Himalayan Journal vol.01
The Himalayan Journal
Vol.01

Publication year:
1929

Editor:
Kenneth Mason
Index
  1. THE FOUNDING OF THE HIMALAYAN CLUB
    (G. L. Corbett)
  2. THE SHYOK DAM IN 1928
    (F. Ludlow)
  3. INDUS FLOODS AND SHYOK GLACIERS
    (MAJOR KENNETH MASON)
  4. SOME ASPECTS OF BIRD-LIFE IN KASHMIR
    (HUGH WHISTLER)
  5. BOTANICAL EXPLORATION IN THE MISHMI HILLS
    (F. KINGDON WARD.)
  6. THE ATTRACTION OF THE HIMALAYA
    (Dr. J. de GRAAFF HUNTER)
  7. THE URTA SARYK VALLEY
    (LIEUT.-COL. REGINALD SCHOMBERG)
  8. THE WAY TO THE BASPA
    (MAJOR D. G. P. M. SHEWEN)
  9. TWO EASY PASSES IN KANAWAR
    (R. MACLAGAN GORRIE)
  10. A JOURNEY THROUGH SPITI AND RUPSHU
    (MRS. K. G. LETHBRIDGE.)
  11. TRAILL'S PASS, 1925
    (HUGH RUTTLEDGE)
  12. THE WORD HIMALAYA
    (SIR GEOFFREY CORBETT.)
  13. Himalayan Expeditions
  14. IN MEMORIAM
  15. HIMALAYAN NOTES
  16. REVIEWS
  17. CORRESPONDENCE
  18. CLUB PROCEEDINGS
  19. CLUB NOTICES
  20. LIBRARY NOTICES

TWO EASY PASSES IN KANAWAR

R. MACLAGAN GORRIE

DURING the season's work in the forests of the upper Sutlej valley in Bashahr State, I had occasion to travel by the Haran Pass (12,350 feet) which connects the main Sutlej valley with its tributary the Baspa, and also the Runang Pass (14,500 feet) which lies on the old trade-route into Tibet from the Sutlej valley at Kanam.[1] Neither of these passes require any mountaineering whatever, and one needs only a sound pair of lungs and a " heather step " to avoid the innumerable roughnesses of well-beaten village paths. Both however have a very vital place in the economics of Kanawar, and are well worth a visit from any tourist for the magnificent views which they give of the Himalayan and Zanskar snows.

The Haran ghati was used this summer by Sir Malcolm Hailey when he made a lightning visit to Chini from Simla. Chini lies on the Hindustan-Tibet road, 150 miles from Simla, and its fascination was first discovered by Lord Balhousie, who escaped from his Viceregal duties away back in the 'forties until he was pursued and retrieved by some officious secretary. It certainly is a delightful spot to escape 3, for it avoids most of the monsoon, and from its terraced fields the views of the Sutlej, 3,000 feet below, and the towering snows of the Kanawar Kailas immediately across the valley are superb.

From Chini a path leads down to the Sutlej which is crossed by a jhula in which a strong wire cable has replaced the old-fashioned rope bridge of twigs, so that the crossing now provides a comparatively mild thrill. Then the path goes by the river-side to Shongtong, where there is a tiny forest rest-house, and thence 3,000 feet straight up the hillside to a camping-ground above Barang village. From there the road climbs steadily along the hillsides of the main Sutlej valley through deodar forests to Mehbar village, and then above the forest through upland pastures to the pass, which actually takes one through a slight col in the hog's-back ridge running down from the Kailas group of peaks, three of which are over 21,000 feet, to the junction of the Sutlej and the Baspa.

There is another good cam ping-ground half a mile below the pass in a grassy glade amongst the high-level spruce trees. The pass itself is decorated with innumerable stone cairns, which are said by the local people to be of very great age, and certainly bear witness to its use as a highway. The view from the col gives a very good impression of the geography of this part of the hills, for immediately below is the Baspa valley, a real gem of its kind, and reminiscent of some West Highland glen with its rolling moraine terraces at the foot of precipitous cliffs. Across the Baspa lie the Bur an and Shathal passes leading into the Pabar and Tons valley ; beyond them stretch the snows of Tehri Garhwal, while behind towers the " Castle Rock," an aiguille of the Kailas group, and away to the north is the wide expanse of snows which separate the Parbatti and Spiti rivers from the Sutlej basin.

The descent from the ghati is rougher and more precipitous than on the Sutlej side, as the path drops down 4,000 feet to the village of Sangla in the Baspa valley, but it is nowhere difficult and the hardy hill-ponies are brought over regularly by this route. There is an alternative route by the forest bridle-path which has been carved out along the base of the stupendous eliffs of the Sutlej gorge, thence across the Baspa river at Karcham bridge, and so on up the Baspa valley road, but the upper path is undoubtedly more pleasant.

The approach to the Runang pass lies much further up the Sutlej valley, as the local trade-route into Tibet leaves the Hindustan-Tibet road at Kanam, 34 miles beyond Chini, and climbs over the Runang to SugAam village, which lies in the valley of the Thanam river, better known locally as the Ropa Gad. The Hindustan-Tibet road has now been extended to Pu, further up the main Sutlej valley, with the idea of opening up the route into Tibet via Shipki to Gartok, but from the local people's point of view it would have been more useful had the Runang and Hangrang passes been opened up, as all the Kanawari traders have their definite “beats " across the border for their summer trade expeditions towards Rudok, the Gartok areas being monopolized by Garhwalis and Bhotias. The improved road to Pu however makes an alternative route to Sugnam possible, as one can go one stage beyond Kanam by the H. T. road to Shiasu, and thence by a tolerably good village-path up the Thanam valley to Sugnam, returning by the Runang in the reverse direction. The pass is certainly a much pleasanter climb from the Sugnam side than from Kanam, where the ascent is steep and shaley, while from Sugnam there is a fairly good path with no difficult gradients. The height of the pass is 14,500 feet, but it is usually clear of snow quite early in the season, and the view from the top is a magnificent panorama, which includes the Manirang peak to the north, Leo Pargial to the north-east, and the Eailas and Morang groups immediately across the Sutlej.

Neither of these trips can be undertaken with fully-loaded mules, but they could both be visited by lightly-laden mules or by the hill pack-ponies carrying their normal burdens. Coolies, particularly in the neighbourhood of Shiasu and the Ropa Gad, are difficult to arrange, though for the Haran ghati they can usually be obtained from Barang or Sangla.


[1] See the old Survey of India quarter-inch map, 53 I. There is no modern survey of this area.