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Lahaul is the land that time forgot........ a place where man and vegetation have had little opportunity to change what is essentially an ice age landscape. Completely hemmed in by high ranges, Lahaul has few points of entry and exit. To the northwest the Chandrabhaga has gouged a near impassable gorge. The pass crossings are high and lead mainly into the other Transhimalayan areas. There are only three main passes connecting Lahaul with the lower hills... the Kugti leading to the Chamba valley, the well known Rohtang leading to the Kulu valley and the Hampta, a trekkers delight, also leading to the Kulu valley.
Crossing over from the Rohtang pass can be a shock ... a sudden transition from the verdant cedar forested slopes of the Pangi-Pir Panjaal to the bleakness of the Lahaul landscape. Lahaul and Spiti have probably the largest deposits of ice, next to the Karakorum, in the Indian Himalaya, and indeed the entire landscape has been sculpted by ice and the omnipresent wind.
In Lahaul. between the two rivers, the Chandra and the Bhaga, lies the great bastion of the Chandrabhaga or C.B group of peaks, a solid mass of convoluted rock and ice, a fortress encircling some of the most forbidding terrain on earth. Opening out onto the Chandra valley, and adding it's waters to it, is the greater or Bara Shigri glacier, a frozen river of ice nearly 28 kilometers long and several kilometers wide at it's widest. All around are the great peaks of the Parvati headwaters - White Sail, Indrasan and further up the range, Kulu Makalu and Parbati peak itself.
Towards the north-west, at an altitude of 16,400 feet, is the unique 8 kilometers long Barlacha pass, literally the pass "where many roads meet". Baralacha is one of the famous passes of Himalayan history, for here paths from Zanskar, Ladakh and Lahaul meet, and over the centuries travellers have crossed in all directions. The two great rivers of Lahaul, the Chandra and the Bhaga also arise from the huge snowfields on opposite sides of the pass. Within the cradle of the , lies the surreally beautiful Chandratal lake.
If the landscape in Lahaul does'nt satisfy your spirit of adventure, there is always Spiti, higher in general elevation and if possible, more rugged and difficult, terrain wise. Spiti is veritably ringed by a wall of 6,000 meter high peaks riven by an incredible landscape of some of the deepest gorges and canyons on earth, with vertical ramparts plummeting thousands of feet. From Lahaul, the main access to Spiti is across the 15,500 feet high Kunzum pass. Climatically also, Spiti provides little respite with winter tempratures as low as -30 degrees centigrade and relentlessly cold winds all year round.
Lahaul and Spiti probably have India's lowest population density, alongwith Zanskar, and habitation is concentrated at a few points along the main river valley.
Lahaul is partly Hindu, partly Buddhist and partly, a mixture of both. Nowhere is this better symbolised than at the temple of Trilokinath near Tandi in western Lahaul, where the idol worshipped as Lord Shiva by the Hindu populace, is venerated as the Buddha Avilokateshwara by the local Buddhists, as well as pilgrims from Spiti and Ladakh.
Spiti due to it's strategic location was for long closed to tourists except the odd intrepid traveller armed with an 'inner line' permit. At the head of the Pin valley lies the Pin-Parbati pass leading into the Parvati valley. Desolate, remote and uninhabited the Pin river National Park lies at the head of the most important tributary of the Spiti. With large parts under permanent snow cover, the park is home to many of the larger mammals including the Snow Leopard and the Ibex.
The Pin valley is also home to the Buzhen, wandering minstrel lamas who move from village to village enacting comedies, miracle plays and singing ballads. Spiti is totally Buddhist and is the location of some of Himalayan Buddhism's most important monasteries.
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This period covers three seasons in Kashmir i.e., spring (March-early May), summers (early May-late August) and autumn (September-November).
The blossoms of spring, the cool weather of summer and the gold and red hues of autumn all provide the peak season for Kashmir travel. From December to early March is the winter season for Kashmir, when the entire valley wears a white blanket of snow.