Our first Himalayan trek: Surmounting Har Ki Doon
Holding the hands of my husband and standing in front of fresh summer snow filled Panoramic Mountains around me, I thought to myself, “this is all worth it! Taking the leaves, flying from Bengaluru and standing at the foothills of these gigantic beauties! ” Himalayas it was! Our dream come true (though my husband’s dream is EBC 😉
After canceling Himalayan treks for 3 times, I finally was ready with my filled backpack for the forth time to soak into an absolute bliss! This trek was special to me in the sense that it was the first Himalayan trek with my husband and we were extremely excited for what was awaiting us!
I would like to start writing about the lesser known information which will be helpful for the maiden Himalayan trekkers and then move on to unfold our tale!
- When did we embark this unforgettable walk? May 25th to May 31st, 2019
Given that the end of May or beginning of June is Summer, it is fairly warmer in the day time but the cold temperatures at night time can come as a surprise especially,if you are coming from the planar parts of the country like southern India.
- What about the water during the trek?
Carry two water bottles which are handy. You can buy D-link to hang your bottles from the bag so that it is handy to drink water while on the way. Keep one kerchief to filter water because you take water from the streams and there will be mud particles in it. The water will also be cold during day time as well. TTH luckily provides with hot water during the morning tea time and dinner time. So carry a thermos flask if you want to keep warm water through the night as the water bottles tend to get very cold inside the tents as well. My smart husband put the bottles inside our sleeping bags on the remaining days so they stayed fairly less cold by morning 😀
- What to carry for cold during June?
Fleece jacket, bomb jacket, waterproof gloves: esp the days where you stay at your second campsite i.e Kalkathiyadhar from where you do the summit on 3rd day. As the height is almost 11500 Ft, it’s pretty cold from the evenings through the nights until the sun comes out. Keep a bomb jacket, fleece jacket for evenings, nights and mornings until the sun pops out.
- What to carry for rains?
Get a pair of simple rain pants, raincoat or poncho from decathlon. Get a bag cover to protect your backpack. Get a pair of waterproof gloves as the temperature falls down and/or, if it rains during the day time.
- The kind of shoes for your feet?
I saw a lot of people trekking in their sneakers. Even though Har Ki Doon is fairly an established trail, you will be walking a lot on loosely held small rocks. it’s always safe to carry proper trek shoes ( from decathlon as they are very reliable). Otherwise there is a good chance that you are going to hurt your knee due to the stress or twist your ankle.
- What kind of socks?
Blister-free socks are a must buy!! Due to long walks and sweat, your feet might get blisters on the 2nd or 3rd day.
- Last minute shopping at Dehradun? BE CAREFUL!!
There are no facilities near the Dehradun railway station even to buy protein bars or any trek gears. There is only one Decathlon in Dehradun which is about 5km from the railway station. As I did not visit it personally, i cannot comment on the collection there. It’s a better thing to wrap up all the shopping before you arrive at Dehradun. The last point where you can rent a few stuff is from our start point Sankri which is 220km from Dehradun. For obvious reasons it would be a little expensive.
- Instead rent from TTH :
We rented a fleece jacket, rain jacket, trekking poles from TTH. Even though it was a last minute request, the guy Rohan was very cooperative with a baby smile on this face and helped us arrange all of it in time. We can’t thank him enough on this!
- Hydration pack and snacks?
To stay hydrated, use ORS packs or hydration packs in one of the bottles and drink the same during the whole trek. Drink as much water as possible and don’t hesitate to stop the people to going ahead and pee more! 😀 Staying hydrated is very important to stay energetic. Carry more carbs and fats like til laddus, dry fruits, protein bars etc. avoid too much of chocolates with sugars.
Why book with TTH?
Their amazing crew: I have trekked with many other famous tour companies but the service provided by TTH is unmatchable!! The crew was very welcoming on the first day itself. They did a demonstration of how to use sleeping bags, CPR process. Our trek guide Manoj aka Manu was knowledgeable about the flora and fauna around the area and was enthusiastically answered our endless questions.
As we were 22 people, 4 crew members were assigned. They made sure the group doesn’t get scattered along the way. The best part was, there would always be one person at the end of the whole group to make sure nobody is left behind! Often times during the treks, people who remain at the end push themselves to catch up with the group and in the process they run out of breath resulting in accidents. TTH team did an extraordinarily good job at this!
Their food and punctuality: Lot of effort goes into getting the raw materials on the mountains, cooking well to retain the taste and serve it hot. They provided us with the desserts like gajar ka halwa, wheat payasam, jamuns, jalebis and tasty samosas, chole bature, popcorn, potato bhajis, gobi Manchurian. They were also very punctual in their itinerary.
Most exciting part, the trek !!!
Day 1: Dehradun to Sankri ride, 220km
The ride was in a TT. Driving through the never ending valleys, river on one side and high mountains on the other side it is here that I first saw the snow capped mountains far amidst the gaps of big green mix brown mountains and the journey became more intrigued of what we had in store further!
We reached Sankri around 5 pm and were welcomed with a warm tea. Unlike very hot Dehradun, sankri was very cold! I had to wear my thermals and bomb jacket even inside the room that was provided by TTH. It was a clean place and scenic as well!!
Day 2: Sankri to Taluka drive 11 km & Taluka to pauni Gharat trek 10-11km
Trail type: mostly flat and a long walk, with tens of ups and downs on the way. The ground is mostly firm.
The trek starts with walking through the domestic fields slowly turning into thick forests like that of western ghats. After resting for a while at a fairly large flat area patched with fresh green grass which was also our first maggi point, we enthusiastically started moving forward.
The thing about Har ki doon is, as it’s a well-known trek you will find a good number of breakpoints where you can have tea, lemon juice, maggie, sandwich, packed snacks etc. walking through the forest we landed up at an open valley with a river flowing by its side. The mountains where covered by huge pine forests and boulders. At intervals, we could also see the traces of some former landslides along the mountains.
Getting through the strenuous first day we reached our first camp site Pauni Gharaat. The food for dinner is served inside a huge dinner tent and it’s amazing how the kitchen crew manages to wash all the utensils in such cold water which we weren’t even willing to wash our faces and feet with !!
As soon as we reach the campsite, we were called out for a nice stretching session! This was an everyday bittersweet ritual. Even though this seemed dreadful, we felt very relaxed after the stretches and this kept us ready for the next day’s efforts!
Day 3: Pauni Gharat to Kalkattiyadhar 7 to 8 km
Trail type: mostly steep at frequent intervals, very steep at few places.
Waking up to cold climate at 6 am with thermals, jackets, gloves on we slowly get down to single layer of cloth by 8 a.m, by the time we finish our morning rituals and breakfast. There is no way we can take a bath as the water is very cold so be prepared for no bath for complete 5 days and believe me that is fun :D. Every day here starts with HAR HAR MAHADEV slogans and we walked the whole day along the river on one side opening into valleys and high mountains on the other side. We reached around pretty early today by 2p.m and dead tired thanks to the steep steps. The hot lunch was a savior! After tea time me and my husband mostly roamed around the place and crashed to our bed after dinner at 9 p.m. Best thing of trek is we are really in the present. I didn’t think of work, the future, the past.. nothing mattered for the whole time I was in the trek. It’s just so present, NOW. So blissful and so exhilarating!
Every evening spent watching the mules in the grass, the sunset, gush of the river, light drizzle sometimes. It’s like the whole nature gathers up to present a spectacular celebration!
As we opted for one mule, our daily ritual before going to bed would be setting the next day’s clothes, socks, raincoats and snacks in the day pack and the remaining stuff to the mule. I would make a request to all of you here to carry light, travel light. When we see mule as a being that feels the pain, limiting our load would be respectful for its hard work!
Day 4: Kalkatiyadhar to har ki doon peak & back to kalkattiyadhar, 12km
Trail type: Starts with gaining altitude on an uphill, some ups and downs, one place where we had to cross the snow. Steep at few places, mostly long walk.
We started very early today around 6.30 am everybody were on the field finishing their Breakfast and ready to leave. The trail started with some uphill and as we walked about 1km we reached a point which opened up into a huge valley completely surrounded with the views of snowcapped mountains.
Walking another 2 kms through some steep parts,
we ended up seeing a new set of mountains which had this view of very long and thin waterfall through huge mountains which was such a dreamy view!
Today’s walk felt so endless and I was getting hopeless of it ending! At a point it felt as if we have started descending and every downhill would be hated because this means we have to climb more to gain our altitude towards the summit!
Finally around 11.30 am after a strenuous long walk the mystery unfolded in-terms of pine trees around us. With one final steep uphill which we walked through the streams, we came to a view just below the summit which had snow mountains, pine trees, freezing river and sunshine in the clear blue sky!
Minutes of ascend from this point opens up the summit with 6 mountains, swargarohini, har ki doon ( which translates to Har meaning Shiva, doon meaning valley i.e valley of Lord shiva). The peak has a shiv ling and a small cute temple around which people were chilling. The valley had these beautiful bunch of pink flowers for which the girls where going frenzy and taking pictures with the flowers in their head and ears! Team lead Manoj enlightened us with the fact that in the mountains at this altitude, the weather can change unexpectedly. Given that today’s weather was fairly sunny we aimed to reach peak by 11 a.m till which the weather might be clean. We did reach by 11.30 am!
By 1.30p.m after lunch, we started walking back to the same camp through the same way. As we felt relieved that it’s just the climbing down now, meanwhile hating the uphills on the way. It was almost around 4.30 p.m that we reached down and also the clouds playing peekaboo above us started drizzling. We were extremely lucky in the sense we never really encountered rain while on the trek in the last 3 days. The day was wrapped up after a small demo by our trek lead Manoj on CPR.
Day 5: Kalkathiyadhar to Pauni Gharaat : 9 km
Trailtype: same as day 2 with 1km extra through the village of Osla.
As coming down is much easier than climbing up, it also takes considerably less time to come down. We descended pretty quickly into the village of Osla that stands cascading on the mountain side with the view of huge valley. Here we learnt about the local culture, met the locals and had a small heartfelt chat.
A sense of accomplishment crept into me and my husband that we are almost at the end of our first Himalayan trek and a sense of relief that we finished it with no setbacks!
This was our last camp of the trek and we ought to celebrate it. We pulled our sleeping bags a little out of the tent and laid there to watch the humongous sky with countless twinkling stars. Zillions of stars were scattered at every point your eyes can take you to. We kept tracking the faint moving light of the planes until they faded into the horizon. We relived the moments of past 5 days and we felt we belong right HERE!
Day 6: Pauni Garaat to base camp Taluka
Trailtype: Same as Day 1
Upon reaching Taluka we had the valedictory function where we got the opportunity to express our experiences individually and also receive our certificates! As usual awesome dinner was served with kofta, egg curry, paranthas, rice and curry topped with pickles!
Day 7: Sankri to Dehradun TT travel, same as Day1
We were at Dehradun by 3p.m and it was oven hot! Hating the transition from cold to such hot weather we bid an emotional goodbye to the mountains to get back to the crunch! Our first Himalayan trek had etched an everlasting impression in our hearts and minds. We both bonded a little deeper and stronger through these trek days and the experience has left us hungry to come and see more of these mountains!
“Sanctum of fresh air and gleaming water
Let’s not poison it with our plastic scatter.
Mountains uplift and rejuvenate our soul
Let’s keep these majesties away from our foul”.
“MOUNTAINS GIVE US HAPPINESS,DON’T GIVE THEM BACK THE TRASH”
Our ovations to
Manu singh: the guiding light ( trek leader)
Naresh: the shy sprinting machine (he was shy, always had this wide smile on the face and the human who never walked but flew)
Narayan Pawar : the last check-post of the group while trekking
Yashpal : the stretch king ( he used to teach the stretches)
Helpful tips: If you are here in May end or start of June, you can also go to Rishikesh which is 40 km from Dehradun for white river rafting and bungee jumping. You can watch ganga aarti in rishikesh and also check out Haridwar further 20 km from Rishikesh. Plan to leave to dehradun airport from Rishikesh as it is nearer to airport than dehradun. Do consider some amount of traffic as well so better to keep a buffer of 2 hrs before check-in.
Some more snaps of the memoirs!