Trekking to Shankhpal - A perfect camping ground
Shankh Pal is the spiritual deity of Lander region. A temple dedicated to this deity is located at the highest point on the Shankh Pal ridge. Situated at an altitude of 2,897 metres, the temple is just a few hours' walk away from Sanasar. Locals maintain that the original temple was over 400 years old and that no mortar was used to build the temple. However, looking at the stone idols lying around the temple, I believe that the original temple was much older.
The original temple has since then been replaced by a temple that is bigger and grander. However, this new temple still maintains its rustic charm with its pleasant proportions and the use of local rock in its construction. Every year on Sawan Dashmi, a festival is observed at the temple which draws thousands of people from surrounding villages and from places as far off as Ramban.
Local folklore maintains that the Indian Air Force wanted to build an encampment near this temple. To this end, a reconnaissance party was dispatched to scout the area. The members of this party would camp at Shankh Pal for the night, but everyone would wake up at a completely different place in the morning. This happened a couple of times and the reconnaissance party was soon convinced that the "Devata" was unwilling to have an installation built near his abode. This air force installation was later built at Nathatop.
Shankh Pal is one of the best camping ground around Kud-Patnitop. It is pristine, secluded and provides a spectacular view in every direction. The sunrise is a sight to behold as the sun emerges through the early morning mist and lights up the Himalayas in shades of pink and orange. On a clear night, the sky is lit up by countless stars which are rivalled by the twinkling lights of Udhampur city in the Southwest.
The trek starts just short of Sanasar on the Patnitop-Sanasar Road. A well defined, stone paved path leads off west from the road head. Follow the path as it gradually winds north though electricity pylons and theras.
The terrain for the most part is grass or mud and the trail is wide and well defined. After an initial ascent of 2.5 kilometres the trail eases into a relatively flat walk. The next 2 kilometres are level and quite scenic with grassy meadows on your left and Sanasar Valley to your right. A few side trips to explore these meadows on your left is definitely recommended. This is also the right place to catch your breath for the climb ahead. After this relatively flat stretch the trail turns north-west and starts to climb for the next couple of kilometres. The temple is visible from this turn. The last couple of kilometres are a moderate climb along a grassy ridge covered with shrubs. Take your time to admire Nathatop on your left and the pristine forests that lie below the ridge on your right. The trail rises and falls over this ridge with four well defined humps. The temple is located at the highest point on this ridge beside a shallow depression.
3.5 hours ascent, 2.5 hours descent
START & FINISH
Patnitop-Sanasar Road 2 km from Sanasar, with an option to continue to Lander village from Shankh Pal
An unfinished hall for temple visitors, the floor was yet unfinished and covered with uncomfortable stone rubble as on July 2014
Pleasantly cold during the day, usually cold and windy to extremely windy at night
A moderate ascent over a well defined trail. A highly recommended overnight stay.
Caution - The ridge is exposed and it can get very windy. The author has experienced wind gusts in excess of a 100 kph during a thunderstorm. This wind speed can flatten tents and blow away anything that is not staked down. Ensure that you choose your tent site with care and your tent is secured with extra guy lines at night
* Water - two to three litres per person. There is only one water point (a little off route, see waypoints) and there is no potable water at Shankh Pal
* Extra guy lines for tent as it can get very windy at night
* A warm windproof jacket is recommended for evenings
* Headlamp / Torch - if you are camping overnight, or if you are delayed on your descent
* A camera tripod for those early morning and late evening photographs
Downloads and GPS Logs
GPS route map in .GPX and .KML format. GPX works with most GPS devices like Garmin and TomTom while KML works with Google products like Maps and Earth.
- Route Map - Sanasar road head to Shankh Pal.GPX
- Route Map - Sanasar road head to Shankh Pal.KML
- Waypoints - Sanasar road head to Shankh Pal.GPX
- Waypoints - Sanasar road head to Shankh Pal.KML
View the trekking route on Google Maps by clicking this link.