You’ve probably heard stories or seen pictures of people going on Himalayan treks, and coming back with different things to say, like, ‘It was an amazing, life-changing experience!’ If you’ve always fancied the idea of experiencing the euphoria on your own, then plan your trip as we put together a primer to introduce you to the world of trekking. Three trek leaders and one seasoned trekker give us a peek into spending a few days on different slopes of the Himalayas. And unlike what the movie Yeh Jawani Hai Dewani (2013) shows, it’s best to leave your miniskirts at home.
1. Kedarkantha, Uttarakhand
Duration: Four to five days
Nearest railhead: Dehradun Base village: Sankri
Ascend through alpine forests, camp along a frozen lake, indulge in star trail photography, and trudge your way through several inches of snow. That’s the Kerdarkantha route for you in December. On the first evening of the trek, you’d typically camp at Juda ka Talab, and the following evening, you will reach the summit base campsite. Prepare for sub-zero temperatures by layering up well. From here, before the morning dawns, you set off on the steep summit climb, and towards the end of it, brace yourself for a thrilling walk on a snowy ridge with heavy winds. Upon reaching the summit of the Kedarkantha peak, you’re rewarded with panoramic views of the omnipresent Himalayas. If you’re in a group, you can hire a local guide and a cook, and set off on the trail by yourselves. Camping gear isn’t easily available at Sankri, so ensure you carry your own.
As told by Neeraj Kedar, Trek leader
2. Nag Tibba, Uttarakhand
Duration: Two days
Nearest railhead: Dehradun Base village: Pantwari
Probably the shortest and the easiest trek in the Himalayas, Nag Tibba is ideal for skeptical newbie trekkers. The gradient, though, is steep and high. So, while the ascent is short, it can get strenuous, and a moderate fitness level is recommended to fully enjoy the trek. The trail snakes through forests and atop a ridge, ending at the small peak, Nag Tibba. This summit offers stunning views of several other peaks such as Nanda Devi (second highest mountain peak in India), Trishul, Bandarpoonch, Kedarnath, Swargarohini and Gangotri. Your companions on the trail can be flocks of sheep and goats, grazing away in the meadows, locally called ‘bugyals’. It’s a blessing to be able to spend a weekend completely submerged in nature. Snow-trekking gear such as crampons and gaiters are available for hire at Pantwari, as are local guides and cooks. Else, if you like everything to be taken care of, join a batch from a trekking organisation.
- As told by Pavan Jain, seasoned trekker
3. Sandakphu, West Bengal
Duration: Six days
Nearest railhead: New Jalpaiguri
Base point: Darjeeling
The view of an array of peaks that a clear, winter horizon offers a trekker is worth achy limbs. You will be mesmerised by the sheer size of Mt Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu – four of the top five highest peaks in the world. The silhouette of the Kanchenjunga family of peaks resembles the iconic posture of Buddha, and you can take pictures against this ‘Sleeping Buddha.’ Install the PeakFinder app or a similar one on your phone, as they will help you recognise the peaks, even in the offline mode. Peppered with beautiful tea houses and Tibetan hamlets, the trail to Sandakphu village lies along the country’s border and has one hopping in and out of Nepal. It leads through forests and meadows, and you pass a Buddhist temple and a monastery. There is gradual altitude gain, so don’t forget to keep yourself well-hydrated. And carry your passport along
- As told by Anuja Gupta, Trek leader
4. Deoriatal-Chandrashila, Uttarakhand
Duration: Five to six days
Nearest railhead: Haridwar
Base village: Sari
An easy-to-moderate level trek, this one has a little bit of everything — forests, lakes, meadows, streams, stunning sunset views, shrines, local mythological tales and a frosty summit peak. It is known as the best trail for bird-spotting. While you’re likely to find snow on the entire route, Rohini bugyal (meadow) looks like a fluffy snow blanket. Sari and Ukhimath villages have small shops renting out camping gear, and you can hire local guides and cooks there.
- As told by Ankit Wachhal, Trek leader
Pro tips for trekking
1. All Himalayan treks, even when rated ‘easy’, require general fitness. In case you suffer from any medical condition, check with your doctor, and only then proceed for the trek. Also, inform your trek leader about the condition.
2. Adopt the ‘Leave No Trace’ policy and do not litter the mountains.