• Adventure
  • 21 February, 2017

Winter Trekking in the Indian Himalayas

Winter Trekking in the Indian Himalayas
The Chandrashila trek. Photo: Christopher Porter

Winter in the Indian Himalayas can be a challenge even to adventure seekers. Snow blankets the valleys, trails and meadows are packed with the dried leaves, and the weather can be extremely harsh. Yet, trekkers from all over head to the mountains in a quest to conquer the weather and to be rewarded with gorgeous views of the snow-capped peaks from the summit. There are many good reasons to travel to the Himalayas in the winter off-season.

While many treks can be done throughout the year, there are only a handful of places that can be hiked during the winter. Cold temperatures, frozen rivers, and snowfall make many regions of the Himalayas inaccessible (notable exceptions abound in Nepal). Of the few options that remain in India, many are in the state of Uttarakhand, to the west of Nepal. Here are some of the treks that can be done in the winter there.

Chandrashila (easy)

Chandrashila is one of the easier treks that can be done throughout the year. Although it remains closed during January and February, it still offers magnificent views in November, the real onset of winter. The trek passes through Tunganath, the abode of a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, which is also the highest shrine in the world (3680 metres). The ascent is easy, amid meadows. This trek takes about two to three days from Chopta, a beautiful remote village. You can reach Chopta by road from Gopeshwar.

Winter Trekking in the Indian Himalayas

The highest altitude temple in the world, at Chandrashila: 3680 metres. Photo: Utsav Verma.

Nag Tibba (easy)

Located in the lower Himalayan range of Garhwal region, Nag Tibba (or the ‘Serpent’s Peak’) is the highest peak in that region, and is one of the favorite weekend treks in Uttarakhand. This trek doesn’t require prior experience, making it a top choice for beginners. The summit is at over 3200 meters, and offers stunning views of the Doon Valley, Kedarnath, the snowcapped peaks of Chanabang, the Gangotri group of mountains and Banderpoonch. This two-day trek begins at either Devalsari or Panthwari village, both of which are located close to Mussoorie. Mussoorie can be easily reached by road from Dehradun.

Kuari Pass (moderate)

Kuari Pass Trek is the only trek in Uttarakhand that gives close-up views of the mountain Nanda Devi and many other peaks in the Nanda Devi National Park, such as Dronagiri, the Chaukamba range, Kamet, Trishul, Neelkanth and others. It is also passes through Gorson Bugyal, a valley of lush green pastures. The trek begins at Joshimath or Auli, and there are many trails to reach Kuari pass, depending on the time, weather and fitness of the trekkers. The changing altitude and the snow make it a slightly challenging trek. It takes about five to six days to complete, and reaches a maximum elevation of over 4200 meters.

Winter Trekking in the Indian Himalayas

Banderpoonch from the Nag Tibba range. Photo: Paul Hamilton

Brahmatal (moderate)

Brahmatal is one of the treks in Uttarakhand that can be done throughout the year. But, doing this trek during the winter offers a challenging ascent and some splendid views of the snow-capped Himalayas. Mount Trishul and Nanda Ghunti peaks can be seen from the summit at Brahmatal. Also, a bird’s-eye view of the mystic Roopkund Lake is visible from here. The trek begins at Lohajung. To reach Lohajung, you should first travel to Kathgodam, which is about 276 km from Delhi. It takes about six days to complete this trek, and the maximum elevation reached is about 3500 meters.

Kedarkantha (moderate)

Kedarkantha is one of the most beautiful winter treks, and it’s neither too easy nor too challenging. It’s one of the most popular treks. The trails are snow-laden, offering majestic views through the pine forests. Fresh patches of snow are formed now and then, which dramatically changes the landscapes. This six-day trek starts from a quaint village called Sankri, and the drive to this village takes about eight hours from Dehradun, through amazing valleys. Some of the peaks visible from the summit include Mount Kala Nag, Swargarohini and Banderpoonch.

Winter Trekking in the Indian Himalayas

The Kuari Pass. Photo: Indranx

Brahmatal (moderate)

Brahmatal is one of the treks in Uttarakhand that can be done throughout the year. But, doing this trek during the winter offers a challenging ascent and some splendid views of the snow-capped Himalayas. Mount Trishul and Nanda Ghunti peaks can be seen from the summit at Brahmatal. Also, a bird’s-eye view of the mystic Roopkund Lake is visible from here. The trek begins at Lohajung. To reach Lohajung, you should first travel to Kathgodam, which is about 276 km from Delhi. It takes about six days to complete this trek, and the maximum elevation reached is about 3500 meters.

Kedarkantha (moderate)

Kedarkantha is one of the most beautiful winter treks, and it’s neither too easy nor too challenging. It’s one of the most popular treks. The trails are snow-laden, offering majestic views through the pine forests. Fresh patches of snow are formed now and then, which dramatically changes the landscapes. This six-day trek starts from a quaint village called Sankri, and the drive to this village takes about eight hours from Dehradun, through amazing valleys. Some of the peaks visible from the summit include Mount Kala Nag, Swargarohini and Banderpoonch.

Preparing for a winter trek:

  1. Most of these treks require an experienced guide. Even the easier ones would need a guide as the inconsistent weather and snowfall can erase trails. Also, as many of these treks include walking on layers of snow, it can be dangerous to tread without an experienced guide.
  1. The most important thing to remember during winter trekking is to protect oneself from the freezing temperatures. The temperature drops below minus at night, and most of the camping is done in snow-filled valleys. Night winds can also make it much colder. Carry layered jackets, hiking poles, gloves and many pairs of woolen socks.
  1. In general, it is recommended that you try other treks in the region before opting for a winter trek. The cold weather makes it difficult to acclimatize in winter, and the thin air at higher altitude can make one prone to AMS or acute mountain sickness.

Article by Reshma Narasing.

Top image by Christopher Porter.

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