Off limit to trekkers for many years and rigidly controlled by a permit system, few have made it to the north east base camp of Kangchendzonga. In the summer of 1987, supported by an Assam Rifles team who were climbing the peak, I reached the Green Lakes Base Camp in the Zemu Valley. The trek is around 8/9 days from Lachen (up and down) and has some stupendous views, rhododendrons and blue poppies, bharal grazing on the Green Lake plain and Siniolchu, that perfect mountain, visible from the Zemu glacier. The trek needs full support with tents, porters and food to be carried. It is on my agenda to take a South Col team to Green Lakes soon!
Much more accessible than the northern approach, Dzongri is an alpine meadow around 4000 metres near the glaciers of Kabru and Ratong commanding some superb views of the Sikkim Himalaya. The trek from Yuksam to the alp of Dzongri takes two days though some do it in three to aid acclimatisation. From Dzongri you can go both to the Goecha La pass following the Prek Chu river or make a rewarding detour to the HMI base camp at Chauringkhang below the peaks of Kabru and Ratong. The view of Kangchendzonga from the plain of Onglakthang before Samiti lake is stupendous especially if seen on a moonlit night!
Across Zanskar – Lamayuru to Padum and onto Darcha
This could be the “ultimate trek” in Ladakh crossing seven passes in seven days from Lamayuru to Padum and then again crossing Shingo-la from Padum to Darcha. The trek traverses heights upto 5400 metres and drops to the valleys around 3500 metres. Sadly, the trek will soon be no more thanks to a road which is relentlessly being carved out along the banks of the Zanskar River from Nimu to Padum. So while the going is good I would advise to do this trek. Great views, fabulous country, the real “last Shangri-la” . Please visit www.sujoydas.com/ladakh-zanskar for photographs of this trek.
The trek from Rumtse to Tso Kar and then onto Tso Moriri which would take around 8-9 days is one of the great walks in Ladakh.The trek needs to be done with full support- tent, ponies, cook and food. The trail passes through the high altitude plateau of Rupshu with a lot of wildlife en route – kiang (Tibetan wild ass), marmots, ladakh pika, red wolf, ducks and geese. We attempted the trek in late September 2008 after heavy snowfall had covered the Ladakh and Himachal mountains. Unfortunately we managed to reach only Tso Kar after which the snow conditions which were steadily getting worse put paid to our plans. August would be a good month for this trek before the onset of winter. It is necessary to have transport at Tso Moriri arranged as the bus to Leh is only twice a month! For photographs please see the link Tso Kar and Tso Moriri .
The Source of the Ganga – Goumukh and Tapoban
The trek from Gangotri to the source of the Ganga at Goumukh and then onto the high meadows of Tapoban and Nandanvan is one of the finest walks in the Garhwal. The views of Shivling, Bhagirathi peaks, Kedardome, Meru are outstanding from the Tapoban meadows. On a good day bharal (blue sheep) can be seen at very close distance. It is advisable to camp one night at Tapoban and another at Nandanvan before returning to Gangotri. The trek would take around seven to eight days return. Crossing the Gangotri glacier can be difficult if it has snowed recently so a guide could be useful.
The Nanda Devi Sanctuary
This trek had been closed for many years in order to conserve the environment of the inner sanctuary. It is now open against a permit upto Dibrugheta – the inner sanctuary is still closed. The views of Nanda Devi from Dharansi Pass and Saini Kharak are indeed spectacular and Dunagiri dominates most of the trail from Suraithonta to Jhandidhar. Water is a problem on this route and you need a guide who is familiar with the terrain and water sources. The round trip Suraithonta-Dharansi Pass-Lata Kharak-Lata would take around 5-6 days. Full arrangements need to be made for tents, food, cook and porters on this route which can be done by several trekking agencies in Joshimath.
Rupkund – The Mystery Lake
The bugyals of the Garhwal are nowhere more beautiful than on the trail to Rupkund. Bedni Bugyal with its dress circle view of the Garhwal peaks is an idyllic campsite with lush meadows in the summer and monsoon. The trek would take around 7-8 days and there are some huts which could be used for shelter. We never had a tent and stayed in the huts and the rock caves of Baguabasa. It is possible to continue on from Rupkund and cross Juiragali and return to the valley via Kanol and Sutol. Porters and food would be a necessity on this route. For a fine account of this trek please visit the link Rupkund Trek by Sadanand Kamath.
The Kuari Pass and Curzon’s Trail
It is now possible to reach the Kuari Pass from Joshimath in two/three days via the ski resort of Auli, but, it is still rewarding to walk the Curzon trail from the village of Ghat across the Kauri Pass and then descend to Joshimath. The pass made popular by the early British explorers to the Garhwal like Frank Smythe, Bill Tilman etc. commands an extensive view across the mountains of the Garhwal Himalaya. The full route would take around -5-6 days and post monsoon would be an ideal time to do this trek. The meadows between Kuari and Auli are home to the shepherds who graze their sheep and goats on the lush vegetation during the monsoon months.
The Pin Parvati Pass
The journey from Kulu valley into Spiti across the Pin Parvati Pass is not for the faint hearted. The pass is often snow bound even as late as June/July and snow flurries and storms in bad weather makes the crossing extremely difficult. Having said this, it is a very rewarding trek for a well equipped group with guide, porters, food, tent and proper equipment. The trek from the Kulu side starting at Pulga should take around seven/eight days. For a detailed account of this trek do visit this Indiamike link.
The Singalila Ridge of Sandakphu and Phalut
Though it is possible to drive a landrover from Darjeeling all the way to Sandakphu in a bone jarring ten hour journey, the walk from Manebhanjan to Sandakphu and then along the ridge to Phalut is highly recommended. The trek can be done without porters or guides as there are lodges to stay and food is available. It is possible to return from Phalut via Gorkhey and Rimbick. The Singalila ridge is one of the few locations where four of the five highest mountains in the world are visible – Everest, Kangchendzonga, Lhotse and Makalu. It is possible to trek this route in winter as the altitude never crosses 3600 metres.