Planning to do some crazy adventure trip in coming winters? I have an answer for you, “how about planning a trip to Spiti Valley in winters and enjoy the views of frozen cold desert of trans-Himalayas?”. Well, the answer in the form of a question is very much appropriate when you think about making some crazy adventure trip up in Himalayas. However, there are things you must be aware about while making a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. Spiti Valley is not a region where you can just land, having no clue about the place, especially when you are talking about an offseason trip to such a remote place in Himalayas. Your habit of unplanned trips to Himalayas could lead you to in a serious trouble if you are really interested to take on the challenge of making a trip to Spiti Valley in winters.
Hence, in today’s article, I will help you go through some basic tips covering Do’s and Don’ts , what and what not to expect in Spiti Valley in winters so that you are prepared for it. I will also suggest a recommended itinerary for a trip to Spiti Valley in winters in my next article, which will help you plan your night stays in much better way. It is important to strike the balance of basic amenities on offer, temperature you need to deal with and probability of getting stuck for few days to months in remote regions of Himalayas. Frankly speaking, trust me, being stuck in such a remote region with limited facilities in winters is not such a good feeling at all as you fantasize sitting on your couch in an AC room. So, you must give utmost attention to couple of articles I am dedicating for traveling to Spiti Valley in winters.
Making a trip to Spiti Valley in Winters? Few things to expect:
You may have been to Spiti Valley in summers or autumn sometime back and of course, like me, would have imagined how would it look when filled with white gold we call snow. How these wide, beautiful valleys of Spiti surrounded by towering brown mountains will draw you attention while offering only one color around, that is, White? How the life will be when everything around in Spiti Valley is frozen? Well, the answer only lies behind the adventure of taking a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. However, before you plan such a trip with full of adventure, please go through the top 15 things listed below that you should expect while on a trip to Spiti Valley in winters.
1. Expect road closures for couple of days to few weeks to few months
This is the most probable thing that will happen. During the extreme winters, the snowfall can close the road for couple of days to weeks to months. A month is rare as BRO keeps the road to Spiti Valley up to Kaza open all round the year but still monthly closure has happened at times, 2013 as an example. Hence, go prepared with nothing major to do back home even if you get stuck for a month and carry enough cash to survive the month. ATMs will be at mercy of electricity.
2. Expect driving on ice and snow on roads
If you are riding or driving yourself then be careful of the ice and snow on roads that makes the road conditions too much prone to skid. You should have experience of riding or driving in snow as one hard brake can lead you either flying down he gorge or crashing the car in the mountain. Any help with vehicle with be very scarce to find as most mechanic shops are closed.
3. Expect basic stay and very basic food to eat along with other facilities
Most of the hotels or guest houses will be shut down along with places to eat. Stays will be available in the form of home stays where basic food is provided. Do not expect other facilities like mechanics, groceries, fruits, filter water bottles, etc.. to be available readily as well. You should be planning well and be prepared with anything and everything you might need in the winter adventure to Spiti Valley.
4. Expect no water in toilets and usage restricted to on dry pits
The water in pipes freeze and hence, there will be no toilets with running water. In winters, the toilets remain locked and only dry pits (traditional toilets) are used where there is no water available. Hence, keep your expectations straight. Along with toilets, the washrooms will also not have any water. You can boil water and use it quickly to wash your face and hand couple of times a day. So, those of you who bath everyday and cannot live without it, winters will not be time to travel to Spiti Valley 😉 …
5. Expect bone freezing temperatures as you go past lower Kinnaur Valley
Needless to say, as soon as you cross Kinnaur Valley and enter higher regions of Kinnaur such as Nako, you will experience bone freezing temperature. Hence, be prepared with winter gear and carry enough woollens to protect yourself include warm shoes as you will not feel your toes for most of the day. The feeling of freezing increase as you cross Schichiling village (base of Dhangkar) ahead of Tabo in Spiti Valley.
6. Expect bad and worse roads with shooting stones
The presence of snow and ice at times when sun shines makes the road slushy. So, apart from snow and ice, expect to drive in slush as well. When the snow melts, especially towards the end of winters, March – April, the shooting stones are common as they come along with the dripping water. These are more common when there is light snowfall as that snow melts quickly.
7. Expect freezing your car’s fuel in tank and other fluids
All fluids including diesel in your car will mostly be frozen. The car will require start every few hours and protect the engine with some cloth to keep it warm. You might need to wake up at night as well and keep ignition on for 15-20 minutes to keep it warm. At times, parking the car in upright position also helps but not always. Sometimes even the oil in hose pipes also freeze.
8. Expect only handful tourists around or no tourists & handful public transport
There wont be many tourists around and hence, options of sharing vehicles or dependent on public transport will be limited. The buses do run between Reckong Peo and Kaza daily but they will park the bus in case it is not safe to travel ahead on the both ends of that point. People walk the danger point on foot and exchange buses coming from either direction. This is very common in winters.
9. Expect no power (electrical) for couple of days to few weeks to few months
Well, when it snows heavily, the electric poles are swayed away or gets buried in the load of snow. So, carry enough spare batteries and keep them warm somewhere as batteries will also freeze to exhaust. Hence, keeping them warm is the key to run them long. This includes your phones as well. Keep phones inside your blankets/quilts while sleeping.
Carry enough cash as ATMs might not work as well. SBI bank in Kaza does provide you money even from the POS machine they have installed in the bank in case ATM is not working. However, cash is limited to Rs 1000 in a day.
10. Expect no mobile signals for couple of days to few weeks to few months
Similar to electricity, you should not expect mobile signals for few days to weeks to months. Hence, you should inform your safety back at home, friends and relatives as soon as you see a possibility. Wifi in the bank, wifi in some hotel running a generator, use any possibility you can see available. Messages and Whatsapp work much better than calling homes. Carry only BSNL/MTNL connection.
11. Expect bare minimum medical help and support in case required
Similar to other things in winters, do not expect much from the medical facilities as well. At times people have to use helicopter to be dropped off to safe spot in case of a medical emergency. However, if the helicopter will be able to fly or not, you will still be at mercy of weather gods. Carry basic and any on going medicines in enough stock to last long for a month or so in case required. Do not rely on anything to be procured locally. It is not recommended to travel at all in winters in case you have some ongoing ailment or illness.
12. Expect most villages under hibernation & some tourist destinations being closed
Roads to most of the tourist villages in Spiti Valley including Dhangkar, Lhalung, Demul, Langza, Lhalung, etc.. will be closed and can only be reached by foot, if at all. The roads to Ki – Kibber, most of the times remain open though. Don’t make a lone trek to these villages and always travel with some local guide or villager.
13. Expect missing Chandratal along with doing the full circuit from Shimla to Spiti to Manali
The road ahead of Kaza will remain closed for the entire winters. Hence, you cannot do the entire circuit from November to mid of June including Chandratal lake. The road clearance from Kaza towards Chandratal – Kunzum Pass starts in March and ends by first or second week of June connecting Kaza to Manali.
14. Expect locals being as warm & as welcoming as they are in summers
Needless to say, locals will greet you with same warmth and hospitality as if you are visiting them in summers. They will do almost all things to help and feel you comfortable in their homes. You will really enjoy the real local life when you visit in the winter months in Spiti Valley. It helps you witness each day of harsh life in winters for the local. Your problems back in air condition rooms and cars will seem nothing and I am sure you will return as a changed soul 😉 😉 …
15. Expect to loose your soul in frozen beauty of Spiti Valley in winters
As in summers, the frozen beauty of Spiti Valley is no less magnanimous and your soul will fall prey to it with the very first sight of it 🙂 🙂 … I am sure that a part of your soul will be lost forever in Spiti Valley as you live the winter experience in this remote part of Himalayas.
As described in this first article of the series on traveling to Spiti Valley in Winters, I have tried to highlight what things you can expect while making such an adventure trip. I hope you will take these things as inputs to arrive to the answer of the questions like “Should I make a trip to Spiti Valley in winters?” or “What to expect on a trip to Spiti Valley in winters?”. This article will help you come to a fair and a wise decision. Once, you have arrived to the decision, I am sure coming article in the series will help you planning the right itinerary for a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. Feel free to share this article with any friends or family whom you know are making a such a trip to Spiti Valley in winters. Also, please share your thoughts or inputs in case you feel that will add value and help other fellow travellers making trip to Spiti Valley in winters.