Activities in Bir-Billing

October 08,2019

Bir-Billing-Panahartu-Thamsar Pass Nayagram Trekking route

Bara Bhangal is a fairly large village located in the depths of the Ravi valley in the extreme north of Kangra district, but it is also the name given to the entire area between the Manimahesh and Dhaludhar ranges. It is surrounded on three sides by high mountain passes Thamsar Pass on the south, Khalihani Pass on the east and Chobu Pass on the east and Chobu Pass on the north. From the west it can be accessed along the gorge of the Ravi which flows in an east-west alignment, cutting the valley into two. The most popular trek is over the Thamsar (17,500 feet).

Day One :- The road head is at Bir-Billing, off the Pathankot-Mandi road, about 30 kms from Baijnath and famous as the venue for para-gliding events. There is a very good forest rest house at Bir to serve as base-camp. One treks nrth from Billing for eight kms through thick oak and rhododendron forests and enters the small valley of the river Uhl that flows west to east.

Day Two :- It is 16 kms to the next day’s camping site at Panahartu (12,000 feet). The first seven kms in a gentle ascent through dense deobar forests to a place called placheck (9,000 feet), where the Uhl is crossed over a wooden bridge that gets washed away every year. The river abruptly turns northwards here and the valley narrows into a canyon: the landscape becomes grimmer, trees give way to shrubs, the wind acquires an icy edge, and even the sunlight peeps in with difficulty.

Day Three :- It is four hours of strenuous climbing to the Thamsar Pass, and the weather can change in half an hour, so it is best to begin the ascent at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. One climbs two steep ridges to a flat patch covered with moraine and pockets of grass: this is Bherpal Got (Shepherds’ Ground) because this is where the Shepherds camp on their way to and from Bara Bhangal. To the right is a small ice-field from which a small stream meanders down to the Uhl. On a clear day one can see the pass from here, about a kilometer away. It is an amazing sight and unlike any pass is straight ahead is a unique geological formation: a rampart, half a kilometer long in an east-west alignment, of crenallated crags looking exactly like the ruins of an ancient fort. The pass is one of the ‘V’s’ between the crags, festooned with the usual prayer flags and stone cairns. The view to the north is awesome: a succession of massive glaciers and snowfields as far as the eye can see.

Day Four :- The dawn is magnificent blinding bright and cold and to the North we can see the majestic peaks of the Manimahesh and Kailash Parbat ranges. It is only 5 kms over a fairly steep track to the Ravi which meets the track at right angles, flowing east to west. To the right of the intersection the Kahani stream also pours its waters into the Ravi, coming from the Khalihani pass to the east, beyond which lies Kullu district. On the other side of the Ravi and accessed by an old wooden bridge, is the village of Bara Bhangal, consisting of about 60 houses. It has two schools, a dispensary, a forest guard and a ‘patwari’. In 2004 the village was electrified when a micro hydro project on an adjacent stream was commissioned.

Day Five :- The exit from Bara Bhangal is westwards, within the gorge of the Ravi. The track clings to the right bank, climbing and descending like a writhing snake, the first 5 kms to Bhalaid Nallah (the border with Chamba and Bharmaur), is through a big green ‘thatch’ that tapers down to a goat track. One will go down four successive ridges and then comes to a rock face where the track just disappeared! About thirty meters of bare rock perched two thousand feet sheer above the Ravi, has to be negotiated by wedging fingers and cracks into the wall and slithering sideways. If somebody falls from here and one or two do every year nobody even bothers to look for the body! This patch is just before Khanar, 18 kms from Bara Bangal. Khanar is a small lonely village of 20 houses.

Day Six :- This is the last and easiest day of the trek. One can get up late as it is only 8 kms to Nayagram over a broad and gently descending track to Sadarsu where one crosses over to the left bank of the Ravi over a solid steel bridge. There is a small temple next to it, in memory of a little girl who died in an accident when the bridge was being built:

Local myth has it the spirit of the girl would not let the work proceed (accidents kept happening) until the temple was built. Thirty minutes of climb through thick deodar forests brings one to Nayagram, the last village in the Holi valley. From here one can take a bus to Holi (12 kms) which has a PWD and a Forest rest house. From here one can drive to either the sub divisional headquarters at Bharmaur (35 kms) or no to the district headquarters at Chamba (87 kms).

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