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

Our Itinerary for Trek


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.

ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_001
We then proceed to Naggar by vehicle. Naggar Castle is a nice place to spend some time here. Then our walk started through some beautiful villages.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_010
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_024
A miniature waterfall on the way.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_030
This village - Rumsu was quite an ancient village with some very traditional houses and a beautiful temple. We spent sometime here.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_032
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_033
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_043
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_048
The temple had beautiful intricate carvings.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_040
We continued our trek towards our campsite through some pristine trails.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_055
Some of the trees on the route were huge... really huge.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_056
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_057
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_063
After dinner, tried some night shots.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_069
Day 2 – Rumsu Thach to Chanderkhani Pass Base Camp(3000m) –  4to 5hrs walk We started through dense forests.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_071
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_074
We continued through ups and downs.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_076
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_080
Some beautiful flowers on the way.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_085
The climb was a bit tiring. We stopped for a Maggi break.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_087
And then continued. It was the first time most of us were seeing the Himalayas and snow too. They were too excited.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_090
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_094
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_098
Laughing and having fun in the tough times, makes the going easy.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_100
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_102
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_105
Krishna was gazing at the way ahead...
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_110
While I paused for a moment to see what we came through.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_111
Our campsite for the day.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_115
Girl power. Most of the participants of the trek were females including the organiser - Smita and our leader Bhuvi.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_116
The evening skies were amazing.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_132
It was time to relax and hot tea is always a welcome :)
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_136

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

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

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

How to Take Milky Way Pictures


For the benefit of all, especially those 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 dares 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 finalizing the composition, I chose these settings.

30s is good enough to get 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).

Focusing – Manual Focus only

Some lenses have a marking of the 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 little bit of trial and error.

Processing was done in Adobe Lightroom


Increased contrast, clarity, and saturation.
The snow was glowing, increased the exposure locally by a bit.

That's 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.

ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_140
Day 3 – Chanderkhani pass to Nagruni Thach (3660m) – 4 to 5hrs walk.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_149
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 that's the part of the fun and adventure.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_152
I looked back a couple of times and shoot.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_155
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_160
We soon reached a fairly flat stretch and it was time to take a break and have fun to recharge our batteries.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_162
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_166
We continued.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_173
In some places, it looked like nature poured lovely cream to top the mountains.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_176
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_183
Ishani added one more stone to this cairn with a prayer.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_186
And we continued.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_189
It was time for a steep descent. We had enough of snow-walking and happy to walk on earth.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_196
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_198
It was time for a lunch break. While we enjoyed our meals, Surya was exploring the possibilities of being a yogi in the Himalayas.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_200
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_201
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_205
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_206
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_209
After lots of ups and downs, we finally were able to cross the last bit of snow.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_217
The landscape changed all of a sudden from white to vibrant shades of green and blue.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_219
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_220
Finally, we were on the meadows.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_224
A shepherd and his faithful dog. Its interesting to see how these dogs have been trained to control the sheep.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_228
The best sight of the day was that of our tents. I couldn't wait to get inside and lie down.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_231
We had some visitors at our tent.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_232
I dozed off to sleep and missed a few shots. Tried to make up for it in the late evening.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_234
Can you see two shooting stars?
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_236
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_237
Day 4 – Nagruni Thach to Malana village (2652m) – 4to 5hrs walk. The sun was up again.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_242
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_246
The morning was spent trekking through some dense jungles.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_255
And finally we saw some villages.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_259
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_261
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_266
And some innocent villagers.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_270
This dam was really a sore to the eye in the middle of beautiful nature.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_271
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_272
Can you see us crossing the stream?
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_275
We finally reached Malana Village. It's 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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_280
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_298
From the temple at Malana village.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_314-2
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_357
We started the last leg of the trek.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_361
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.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_363
Though some of us were much behind, we stopped for some time to try some waterfall shots. No tripod, just keeping on the stones.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_366
Our superman - Surya, while crossing a stream.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_369
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_373
Finally, we reached the road. The moment we boarded the vehicle, it started pouring. It was time to enjoy the rains from the vehicle for another hour before we reach Manali.
ChandrakhaniPassMalanaVillageTrek_374

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.


This post is written by Ssaurabh A 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.
All rights reserved. No copying without permission of the author Ssaurabh A Chatterjee

Share with others