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Kugti pass trek can be called one of the most amazing yet difficult, daunting and unexplored treks in the Himalayan range. If you are a hard-core trekker who enjoys being captivated by high heightened, troublesome terrains but with a touch of mother earth’s finest creations and wants to soak up nature’s bounty in a twisty thrilling way, this remote excursion is one to be on your bucket list.
The scenic view from Kugti Pass
Kugti pass is located near the remote village of Kugti which is a part of the Pir Panjal Range of the central Himalayan range. The view from the pass serves as a reward for climbing the treacherous peak, giving us a glimpse of the snow-covered barren mountains outside of the Lahaul valley, the Manimahesh Kailash Peak and the Dhauladhar ranges. The trek starts from Bharmour, approximately 65 kilometers from Chamba, where no vehicles can commute any further. From Bharmour as the base and Alyas as a destination, through Kugti village and Duggi via the Kugti pass, the thrill from start to finish is intoxicating.
The trekking trail navigates through acres of dense pine and deodar trees, an abundant spread of apple and peach orchards, and glorious emerald green meadows. The trekker is encountered with sights of gushing waterfalls and crossing water streams throughout the journey of the trek. On ascending towards the peak, the path offers hanging pristine white glaciers, snowfields, and mountain crests. This Kugti pass also helps us witness the Gaddi tribes crossing over in the hilly terrains to Lahaul pass and Spiti valley with their flock of sheep for grazing. Not only does the trek give us an exceptional chance to relish the raw beauty of the Pir Panjal range, but also a picturesque view of the Budhil river. All things considered and with a backdrop of the finest pine trees, this sure is a panorama that truly makes for a picture-perfect wallpaper material.
Exploring the customs and rituals of the local people named Gaddi
The Gaddi people are a Muslim community often known as ‘cow-herders’. These shepherds graze their flock of sheep and cattle in the valleys of Lahaul and Spiti, where the grass is considered to be filled with nutrients than another pass at Lahaul called the Baralacha pass. The Karthik and Mata Marala temples on the way from Kugti to Duggi are considered to be very sacred by the Gaddi people who believe that the Gods are the saviour for their cattle and sheep. The Gaddis after spending six months within the lower reaches of Kangra and Una District of Himachal Pradesh, nomad to Bharmour through Kugti pass to graze their flock.
Being very dedicated to their Gods, they follow a ritual where they seek permission to cross the pass. In this process, they sacrifice a few of their sheep to Lord Shiva, Lord Karthik, and Goddess Marali Devi. It is believed that if somebody is not granted permission, they are bound to spend six months near the Kugti ranges and graze their flock in the allotted regions. The Gaddis return in the month of September and follow the same cycle.
Bharmour is not only picturesquely beautiful and aesthetic but is also spiritual in essence. This place is known to be the abode of Lord Shiva. With numerous temples built in and around this region, it is believed to be under the control of Lord Shiva and hence got the name Shiva Bhumi. Bharmour is also famous for its very close proximity to ancient temples like Manimahesh Lake, Manimahesh Kailash, and Chaurasi which reflects the unknown past of this hidden town.
Day - 00: Pick up point- Pathankot. Then Pathankot to Bharmour. It is roughly a 7-8 hours journey by car.
Day - 01: Bharmour - Hadsar - Kugti. Catch a cab from Bharmour to Hadsar, roughly 20 km. From Hadsar a 6kms trek to Kugti.
Day - 02: Kugti - Duggi. It is a 7 km trek through the Kugti village, along the Budhil river stream. More ascending through green meadows and pine forests.
Day - 03: Duggi - Alyas. The campgrounds on both sides of the pass is called Alyas, locally known as Layesh. It is a 6km exciting trek crossing streams and waterfalls, to reach the campground.
Day - 04: Alyas - Kugti pass - Kodlu Alyas. A 12 km trek, totally dependent on the terrain and weather conditions.
Day - 05: Alyas base camp - Jovrung - Udaipur. Base camp to Jovrung village is an 8 km trek. A 45 km journey in a cab from there to Udaipur.
Day - 06: Udaipur - Keylong - Manali. After visiting Keylong temples, traveling to Manali via Rohtang pass.
Day - 00: On arrival, Pathankot meets our representative and drive straight to visit local sightseeing. After lunch, we’ll move towards Bharmour via Chamba. After reaching Bharmour, check in to the hotel. In the evening, join the Aarti at 84 ancient Chaurasi temples. An overnight stay at the hotel in Bharmour.
Day - 01:
After breakfast early in the morning, we will travel to Hadsar via car for about 20 km. This is a narrow bumpy track with uneven surfaced road bumps. It is then a twisted trek involving several ascents and descents to the Kugti village and we will reach a small station Dhanaul, which is 6 km from Hadsar. After a pit stop at Dhanaul, we continue to trek along the banks of the Budhil river. The trail goes up and down through dense forests, streams and rare views of flock, and after another half an hour we reach the bed of Budhil River, encroaching a total distance of 5 km from Dhanaul. This bed of the river marks the half-way point of your trek. Hereafter, the journey opens to a wider valley with dense pine forests on either side. The trail sharply bends to give away the picturesque Kugti village hidden in the oversetting of the pine trees. You can either fix up a room for yourself or use the ground to set up camps.
Day - 02:
Starting from Kugti, we cross the village over bridges constructed on streams, along the Budhil river. After a large stream indicating the last house of the village, we bid goodbye and engage in a sharp climb immediately. The trail hereafter splits into two - one going higher, and one going lower. Sticking to the one going higher, we are suddenly on top of a colorful plateau apple and peach orchards. The trail leads to the meeting of two rivers opening us up to another scenic view, the Kelang temple. Valleys on one side and cliffs with steep lowering to the Budhil river on the other side, the trail continues with Budhil still flowing not many feet below you, we walk through fragrant gushy meadows, and grassy embankments and reach the camping ground. With gigantic mountains as a 360-degree view, streams and waterfalls squeezing its way through the valley, this camping ground is surrounded by the grandness of nature, called the Gaddi Goth - place where shepherds get their flock for grazing, makes for an exquisite postcard setting.
Day - 03:
The trek begins to get a little tricky from here onwards. It is a long day of hiking in high altitudes. As we are in the course of the trek, the Budhil river starts to fall beyond and below us, and even further, the Duggi valley opens up its beauty to us. The trail will require us to jump and skip over streams and big logs, crossing bridges and entering a greater extension of the forest. Following this hush path of greenery, one can find a rather rocky overhang below the trail. This is known as the Duggi cave. The cave opens up to the eastern end of the valley and the trail overlooks another v-shaped intersection of two high ridges. Climbing down the trail, it opens to two bounds which is a flat ground surrounded by huge mountains on 3 sides protecting it from other elements, and the Budhil slowly flowing, narrowly in very low vicinity. After surpassing the first mound covered with glassy green carpets and clear streams, we reach a much flatter surface known as the Alyas camp, which is most suitable to set up camps.
Day - 04:
The trekking trail is the longest and hardest to see so far. There are 4 stages, first being climbing to the top of a moraine. Second is climbing across another moraine to reach the snowfields. The third stage is to get on the snowfield to reach the Kugti pass base as early as possible. It is ideal to reach the base early because as time ticks, there can be rainfall, heavy snow winds, and other unpredictable weather conditions. The fourth stage is to climb through the boulders to reach the top of the Kugti pass over a section of a moraine. Usually, a visible track in the snow leads us upwards, pretty navigating. Generally, it is considered best to follow the hoof prints of flocks as they invariably pick the safest route through these snowy patches. Roughly 1 km before the pass is a very straining, steep, over loose rocks and snow, nearly 16,000 feet high, the air is thin and every step is a difficult one. Experience in high altitude climbing comes in handy in these situations.
Upon reaching the top, it is a very congested surface barely enough for 4 trekkers to stand at a time. The view bears tall surrounding mountains, white peaks of the Himalayan Range, a glimpse of the Manimahesh Kailash. On top of the pass is a small shrine of the Goddess of the Kugti pass, Marala Devi and is symbolized by trinkets, bells, and colorful cloth. The journey downwards to Alyas and Lahaul is the toughest, with so little space that there is no room for two feet to be kept together. The trail is often wet, or dusty and loose which makes it very hard to negotiate. Trekking 1 km almost takes about an hour in this tedious terrain. After a long day of hiking, we reached back to Alyas camp for a night of relaxation.
Day - 05:
Alyas - Jobrung is an 8 km trekking trail that heads to cross a ridge then goes down to the Rashil stream. Following the right bank of the stream, the path descends to a beautifully situated village called Jovrung, the first habitation on the Lahaul side, overlooking the Chandra-Bhaga River. Later the trail crosses the river by a valley bridge and reaches Shamsha on the Kilad - Manali highway. Later we commute to Udaipur by road.
Day - 06: Udaipur - Keylong - Manali
After visiting the main temple of Mirkla Mata at Udaipur, we will travel to Keylong, the district headquarters of Lahaul. After crossing Kelong we will be further commuting to Manali via Rohtang pass. On spending some time in the pass, we safeguard our memories, thank mother nature for a beautiful getaway, and go our paths.
The nearest town to McLeodganj is Dharamshala. You can reach Dharamshala from Delhi.
By Road: You can take a bus from Delhi. Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation operates buses to Dharamshala from Delhi. Many private operators also have buses on this route to reach Pathankot.
By Train: The nearest railway station is at Pathankot. Almost all trains on the route to Jammu have to make a stopover at this station, from where cabs and buses can be hired to reach Dharamshala/McLeodganj.
By Air: The nearest airport is the Gaggal airport (21 km). Few carriers like Air India and SpiceJet operate flights that take around one hour and fifteen minutes to half a hrs from Delhi. You can take a cab from here to Pathankot.
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