By Saachi Dhillon
A trekker-turned-author curates a list of some of the best Himalayan treks you need to attempt
Walking in the Himalayas is one of the most simple yet fulfilling experiences. The crunching sensation of stones and loose grime under your feet. The rain-soaked, rhododendron kissed air. The taste of hot chai, the mist on your face. Simple pleasures. From ribbon-shaped forest pathways, cosy fires under a star-studded night sky to dozing off to the sound of distant cries, the great outdoors beckon. To awaken the explorer in you, here are some of the most spectacular treks you can embark on:
Everest Base Camp
An iconic trek like no other, you will return forever changed. From jagged snow-white peaks of some of the world’s highest mountains to dirt trails snaking across spartan landscapes and wobbly suspension bridges. The starting point of Lukla, known as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, will set the precedent for the adventurous 130-km expedition as you land with bated breath. The trail starts as a wide, levelled path into the Khumbu Valley. During springtime, the trail comes alive with bright rhododendrons of vibrant hues peppered across the way. The first view of Everest in Namche Bazar is unforgettable. Given the high altitude and remote mountainous region, prepare to face all sorts of weather — from rain, hail, and snow to gale-force winds. You will find yourself walking alongside the lateral moraines of the receding Khumbu glacier. Its crevices reveal a deep blue against the sheer white frozen mass. Walking alongside overloaded yaks and donkeys with tinkling bells around their necks will serve as a good reminder about the weight we carry in our lives. Walking in the lap of eight-thousanders will leave you humbled yet spellbound. At base camp (5,364 m), you will realise that the reward is in its journey as much as the destination itself.
How to get there: Daily flights from Delhi to Kathmandu
Starting point: Lukla
Pin Bhabha Pass
A stunning crossover trek that will lead you from the lush green Bhabha valley in Kinnaur to the starkly beautiful Pin valley in Spiti. The trail passes through the most sublime landscapes; enchanting forests, rolling meadows, and rare river deltas. All this, while the gentle sound of the gushing river serves as a tranquil background score. In autumn, you will find yourself surrounded by purple and yellow wildflowers swaying in the light breeze. Heavenly views of the Milky Way at Karah, another riverside campsite, will leave you enthralled. While most of the path is flat, there are a few steep sections to maneuver, including the late-night trek up a thin, slippery winding path to Pin Bhabha Pass (4,910 m). The views of the bare Pin Valley dotted with pink, yellow, and amber hues on one side compared to the snow-laden mountains with fluttering prayer flags on the other are a remarkable contrast. The endpoint, the remote village of Mudh is the perfect initiation into the ancient Tibetan traditions and culture of its people. The 7-day 50-km trek is easily one of the most understated yet beautiful treks.
How to get there: Daily flights from Delhi to Chandigarh. Take a cab/ drive to Shimla, approx 3.5 hours away
Starting point: Kafnu, Kinnaur
A delightful trek that takes you to the mouth of the mighty Beas River and can be completed over a leisurely long weekend. Sweeping mountain views will captivate you while driving to the starting point of Dhundi, beyond the verdant Solang Valley. The trail passes through grasslands, undulating meadows, and the lateral moraine of the receding glacier, interspersed with steep inclines. While you are gasping for air, breathe in spectacular vistas of the magnificent Pir Panjal range including Friendship Peak, Hanuman Tibba, amongst others. Bakarthatch meadows make for the perfect campsite, tucked away in the lap of the mighty Himalayas. Being one of the lesser frequented trails, you will find plenty of time to be one with your thoughts and nature. The final stretch to the sacred lake, Beas Kund, will leave you mesmerised as you are surrounded by snowy, panoramic views. Legend has it that the great sage and writer of the Mahabharata, Rishi Vyas used to bathe in the pristine lake (kund) and meditate on its bank. Sip hot tea and relish the freshly prepared Maggi as you gawk at the serene, emerald waters of the sacred lake.
How to get there: Flight from Delhi to Kullu (book in advance) or take an overnight bus/cab to Manali
Starting point: Dhundi
Set in Tirthan Valley, this is a great springtime trek to a relatively lesser-known peak called Lambri Top (3,600 m), offering phenomenal views of the Great Himalayan National Park. A great option for a weekend trek, especially for those looking for some quiet time in nature. A steep, winding road from Gushaini leads you to the tiny settlement of Jamala, the starting point of the trek. After walking past a handful of traditional Himachali homes, you will reach a verdant green meadow. Further, the flat path cuts across thick deodar and pine forest with trees more than a hundred feet high. Depending on the season, you may witness the mountainside come alive with wild lilies everywhere. In an area rich in biodiversity, you will find sweet birdsong as a constant companion. You may even be lucky to catch the elusive Himalayan monal. The final stretch involves navigating a near-vertical 400-meter cliff. At the top, enjoy 360-degree panoramic views of the entire Himalayan Range from the Dhauladhar to Kinnaur. You can even visit the nearby Crystal caves and bring home a unique souvenir.
How to get there: Take a cab/drive to Tirthan Valley, approx 13 hours
Starting point: Jamala
Great Lakes, Kashmir
Known as one of India’s most beautiful treks, it can give many international hikes a run for their money. The sheer beauty, grandiose landscapes, picturesque meadows, and pristine lakes will take your breath away. Each day is picture postcard perfect and you will witness a new lake every day. The 69km week-long trek takes you across three mountain passes, five river valley crossings, and seven alpine lakes. Walk across grasslands, unending meadows, and maple and birch trees as horses and sheep graze lazily. Bright wildflowers add a splash of colour to the otherworldly landscape. Each of the lakes shimmers in hues of turquoise and emerald, reflecting the surrounding snow-clad mountains and floating clouds. It is fascinating to see melting ice from the snow patches gently trickle into these gleaming lakes. Every lake has a charm of its own. As most days involve walking more than 10 km, high endurance will be your friend on this one. Monsoon is a great time to embark on this incredible journey on foot.
How to get there: Daily flights to Srinagar
Starting point: Sonarmarg
Grade: Moderate- Difficult
Five things a Himalayan Trek first-timer should know before planning a trip:
Train well: Prepare your body through a mix of cardio and strength training months in advance. Aim to run 5 km in 30 mins to build stamina. For a high-altitude trek, you may try running upstairs with a backpack.
Layer up: Pack T-shirts, full-sleeve shirts, and a fleece jacket, which can help you increase or reduce layers depending on the climate.
Trekking equipment: A sturdy pair of trekking boots that you have broken after into along with trekking poles are a must for any long-distance trek. The poles are especially helpful while descending and protect your knees.
Essentials: Medicines and water purifying tablets can be a lifesaver in remote regions. Renowned operator: For any high-altitude trek, go with an operator with a good safety record. Saving a few thousand rupees on cheaper tours can sometimes be risky as they may not have basics such as oxygen cylinders to save cost.
Reproduced with permission from Mansworldindia.com