If the very name "Himalayan Trek" brings to your mind intimidating gradients and exorbitant expenses, then you have got it all wrong! With summer holidays just round the corner and everyone huffing and puffing in the unbearable heat and humidity, the easiest option is to scramble up the altitude scale, in the welcoming arms of the chilly mountains. While alternative ways to beat the heat has escalated in the last few years and there is an unending catalogue of activities to choose from, we bring to you a list of treks in what is considered the holy grail of trekking & mountaineering: The Himalayas. Each of these intrepid treks are not only soothing to your overworked mind but are also light on the pocket.
Perfect for beginners, the Deoban Trek starts in the charming town of Chakrata with its grand colonial architecture and threads through undisturbed forests of deodar. The Kanasar campsite where we stop for the night is set in a dense forest of fir and pine. It is a thrilling experience with nothing save the flickering fire of fireflies and the hum of cicadas for company. On moonlit nights, the entire forest is awash in a silvery light. Occasionally, you can hear the call of wild animals. You will be woken by the delicate symphony of birdsong and after a cup of strong tea, continue to the Deoban Forest Rest House. A short walk brings us to Vyas Shikhar, 3000 m. Breath-taking views of Kandariya Mahadev, Swargarohini, Ranglana, and Banderpoonch can be enjoyed from here. In winter, the entire landscape is carpeted in thick snow. The deodar forest assumes the look of a fantasyland- white cone of trees sticking tall and proud from the sugar snow land!
A rainbow spans the forest near Deoban
Located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, the Nag Tibba peak, 3050 m is popular with amateur trekkers. The trekking trail wanders through beautiful forests of oak and rhododendron and meadows studded with white anemones. Around the month of April, the rhododendrons bloom and the entire landscape is aflame in a gorgeous riot of red and pink before reaching the Nag Tibba Ridge. Spectacular views of Mussoorie, Vikashnagar, the Banderpoonch range and spurs created by the Yamuna river valley can be enjoyed from here. Various birds like the niltava, the jungle babbler, red vented bulbul, blue-cheeked bulbul, hill myna, warblers, tits and the flameback woodpecker can be spotted on the way. Enroute, the rural landscape is a checkerboard of green pea and golden wheat fields. Women in bright traditional garments can be spotted working in the fields. Our campsite the first night is redolent with mint leaves, so make sure you rummage for the freshest herbs and brew a cup of sweet mint tea!
(*includes a 16 km rafting stretch in the Yamuna)
Terraced fields on the way to Nag Tibba
The tranquil Kareri Lake is a glacial lake cradled lovingly by the mighty Dhauladhars. We trek along the icy Kareri stream, through quiet forests and lush meadows redolent with a variety of colourful wildflowers. As sunlight trickles in and falls in puddles on the forest floor and the mossy tree barks, the entire forest assumes a magical charm. Sharp cries of birds rip the heavy silence occasionally. Most of the area is relatively undiscovered. Few travellers come here and that only emphasizes the quiet. If trekking in April or early May, you may have to negotiate multiple glacial formations on the riverside. The Himalayas stand like tall sentinels along the edge of the elliptical Kareri. There is a Shiva temple on the banks. The surface of the still lake mirrors the snowy Himalayas and the clear blue skies. The serenity here will soothe your frazzled nerves.
On the way to Kareri Lake
Located near McLeodganj, Triund Hill is popular with weekend trekkers. The trail winds its way over rocky outcrops and through forests and meadows abounding with colourful wildflowers like hollyhock, wild daisy and flame of the forest. The areas rich bird life includes species like high altitude Pheasants, Tree creepers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, and Long-tailed Shrike. All along, the snowy Dhauladhars loom over us. As you ascend the Indrahar Pass from Illaqua, you will notice staircases hewn in the mountainside. As this is located on one of the major routes for their seasonal migration from the upper parts of Chamba & Kangra to the plains of the Kangra valley, the Gaddis have hewn staircases in the mountainside to make it easier for their herds. The ledges are often overhanging with 200-300 ft falls right under them!
A day-trek to Triund Hill can also be organised.
The Dhauladhar Range on the way to Triund
Located in the mountains of the Tons River valley, the Kedarkantha Peak is frequented by trekkers in all seasons. In summer, the forests of pine and oak come alive with birdsong. The alpine meadows are at their glorious best- splashes of varied shades of green studded with wildflowers in every known colour. Come winter, and the greenery is shawled by thick snow. The forest is still. Occasional calls of birds echo in the heavy air. The quiet is extremely calming. Kedarkantha offers a 360 deg view of the Garhwal and Kinnaur Himalayas, including the Swargarohini, Banderpooch, Black and Ranglana peaks. The trek takes you through the lush Govind National Park with its rich avifaunal population. On the second night, we will camp on the shores of Juda Talab beside a chaise of oak and maple trees. The lake- frozen or otherwise- is a revelation in the silver glow of the moon!
The frozen Juda Talab
The Parvati Valley runs eastward from the Parvati River to the Beas and is one of the most fertile valleys in the region. Lush greenery with a backdrop of snowy Himalayan peaks soothes your eyes. Along the trek, we come across mesmerising glacial lakes and alpine meadows dotted with an abundance of blue poppies. We will trek to the beautiful villages of Tosh and Kheer Ganga. Enroute to Tosh, at Barsaini the Parvati and the Tosh rivers fall into each other. The thick wooded slopes further accentuate the beauty of the confluence. At Kheer Ganga, take a dip in the hot springs of Parvati kund.
Sunlit streaming in the Parvati Valley
The Har ki Dun Valley skirts the borders of the Govind National Park and boasts of some of the most gorgeous scenery. The alpine meadows appear an exaggeration - immaculate green carpeted with the most pretty and the most vibrant of wildflowers. There is an abundance of purple wildflowers- with a backdrop of white mountains and blue skies, these windswept meadows appear too beautiful to be true! The rich birdlife includes Himalayan Snow Cocks, Golden Eagles and Bearded Vultures and draws a lot of bird watchers to the region. The trek offers gorgeous views of the Hata, Swargarohini, Bandarpoonch and Black peaks. We will also spend a night at Osla, a charming village known for an ancient wooden temple and trek to the Hata glacier past a perfectly still glacial lake.
The Har ki Dun Trek in winter
The Himalayas provide few of the best opportunities for trekking not only in the subcontinent but also in the world. Though not all Himalayan treks will burn a hole in your pocket, each of them promise an enthralling experience and a peek into some gorgeous, unspoilt scenery. So what are you waiting for? Book yourself a slot and take on this mighty landscape!
Article by: Mohana Das