Trekking in Garhwal and Kumaon Himalaya

This region contains some of the finest mountains in the Himalaya and is highly accessible and yet surprisingly very few Westerners visit it, many preferring to go to Nepal. Of the many treks available, eight routes are included here. The scenic splendour of these ranges lies partly in the fact that the forests around the big peaks are still wonderfully untouched and the local population unaffected by the ravages of mass tourism. It is easy to get up into the mountain ranges of Garhwal and Kumaon, enabling a feeling of intimacy with the alpine giants. The mountains have been described as “a series of rugged ranges tossed about in the most intricate confusion” (Walton, 1910).

Reliable local agents who will make all arrangements including accommodation and porters,
are in Haridwar, Dehra Dun and Rishikesh. Porter agents in Uttarkashi, Joshimath, Munsiari, etc, who act as trekking agents, may not be as reliable; negotiate rates for specific services and insist on reliable porters. The Forest Office charges an entry fee and a camping fee that varies for each trek. Different months offer different things: at lower altitudes in February and March there are spectacular displays of rhododendrons; April and May allows access to higher altitudes but can get very hot and views can be restricted due to large-scale burning; July and August sees the monsoon and is good for alpine flowers but wet, humid and mostly cloudy. If the monsoon is heavy, roads and tracks can become impassable; in September the air is beautifully rain-washed, but early-morning clear skies can give way by
1000 to cloud, and views may completely disappear; in October and November temperatures
are lower, the skies clearer and the vegetation
greener following th
e monsoon.

Trekking in this region is not highly organized so you need to be well prepared. Topo- graphical maps are not available locally. A good map for the area is Leomann's
Indian Himalya Sheet 8, Kumaon Garhwal
. On most treks you need a tent (though not for the Pindari Glacier trek, for example). Very few villagers speak English, and the rewards for the well-equipped trekker, who has planned carefully, are great - especially the feeling of being far from the madding crowd. If you are travelling in small groups of three to four it is often possible to find lodgings in villagers' houses but despite their hospitality, this is uncomfortable. Where available,
GMVN
and
KMVN
lodges provide rustic but clean rooms and some have deluxe rooms with bath. Caretakers cook simple meals. If you would like to leave the logistics to someone else, hire a government-recognized specialist tour operator.

Around
Gangotri
and
Yamunotri
in Garhwal there are a number of good treks, some suitable for the independent or 'go-it-alone' trekker.
Nanda Devi
is the other area and this forms a ring that includes both Garhwal and Kumaon. There are many more treks than those indicated here. The lower part of the Niti Valley, and
the Darma Valley, are open to groups of four with requisite permits. You are not allowed to go beyond Badrinath.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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