In all these years, after having been to Himalayan fiefdom for so many times, its spirit runs deep through my artilleries, its vibes pump my heart and its hues tickle my senses. Anything and everything about Himalaya gives me an inviting adrenaline rush and hellish goose bumps. Being a hard core road tripper, Himalayan Passes are my pilgrims which I take up every year. In 2018, I did the complete circuit of Sach Pass, which road junkies claim to be the big daddy of all Himalayan passes for it indeed poses mental and physical challenges of highest order. This arduous pass is one among the trinity, others being Rohtang and Kunzum pass, that have guarded Pangi Valley, Lahual-Spiti Valley and Ladakh for centuries from invasions, commercialization, touristic ambitions and all other intrusions.
During this self drive road trip, we crossed mighty Sach Pass, traveled along Chenab Valley rejoicing the verdant pangi valley and finally came back via Rohtang after paying due homage to Baba Trilokinath. Shades, hues and colours of Pir Panjal Ranges along Chenab were truly soothing and soulful, which I found akin to Kinnaur Valley.
Sach Pass – A Himalayan Wonder
Peaking at 14500 feet, Sach Pass with its curvaceous terrain and steep gradient creates shivering sparks along spine. It’s a legend that fills the mind with apprehension and adventure. A self drive road trip across and beyond mighty Sach Pass, though my best ever till date, cannot be described in words but can only be lived, experienced and cherished. World beyond Sach Pass is the Pangi Valley, which is the remotest tribal belt of Himachal and boasts of most idyllic Himalayan setup, where nature presents itself in the most grand form. Pangi is a sub-division of Chamba district and Killar is the headquarter of Pangi.
How To Reach Sach Pass & Pangi Valley
Sach Pass is a located in deep hinterland of Himachal and Pangi Valley is a secluded tribal area. There are three routes to reach Sach Pass and Pangi Valley.
Route one to reach Sach & Pangi
Reach Chamba and cross over Sach pass via Tissa, Bairagarh, Saturandi to reach Killar.
Delhi – Pathankot – Chamba – Tissa – Bairagarh – Satrundi – Sach Pass – Bagotu – Killar
Route two to reach Sach & Pangi
This route is longer, difficult and meant for hardcore adventurous souls as it includes driving on the famous cliffhanger road along Chenab i.e. Kishtwar-Killar road.
Delhi – Patnitop – Kishtwar – Killar – Bagotu – Sach Pass
Route three to reach Sach & Pangi
Route three includes crossing over Rohtang pass and then enter Pangi Valley from Lahaul side along Chenab aka chandrabhaga river.
Delhi – Manali – Rohtang – Tandi – Udaipur – Purthi – Killar – Bagotu – Sach Pass
The road trip to Sach pass is done mostly as a circuit and any two out of three can be made into a circuit starting from one point and end at other. The route to Sach pass that we opted for was the most common route where, we entered from Chamba Valley and exited from Rohtang after exploring Pangi and Lahaul Valley. The route gave us a chance to cross four major rivers Satluj, Ravi, Chenab and Beas. Our circuit rout was as follow :
Delhi – Chamba – Sach Pass – Killar – Udaipur – Keylong – Rohtang – Manali – Delhi
The entire circuit has three most significant parts and each gives a different type of kick to the adrenaline rush.
Bairagarh – Killar : Here you face imposing Sach pass and the drive of 67 KM is all about sheer adventure and thrill.
Killar to Keylong : After nerve jerking drive to Keylong, nature showers its bounty in the form of sublime Pangi Valley which is a tribal secret of Himachal. This was my most scenic Himalayan road trip so far and Chenab was an awesome revelation. We came back enriched with umpteen postcard worth moments along Chenab.
Keylong to Manali : Here journey starts with Chenab and ends at Beas as we cross most famous pass on Pir Panjal Range i.e. Rohtang Pass.
We completed this self drive road trip in 5 days and each day was super happening and the climax was though adventurous but sad as later come to know what all happened behind us. On penultimate day, we were running against the time though ahead of the calamity. It was a narrow escape from the infamous flash flood of Manali 2018 which plundered Manali and swollen Beas was eroding everything along it.
Most Common Itinerary To Sach Pass and Pangi Valley
Day 1 – Road Trip To Sach Pass
Delhi To Tissa In Himachal
As started from Delhi early in the morning, day was not very eventful. We traveled for 635 KM to reach Tissa and it was a plain vanila drive till we reach Nurpur after Pathankot when some action could start. Chamera Reservoir of Ravi River after Dalhousie and from there on drive had some Himalayan quotient. Day 1, for us ended in Tissa and we stayed at RK Hotel on main road which was just a decent hotel to spend a night.
Day 2 – Road Trip To Sach Pass
Tissa To Killar Via Sach Pass
This approximately 100 KM patch is a roller coaster ride starting at an altitude of 3,470 meters at Tissa, then ascending to 4,414 meter at Sach Top on Pir Panjal Range and finally ending at 2,600 meter at Killar. It starts almost after Ravi River in Chamba Valley and ends along Chenab river after crossing Pir Panjal Range in Pangi Valley. Chamba side is rocky and barren land while Pangi side is greener and refreshing.
For me, it was the most grueling 100 KM that I have ever done. When I reached Killar, I was completely exhausted and was suffering from intense body-ache after a bumpy ride of 10 hours. Never before, in any Himalayan road trips I felt so tired and this was enough to prove why Sach Pass is the Daddy of all Mountain Passes. Thanks to the owners of the Hotel Shivaye who opened their kitchen to us and let my wife cook specially for me and our 2 years old little one.
Important points to remember
- Leave early as you would take many photography pit-stops
- Make sure to fill up your tank at Churah Petrol Pump which is the last petrol pump before your reach Killar as the next one would be Tandi in Lauhal
- There is a police check post at Shutrandi, so make sure to give all your details as desired from you
- At Shutrandi, you may find few decent outlets to have basic food. Our recoomendation is sharma Dhaba or the next could be at Bagota after Sach Top.
- Follow all road signage specially the one for shooting stone zone
- Stay at Hotel Shivay, near bus stand, Mall Road, Killar – 94182-81199
Day 3 – Road Trip To Sach Pass
Killar to Keylong along Chenab
After a fatigued day from Sach to Killar, I woke up refreshed and knew never that it would be my most scenic day of my saga called Himalayan road tripping. From Killar to Keylong along Chenab River, I found most beautiful Himlayan road that connected Pangi Valley to Lahaul Valley. We started the day at 9 in the morning and we had a drive of 135 KM to cover.
Though in our original plan, we wanted to stay in killar two nights to cover hidden places around it such as Sural Bhatoli, Dharwas, Luj, Sundan etc, but we left after one night as weather forecast was not conducive to stay in a remote Himalayan valley. We could never regret this decision as what we experienced along chenab was extraordinary; it was indeed romantic. With every passing mile on the road, my love for the river grew and I started to remember the love sagas of Heer-Ranjha, Mirza-Sahiban and Soni-Mahiwal which happened on Chenab River. such time defying folk tales made Chenab the River of Love.
Every turn along Chenab was a stress buster and mood enhancer rewarding with best of Himalayas which was beyond imagination. We started from Killar, along chenab took many quick stops to capture omnipresent beauty, paid our homage Trilokinath Temple and finally reached Keylong for night stay.
Important points to remember
- World around Chenab is outstanding which will keep motivating you to stop and click, so while planning your day, keep ample time for this.
- Take a detour to visit Midhal Mata Mandir
- At Purthi around 60Km from Killar, you may take a Dhaba stop for lunch
- From Udaipur take a detour to Visit 1200 years old Trilokinath Temple which is most revered temple in Lahaul-Spiti region of Himalaya
- Road conditions are mixed on entire road.
- After approx 40 KM from Killar, Baihali Nallah connects Pangi Valley with Lahaul Valley
Day 4 – Road Trip To Sach Pass
Keylong To Sunder Nagar
It was a day of a dreadful narrow escape for us. We started from Keylong and at Tandi Petrol Pump, we were advised to cross Rohtang Pass soonest and fastest as possible due to changing weather. Though we were also keeping a track of the weather and hence earlier had shortened our stay at Killar by a day, but had no idea on what could happen on day four.
It started to rain before we could reach Khoksar and then snowfall some 3 KM before Rohtang Top and that continued well beyond Rohtang. Till then, it was all fun and adventure, as rain and snow had added the much needed kick to the road trip, but as we crossed Rohtang, we could sense the gravity of the situation. Every water body, nallah, water falls small or big were razing and bridges were holding themselves somehow. Beas was in complete different mood and was gushing with humongous force as we saw from Palchan all the way till Mandi. We took a quick stop at Manali to visit Hidamba Mata Temple and moved on to Delhi.
We had only one plan to keep driving and go as far as possible that day from Manali. Amidst heavy rain, traffic jam at all bridges and slow traffic all along, we reached Sunder Nagar in the evening and could manage a decent place to stay. After settling, when we swicthed the TV on and checked FB, we could see the awful devastation caused behind us. It was shocking and somewhat relieving, for we were fortunate to be just ahead of the calamity. Do not know what saved us, may be my hunch, advise of locals or Himalayan Spriti, but, we could dodge (in)famous Manali Flood of Sept 2018.
Day 5 – Road Trip To Sach Pass
Sunder Nagar To Delhi
From Sunder Nagar, we started after having our breakfast around 10 AM and despite being far from Manali still day was eventful as we got stuck at Bilaspur due to a landslide being cleared. Later we faced huge traffic jam at Swarghat and could finally reach Delhi by evening 6PM.
Thus ended our epic self drive road trip to Sach Pass and beyond to Pangi Valley. Ascent to Sach Pass was exhilarating; hairpin bends were heart-fainting; Chenab with its verdant view was welcoming. Sach was ecstacy; Chenab was romantic; Pangi wassoul elevating and Rohtang was humbling.
Keep planning and keep dreaming. Covid era will pass and Himalaya will stay forever so as the human spirit. So, be strong and stay safe.
If you feel motivated, please share this blog post with your loved ones so that they can break the mundane cycle of everyday life and explore the world.
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