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Trekking in Uttaranchal

Trekking in Uttaranchal
The Garhwal region contains some of the finest Himalaya mountains and is highly accessible. The low-altitude Sivalik foothills that run across the state are stepping stones from the plains to the Greater Himalayas. This region has the trekking possibilities especially during the winter. Trekking can be performed in the Inner Himalayas for 7 to 20 days with an experienced outfitter and modern camping equipment. The trekking can be enjoyed in small groups. Each group is accompanied by

Uttaranchal Trekking

an English-speaking trained guide and experienced kitchen staff to serve fresh meals. The trekkers do not have to carry their backpacks more than 3 to 5 kilograms. The rest of the equipment can be carried by porters who accompany them. Dehradun, the capital city of Uttaranchal is the base point for trekking.

The history behind the trekking goes back to the beginning of the 19th century. When the Gurkhas were expelled from Kumaon, Garhwal and Himachal Pradesh after the 1814-15 Gurkha War, Nepal and Britain signed a non-aggression pact which neither side violated. However, Nepal adopted an isolation policy, closing its doors to the rest of the world. Then, it became a forbidden land and this stimulated a curious fascination among the outsiders. The discovery that the Everest is the highest mountain in the world added to the mystique. When Nepal opened its doors again in 1950, the first visitors were captivated by this medieval kingdom that was seemingly unaffected by the 20th century. The members of the first expeditions to Everest marveled at the beauty of Nepal and widely advertised it. Then came the trekkers and tourism gathered a momentum. This region had been open since the British took over in 1815 but it was abandoned by explorers in favour of Nepal. Various early Himalayan exploration were undertaken here. The Trisul Parvat, after it had been climbed by Dr. Tom Longstaff in 1906 remained the highest mountain climbed for the next 30 years. The famous mountaineers of 1930 like Bill Tilman, Eric Shipton and Frank Smythe marveled at the beauty of the region. Edmund Hillary also trekked on the Mukut Parbat in Garhwal. Later, climbers like Chris Bonington, Peter Boardman and Mick Tasker used alpine techniques to conquer Changabang and Dunagiri. The hill folks and pilgrims also trekked over hills and dales due to lack of roads and means of transportation. Adi Shankaracharya trekked in the Garhwal Himalayas in the 8th century A.D. and he was the pioneer who opened trekking routes in this part of the country.

There are many trekking routes which offers some of the most spectacular walking and scenery. There are 2 general trekking areas. Around Gangotri and Yamunotri in Garhwal there are very good treks, some suitable for the independent or ‘go it alone’ trekker. Nanda Devi is the other area and this is mostly in Kumaon. The valley of Har-ki-Doon, Pindari glacier, Kuari pass and Dodital are the famous trekking routes. Some of the lesser known routes are Ruinsara, Bali Pass, Buran Pass, Sahastratal and the Rudranath and Milam Malari treks. In the Badrinath trek, you will not be allowed to go beyond Badrinath or north of the Dhauliganga towards the Nity Pass as this is a sensitive border zone, usually referred to as the Inner Line. One of the popular trekking route is from the Kuari Pass to the Valley of Flowers. The maximum height which can be reached in this trek is 3658 metres. Many of these routes lead across high-altitude meadows, passes, lakes and highest, perennially snow-clad peaks like the Nanda Davi, Kamet, Neelkanth, Mana. The scenic splendour of these mountains lies partly in the fact that the forests around the big peaks are still in marvelous condition and the local population is unaffected by the ravages of mass tourism. The best seasons for trekking are Februray and March at lower altitudes for the spectacular rhododendrons, April and May at higher altitudes, and October and November, when temperature is low, the skies are clear and the vegetation is green.

Trekking Routes in Garhwal


Gangotri to Gaumukh
The best known trek here is to Gaumukh (The Cow’s Mouth) and, if desired, beyond onto the Gangotri Glacier. To gaumukh can easily be undertaken with minimal equipment. From Gangotri follow the well-defined, gradually ascending path Bhujbasa. There is a Forest Rest House at Chirbasa, 4 km before Bhujbasa. At Bhujbasa there is a Tourist Bungalow and ashram where trekkers and pilgrims can stay. It is 5 km to Gaumukh across boulder scree and moraine and should

Trekking in Uttaranchal

take about 3 hr so it is quite feasible to go from Bhujbasa to Gaumukh, spend some time there then return to Bhujbasa or Chirbasa in the same day. Beyond Gaumukh more care and camping equipment is required. The Gangotri Glacier is situated in an amphitheatre of 6,500-7,000 m peaks which include Mana Parbat, Satopanth, Vasuki, Bhagirathi, Kedar Dome and Shivling. Tapovan (5 km) a grassy meadow on the east bank of the Gangotri glacier is the base camp for climbing expeditions to the stunningly beautiful Shivling, Siva’s lingam and the ‘Matterhorn of the Himalaya’. You can either return the same way or make a round trip by crossing over the glacier to Nandanvan and going up to Vasuki Tal beneath Vasuki peak. The return is via Nandanvan, the west bank of the Gangotri glacier crossing the Raktwan Glacier to Gaumukh.

Gangotri to Kedartal
This trek requires a tent, stove and food. It is 17 km to Kedar Tal, a small glacial lake surrounded by Meru, Pithwara and Bhrigupanth. Leaving Gangotri you proceed up the gorge of the Kedar Ganga, Lord Siva’s contribution to the Bhagirathi river, for 8 km to Bhoj Kharak and then a further 4 km to Kedar Kharak passing through some beautiful Himalayan Birch forest en route. The bark from the trees was used by sages and hermits for manuscripts. From Kedar Kharak, where you can camp, it is laborious 5 km ascent to Kedar Tal. Besides the peaks surrounding the lake you can also see the Bandarpunch range. The return to Gangotri can be the same way or over the ridge separating the Kedar Tal from the Rudragaira Gad (river). This ridge is 700 m above Kedar Tal and at least 5 hr should be allowed for the crossing. Rudragaira Kharak is the base camp for the peaks at the heads of this valley. Coming down towards Ganotri you must cross to the opposite bank avoid the cliffs on the W bank. Nearer Gangotri cross back to the W Bank. This is an excellent trek with scenic variety and spectacular views.

Gangori to Yamunotri via Dodital
This is a trek of great beauty between Kalyani and Hanuman Chatti, a distance of 49 km. you ca do a round trip from either end. From Uttarkashi drive to Gangotri and get off at the Gangori (3 km) or walk it. Here take the track to your left up to Kalyani, the recognized starting point of the trek. From here it gets steeper as the path climbs through forest to Agoda (5 km), a suitable camping or halting place. The next day carry on to Dodital, picturesquely set in a forest of pine, deodar and oak. This is source of the Asi Ganga and is stocked with trout. There is a Forest Rest House. Above the lake there are fine views of Bandar Punch. To reach Hanuman Chatti walk up to the Aineha Pass (6 km) which also has splendid views. Then it is a 22 km walk down to Hanuman Chatti, the roadhead for Yamunotri.

Panch Kedar Trek

Panch Kedars are the five different forms of the Hindu God Shiva and are known as Kedarnath, Madmaheshwar, Tungnath, Rudranath and Kalpnath. The mountainscape from each temple is fascinating, the valley is full of rich flora and fauna and the people are hospitable.

The Pindari Glacier Trek

This is along the southern edge of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary and is an ‘out and back’ trek, i.e. you return by the same route. From Bageshwar drive to Bharari. From here you can walk 16 km along the Sarju Valley to Songh or take another drive. From here it is just over 1 km and 200 m to Loharkhet. Good views of the hillside opposite and the head of the Sarju Valley. It is 11 km from Loharkhet to Dhakuri via the Dhakuri Pass which has a wonderful view of the south of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary including Panwali Dhar and Maiktoli. The walk to the pass is mostly through forest on a well graded path. You are now in the valley of the River Pindar and descend to the village of Khati first through rhododendron, then mixed forests dominated by stunted oak. Khati is a large village of over 50 households and situated on a spur that runs down to the river, some 200 m below. From Khati follow the Pindar to Dwali (8 km) which is at the confluence of the Pindar and the Kaphini Rivers. Here there is a run down. If you have a tent, camp in front. The next halt is Phurkiya (6 km). This can be used as a base for going up to Zero Point (4,000 m) and the snout of the glacier. On either side there are impressive peaks, including Panwali Dhar (6,683 m), Nanda Kot (6,876 m). You return to Bharari the same way. From Dwali, however, a side trip to the Kaphini Glacier is worthwhile. Including this the trek can be accomplished in a week but for comfort allow 9 days. As there is accommodation in every place, this trek can obviously be done with little equipment although a sleeping bag is essential.

Kedarnath - Vasuki Tal Trek
The trek from Kedarnath to Vasuki Tal is a continuous ascent along a goat track and it offers a panoramic view of Chukhamba peaks. The trek starts from Gaurikund, where one can have a refreshing bath in the hot water sulphur springs. The trek from Gaurikund to Rambara winds along the river Mandakini through forests and across beautiful waterfalls. The final trek to Vasuki Tal is downhill for 1 km. At the bottom of this, one can see rectangular slabs of rocks.

Dodi Tal Trek

The trek to Dodi Tal starts from Uttarkashi to Sangam Chatti and is approachable by motor. It is a gradual climb from Sangam Chatti to Agoda through woods, fields and villages on a mule track. The trek from Agoda to Dodi Tal is steep and through thick forests. Dodi Tal is situated at an elevation of 3024 meters, north of Uttarkashi and is surrounded by dense woods of oak, pine, deodar and rhododendrons. Dodi Tal, the crystal clear lake is full of rare fishes and the Himalayan Golden Trouts.

Gangotri - Kedarnath Trek

The Gangotri-Kedarnath trek is along the old pilgrim route from Gangotri to Kedarnath. From Gangotri one has to come down to Mala by motor. The actual trek stats from Mala, after crossing the river Bhagirathi. The trek is on level upto Sauri–ki–gad and from this point the climb to Belak is gradual. From Belak to Budha Kedar, it is downhill through dense forests full of birds and wildlife. From Budha Kedar to Panwali, it is an uphill climb through terraced fields and picturesque villages. The enchanting view of the Garhwal Himalaya is very refreshing and compensates the efforts of regular ascend and descend. The ‘Bugyals’ (alpine meadows) on this trek are most beautiful, specially the Kush–Kalyani and Panwali Bugyals.


Kalindikhal Trek
The Kalindikhal Trek provides a rare experience for the most adventurous trekkers. The trek takes one from Nandavan to Vasuki Tal after due acclimatization. There is a gradual ascent of 10 kms. and there after, the trek negotiates Kharapathar at a height of 5456 m. before camping at Kalindi base. After crossing the Kalindi Pass, one treks down to Arwa glacier and Arwatal to Badrinath via Ghastoli with two main rivers crossing on the way.

Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Trek

The Valley of Flowers and Hemkund trek starts from Govindghat, on the way to Badrinath, having two major gradients, one from Alaknanda bridge of Govindghat to Pulana village, for 3 kms. and other from Bhundar to Ghangharia. After trekking 3 kms. from Ghangharia, a bifurcation point is reached. The Valley of Flowers is

Uttaranchal Trekking

surrounded by the river Pushpavati and small streams. The Valley is nearly 10 kms. in length and 2 kms. in width.

Khatling - Sahasratal - Masartal Trek
The Khatling glacier is a lateral glacier, at the source of river Bhilangana. Sahsratal and Masartal are on the west and east of it. The valley of Bhilangana affords a panoramic view of snow capped peaks and hanging glaciers like Jogin group, Kirti Stambh and Meru. The whole trek passes through thick forests and beautiful lush green meadows. In the rainy season, the meadows burst with splendid flowers. Trekkers will have to cross scores of small streams on improvised log bridges on this route.

The Curzon/Nehru Trail
The Curzon/Nehru trail is a trek of unrivalled beauty. It was the route followed by Tilman and Shipton on their way to the Rishi Gorge, and by other mountaineers en route to the peaks on the Indo-Tibetan border. The crossing of the Kuari (Virgin) Pass is a fitting conclusion to a trek that takes in three lesser passes and five major rivers – the Pindar, Kaliganga, Nandakini, Birehiganga and Dhauligang. The trail was named after Lord Curzon, who was a keen trekker, and it is said that the path was specially improved so that he could do the trek. With independence it was renamed the Nehru Trail. This trek begins at Gwaldam and ends at Tapoban in the Dhauliganga Valley on the Joshimath Niti Pass road, after crossing the Kuari Pass (3,500 m), one of the finest vantage points in the Himalaya. From Gwaldam proceed to Wan. Then, go over the Kanol Pass through thick mixed forest to Sutol (10 km) in the Nadakini valley. There is a good camp site by the river. The next two stages follow the Nandakini downstream to Ramni (20 km) where the path leads up over the rhododendron forest clad Ramni Pass. From here there is a good view forest to cross the Birehiganga River by an impressive suspension bridge, up around the horseshoe-shaped hanging valley around Pana village, over an intervening spur and into the forested tributary valley of the Kuai nallah. There is no settlement here and bharal (mountain goats) and Himalayan black bear inhabit the rich forest, though they are rarely seen. Waterfalls tumble down over steep crags. There is a good camp below the pass at Dhakwani. Leave as early as possible to get the full effect of sunrise over the peaks on the Indo-Tibetan border. Some of the mountains seen are Kamet, Badrinath, Dunagiri, Changabang and Nanda Devi. There is a wonderful wooded camp site with marvelous views about 300 m below the pass. From here it is down to Tapoban and the Joshimath – Niti road. There is a hot spring here and a bus service to Joshimath. Allow ten days for the trek.

Har-Ki–Dun Trek

Har-ki-Dun (God’s Valley) nestles in the north-west corner of Garhwal near the Sutlej-Yamuna watershed. At an elevation of 3566 meters, the Har-Ki-Dun is surrounded by glittering peaks and dense forests. The valley is dominated by Swargarohini. The forests are rich in wildlife and is a paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. From Nowgaon, 9 km south of Barkot, take a vehicle to the road head of Netwar at the confluence of the Rupin and Supin streams which become the Tons. From here is a gradual ascent over 12 km to Saur then a further 11 km to Taluka. There is a Forest Rest house at Osla which is 11 km from Taluka. The road from Netwar to Osla is through dense forests of chestnuts, walnuts, willows and chinars. The trek from Osla to Har–ki–Dun is through terraced mountain fields, lush green grassy land and conifer forests. There is a second Forest Rest House in Ha-ki-Dun. This is an ideal base for exploring the valley.

Roopkund Trek

Roopkund is situated at a height of 5029 meters in the lap of Trisul Massif and Nanda Ghunti. This area is usually called the ‘Mystery Lake’ since human skeletons and remains of horses from the Paleolithic age were found here. Thirty years ago the respected Indian anthropologist D.N. Majumdar discovered hundreds of skeletons around this small mountain tarn. There are two explanations behind their presence. The first is that they are the remains of the pilgrims on a yatra to the base of Trisul (The Lord Siva’s Trident) who died when bad weather closed in. Or, they may have been the remains of the Dogra General Zorawar Singh’s army from Jammu, which tried to invade Tibet in 1841, was beaten off and forced to find its way back home over the Himalaya. To this day, the mystery remains unsolved. The lake is surrounded by rock stewn glaciers and snow clad peaks. This is a highly varied and scenic trek which can be undertaken by a suitably equipped party. A week is sufficient to do this trek, nine days if you want to take it more comfortably. Porters can usually be obtained at Gwaldam or Debal.

The starting point of the trek is Tharali, easily approached by motor from Rishikesh. From Tharali, drive further to Debal, catching the jeep to Bagrigadh and walking up to Lohajung in one long day. From Lohajung you walk down through stunted oak forest and along the Wan Gad (river) to the village of Wan (10 km). From Wan it is essentially wilderness travel as you make the ascent to Roopkund, first walking through thick forest to Bedni Bugyal which is used a summer pasture. This has good vies of Trisul and the Badrinath range to the north. There are some stone shephereds huts which you may be able to use but it is advisable to take a tent. From Dedni it is a gradual 7 km climb along a well defined path over the Kovali Pass to more shepherds huts at Bakwa basa, the base for the final walk up to Roopkund. This is not a good camp site as water is some way off. From here, it is 2-3 hr up to Roopkund. Care must be taken on the final steep part because the ground can be icy. From the 4,900 m ridge approximately 50 m above Roopkund is a magnificent view of the W face of Trisul rising over 3,500 m from the floor of the intervening hanging valley to the summit. Return to Gwaldam by the ame route or via Ali Bugyal which bypasses the village of Wan. Roopkund can also be reached from Ghat, connected by the motorable road with Nandprayag situated on the main highway to Badrinath. The route passes through lush green grassy land and conifer forests clinging on to the slopes of hills. The trek thereafter winds its way along the Pindar river. Then to round off this trek, one can approach Homekund via Shall Samudra glacier and then move on to Ghat or Nandprayag.

Treeking Routes in Kumaon

The Kumaon hills are the most picturesque hills in the country and offers breathtakingly adventurous trekking routes. Some of these routes are:

Pithoragarh - Tawaghat - Parwati Lake - Chhota Kailash - Sinla Pass Trek

In this exciting trekking region of Kali, Kuti and Dhauli rivers, one not only walks along a large portion of the Kailash – Mansarovar route, but also gets an exposure to the socio-cultural life of the people living in the Chaudans, Byans and Darma valleys. Dharchula is the base camp for trekking that takes one to Jolingkong called Chhota Kailash and its small but beautiful lake called Parwati Tal. The route to Sinla Pass is under a heavy blanket of snow and from here one can constantly see the Chhota Kailash peak.

Bageshwar - Liti - Namik Glacier Trek

In this trek one can see the snout of Namik Glacier and the stream coming down from Anargal and meeting the main stream after going through Jogi Udiyar the ascent of Bhindawali and Penthang.

Munsyari - Milam Glacier Trek

Munsyari is situated on the arterial water body of the Goriganga, which emerges from the Milan glacier of the eastern flanks of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, and also fed the Kalabuland glacier and the Panchachuli from further east. The Milam glacier snout at 3872 m. is the nodel point for a variety of high grade routes and peaks.

Bageshwar - Saung - Sunderdhung Glacier Trek

36 kms. from Kausani, at the confluence of the rivers Gomti and Saryu lies this religious town of Bageshwar. Bageshwar is an important pilgrimage centre of the Kumaon Himalayas and adorned by temples and places of worship. Bagehwar is also the base for the popular trekking routes of Sunderdhunga, Pindari and Kafni Devikund, Durgakund Glaciers.

Bageshwar - Saung - Pindari Glacier Trek

The trek from Bageshwar to Pindari glacier is 3 kms. long and ¼ km. broad. It is connected to the south–western slopes of the outer walls of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.

The Nanda Devi Area
Dominating the Garhwal and Kumaon Himalaya is the Nanda Devi Group of mountains with Nanda Devi (7,816 m), named after the all-encompassing form of the female deity, at its centre. Nanda Devi is the highest mountain in India and was once the highest in the British Empire. It is an incredibly beautiful mountain of two peaks separated by a 4 km long ridge. The legend has it that the hand of Nanda Devi (“She who Gives Bliss”), daughter of a local king, was demanded in marriage by a marauding prince. War ensued, her father was killed and she fled, eventually finding refuge on top of the mountain now bearing her name. She is protected by a ring of mountains 112 km in circumference containing 12 peaks over 6,400 m in height and in only one place is this defensive ring lower than 5,500 m, at the Rishi Gorge, one of the deepest in the world. It is the place of sages.


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