Nanda Devi Trek Itinerary
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Depart Home Country.
Arrive Delhi. Meet and transfer to our hotel. Evening transfer to the railway station for the overnight sleeper train to Kathgodam. The train departs Delhi at 22:45hrs (subject to change). The accommodation on the train is simple but adequate. The compartments have four berths; sheets, blanket and a pillow are provided. Overnight sleeper train.
Day 3 – Almora (1810m)
We arrive at Kathgodam at 06:15hrs. where we are met and transferred to a nearby hotel for breakfast. After breakfast we drive for 4 hours, climbing through the Himalayan foothills to Almora, an attractive hill station. On a clear day the whole Nanda Devi range can be seen from here. Overnight Hotel.
Day 4 – Munsiari (2050m)
After breakfast we begin our drive to Munsiari. We should get good views of the three pronged Trisul or Shiva’s Trident and Nanda Devi soon after leaving Kausani. Driving deeper into the Kumaon hills, we pass through a wide altitudinal range, dropping as low as 500m and getting as high as 2700m, with equally varying vegetation and birds.
We cross two intervening ridges before ascending the final 2700m high Kalamuni pass and reaching Munsiari. A quiet hill town, Munsiari received its first foreign trekkers in 1994 when travel restrictions were withdrawn. The five prominent peaks of the Panch Chuli group overlook the town and there is a well-situated rest house with open views whose grounds we use for setting up camp. (7 to 8 hours travelling including stops). Overnight camp/Lodge.
Day 5 – Lilam (1730m) – Begin Trekking
Many of the trek loads will have been sorted out by the previous evening so we should have a smooth start to our first trekking day. We will drive the short distance to Dhapa (30mins) and from here we begin our trek, following the well-paved trail to the Gori Ganga valley. Lush broad-leaved forest is alive with birds and huge Lammergeiers and Himalayan Griffon Vultures are a common sight.
Descending through terraces growing wheat, barley, mustard seed and potatoes, we shall be sharing the paved trail with villagers from the lower Ralam valley. Along this initial part of the trail there are several simple teahouses. Behind one you will see an “Inner Line” foreigners prohibition sign dating from before the 1994 re-alignment of the “Inner Line”. We stop for lunch at Jimighat (1445 m). As we approach Lilam the valley becomes narrower and the temperature and humidity increases; the vegetation is now increasingly luxuriant. There is amazing fauna too with huge butterflies, exotic birds and large steel-blue lizards. We should arrive at Lilam village and our night’s camp by mid-afternoon. (6 hours). Overnight camp
Day 6 – 7 – Bugdiar (2410meters)
This are is prone to trail changes hence we reserve two days to reach Bugdiar. From Lilam we begin walking through the Milam valley gorge keeping to the left bank of the Gori Ganga. We pass a footbridge, which crosses the river and leads up towards the Ralam valley. We follow our trail cut into the cliff face above the roaring, foaming waters and are surrounded by magnificent dense semi tropical rain forest and thickets of dwarf bamboo. The trail climbs steadily throughout the morning until we reach “the bamboo palace” teahouse at Radgari (2100meters) where we enjoy our picnic lunch. Rhododendrons, ferns, orchids, peonies and climbing hydrangeas are prevalent on the surrounding cliff faces. We continue ascending along the well-paved trail, at times making our way up stone staircases. We pass many rhododendrons, which during the spring provide a riot of color, as do the peonies and primulas; large lizards dash across our path. We pass the teahouse at Bugdiar and camp nearby. (6 to 7 hours). Overnight camp.
Day 8 – Rilkote (3045 meters)
From Bugdiar the trail climbs to 2655 m before descending to the Hindu shrine at Naha Devi. Descending to the fields of Naha Devi, the valley sweeps around to the right. The valley is now opening up and the mountain vistas becoming impressive.
We have left the luxuriant vegetation behind and the slopes become bare, as the rain shadow effect is more apparent. The valley sides are very susceptible to major landslides; some of the boulders that have crashed down recently around the trail are bigger than houses. Features such as teahouses disappear season to season. We camp at Rilkote where there is a choice of campgrounds. From here it is possible to clearly see the approach to the Brijganja pass on the other side of the valley. (6 to 7 hours). Overnight camp.
Day 9 – Martoli (3385m)
This region is now in the barren trans Himalayan zone. There is low growing scrub vegetation, often cotoneaster. We walk past villages, which are usually completely deserted from mid October to mid April. Winter here is very hostile and the villagers go down to Munsiari and beyond during that time. However, many fields are used for cultivation; barley and potatoes are gown and over winter chives are left to slowly grow for the urban market. We should arrive at Martoli by lunchtime. This village is situated at the junction with the Lawan valley, an important tributary valley that flows down from the Nanda Devi group of peaks to the west. Overnight camp.
Day 10 – Ganaghar (3310m)
We press on to our campground at Ganaghar at the mouth of the Pachu valley. En route we pass a bridge crossing the Gori Ganga to Burphu on the opposite bank; that is the way of the main trail. Both Ganaghar and Pachu on the opposite side of the Pachu valley were home to many families. The two villages are now only occupied from spring to autumn. Many of the stone houses in both are surprisingly still quite structurally sound whilst others are in ruins having perhaps not been occupied for 35 years. Many have lovely intricately carved wooden door and window frames. From here we get our first views of the summit of Nanda Devi East and Milam village further up the Milam valley. (6 to 7 hours). Overnight camp.
Day 11 – Pachu Glacier, Alpine Meadows of Nanda Devi East (3835m)
Depending on the trail conditions we may walk up the Pachu valley on either its left or right side. A narrow and steep trail leads into the Pachu valley at the head of which lies the gigantic northeast face of Nanda Devi East towering almost 4000m above the Pachu glacier. We walk through dwarf rhododendron and stands of birch trees immediately below the 5900metre high Nanda Bhanar. Camp is set up on these meadows in what is truly a spectacular setting not 3 km from the foot of Nanda Devi East, with the main Nanda Devi summit and the well-known ridge connecting the two also clearly visible. (3 to 4 hours walking). Overnight camp.
Note: Tom Longstaff was the first outsider to see this valley in 1905 when he attempted to climb up this route to Nanda Devi East. Having failed, he went to the valley parallel and to the south of Pachu climbing to a high ridge well known as Longstaff’s Col that ultimately leads to the summit of Nanda Devi East, climbed alpine style in 1994 by the British husband and wife team of Roger Payne and Julie-Ann Clyma.
Day 12 – Pachu Glacier, Alpine Meadows of Nanda Devi East
An early wake-up is recommended today. From our campsite Nanda Devi East looks massive as it rises skyward, overshadowing our camp. It is most spectacular at sunrise when the first rays of the sun suddenly hit its snow-covered summits of Nanda Devi East and Nanda Devi; they turn crimson. Gradually both mountains and the ridge joining them are glowing orange.
After breakfast we have all day to enjoy the magnificent beauty of this place. It is usually possible to walk further up the side of Pachu glacier. There are other numerous walk options up the valley sides for the really energetic. Overnight camp.
Day 13 – Milam (3360m)
We retrace our steps back to Ganaghar then continue up the valley to the once important trading post of Milam. The terrain becomes wilder and more arid, in places it is almost canyon like whereas elsewhere the vistas open up onto a vast scale. However, because we are now back on the main mule trail the walking is easy. As we near Milam village all foreigners must register at the large Indian Tibet Border Police base. Depending on water availability we will camp at the beginning of the village or at a beautiful grassy spot around 30 minutes beyond the village. (4 to 5 hours). Overnight camp.
Day 14 – Milam Glacier
Exploration day. An early start so we can accomplish our objectives during the clearest part of the day. We walk up the narrow trail along the left bank of the Milam Glacier which takes us to Segchakund; set in a stunning amphitheatre with a backdrop of the 7000metre peaks of Hardeol and Trisuli. From here we can see the clear white glacier, as well as the junction where three smaller glaciers join the main Milam glacier. After a picnic lunch we return to our camp.
Day 15 – Sumdu (3400m)
We retrace our route to Milam and then Burphu where we cross to the right bank of the river. Soon after passing Martoli we descend to the river where there is a log bridge perched precipitously high above the foaming muddy waters. To add to our adventure we may need to partially rebuild it as its cross members are often blown down valley by the winter storms and so require retrieval! Here we cross over the left bank and continue to a meadow campsite at Sumdu. The views from here up the Milam valley are quite beautiful, especially at sunset and sunrise. (7 to 8 hours walking)
Day 16 – Ralam (3700m)
We first descend to a small stone and log bridge in order to safely cross the glacial torrent between us and the ascent to the Brijganja pass. It is a steady yet steep climb to the pass, the top of which is nearly always snow covered. There are false summits and depending on the amount of snow at least 6 hours needs to be allowed to gain the pass. To get the best views of the surrounding peaks – especially the twin Nanda Devi peaks and the razor sharp Panch Chulis – it is necessary to make as early a start as possible. From the pass we then descend to Ralam. (8 to 10 hours walking)
Day 17 – Ralam – Day Walk to Shankalpa Glacier
We have all day to trek further up the Ralam valley to the base of the Shankalpa Glacier that lies along the watershed separating the Ralam and Darma Valleys. Seen by W.H. Murray in 1950, this glacier and the surrounding peaks have not been visited by more than a handful of outsiders ever, being truly in a hidden corner of the Himalaya. Return to Ralam camp by later afternoon.
Days 18 – 20 – Descend Ralam Valley to Lilam
Over the next two days, we trek down the thickly forested Ralam valley eventually rejoining the main Milam valley at Lilam. Quite different in character to the Milam, the Ralam valley is much more densely forested with the single trail that runs along it not travelled by anyone other than the Ralam inhabitants. We finally arrive at Paton which is actually 3 separate villages – upper, middle and lower. These 3 villages are occupied throughout the year and are inhabited by Bhotia people. It is these people who migrate up to Ralam from spring to autumn; they take flocks of goats and sheep to graze and grow crops in the fields. They are very hospitable friendly persons and will be surprised to see us trekking through their valley. You may be offered a drink of their local beer or a drop of something stronger!
Day 21 – Trek to Dhapa and Drive to Almora
Starting early from Lilam to avoid the heat of the day, We trek for about two hours to the road head at Dhapa. Here our jeep(s) will be waiting to take us the Almora ( 4-5hrs drive.) Overnight at hotel
Day 22 – Drive to Kathgodam. Overnight train to Delhi
Afternoon we drive to Kathgodam We should arrive in Kathgodam in plenty of time to board the Ranikhet Express, the overnight sleeper train to Delhi, which departs at 20:40. Overnight sleeper train.
Day 23 – Delhi
Arrive Delhi at 04:45. Transfer to the hotel . Morning is free to relax before a guided sightseeing tour. Delhi, the capital of India has a fascinating history and a stimulating present. It has been the seat of power of numerous dynasties – the Rajputs, the Muslim invaders, the Afghans, the Tughlaqs, Sayyaids, the Lodis and the Mughals, who continued the imperial line until the British Days. Today it is the political capital of the world’s largest democracy. Our guided sightseeing tour will visit some of New Delhi’s places of interest including Rashtrapati Bhavan, once the Viceroys residence, Sansad Bhavan, India’s Parliament, India Gate, the war memorial to 90,000 Indian Army soldiers who died in World War 1 and Humayun’s Tomb, the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Overnight hotel.
Day 24 – Depart Delhi
Depart Delhi Transfer to the international airport for the Onward flight.
Arrive home country
Gordon – Your deft guidance and deep knowledge of India made our experience unforgettably outstanding. All five of our senses were continually stimulated – to the max. Also the unusual bonding of the group was gratifying. We care about one another. Your background and experiences in India helped us experience India in a unique way […]