Forming a mystical world within a world, the Himalayan cold desert of Spiti and Ladakh makes up the two sides of the same hauntingly beautiful mountain topography. This trans-Himalayan topographical section of the northern Indian frontier secrets away many ancient routes along the Spiti-Himachal Pradesh-Ladakh-Tibet borders, the fabled silk route of medieval trade being one, which, to the surprise of modern travelers is still in use among the historic Tibetan Buddhist communities living in the trans-Himalayan nook and crannies of Spiti and Ladakh. The known trekking route from Spiti to Ladakh winds through the changing colors of the Himalayan panorama, from lush valleys patched with colorful orchards to stark barren terrains dotted with denuded willows in the autumns and winters.
The high pass connecting these two layers of the indo-Tibetan cold desert is Parang La, located at 18,600 ft. The crossover trek from Spiti to Ladakh connected by Parang La offers swashbuckling views of the Pare Chu River and the surrounding mountainside. The itinerary covers river gorges of Khibber on to the desert hills of Spiti, the unending expanse of Ladakh, and finally ending by the beautiful Tso Moriri Lake, forming the part of the Spiti-Changthang-Tibet old trade route. The transformation of the surrounding hillscape as we journey forward is full of reverberating silence and a drama of colors. Beginning in the high altitude meadows of Khibber where the special breed of Spiti horses (Chumur) are bred and the famed habitat of the elusive and fearsome Snow Leopard, the trek moves forward, descending down the Khibber gorge and up the Parang La high pass. The Parang La pass at 5600 m is also the source of the Pare Chu River. Trekking on, at Norbu sumdo, you will come across a broad river valley along the confluence of rivers Phirtse Phu and Pare Chu. The final lapse of the hike is by the Rupshu river plains of Changthang, and ends by Lake Tso Moriri, Ladakh.
A lesser known itinerary in India, within the geography and culturescape of the Tibetan plateau, the crossover trek from Spiti to Ladakh is abundantly enriching. This trek would give trekkers a fascinating exposure to an age-old trade route that is still in use between the people of Spiti, Changthang, and Tibet. Covering the meadows and river gorges of Khibber, the charming cultivation fields dotting the sandy slopes of Spiti, the natural habitats of Snow Leopard, the heady heights of Parang La pass, and the gorgeous confluence of Pare Chu and Phirtse Phu rivers, this journey would end by Ladakh’s ethereal Lake of Tso Moriri. The highest altitude to be gained on the trek is 5700 m or 18600 ft, demanding high level of fitness and sufficient prior experience in the mountains. Besides ethereal landscapes, an exhilaratingly dramatic crossover experience, and hiking to a remote mountain high pass overlooking the cold deserts, there are quite a handful of cultural rewards on this trek. Choose this trek to soak in the warmth and wholesomeness found among the Spitian and Ladakhi peoples, and enriching visits to the ancient monasteries of Dhankar and Tabo if not anything else!
Beginning from Kaza at 3900 m, the highest point to be reached on the trek is at Parang La at 5577 m, and descending to Leh at 3,500 m.
March to June, during the resplendent summers in the Spiti and Ladakh region is the most favorable time for making this trek, as the winters will be too harsh and the pathways overloaded with snow.
By Flight: The nearest airport to Spiti is in Bhuntar, near Kullu. The nearest international airport is Chandigarh Airport, located 522 km away.
By Rail: Jogindernagar is the nearest railhead to Spiti, though the one with better connectivity is Chandigarh railway station.
By Road: There are two routes by road to access Spiti, one via Kinnaur on Hindustan-Tibet highway, and another by Rohtang and Kunzum Pass via Manali.
You will not find many shops for gear or other utilities after leaving Kaza, though food supplies can be found at stores in the villages dotting the trek route.
Altitude Sickness is not extremely probable on this trek, given there are sufficient number of days allotted for acclimatization. Rest and hydration on the journey are other decisive factors ensuring health on the trek. Prior fitness training is highly recommended on this moderately challenging trek.
One of the lesser known treks, the Spiti to Ladakh trek via Parang La does not remain very crowded, though you are likely to find abundant tourists in Kaza and Leh in the peak seasons.