Chandrakhani Pass and Malana Village Trek

This is a photoblog of the Chandrakhani Pass and Malana Village Trek which we completed successfully in 2014. This trek is undoutedly one of the best I have ever done, with a bit of everything – a complete adventure package.

Our Itinerary
Day 1 – Manali to Rumsu Thach (2500m) –  3 to 4hrs walk.
Day 2 – Rumsu Thach to Chanderkhani pass (3000m) –  4to 5hrs walk.
Day 3 – Chanderkhani pass to Nagruni Thach (3660m) – 4to5hrs walk.
Day 4 – Nagruni to Malana village (2652m) – 4to 5hrs walk.
Day 5 – Malana to manali 4hrs travel by vehicle.

Day 1
Our day started with a beautiful sunrise at Manali.

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We then proceed to Naggar by vehicle. The Naggar Castle is a nice place to spend some time here.

Then our walk started through some beautiful villages.

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From a distance, I could hear the sound of looms and it was rather surprising to me. We went closer to see this lady working on a beautiful cloth. They earn some money by selling these.

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A miniature waterfall on the way.

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This village – Rumsu was quite an ancient village with some very traditional houses and a beautiful temple. We spent sometime here.

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The temple had beautiful intricate carvings.

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We continued our trek towards our campsite through some pristine trails.

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Some of the trees on the route were huge… really huge.

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In a couple of hours, we reached the campsite. Being the first day, it was a light walk just to get acclimatize to the environment and to get warmed up.

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At night, we sat around the campfire and shared our stories. While we were enjoying, our cooks were busy preparing food for us in the kitchen tent.

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After dinner, tried some night shots.

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Day 2 – Rumsu Thach to Chanderkhani Pass Base Camp(3000m) –  4to 5hrs walk

We started through dense forests.

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One of the things that I like about trekking are the pleasant surprises. After toiling through tough terrains, all of a sudden you see the huge mountains with the snow capped peaks in right in front of you. It takes away all the fatigue.

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We continued through ups and downs.

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Some beautiful flowers on the way.

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The climb was a bit tiring. We stopped for a Maggi break.

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And then continued. It was the first time most of us were seeing the Himalayas and snow too. They were too excited.

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Snow might look beautiful in a picture, but can be a real pain to walk on. It becomes very slippery and sometimes can get into your shoes, more so if you dont wear a high ankle one.

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Laughing and having fun in the tough times, makes the going easy.

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What I saw with my eyes was absolutely incredible. The various shades of green with the snow peaks in the background. Unfortunately, the camera could capture only a minute fraction of the beauty, I experienced.

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Krishna was gazing at the way ahead…

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While I paused for a moment to see what we came through.

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Our campsite for the day.

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Girl power. Most of the participants of the trek were females including the organiser – Smita and our leader Bhuvi.

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The evening skies were amazing.

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It was time to relax and hot tea is always a welcome 🙂

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We went to sleep early to get ready for the next day, which was going to be little tough.

As the skies were clear, I decided to get up at night and attempt to shoot the milky way. It was 1am and was really cold. The windchill made it even more difficult.

I took a few shots and gazed at the sky. Made me realise how minuscule I am in this vast universe spanning thousands of light years away. Also that many of the stars that I am watching now, might not be existing at this point of time – they might have died while I was able to receive the light rays.

HOW I TOOK THIS SHOT-
For the benefit of all, especially who are thinking that the image is created in Photoshop, I am writing the details of the picture, so that you can also try this when you go to a place like this.

EXIF – 30s. f/3.5, ISO 12800 on my Nikon D600 with 20mm 2.8 Nikkor prime lens.
The most challenging thing is to shoot in such low temperatures (-10 deg in this case) Not many dare to go out of the warm tents. This is one single reason why people don’t get this picture.

The first thing of critical importance is the composition. I generally shoot at extremely high ISO and a shutter speed of 1s to get the right composition (shooting at 30s will waste a lot of time, as we run out of patience and we can’t stay out for long). Then after finalising the composition, I chose these settings.

30s is good enough to get a good exposure and still not get the star trails (to keep the shape of the Milky Way intact). F3.5 was used to allow enough light to come in. And then varying the ISO to get the correct exposure (in this case its ISO 12800).
Focussing – Manual Focus only
Some lenses have marking of Infinity symbol. It is recommended to put it to a little less than infinity. For lenses where infinity is not marked (like the 18-55 kit lens), for a Canon, you can rotate the focusing ring to a little less than the left most extreme. For a Nikon, its a little less than the rightmost extreme. Sometimes you need to do a a little bit trial and error.

Processing done in Adobe Lightroom –
Increased the contrast, clarity and saturation.
The snow was glowing, increased the exposure locally by a bit.

Thats it. Please try this shot next time you go to a place like this. All the best. You can get in touch with me if you need any help.

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Day 3 – Chanderkhani pass to Nagruni Thach (3660m) – 4 to 5hrs walk.

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This day was a difficult day. We had to walk on a narrow ridge and slipping means going down the hill. Initially, it seemed quite impossible, but I was able to complete the stretch taking one step at a time. I slipped and fell down a couple of times, but thats the part of the fun and adventure.

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I looked back a couple of times and shoot.

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Our guides – Bhuvi and Tara were really helpful. Without their support it would have been impossible to reach. They risk their lives to make our trek successful.

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We soon reached a fairly flat stretch and it was time to take a break and have fun to recharge our batteries.

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Since many of us were seeing so much of snow for the first time, no one could stop them from behaving like kids. I just watched them and took some shots.

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We continued.

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In some places, it looked like nature poured lovely cream to top the mountains.

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Hats off to the porters who carry our tents and food. In a situation where I could not balance myself with my small bag, I wondered how they glided past.


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Ishani added one more stone to this cairn with a prayer.

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And we continued.

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It was time for a steep decent. We had enough of snow-walking and happy to walk on earth.

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I was glad to have another unplanned break due to the big group of YHAI group coming from the other side. One of the participants was more than 65 years of age. Hats off to his courage.

We later heard that one of the participants slipped down into the valley. One of our porters rescued him and brought him back.

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It was time for a lunch break. While we enjoyed our meals, Surya was exploring the possibilities of being a yogi in the Himalayas.

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We started again covering the last stretch for the day. After the tiring stint on snow, I was really looking forward to retire in my tent.

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After lots of ups and downs, we finally were able to cross the last bit of snow.

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The landscape changed all of a sudden from white to vibrant shades of green and blue.

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Finally, we were on the meadows.

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A shepherd and his faithful dog. Its interesting to see how these dogs have been trained to control the sheep.

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The best sight of the day was that of our tents. I couldn’t wait to get inside and lie down.

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We had some visitors at our tent.

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I dozed off to sleep and missed a few shots. Tried to make up for it in the late evening.

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Can you see two shooting stars?

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Our dinner was noodles. The same dish tastes hundred times better in the hills. Having the hot food sitting close to each other for warmth is a great feeling.


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Day 4 – Nagruni Thach to Malana village (2652m) – 4to 5hrs walk.

The sun was up again.

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The morning was spent trekking through some dense jungles.

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And finally we saw some villages.

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And some innocent villagers.

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This dam was really a sore to the eye in the middle of beautiful nature.

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Can you see us crossing the stream?

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We finally reached Malana Village. Its a very unique village. I was already feeling relieved that we all completed the trek successfully without any problems.
Read my blog on Malana village here.

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From the temple at Malana village.

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Day 5  Malana to Manali 4hrs Trek and by vehicle
This was our last day of the trek. Time was approaching to leave the mighty mountains. It was a mixed feeling of achievement and also a sad moment.

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We started the last leg of the trek.

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And it started raining. I thanked the gods for holding on the rains till our last day. Today, we will really enjoy it but definitely not if this happened in the middle of our trek.
The trees turned greener.

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Though some of us were much behind, we stopped for sometime to try some waterfall shots. No tripod, just keeping on the stones.

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Our superman – Surya, while crossing a stream.

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Finally, we reached the road. The moment we boarded the vehicle, it started pouring. It was the time to enjoy the rains from the vehicle for another hour before we reach Manali.

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Thanksgiving –
This blog will be incomplete without a big Thank You to Smita Chatterjee for organising the trek and showing us the beauty of the Himalayas.


Thank you for reading this post. Hope you liked spending time here. I will be back again with another interesting place.

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This post is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a travel photographer and a photography trainer.
He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer through his Photography workshops and Photo Tours and Photowalks.

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