficult. This trek provides a wonderful opportunity to combine walking in superb Himalayan scenery with the cultural and historical highlights of the region. Detailed historical descriptions of the area can be found in the memoirs of Penelope Chetwode, daughter of Lord Chetwode who was Commander in Chief of India shortly before Independence. Her book, “Kullu, the end of the habitable world” recalls her retracing most of our trek in 1963. Also of interest is the website of the Great Himalayan National Park: www.greathimalayannationalpark.com.We end the trek in the Tirthan valley, again on the vestiges of ‘The Great Himalayan national Park’ and on the banks of the River Tirthan; a very well-known angling destination. We would also allow ourselves one more day, to explore the region and make a quick dash to Sereolsar Lake, a one walk from Jalori pass, at a distance of 35 kms from Tirthan valley, and also appreciate the beauty of quaint villages of Shoja, Ghyaghi and Jibhi, a photographer’s delight.
A SAMPLE ITINERARY WHICH INVOLES MOUNTAIN CYCLING AND HIKING
DAY ONE Shimla – Narkanda – Duttnagar – Nirmund – Bagipul – Baga Sarahan (78kms)
Arrive in Shimla, and drive to Narkanda (65kms Hour and a half). Check into the comfort of your Hotel, and after a brief period of relaxation feast on breakfast. After breakfast we head out and ride downhill to reach Kumarsen, through small villages and apple orchards, catch up with national highway 22 and ride till Duttnagar, where we cross the Sutlej river and ride uphill to Nirmund. We have 62 kms of riding till now and it’s another 8 kms to Baghipul and another 8 steep uphill to the sprawling meadows of Baga Kullu Sarahan. Overnight in Homestay/Rest House.
DAY TWO Slow paced Hiking for 7-8 hours over Bashleo Pass
It’s Hiking day! Post breakfast we climb up to the Bashleo Pass for lunch. The Bashleo Pass has amazing panoramic views of the mountains around Shimla, Kinnaur, and Lahaul-Spiti and beyond Kullu you can catch a glimpse of Shrikhand Mahadev (5515m). From Bashleo Pass we walk down a little to the wide green alpine meadow overlooking the lush green forest and mountains. The descent is approx. 1300m, very steep and through thick forests and patches of green meadows. Bathad is a small village situated high up overlooking the Palachan Gad on the vestiges of the great Himalayan nation park. We get into the waiting vehicles and travel to Nagini village in the Tirthan valley.
DAY THREE Nagini – Banjar – Shoja – Jalori pass – Sereolsar Lake – Nagini (28kms)
Challenge yourself to the upcoming ride today. A level 8kms of riding till Banjar and a grueling 20kms climb to Jalori pass (3360mts), past the beautiful hamlets of Jibhi and Shoja. The 5kms to the top of Jalori pass are a whopping 14% gradient. We allow ourselves up to six hours to reach Jalori pass, where lunch awaits us. Post lunch we ride midway to Sereolsar lake and hike further to the lake. Thereafter hike back to the pass and ride downhill back to Tirthan Valley.