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THE HAR-KI-DUN TREK

Seeped in mythology, this is one trek that takes you back in time, around ancient villages!

One of the most beautiful valleys in the Western Himalayas, Har-Ki-Dun is nestled in the middle of a cradle-shaped valley below the Har Ki Dun peak. A delight for trekkers, both in summer and winter, this valley is accessible through Govind National Park – known for its rich variety of flora and fauna. The trail through alpine meadows, moraine ridges, glacier basins, pine forests and ancient villages, gives you spectacular valley views and a chance to experience the wonderful laid-back local lifestyle.

Rightfully titled Valley of Gods, you will follow the very trail that Pandavas took to ascend to heaven via Swargarohini, the mountain that dominates the Har Ki Dun valley. The only valley from where you can see Swargarohini – I, II, III, Bandarpoonch and Blackpeak, all together, you also get unique mountain views from here. You can also see the Ruinsara peaks from here.

This is a trek where you trek along the Supin River to Har Ki Dun valley. Since the trekking trail isn’t treaded upon too often, birds and animals thrive in this region. One can spot langoor families near Puani Garaat. Black bears, wild boars and Barasingha are some other animals you can spot if you’re lucky. Golden eagles and massive Himalayan griffins also live here. The colourful Himalayan monal, the state bird of Uttarakhand, thrives in the forests here.

This is one trail that will take you back in time. The cradle shaped valley is populated with over 3,000 years old ancient villages. One of the few treks where you come across the local lifestyle up close, you also get a look into the lives of villagers as you pass by them. Most of the residents here grow rajma, potato and rice for living; and also weave their own wool and make jackets and coats. 

 

Difficulty leve: Easy to moderate.

Max. altitude: 11700 feet.

Base camp: Sankri.

Duration: 7 days, 6 nights.

Best season: All through the year, great in October-November.


ITINERARY IN BRIEF

Day 1: Dehradun to Sankri.

  • Altitude: 6,397 ft (1,950 m)
  • Time taken: Sankri, the base camp, is 190 odd kms from Dehradun, and it takes around 8-10 hours to reach from Dehradun.

 

Day 2: Sankri to Puani Garaat via Taluka

  • Altitude: 6,397 ft (1,950 m) to 8,280 ft (2,524 m) via 7,953 ft (2,424 m)
  • Time taken: 8-9 hours (12 kms drive to Taluka + 13 kms trek to Puani Garaat)

 

Day 3: Puani Garaat to Kalkatiyadhar to Har-Ki-Dun

  • Altitude: 8,280 ft (2,524 m) to 8,956 ft (2,730 m) to 11,768 ft (3,587 m)
  • Time taken: 8-9 hours (7 kms + 4 kms)

 

Day 4: Exploring the Har-ki-Dun campsite

  • Distance: 3kms / 9kms (Maninda Taal / Jaundar glacier)
  • Time taken: 4 hours / 6 hours

 

Day 5: Har-ki-Dun to Puani Garaat

 

Day 6: Puani Garaat to Taluka and then drive to Sankri

 

Day 7:  Drive from Sankri back to Dehradun


DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1: Dehradun to Sankri.

Sankri, base camp for this trek, is a small but pretty village with 250 odd houses. In peak season, it is usually bustling with activity as it is the basecamp for many treks-Kedarkantha, Bali Pass and Borasu Pass. The village offers a beautiful view of the sun setting behind the greater Himalayas. The peaks of Swargarohini shimmer in the evening sun, standing tall over the ridges beyond Sankri.

The drive to Sankri will take you through Nainbagh, Naugaon, Purola, Jarmola, Mori Naitwar (a left turn from Naitwar will lead you to Dhaula, which is the base camp for Rupin Pass and Bharadsar Lake trek), and finally Sankri.

  • Altitude: 6,397 ft (1,950 m)
  • Time taken: Sankri, the base camp, can be reached in 8-10 hours from Dehradun.

 

Day 2: Sankri to Puani Garaat via Taluka

  • Altitude: 6,397 ft (1,950 m) to 8,280 ft (2.524 m) via 7,953 ft (2,424 m)
  • Time taken: 8 hours. 12 km drive to Taluka + 13 km trek to Puani Garaat
  • Trek gradient: Easy walk for about 30 minutes followed by a 30 minute ascent, levelling off for about 45 minutes. Steep climb for 25 minutes followed by level walks and gradual ascents to Puani Garaat.
  • Water sources: You can refill your water bottles in the river along the trail.

This is a landslide prone route, and is often closed during the monsoons. The trail to Taluka is almost level, going through 10-11 mountain bends. On the way, there are three big streams, almost submerging sections of the road in water. The hike is scenic, going past a series of wild roses and irises and bamboo, chestnut and cedar (deodar) trees.

The drive from Sankri to Taluka takes around an hour. Taluka is a small village with concrete houses. This is quite a contrast from the architecture in neighbouring villages like Sankri, Osla and Gangad, which are close to 300 years old. 

Next to the forest guest house, the trail descends to the river valley of Supin and continues through a series of forests, while the river remains on your right. This shepherds’ trail goes along the river on a level walk. Around 10 minutes into the hike, spot the first cemented bridge over a small stream. Another 15 minutes of level walk will have you reach another bridge, this time, a wooden one. These two spots are conducive to fill up drinking water.

From here, walk uphill for 15 minutes till you see a small clearing next to the river. You can set up an emergency camp here if need be.

Another 10-15 minutes later, you’ll come across a spot where you can climb down to a tributary of River Supin. Look for a wooden bridge to cross this river, which is just below Datmir village. After crossing the tributary, you’ll reach a camping ground in a couple of minutes. From here, facing the inner part of the valley, locate two trails, one moving upwards and another going straight ahead. Take the second route straight ahead.

The trail from here is in bad condition as it is prone to landslides. After 10-15 minutes of level walk, you will find land cleared by shepherds to set up temporary night shelters. From here, the trail climbs up, alternating between upward and level walks. Around 10 minutes into the hike, look out for your first landslide-prone section. You may have to come down the river and cross the section that has caved in due to landslide. Around 20 minutes on this trail will lead you to a spot where there is a wooden bridge to cross over River Supin.

Ignore the bridge and proceed ahead. After 5 minutes, the trail turns steep and criss-crosses upwards. This section will take about 15-20 minutes to cover. During monsoon, expect this trail to be completely covered in mud. The trail will now relax with a series of level walks. Soon you’ll approach a stream coming down the hill on your right, with a wooden bridge over it.

The trail picks up a little altitude as you enter the forest again. After 30-40 minutes, look for an old village across the river on your left. This is Gangaad. From here, 20 minutes later, take a diversion towards your right until you reach a dhaba next to a wooden bridge. Behind thedhaba is a small hut, where locals use the momentum of water to run a mechanical turbine that grinds cereal into flour.

Just 25 metres before the wooden bridge, on the right is Puani Garaat. There is also a cemented structure here. Since it’s incomplete,  it is not possible to stay in it comfortably. However, if the weather is getting bad and you can’t proceed, you may stay there. This is the campsite and you can pitch your tent here for the night.

An alternative for Puani Garaat campsite: Those who want to camp at Osla have to cross the wooden bridge.You will then get onto the left side of River Supin and trek along the river to reach Osla.

An alternative route from Puani Garaat: To reach Seema, one has to trek straight up on the true right of the river all the way to Seema. There are a few steep ascents, but the trail relaxes into a gradual walk often. The landscape and terrain will remain like this for around 90 minutes.

From Seema, walk straight towards a bridge over Supin and get onto the left side of the valley. From here, look for a small cemented bridge some 60 metres above you. There is a small broken trail that connects to this bridge. Soon, you will connect with the level trail coming from Osla on the left. It goes straight ahead and will lead to Har-ki-dun.

 

Day 3: Puani Garaat to Kalkatiyadhar, and then to Har-Ki-Dun

  • Altitude: 8,280 ft (2,524 m) to 8,956 ft (2,730 m) to 11,768 ft (3,587 m)
  • Time taken: 8-9 hours, 7 kms + 4 kms
  • Trek gradient: Easy. Initial 90 minutes of level walks and small, steep sections followed by continuous ascent on a gradually increasing incline. From Kalkatiyadhar, easy. Initial descent of 15 minutes followed by mostly level walk for about 90 minutes. Steep climb for 15 minutes followed by a level walk and boulder section finishing off with a gradually ascending trail
  • Water sources: You can refill your water bottles from the river along the trail.

Start the day’s trek by heading to Osla village, which involves crossing the bridge and walking alongside the river till you reach Osla.

Osla is a small village, about 8,500 ft above sea level. It is famous for a Someshwar Temple. Some people say it is the temple of Someshwar Devta (an avatar of Lord Shiva). The architecture of this temple is a wonder in itself. The villagers of Osla are proud of two things – one, living in the Himalayas and two, their satellite phone. Spend some time here and explore the village before moving on.

From Osla, the trail comprises a few steep sections but generally leisurely level-walks. Within half an hour, you’d have crossed two streams, out of which the second one has a wooden bridge running over it. There is also a local temple to the right. Cross the bridge and traverse around the mountain bend. You can now see a series of meadows in front of you.

After hiking for 15 minutes, you will enter the first of a series of cleared lands. Note that some of the land has been used for cultivation. From here, there are two more mountain bends that you need to traverse. The upward incline will gradually increase as you walk alongside a huge field of boulders and grass. This whole section to reach the top of the mountain bend may take around 90 minutes.

You will see a makeshift wooden bridge below the valley over Supin. If you want to trek to the meadows of Dev Thach, Ruinsara Taal and Bali Pass, cross this bridge.

To go to Har ki Dun, ignore the bridge and walk ahead . As you walk past a series of wheat fields, look out for two of the highest residential buildings in this region. The trail ascends over the confluence of Supin and Ruinsara rivers to a vantage point with views of the snowcapped mountains of Dhauladhar.

The climb is steep but the beautiful landscape compensates for the struggle. As you reach this vantage point, look for Kalanag (Black Peak) and Bandarpooch ranges looming in the distance.

 

Kedarkantha is visible just right of centre from this point where trekkers are taking a break.  

The meadows of Dev Thach are clearly visible on your right, across the confluence of the two rivers. At this point, you have crossed 3,000 m altitude for the first time. The valley now separates into two, with Har-ki-dun on the left and Ruinsara Taal, Bali Pass on the right.

As you cross the mountain bend, you are greeted with the sight of the Har Ki Dun peak and Hata Peak, below which is Har-ki-Dun valley. The campsite is now only 4 km away through pine forests and meadows. The trail initially descends as you trek and then becomes level for about 15-20 minutes.

After this, the trail crosses multiple streams. The pine forest has a sizable number of rhododendron trees. There is also a lovely stream gushing down on the way, with a variety of Himalayan alpine flowers along its sides, especially blue poppy. About an hour later, pass through another section of meadows with a delightful growth of chestnut. The smell of cedar and pine wood trees is intoxicating to any nature lover. After another 20 minutes, you reach a small waterfall and leave the meadows behind.

From this spot, you have to negotiate a steep climb of about 15 minutes. Slowly, patches of snow start appearing on your trail and become prominent after a while (snow is seen only till the end of May). After 15 minutes of level walk, spot another wooden bridge.

From this junction there is a short climb of 10 minutes, over boulders, till you reach another camping ground. The final forest stretch lies in front of you. After half an hour over a gradual incline, you traverse the forest ridge from the left side of the valley.

As you cross over, look for Forest Guest House huts just in front of you above a small ridge. Walk for the final 10 minutes along the camping ground next to Supin and cross the last wooden bridge to reach Har-ki-dun. Look at the two valleys opening up in front, divided by a stream called Karmanasha. The valley towards your left is going to Maninda Taal and Borasu Pass and the other, to Jaundar Glacier.

When you reach Har-ki-Dun, the sheer beauty of the valley will make you never want to leave the place. At Har-ki-Dun, one can see the vast grounds below Swaragrohini-1 peak. The meadows here are full of alpine flowers. You can explore the entire ground in about an hour or two.

Camp here.

 

Day 4: Exploring the Har-ki-Dun campsite

  • Distance: 3km / 9km (Maninda Taal / Jaundar glacier)
  • Time taken: 4 hours / 6 hours

 

Explore Maninda Taal from Har-ki-Dun campsite (3 kms, 3-4 hours)

To reach Maninda Taal, turn left from the campsite. Trek north towards Hata Peak, which goes across a beautiful alpine flower meadow. From here, the route curves left as you reach a glacial lake. This is Maninda Taal. You will see the rare Brahma Kamal in abundance here. This is a rare cactus that blooms only at night.

The logical route to Sangla valley (Chitkul, Himachal) via Borasu Pass is also visible from this vantage point.

 

Explore Jaundar Glacier from Har-ki-dun campsite (9 kms, 5-6 hours)

If you’re willing to attempt a trek to the Jaundar Glacier, start moving to the right of Har-ki-Dun campsite, towards the right side of the valley leading to Swaragrohini-1 peak.

The descent will take around 10 minutes. Walk ahead, with the snout of Jaundar on your right. Ahead, look for a series of six elevated ridges that need to be traversed to enter Jaundar Basin. The altitude gain is very marginal (only 150 metres); so the trek remains easy. The terrain is a mix of small boulders and snow.

After 40 minutes, you reach a vast expanse that is covered in snow. On the left, there are small glacial slopes, where you could perhaps fashion snow-slides. After crossing the second ridge, another 20 minutes of an incline will have you reach the third ridge.

As you move up the third ridge, you will see a lot of snow accumulation on the trail on the left side of the mountain slope. Around 15 minutes of walking up on a 60 degree incline leads you to a fourth and then fifth ridge. The climb will take 10-15 minutes, after which the trail eases.

You can now see the final ridge only 15 minutes away. As you reach the ridge top, you can see the Jaundar Basin and Glacier. Jaundar Glacier, located in between two pillar-like peaks, is another 3 km away. Depending on the weather, you may plan to proceed ahead to the glacial basin. However, the spot you’re in is located below the Swaragrohini-1 peak, which is a wonderful place to spend some time at.

 

Day 5: Har-ki-Dun to Puani Garaat

Breakfast, and trek back to Puani Garaat.

 

Day 6: Puani Garaat to Taluka and then drive to Sankri

Breakfast, trek back to Taluka and drive back to Sankri.

 

Day 7:  Drive from Sankri back to Dehradun

Get lost in the memories, forever!

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