Saturday, 10 September 2011

Trekking in Indian Himalayas – An Overview

India is endowed with the largest tract of Himalayan ranges extending from states of Jammu and Kashmir through Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Well known and famous destinations in Indian Himalayas are visited by a large section of inland as well as overseas tourists. A discerning tourist would however like to set his foot on the solid ground at an high altitude trail and chug along the serpentine stone paved or mud track to visit destinations which are exciting, adventurous and educative.

Layman, who endeavors of venturing out for a Himalayan trek, will be a confused man if he scours the net, where a plethora of web sites will be vying with each other for his attention. A standard laid out package of throw-the-money-and-be-tension-free kind of holiday will bring him a temporary solace. Barring a few, most of the packages hide more than they reveal. The itinerary is generally cramped, with distance and travel time mentioned, which are sometimes far from reality. The luxury accommodations stated in those write-ups are not always available. Having done the standard package a few times, knowing the pros and cons, I had no hesitation in charting out my own course. The results have been astounding. Does it mean that you will not go through the itinerary of your desired destination offered by some of those travel web sites? The answer is no. It does help you to go through those travel sites and gain some preliminary knowledge and insight to your destinations in order to plan your own itinerary. A lone traveler may not have much of a choice rather than availing of the packages. 

My visit to  Himalayas began as early as in the year 1984, with a trip to Uttar Pradesh ( presently Uttarakhand ) visiting the religious shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri in Garhwal Himalayas. The destinations of Kedarnath and Badrinath, gave me the pleasure of watching the glorious and mighty snow capped hills and be in tune with the virgin nature. Subsequent years saw me visiting other trekking destinations in Garhwal Himalayas, like Gangotri, Gaumukh,Yamunotri, Tunganth, Kalpeshwar, Hemkund, Valley of flowers, Gorsan, Deoria Tal, Vasudhara Falls, Gandhi Sarovar ( Chorbari Tal ), Madmaheshwar, Rudranth, Kalpashwar and the list goes on.

Trekking is often misunderstood as mountaineering - which is a different ball game all together. A trekker treads on the stone paved or mud track at height generally ranging from 6,000’ to higher. All he needs to carry is his body weight and a small back pack containing a camera, a water bottle and a few tid bits at the most. For the first timers to Indian Himalayas with trekking as his priority, there are several one day treks to contend with. Uttarakhand with a lot of religious shrines doting all across the state, many of them situated above 10,000’ altitude are ideal to begin with. The advantage of such destinations is reasonably good accommodations, well laid track through the hills, eateries on the trail and clean water pipeline jutting along the trek path. On the other hand the multi-days trekking tours require extensive preparations, require porters and guides, with accommodation facilities very basic or a camping site in tents.

The trekking season begins from Mid May lasting up to end September. Early summer is a preferred time when snow starts melting, the tracks clear up and the weather is mostly sunny; however occasional light shower cannot be ruled out. The higher reaches above 10,000’ may see some snow fall as well. The late summer with rain fall intensity increasing the snow completely melts and wild flowers bloom in profusion. This time of the year notably in July/August, the landslides and rock slides are very common. Past few years have seen floods in some regions. Ideally one needs to have an extra day or two thrown in while planning the itinerary. By September, the rains relent and the snow melts completely in some of the Himalayan peaks. This time is ideal for high altitude trekking at 15,000’ and above.