Rivers, Lakes, Peaks, Glaciers & Passes
Places in Lahaul
Places in Spiti
||Peaks in Lahaul
||Peaks in Spiti
The Chandra and the Bhaga rivers are the main
drainage lines of Lahaul. After their, confluence at Tandi, their combined waters
constitute the Chandrabhaga or the Chenab river. In the Spiti sub-division, major river is
The rivers are not associated with any myths or historical events; on the
other hand gods-one in each case are supposed to reside at the various junctions of the
important streams and all such places are named after these gods. Similarly Places where
ancient bridges exist are also supposed to be the abodes of gods; these gods are
propitiated by occasional, often annual, sacrifices of goats and sheep
Chandra river originates from a huge snow, bed on the south-eastern side of the Baralacha la and
assumes a large size very soon. During the summer, it becomes unfordable within a short distance, about two
kilometers of its source, while the rocky bed, the icy
temperature of the water and the swiftness of. the current deter the boldest swimmer.
Looking down the valley from the pass, a vista of grand peaks and glaciers, on the right
hand side, falling abruptly to the water's edge makes a memorable impression on the
visitor. On the left hand, the slopes are bare the feet of which remain perpetually
covered under heavy mass of debris falling from above. Lower down, the Chandra Tal, a kilometre long and a half wide, lies in a
broad grassy plain, the lake is placed between a low ridge and the
main Kunzam Range with an outlet into the river. Following a general south-westerly course
for about 48 km the river sweeps round to the west whence a further course of 64 km west and north-west takes it to Tandi
where it meets the Bhaga river. Throughout its course the river
is fed by a number of glaciers the biggest being the Shigri on its left bank, and the
Samundari on the right. The chief tributaries of the Chandra below Shigri lie on the right
bank and they originate from the Sonapani glacier
opposite Khoksar and the Sissu glacier. The left bank is steep
and bare, but there is good grazing ground on the right bank beyond
Khoksar. There are several villages on the right bank as far as Sissue, and from Sissue
the valley becomes richer and cultivable down to Gondhla. The hamlets grow larger as
Gondhla is approached, and the houses are seen to be better built, surrounded by groves of
poplar and willow. The northern mountains take gentler slope, but on the south, opposite
Gondhla, the whole mountain side, from the peaks over 6,090 metres to the river bed below.
3050 metres, is visible. Glaciers and snowfields overhanging rocky steeps merge into
grassy slopes below. At one point the cliffs descend for some 1,210 metres and form the
grandest precipices in the world.
From its source to its confluence with the Bhaga at Tandi, the Chandra registers a fall of
about 12.5 metres per kilometre.
|The Bhaga river rises
in the Suraj Tal or Lake of the Sun, a name given to the small
but deep tarn situated well on the summit of the Baralacha Pass, a little below an
altitude of 16,000 feet. The Bhaga is another significant
constituent of the Chenab river system. It takes its origin from the snow-bed on the
south-western foot of the Baralacha Pass and flows northwest and later curves round to the
south-west. The country is barren down to Darcha village, which is situated near the junction of the Yoche Nullah and the
Zangskar Chu with the main stream at about 3,500 metres from the sea. The total length of the river is about 65 km with an average fall of about 28 metres per kilometre. The banks of
the stream are steep and rocky.
Below the confluence of the Chandra and the Bhaga at Tandi the
joint stream is known as Chandrabhaga. From a height of about 2800
metres the fall of the river is six metres per kilometre through 25 km of
length in a north-westerly direction to the border of Chamba
district. The side ravines are numerous the biggest among them
being the Chokhang nullah, which pours in from the north by the
village of Thirot.
or Chenab River
its upper course through Lahaul valley, the river Chenab is
known as the Chandra-Bhaga. It is formed by the rivers Chandra and Bhaga and hence the
name. As it flows through Lahul, this river has laid thick deposits of sediments. It is in
spate during the summer season when the snow on the mountains
melts. Flash floods occur with regularity in the early afternoon in summer. They have been
known to wash away hundreds of cattle each year. The river Chandra-Bhaga may freeze
occasionally during the winter season.
The Spiti river has its source far north on the eastern
slopes off mountain ranges which ruin
between Lahul and Spiti. The river is formed at the base of the
Kunzam Range by the confluence of Kunzam La Togpo and the
streams Kabzima and Pinglung. On the western side of its sour
lies a vast salt-water lake. The river follows a long winding course interloced here and there by
spurs that project from the foot of the plateaus on both sides. The
Spiti has a broad and flat valley bordered by high vertical cliffs. The
valley tops are flat and plateau-like. Above the 'plateaus and land again rises in steep scarps. The length of the
river within Spiti on the south-east, is about 130 km. It
continues in Kinnaur district upto a place known as Khabo where
it joins the Satluj.
The main stream of the Spiti river, which is fed by the glaciers, is a perennial one,
while some of the tributary streams disappear in the loose morain at the feet of the plateaus. During its course through the difficult, complex terrain, the
Spiti is joined by a number of tributaries from both the sides. Those which join its right
bank include: Chiomo, Gyundi, Rahtang, Ulah, Pin, Lungze, Mane, Surahl, Pomograng,
Mamdang and Sumra; the left bank tributaries are: Thamar,
Hanse, Thumna, Tagting, Thumpa Lumpa, Shila, Kaza, Lingti, Poh, Tabo, Karati, Gimdo and
The Pin river constitutes the most important right bank tributary of Spiti river. Its main
branch, Kyoti, originates from the Lasuma mountain in the Srikand Range of the Middle
Himalayas. It is joined by another branch from the Bhaba Pass near Mudd village. Later it
is fed by a number of streamlets,
chief among which are Palder Chin, polder Chum and Shang on the right bank, and Karve,
Lavrang, Mudd Taking, Madang, Saguaro, Barakuit, Gooling, Seeling and Kit 'togpos' on the
left bank. The Pin is about 50 km long. The Gyundi and the Rahtang, like the Pin, rise
from the Mid-Himalayas and are fed by glaciers.
Of the left bank tributaries of the Spiti, the most important are: Lingti, Gimdo
and the Parechu, all of which rise in the main Himalayas. Lingti is about 40 km in
length and there are a number of villages in its watershed. Parechu, which starts from
near the Tagling La and Parang La ranges, runs north-east and joins the Spiti at Sumdo.
The Spiti rivers are all violent torrents whose depths vary enormously, depending upon the
season. In winter, when the water freezes, the Spiti is barely
about half a metre deep and at its widest only a stone's throw across, and has a discharge
of a couple of hundred cusecs. Its water, heavily charged with silt, is generally turbid
and yellow. Fording, especially in the latter part of the day, is thus rendered perilous
and almost impossible. The maximum discharge in the river, at the point where it enters
Kinnaur, may go as high as twenty to thirty thousand cusecs. The discharges in its
tributaries also are subject to seasonal, daily, and even hourly fluctuations. None of the
rivers is navigable. The larger tributaries of the Spiti flow
through valleys which sometimes resemble its own. But shortly before joining it, these are
forced into narrow chasms in the rocky heights which rise on
either side of the main river. The depth of these cuttings is enormous; the walls of the canyon in the Shila Togpo can hardly be less than 600
metres. The Pin gorge is several kilometres in length; similar
rocky chasms can be seen in the gorges formed by the Sampa, Lingti,
Rahtang and Gyundi togpo.
In the north, the Tsarab runs north-westwards for about fifty
kilo-metres before joining the Lingti river and entering Zangskar
in Ladakh. The Tsarab is, because of its
peculiar location, not used for any purpose by the Spitians. Its watershed does not
contain any human habitation; it ultimately joins the Indus in
|Bara Shigri Glacier
largest glacier in the district is situated in Lahaul sub-division known as Bara Shigri, Bara meaning big and Shigri
meaning glacier, in Lahaul dialect.
Many mountaineers have trekked it for the sake of hobby or geographical exploration. This glacier rises from
a number of large glaciers, meeting in great valley above, filling that up, and then
pushing themselves over its rim in one great ice-stream down to the river.
Hugh Whistler, writing in 1924, says, "Shigri is applied par-excellence to one
particular glacier that emerges from the mountains on the left bank of the Chandra. It is
said to be several miles long, and the snout reaches right down to the river, lying
athwart the customary road from Kullu to Spiti." Estimates differ as to the breadth
of the glacier where it is crossed, as owing to its movement and roughness no two caravans
cross it in exactly the same way, but it is not less than a mile wide. In 1836 this
glacier burst its bounds and dammed the Chandra, causing the formation of a large lake,
which finally broke loose and carried devastation down the valley. The story runs that the
people of Spiti posted guards in the Kunzam Pass to watch whether the water would rise
high enough to flow across into Spiti."
The Bara Shigri glacier attracted much attention for many years because of the valuable
antimony deposits found there. The glacier was first surveyed in 1906 by H. Walker and
E.H. Pascoe of the Geologiaal Survey of India. Daring 1955 the Geological Survey of India
sponsored an expedition to this glacier as part of the Indian programme for the
International Geophysical Year 1956-57, when a number of Himalayan glaciers were examined
and their snout position fixed.
The Bara Shigri glacier, whose name signifies 'boulder-covered-ice', flows northwards and
debouches into the Chandra river where its southerly course is deflected westwards, close
to the Spiti border. The glacier is above 3,950 m altitude and extends beyond 4,570 m, a
11 km length of which has been recently surveyed and mapped. The glacier is so heavily
covered with surface moraine that ice is not visible for long stretches except along the
crevices and in the ablation areas.
Across the Bara
Shigri is another glacier known as Chhota Shigri. It is a comparatively smaller
glacier and does not reach down to the bed of the river, but it is most steep and
slippery, difficult to cross.
|The Gangstang glacier
situated at the western border of the Lahaul region at an
altitude of about 5,480 m streaming into Shahsha nullah which joins the Chandrabhaga river at about 13 km to the south.
glacier lake and the old terminal moraine are visible from the Rohtang Pass. The
desiccated lake, about 2.5 km in length, is a narrow meandering plain following the
contours of bounding slopes and consists of such fluvio-glacial
deposits as mud, fine sand, pebbles and angular gravels, through
which the glacier stream runs. The glacier is about 11 km long.
An ice-cliff forms the snout which is mostly covered by stone,
and the stream issues from an ice cave situated towards the
western limb of the curved ice-cliff. To the south of the snout,
and near to it, is a small terminal moraine. A large terminal moraine used to hold up the
waters of the old lake. Three more old terminal moraines are cut through by the Sonapani
stream after its escape from the lake-bed.
is a small one and is easily accessible being within one kilometre of Putiruni. There is a
well marked ice-cave and the glacier stream runs between two large lateral moraines.