Sunday, December 13, 2009
Top Ten Treks in Indian Himalaya
Hi friends after three days of seeking inputs regarding what kind of posts would you wish me to write, I have collected nearly two dozen requests and suggestions through FB and email. To summarize all of them of which many were similar though differently worded, I would write the following posts in the coming days: (a) my top 10 climbs of South America (b) how can a beginner plan, prepare, train and start going into the mountains (c) wild life encounters (d) my extreme adventures from lesser known spots on Earth
Of those that I cannot encompass in a post I would like to mention the one from Nadya who wanted me to write about an experience that I would want to be the base of a documentary. There’s only one experience of mine that can justify this and that’s my walk across the entire length of Africa at the age of 18. It is too vast and mindboggling an experience to be put in a post. I would be coming out with a book on that and it can surely be made into a Hollywood thriller. As for Karthik’s demand, I am not permitted to write about my submarine experiences. As for those wishing to know certain facets of my personal life in the mountains; well, I would like to keep them personal. I am surprised that none of you asked me to write posts on such important issues like mountaineering as a career in India, tips for buying mountaineering clothing and equipment, layer systems, high altitude medicine, mountain photography, climbing grades and rating systems, climbing and mountaineering terminologies, etc. You can keep sending me suggestions and requests through email and FB. As for this post, I would feature the most demanded request though my friend Nishith was the first one to put it. So Nishith this is for you, your spirit and for your kid. You would never scale Everest but your son can and this is for his generation too and for all those who think that mountains are only for extreme people like me. Just remember that mountain climbing, trekking is whole lot of fun and it is absolutely for everyone.
This post is about my favorite top ten treks in the Indian Himalaya that can be done by a person like Nishith with his family. Now that demands that I must briefly tell you about Nishith so that you can compare yourself to him and know for sure that the following treks are for you as well. Nishith, no offence to you but I got to be factual here. Ok, Nishith is a happy go lucky perpetually smiling bespectacled fellow, who in his present avatar along with a prominent middle is one of the most unfit persons that I know of. He is merrily married to a wonderful woman equally normal in her physical prowess while his kid is as naughty as kids can be. Nishith and family have absolutely no special training, technical or physical, for going into the mountains. They live a perfectly normal big city life (Mumbai) with all its failings and they love to eat and enjoy the good life. Despite this what makes them different and among my dearest friends is their spirit. There’s nothing on earth that can keep Nishith away from the mountains. He continued this journey even after he got married, along with his wife and now with his kid. This guy is unstoppable and so can you be.
Mountains don’t demand much from you. All they want and wish is that you would visit them once in a while and talk to them like friends. They are benign, they are majestic, they are enchanting and they are mythical. They will touch within you at places you did not know existed. They will transform you forever. They will teach you how to live and how to die without the fear of death. They will tell you stories far more spellbinding than any mortal ever can. They are a part of our heritage, our country and you. If you haven’t yet gone into the mountains or never rolled in soft snow then it is time you did. There’s absolutely no age, sex, religion, culture, color, creed, physical limitations barriers to the mountains. Go at your own pace in your time but please go in this life time. No matter what ails you, be it cancer, blindness or physical handicaps mountains will heal you even if they don’t have the panacea for eternal life and well being. And if the thought that worries you most is that you have never done it before, please remember that even for me and Nishith there was a ‘first’ time and once you have overcome that hurdle you will realize there will never be a ‘last’ time. So here’s to you the top 10 treks.
While selecting the top ten treks I have maintained the following assumptions: involves at least 4 nights of tented camping, crosses at least 10,000 ft in altitude, can be done with a child of 5, fairly well known and well marked trails, among the trails I have personally done, and all within the boundaries of Indian Himalaya. Further these treks are not mentioned in any order. Each one of them is equally exciting. Being fairly well known and in today’s google world since nothing is really unknown I haven’t included any details about the routes save their names. So go ahead get your trekking shoes out, dust your backpack, tell your paunch to watch out and step off into another adventure of body and mind. I will see you all on top.
1. Lachen to Green Lake in North Sikkim. This is a spectacular trek with stupendous views of some of the highest peaks in the Himalaya including the breathtaking NE ridge of Kangchenjunga. An interesting add on to this trek would be the crossing of Thieu La into Lhonak Valley (Minus the Missus and Kid of course).
2. Yuksum to Guicha La in West Sikkim. A beautiful hike full of trekkers in all seasons, crossing an emerald lake and again Kangchenjunga in all its glory. A really fit and motivated group could attempt an approach to the Zemu gap as well (MMK).
3. Munsyari to Ralam Village in Uttarakhand. An add on could be a quick trip to Kalabaland Glacier and base of Ralam Dhurra or a detour through Brijganga Dhurra and return via Martoli (MMK).
4. Kagbhushand Taal. Despite being easy and near the famous and over rated Valley of Flowers, KT gets very few visitors. Enchanting valley during post monsoon.
5. Chitkool to Baspa Valley in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh. One can also opt to continue with Charang Ghati from Chitkool (MMK). Baspa Valley is as near to heaven as one can get in this life.
6. Bataal to Bara Lacha La via Chandratal in Lahaul, Himachal. A mid-grade trek, very enjoyable and offers amazing landscapes. Try to plan this to have full moon around Chandratal or Bara Lacha La. You won’t forget the view ever.
7. Dharlang Valley in Kishtwar Himalaya. One of those hidden and undiscovered jewels of our Himalaya. Any approach other than from Atholi would need crossing of very high and dangerous passes to enter this valley.
8. Four lake trek in Kashmir. This round trail takes you along the shores of Kishensar, Vishensar, Gangabal and Nudkhol with out of the world views of the mountains and glaciers across the LOC. This is a mid-grade trek and can only be done by a fit family. It is hard but absolutely worth the effort. It had gone down in popularity chart due to the Kashmir problems but is reemerging now and it is safe to do it.
9. Chadar or frozen river trek in Ladakh. Contrary to what you might have heard about this trek, the only real danger posed is the cold since it can only be done during winters. With a safe and sound guide and support team this trek is very much doable by a family.
10. Several short trails in and around Lake Tso Moriri Ladakh. Even few rounds along the lake shore is worth the visit. One full moon night is highly recommended.
Distinct Disclaimers. Well, as you know by now, anything coming from me comes with a catch. As much as I have recommended the above as my top ten family treks in Indian Himalaya, I do not by any way claim this to be exhaustive. There are more than 5000 treks in the Himalaya and almost 60% of those are family kind. The above 10 are my personal favorites and would recommend to a friend. Though I must caution that none of these treks are easy walking. They need some amount of preparation in terms of physical fitness and determination, but then isn’t that the reason why you wish to go into the mountains; to overcome your weakness and to win the battle of bulges. And please don’t worry about the toddler, in all probability he would outpace and outrun me any day on those slopes. Yet caution must always be your priority and please do a thorough research work before leaving home. Talk to those who have done it. Finally all risk that you run and take is yours and so are the enjoyment and the rewards. I can only show you the path and offer you my best wishes but it is your own feet and heart that will take you to the lofty heights where Swami Satya will meet you. Go with guruji’s blessings and may you come down a new and healthier person. Sab ka kalyan ho jai bholeshankar (may all benefit from Lord Shiva’s divine power).