3 raw treks around Valley of Flowers that will surprise you

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There are two types of trekkers. One that trek to Valley of Flowers and call it a day. The other who trek to nearby hidden lakes, passes, and high-altitude ice fields. Needless to say, there is more to explore around the Valley of Flowers than you think.

We share with you three such Treks that let you experience the raw grandeur of Himalayas.

Kunth Khal-Hanuman Chatti: A trek to the valley of Brahma Kamal

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An old Valley of Flowers trekking route has been opened after 45 years. A strenuous trek is meant for adventurous trekkers who like exploring new hiking trails.

The special thing about this trek is the presence of a rare Himalayan flower. Saussurea obvallata (also known as ‘Brahma Kamal’), is an endangered species of alpine flower. The Kunth Khal ridge has a blooming presence of Brahma Kamal. They seem to thrive in the protected Valley. Devkant Sangwan who has extensively trekked in this region reports of seeing far better numbers of Brahma Kamal on this route than any other.

How to do this Trek

Reach Joshimath and visit Forest Department Office for the permits. Take this day to scout for a local Guide and Supplies. The best way of doing this trek is from Govindghat. Take the usual 16 kilometer Valley of Flowers trail to Ghangaria.

On Day 2, proceed towards Valley of Flowers Entry Post manned by Forest Department. Take the trail that fords the Pushpawati River coming from Valley of Flowers. The trail forks towards your left as you move towards the higher ridge of Khunth-Khal. The climb up the Valley is strenuous. You will see a wide variety of flowers. As you reach over 12,500 feet, Brahma Kamal can be spotted in large numbers. Camp near the Base of Kunth-khal for the night.

 

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Brahma Kamal in full bloom near Kunth Khal

On Day 3 an early start is required. Cross over the 14,764 feet pass with caution. Fixed Ropes, Descenders need to be fixed. The descent is sharp. After descending 100 meters, the trail eases out. Trek 10 kilometer down to Palsi Uddyar, a small meadow. Camp here for the night.

Day 4 is an easy 8-kilometer walk down to Hanuman Chatti. From Hanuman Chatti take a jeep for a drop to Joshimath or Badrinath.

Trekking Tips: Add an extra day to visit Valley of Flowers on Day 2 from Ghangaria. You will have to return back to Ghangaria for the night.

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Kunth Khal – Hanuman Chatti Trek Map

Important Trek information

Altitude – 14,764 feet | 4,500 meter approximately
Trekking Distance  – 34 km
Trek Rating – Moderate/Difficult level
Technical Pointers – A fixed roped (of 30 to 40 meters) is required to be fixed at the last Rock section at the Pass.
Permissions & Guide – A Guide is mandatory for this trek. It is a Porter Driven Trek from Ghangaria to Hanuman Chati. Mules can only ply from Govindghat till Ghangaria. Permits to be obtained from Forest Department Office at Joshimath, Ghangaria, Badrinath. Best Season – July till Mid September

Trek Itinerary

Pre-Trek Day 1: Reach Joshimath from Haridwar/Rishikesh

Pre-Trek Day 2: Permits and Trek arrangement Day (In case you have not sorted your permits in advance). Also good for acclimatization to take this day at Joshimath.

Day 1. Drive to Govindghat. Trek to Ghangaria (3,050 meters), – 16 km trek

Day 2. Ghangaria to KunthKhal (4,500 meters), – 8 km trek

Day 3. Kunthkhal to Palsi Uddyar (3,225 meters), – 12 km trek

Day 4. Palsi Uddyar to Hanuman Chatti (2.548 meters). – 8 km trek, Drive to Joshimath

 

Bhuyandar Khal|Gupt Khal; Trekking beyond Garden of Eden

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Ever felt compelled to explore what lies ahead of Valley of Flowers? The trail ahead of the vagrant valley takes you to the massive glacial basins of Tipra Bamak and Bhuyandar. In a maze of complexities of snow and scree lies a historical route taken by late Frank Smythe when he accidently wandered into Valley of Flowers after climbing Mt. Kamet.

A near 100 Kilometer trek has its fair share of risks. The experienced Mountaineers and Trekkers will thrive on the treacherous nature of the trek. Traversing high altitude passes of Bhuyandar and Gupt (Zaskar Pass) requires meticulous planning, training, and resolve. The trek requires basic knowledge of Mountaineering.  At many sections rope has to be fixed to cross deep crevasses. One has to look out for perennial ice falls on the way to avoid any casualties. The weather remains unpredictable dictating the outcome of the trek.

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Passing Valley of Flowers, Pic. Credit: Arun Negi

What’s attractive about this trek is its raw, demanding nature amidst colossal, untapped mountains of Garhwal.

Trekking Tips: After crossing Bhuyandar Pass, one can choose for a faster exit by taking a route towards Eri Udyar, Ghamsali Village and Malari. This will save you 4 trekking days by leaving Gupt Khal out from your itinerary.

Read the following blog for complete information on Bhuyandar Khal | Gupt Khal

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Traversing the endless ice fields, Picture Credit: Arun Negi

Important Trek information

Altitude – 16,732 feet/5,100 meters (Bhuyandar Khal) | 19,143 feet/5,835 meters (Gupt Khal)
Trekking Distance  – 100 km
Trek Rating – Difficult/Expedition level
Technical Pointers – A fixed rope is required to be put at multiple sections. An experience of tracking and navigating across hidden crevasses, falling icefalls is required.
Permissions & Guide – A Technical Guide is mandatory for this trek. It is a Porter Driven Trek from Ghangaria to Badrinath. Mules can only ply from Govindghat till Ghangaria. Permits to be obtained from Forest Department Office at Joshimath. It is advisable to apply for permits in advance. Best Season – Last week of May till Mid June

 

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Bhyunder/Gupt Khal Trek Map – Courtesy https://Snowscapes.blogspot.in

 

Trek Itinerary

Pre-Trek Day 1: Reach Joshimath from Haridwar/Rishikesh

Pre-Trek Day 2: Acclimatization and Trek arrangement Day at Joshimath

Day 1. Drive to Govindghat. Trek to Ghangaria (3,050 meters), – 16 kms Trek

Day 2. Ghangaria to Tipra Kharak Camp (3,700 meters), – 10 kms Trek

Day 3. Tipra Kharak to Bhuyandar Icefall Camp (4,300 meters), – 6 kms Trek

Day 4- Bhyunder Icefall Camp – Bhyunder Khal Base(4,600 meters), – 4Kms Trek

Day 5- Bhyunder Base-Bhyunder Khal (5,100 meters)-Rataban(E) Glacier (4500 meters), 8 Kms Trek

Day 6- Rataban(E) Glacier – Ban-Kund Lake (4,500 meters), 6 Kms Trek

Day 7- Ban-Kund Lake – Ban-kund Bend (4,900 meters), 6 kms Trek

Day 8- Ban-kund Bend – Garh Camping Grounds (5,430 meters), 8 Kms Trek

Day 9- Garh Camping Grounds – Gupt Khal Base (5,700 meters), 4 Kms Trek

Day 10- Gupt Khal Base – Gupt Khal (5,835 meters) – Nakthani Snowfields (5,650 meters), 3 Kms Trek

Day 11- Nakthani Snowfields – Nakthani Glacier Snout (4,950 meters), 8 Kms Trek

Day 12- Nakthani Glacier – Badrinath (3100M), 18 Kms Trek and 4 Kms Jeep Drive

 

Kagbhushandi Taal; A hidden lake in the shadows of a Celestial Elephant

Kagbhushandi lake main

The Valley of Hidden lakes attracts only a handful of experienced trekkers who love to explore in an undiluted manner. Tucked between two high altitude mountain ridge this emerald green colored lake has remained virtually unnoticed.

A scarcity of information and difficult terrain has kept the majority of trekkers away. This has its prudent benefits. The trail is quiet with hardly any human presence. This makes for an ideal trek for a purist trekker looking to trek in peace.

The higher grounds of the famous Hathi Parvat has the most exhilarating pass crossings. Traversing Kankul and Barmai Pass requires fundamental mountaineering knowledge. The trails are barely existent requiring route finding. These complexities throw challenges that are a great learning curve for any outdoor adventurer. A possibility of wrapping up this trek in a week time makes it even more hard to resist.

How to do this Trek

The Treks starts from Govindghat. Take the routine pilgrim trail to Ghangaria passing by ‘Pulna’ Village. ‘Bhuyandar’ Village is another couple of hours hike away. From here the trail bifurcates towards Semartoli Nallah towards the right side of the valley. This is the trail that takes you to Kagbhushandi Lake and Hathi Parvat Valley. Camp at Bhuyandar Village for the night.

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View of Hathi Parvat Valley

Day 2 begins with a refreshing hike in a thriving coniferous forest of Hathi Parvat Valley. Leaving the busy Ghangaria trail you enter the silent valley. After an hour of hiking, you will pass by a small camping ground. The pinnacle of Hathi Parvat can be seen in the background. Cross the first concrete bridge. Keep towards the rivers true left. Now ford the second makeshift bridge. Keep towards the true right of the river all the way till you reach ‘Chainyal Kharak’Camping grounds. The campsite of Simartoli appears after trekking for 6 kilometers from Bhuyandar. From here the green vagrant valley takes a twist as the glacial moraine valley of ‘Dang Kharak’ appears in front. The wide valley is completely exposed. Camp nearby a small rivulet for the night.

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Looking back at Dang Kharak Glacier

Day 3 promises to be the most adventurous day of the trek. The Dang Kharak Glacier is badly fragmented. Route finding may be required here. Crossing the bone-chilling rivulet here can be a problem in pre-monsoon season. Once you cross over towards your right, the ascent towards Kankul Base begins. Establish the campsite at a suitable spot. One can recce towards a nearby ‘Haathi Taal’ at the base of Haathi Parvat later in the day.

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Haathi Taal

Day 4 requires an early start for a 15,462 feet Kankul Pass crossing. The trekking distance is mere 5 kilometers to the Pass. But the approach to a stiff ascending medial moraine trail is strenuous. The conditions of the trail need to be considered for a suitable route to the Pass. Once at the summit of the Pass, the descent to Kagbhushandi lake is just 3 kilometers. Look out for a small oblong-shaped lake below. The water of Kagbhushandi glacial lake is emerald green. Camp at a suitable spot around the lake site.

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Kunkan Pass summit saddle

Day 5 gives no respite with an another brutal pass crossing day. Descend down the valley to the base of the opposing mountain ridge. ‘Barmai Pass’ is the narrow saddle between two imposing mountains. The 60-degree slope to the pass looks intimidating. It requires a laborious and careful approach to climbing. The higher sections of the ridge have powdered snow. Surprisingly the mobile network works at the summit of the pass. Descend down to a leveled camping spot of Upper Barmai Pass. Camp here for the night.

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Kagbhushandi Lake

Day 6 is the last day of the trek. Descend down to Vishnuprayag by crossing by a series of high mountain ridges. The highest one on the route is Pharsawan Top. Look out for a great view of Auli, Gorsan and Khullara meadows from here. The second ridge top on the way is ‘Jabar Kharak’. From here, another 6,000 feet down to the nearest motorable road-head. Pass by a desolate village known as ‘Painkha’. From here it takes an hour to reach the road-head. Take a jeep drop from Vishnu Prayag to Joshimath.

Click here to read the complete Blog on how to do this Trek

Important Trek information

Altitude – 15,462 feet/4,713 meters (Kankul Pass) | 14,806 feet/4,513 meters (Barmai Pass)
Trekking Distance  – 56 km
Trek Rating – Difficult level
Permissions & Guide – A Technical Guide is mandatory for this trek. It is a Porter Driven Trek. Permits to be obtained from Forest Department Office at Joshimath. Best Season – Last week of May till July | Mid September till Mid November.

Trek Itinerary

Pre-Trek Day 1: Reach Joshimath from Haridwar/Rishikesh

Pre-Trek Day 2: Acclimatization and Trek arrangement Day at Joshimath

Day 1. Drive to Govindghat. Trek to Bhyunder Village, 25 Kms drive & 9 Kms Trek

Day 2. Bhyunder – Dang Kharak Glacier Camp, 8 Kms Trek

Day 3. Dang Kharak- Kankul Pass Base Camp, 5 Kms Trek

Day 4. Kankul B.C to Kagbhushandi Lake (4,350 meters) via Kankul Pass (4,713 meters), 8 Kms Trek

Day 5. Kagbhushandi Lake to Upper Barmai Camping Ground via – Barmai Pass (4,513 meters), 6 Kms Trek

Day 6. Upper Barmai Camping Ground- Pharsawan Bank- Vishnu Prayag, 20 Kms Trek

Lead Collage Picture Credit : Pradeep Chauhan, Arun Negi, Abhijit Saha | Kunth Khal pictures courtesy: Devkant Sangwan | Kagbhushandi Lake Trek Pictures courtesy: Arun Negi and Abhijit Saha

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17 thoughts on “3 raw treks around Valley of Flowers that will surprise you

  1. Can one hve access to a video clip of the entire trek to valley of flowers? It would be very nice. The entire trek is incredible. A treat.

    Like

  2. Great compilation. I have heard about two of these the first and last one. First one appeared as feature in Outlook traveller magazine long back. Kagbhusandi is trek for hard core trekkers who enjoy the beauty beyond the commercial trek. Thanks for posting here. In any case vof has become one of the most publicized and well known trek of India despite not being a technical trek.
    Looking ahead for more such write up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. All these treks have a difficult and long approach. So, in any case, these are not going to see any commercialization. They are meant for experienced hikers who know how to conduct themselves in extreme conditions. There is another pass crossing trek “KHULIYA KHATA” that I did not write about due to insufficient information. You have to go through VOF to Tipra Khadak, from where you climb the 60-degree vertical mountain ridge towards your left. The pass is 4,800 meters high and is difficult. This one is frequented by wild animals especially Snow Leopards who use it to enter VOF.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Kagbhushandi is the trek I attempted while returning from VOF-Hemkund. It was an impulse decision which cost me my Sony DSLR Sensor getting exposure to moisture. I could only reach till Dang Khadak and had to make a hasty retreat due to continuous rain, lack of food, gears, and a hyper and tensed Guide. That day I learned a thing or two about careful preparation for offbeat treks. Compiling trail information and research is the first thing to begin with.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It was indeed a gr8 article with useful insights.

    I was planning for VOF this august, now after reading your blog am more interested in doing the first trek mentioned in your post. Can you share more information about it please, such as how can we get permit in advance from Joshimath, any references for porters / guides, etc.

    Thanks in advance.

    Keep travelling!!!!

    Like

  4. Fantastic blog, really enjoyed reading about it. Would be very grateful if you could share info on some ‘easier’, not-very-popular treks off the beaten trail whenever you come across them!

    Like

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