Rupin pass Trek

The Changsheel sub range of the Himalayas that starts from the Yamunotri region in Uttarakhand and extends into Himachal pradesh is riddled with a number of high altitude passes for crossing from one side to the other. Notable among these are Rupin, Nalgan and Borasu passes that descend into the Kinnaur region of Himachal between Sangla and Chitkul and Bali, Yamunotri and Dhumdhar kandi passes that connect the Har ki doon and Yamunotri valleys. The trek across the Rupin pass, at an altitude of 4650 meters (15,250 Feet) traces the river Rupin from its confluence with the Tons river near Naitwar to its glacial origins in the higher reaches of the range. Frequently used by locals during the short summer season to commute between Mori/Naitwar in Uttarakhand and Sangla in Himachal, the pass is rarely visited by the common trekker. It’s a long lasting tradition of shepherds from both sides to take their flocks across the pass in search of greener pastures. While a local may cover the distance in two days or three, it took us eight tiring days to reach Sangla, enjoying all along, every change in scenery from thick forests to grasslands to endless snow fields that the mountains offered.

(Trekkers approaching the Rupin pass gully)

Dairy Entry

Rivers are like people

The only enjoyable things in Dehradun in the summer heat were the litchis, mangoes and peaches on sale at an unbeleivable price. I stuffed every pocket and my mouth with luscious litchis and prepared for the 10 hour drive to the first campsite at Dhaula. We took the road towards Yamunotri and followed the river Yamuna in its path till Navgaon from where we took a turn to the left to enter the valley of Tons, a tributary of Yamuna. The Rupin river in turn meets the Tons river near Naitwar, from where begins the Govind Pashu National park that houses a major part of the Changsheel range and is shared between Himachal and Uttarakhand. Every road or trail in the mountains is invariably cut out of the valley wall and hence wind along the paths of the rivers that originate at the top. Rivers, like people, have their distinctive appearance and personality and it was refreshing to follow each one of them closely: The murky olive shades of Yamuna, Tons in its milky grey with a hint of blue, the fierce torrents of the turquoise colored Baspa and more charming than everything else, the vibrant teal colored waters of the Rupin, shining like emerald and sapphire whenever the sun managed to reach it !

 (Rupin river bed beyond Sewa village, Himachal)

Idyllic hamlets on the hill top

The next day's trail went past the the Dodra-Kawar power project and the road that was under construction (which is visited by one bus daily from Rohru in Himachal). We reached the village of Jiskoon by afternoon and the shops in this remote hamlet well stocked with most trekking needs did surprise us. From Jiskoon we descended through lush forests to reach the river and then to finally finish the tiring hour long ascent to the hill top village of Jhaka. The rains and the cloud made the day darker and we relaxed inside the cozy wooden house of a villager where we stayed that night. In the late evening, I visited the Dhara village on the top of the opposite hill. The temple that was under construction was the talk of the town everywhere around and I hence decided to pay a visit. A special artiste from Kinnaur had been commissioned to make the wooden carvings for the temple and a huge granite slab had been brought from the plains. The artiste working on the project observed several restrictions like surviving on one meal a day, abstinence from family contact, not cutting his beard hair or nails during the entire period and many more. The villagers were very happy to spot a trekker around them in a village which did not lie on the common trails.

(Dhara village as seen from Jhaka)

We started late the next day due to incessant rains. The dense pine forests appeared darker in the cloudy weather and the the snow caps that painted the background made momentary appearances through the cloud every now and then. We descended down to the river and had a taste of some real adventure by climbing a rock patch first and then crossing the river. The rocky river bed now was replaced by green patches of fresh grass and tiny strawberries that had grown everywhere around in them. Meadows strewn with strawberries must have been a fantasy in some dream of mine I thought, as I kept myself busy plucking and tasting them!

Whimsical Weather of the Mountains

It was almost evening when we reached Saruwas thatch and there seemed to be no respite from the bad weather. Most of us were completely wet and only cared to save one pair of dry clothes for days ahead. The hails had brought the temperature down and we stayed tent bound the entire night. Sun however did decide to grace us the next day late in the morning and we curiously examined the fresh snow caps everywhere around and the myriad streams that had made their way around our tents the previous night. By  noon, we started towards Dhanderas Thatch. The short trek again concluded with an unexpected change in weather that turned the entire meadow white with the fresh hail. Although the night saw a fairly clear sky, we could see clearly that our trail for the next day had a heavy snow cover !

(Tents at Dhanderas Thatch)

Continue to Page 2 of this entry


We were the members of the first team of trekkers organized by IndiaHikes to the Rupin pass. Ponies cannot travel on this route due to the steep inclines and we were equipped with a wonderful support team of helpers, cooks and guides from the nearby villages around Sankri, whose invaluable support helped us, amateur trekkers, successfully complete this high altitude trek, which is not otherwise easily done. A highly recommended trek for those with very good fitness and a passion of adventure.

 (Indiahikes support team)

Itinerary :

Day 1 : Drive from Dehradun to Dhaula, via Herbertpur, Navgaon, Purola, Mori and Naitwar.
Day 2 : Trek from Dhaula to a little beyond Sewa (5 Hrs)
Day 3 : Trek to Jhaka (6 Hrs)
Day 4 : Trek to Saruwas Thatch (7.5 Hrs)
Day 5 : Trek to Dhanderas Thatch (2 Hrs)
Day 6 : Trek to Rupin upper waterfall camp (4.5 Hrs)
Day 7 : Trek to Rupin pass and descent to the meadows beyond Ronti gad (9 Hrs)
Day 8 : Trek to Sangla via Sangla Kanda (4.5 Hrs)


(Dhaula village and Rupin river)

(Temple at Sewa)

(Wooden carvings at the Dhara temple)

(Strawberries on the way to Saruwas)

(Rupin valley view)

(Rhododendron flowers on the way to Dhanderas)

(Cattle grazing at Dhanderas thatch)