Nanda Devi Alpine Trek

Nanda Devi Alpine Trek

Duration: 19 Days
Cost: contact us for pricing details
Start Dates: April-June. September-November
Group Size: 1-8.
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Tour Description

The Nanda Devi Alpine Trek takes us across the picturesque meadows and valleys that border the western edge of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. Sometimes known as the Curzon Trail after the British Viceroy that enjoyed this area, the route we follow was used by Shipton and Tilman on their amazing journey to the Nanda Devi basin.

During the trek there are gorgeous views of the surrounding peaks. The Kuari Pass (3658m) itself has an unrivalled panorama of the Great Himalayan peaks including Nanda Devi (7816m), Changabang (6864m), Dunagiri (7066m) and Kamet (7756m). The trails are generally good, being in regular use by local villagers and traders. The trek is not technically difficult but the numerous ascents and descents will present a challenge.

Surprisingly, this area is not over-trekked and it is uncommon to meet other groups on this route. In keeping with this lack of outside influence, the villagers are still inherently traditional in habit and revere the landscape and nature that surrounds them. This trek is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself not just in nature but in a new culture as well.

Tour Itinerary

We take the car from the Delhi airport to the hotel in Rishikesh. Visit Haridwar, Hari-ki-pauri and other popular temples and ghats at Haridwar on the way. Explore Rishikesh in the evening. Overnight at the hotel in Rishikesh.
A full day of driving as we continue through the heart of Garhwal. From The road gradually ascends as it follows the Alaknanda Valley through a timeless agricultural landscape. We pass through Rudraprayag (610m), where in the 1920’s Jim Corbett shot the “Rudraprayag leopard”, a man-eater who allegedly consumed some 125 persons over the years. A commemorative stone marks the spot. The “prayags” are the sacred confluences on the rivers that drain into the Ganges; there are five in all and further along the valley is Karanprayag (832m), situated on the junction of the lovely Pinder River and the Alaknanda. Shortly before Gwaldam we turn off the main road to Debal (1218m) and drive up a switchback track to the road head near Mundoli village (2134m). This will be your first night in a tent
Our first day of trekking. We leave camp after breakfast and walk to Lohajung Khal (2350m), a grassy ridge with excellent views of the surrounding countryside and our first glimpse of a big peak, Nanda Ghunti (6861m). As we gain distance from the road head, the influences of the modern world quickly fade. Most rural societies still follow the ancient fertility cult of Nanda Devi and strict rituals and customs have created a lifestyle that has changed little over the centuries. After lunch, a steady ascent brings us to the old British rest-house at Wan (2450m) where we set camp on the lawns, as did Shipton and Tilman on their exploratory visit in the 1930’s. Here, in the base of a massive deodar tree, is an ancient shrine devoted to Latu, one of Nanda Devi’s most significant nature spirits and a living example of the Garwhalis deep belief in the power of the mountain.
After a brisk descent, the morning’s walk involves a long, sometimes steep ascent along a good stone path through shady forests of oak and chestnut. On reaching a col another steady climb takes us through rhododendron forest, which presents a beautiful show of white, pink and crimson when in flower. We then move above the tree-line through springy turf and rock to reach the high grazing meadow of Bedni Bugyal (3350m). It is said to be one of the most stunning alpine campsites in the Himalaya. The mountains that we glimpsed through the trees now present themselves in a massive wall of dazzling white. Most significant are Trisul (7120m) with its three prongs representing Shiva’s trident and Nanda Ghunti. To the northwest are tantalising views of the giants of the Great Himalaya.
Rest day at Bedani Bugyhal
The Roopkund Trail is a dream for trekkers. Roopkund is located at the base of Nanda Devi cult. This high altitude lake has a past shrouded in mystery. What we find here are numerous, partially decomposed skeletal remains of human origin embedded in the ice around the lake. Stories in plenty float this site; most believable of course is that an entire unit of a small army perished here albeit under mysterious circumstances. Some however says that pilgrims here were buried here as a result of a nasty avalanche as early as in the 14th century. The region is dominated by Mount Trishul (7120m). On the walk up to the lake we camp at the Himalayan meadows of Badni Bugyal & Auli Bugyal and cross the Roop Kund ridge which is a an extension of one between Sutol and Wan and forms the divide between the catchments of the Badni Ganga and the Nandakini River.
If the weather is clear in the morning, then you will be lucky enough to get a good view of the Trishul peak and the other mountains around. An arduous trek of about 3 hours gets you to Roop Kund. At Roop Kund, if the snow is not too deep, the mysterious skeletons and remains of human beings and horses can be seen, as detailed in the books of Shipman and Tilman. There are also great views of the surrounding glaciers and high peaks. The lake in itself is very scenic and peaceful. Even post monsoons, there are some steep, rocky sections which may require a bit of scrambling.
We retrace our steps down from Bedni Bugyal. After the initial steep descent, we cut across through forest and open ground to a lunch spot in a small meadow some distance above Wan. A gradual ascent bring us to a minor pass, the Kukin Khal (3121m) that marks the watershed between the Kali Ganga and Nandakini rivers that drain the slopes of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. This is remote country and as such has not suffered from overexploitation. Leopard, jungle cats, barking deer and porcupine are some of the main fauna whilst Lammergier, Himalayan Griffon, Golden Eagle and a variety of kites can be seen in the air. The afternoon walk brings us to a beautiful meadow above the village of Kanol (2900m). Here we make our camp amongst the superb rhododendron that dot the pasture, as did Shipton and Tilman some 70 years before.
An excellent day of walking through classic Garhwal scenery. Beyond our campsite lies Kanol village, a traditional Garhwali settlement with stone and slate houses and excellent views of Trisul. Fields are still hand-tilled and provide the villagers with most of their staple foods and a small income from any surplus. From here, a lengthy descent takes us to the Nandakini River where we stop for lunch and a chance to sooth our feet in the cool water. A very pleasant walk in the afternoon takes us on a broad cliff path above the river to pine forest and further villages. Near Sutol village we cross the Nandakini on a solid iron bridge and stop for the night on the right bank. In Shiptons day the crossing of this river necessitated a five-mile excursion upstream.
This is the heart of Nanda Devi country as the Nandakini is worshipped as the river of the mountain goddess. Our morning walk takes us up and out of the valley through delightful villages where many social rituals and annual events are still intimately linked to worship of the “mother goddess”. Almost every stone, tree and hilltop seems to have some spiritual significance attached to it and a sense of timelessness prevails. After lunch an easy walk followed by steep climb takes us to our campsite above the village of Ramni. From here there are wonderful views. In one direction is the country through which we have been walking and in the other the mighty peaks of Trisul and Nanda Ghunti.
We continue a day in the heart of the Nanda Devi sanctuary
A less demanding day due to a restricted choice of campsites after lunch. A steady climb through forest brings us to the top of a ridge known as the Ramni pass (3215m) with distant views of the Kuari Pass that we cross in a few days. This is ancient forest with splendid old specimens of gnarled oak, holly, chestnut and rhododendron emerging from a thick carpet of white and pink flowering peonies. There may be occasional glimpses of monal and other jungle fowl. We camp near Shim Kharak, amongst the trees. The afternoon is yours to relax and enjoy the peaceful beauty of our surroundings.
We continue through thick forest to the village of Jhenipani (1524 m) from where a steep descent takes us down the wild Bireh Ganga, a river that caused Shipton and Tilman much frustration during their explorations. The bridge, then a tree-trunk affair, was frequently washed away resulting in some perilous substitutions. Thankfully, the river is now spanned by an impressive suspension bridge built in the post-war period. Not surprisingly, across the bridge is a steep ascent that follows a zig-zag path up the bare and eroded hillside. As we climb we can see the remains of Gohna Lake. In 1893 a great landslip dammed the Bireh Ganga, so creating a massive lake. In the following year, monsoon rains broke the dam and caused a catastrophic flood as far downstream as Srinagar. After lunch a great walk through forest and pastures takes us towards Pana, the last village before the pass. Shortly before the village we cut up to Kaliaghat, a small bugyal or grazing meadow.
A fine morning walk today as we head for the base of the Kuari, crossing the last of the bugyals as we go. A steep and sometimes slippery descent takes us to the Pal Gudhera stream and this is immediately followed by a steep climb up through wild crag and forest country. We are following an ancient trade route that linked the southern valleys of Garhwal with Tibet. Goats and sheep carried grain from here over the Kuari and Niti passes into Tibet, with salt and borax being brought on the return trip. The afternoon is spent relaxing at Dhakwani (3210m), a small grazing pasture below the base of the Kuari pass.
An early start for the Kuari Pass in order to enjoy the splendours of sunrise on the Great Himalaya. The ascent, that takes less than two hours, follows a zig-zag path to the col (3658m) but the most impressive views are gained from a point further along the Kuari ridge at 4268m. Here, on the divide between the middle and the Great Himalaya the snow capped peaks stretch in a seemingly endless arc, so forming the border with Tibet. Just some of the major peaks visible are Kamet (7070m), Badrinath (7040m), Dunagiri (7066m) and Changabang (6863m), Nilkanth (6600m), the elephant shaped Hathi Parvat (6727m) and of course, Nanda Devi (7817m). After savouring this superb panorama, we descend a little from the main ridge to camp about 280m below the pass. From this beautiful spot we can, with luck, watch the sunset on the mountains as a perfect end to the day.
Rest day or you can choose to climb Pangarchulla Peak, the highest point in Kuaripass zone at 4,757 meters.
Our last day of this magnificent trek as we follow a long winding trail downhill to the road at Tapovan (1978m). The walk is steep but pleasant as we descend through meadows and ancient woodland with glimpses of the high Himalaya in the distance. At lower altitudes, village life returns and from here a good path brings us to Tapovan, the last hamlet before the Rishi Ganga Gorge. Tilman and his team halted here before their ascent of Nanda Devi and enjoyed a dip in the nearby sacred hot springs, by bribing the sadhu who guarded the place. From here we rejoin our vehicles and make the short drive down the splendid Dhauliganga Valley to Josimath (1875m), where we arrive for a late lunch. From here it is possible to take the modern ropeway to Auli for spectacular views of Nanda Devi and her surrounding peaks. We return to our rest house accommodation in Joshimath.
Drive for 9 hours to Rishikesh.
Drive back to Delhi for your flight back home

What’s Included:

  • National Park fees
  • Transportation from Delhi airport to the start of the trek and back
  • Camping fees and tents
  • Guides and porters
  • Guide and porter salaries
  • All meals while camping
  • Tents, sleeping pads
  • Hotel accommodation in Rishikesh and Joshimath

What’s Not Included:

  • Personal equipment on the mountain
  • Tips for guides and porters
  • Lunch and dinners while in Rishikesh
  • Any personal expenses such as Visa, airport taxes, beverages, food etc.
  • Travel insurance

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