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13 Rare Photos of Himalayan Monsoon Treks
Category Photo Story
By Swathi Chatrapathy
Our in-house photographer, Jothi, has chosen 13 superb monsoon photos from our archives. Some of them are rare gems from our explorations. Some of them are shots of unseen sections on treks.
In the photo story, I’ll take you from Uttarakhand to Himachal and then to Jammu & Kashmir. You’ll notice a lovely change in terrain, colours and landscape.
Note: View on full screen (F11) to experience these pictures best!
1. The brilliant alpine lake of Gurwansar on Bodpathri Lakes trek
on July 2nd, 2022, Nitesh Kumar, Chief Explorer and Senior Trek Leader at Indiahikes, set out on an exploration of the trek. He explored the route from Doodhpathri to Tosa Maidan, covering 76 km in 3.5 days, over multiple ridges, valleys, alpine lakes and unexplored terrain.
When he returned from the trek, he said, “I have just one word and emotion to describe the trek. It is ZABARDAST!”
“My god! How lucky I was to be here, I know there are treks like Kashmir Great Lakes, Tarsar Marsar, Nafran Valley and other regions. People keep posting pictures and going gaga. But this is like the elder brother of all these treks!” he exclaimed.
The Gurwansar Lake is one of the most majestic lakes on the trek. But this lake is not accessible to all. The trail till here is difficult, meant only for the experienced and fit trekkers. Photo by Shwetha C K.
2. The unseen forests of Valley of Flowers
If you think about the Valley of Flowers trek, the first image that comes to mind is, well, a valley full of flowers. It’s what the trek is celebrated for.
“But not many people recognise the other beauties of the Valley of Flowers,” says Sandhya UC, our co-founder, who has a soft corner for it, as VOF was her first Himalayan trek.
“The mountain scenery on this trek is stunning. Be it the forests before Ghangria, the sweeping grasslands on either sides of the valley, the beautiful Pushpavati river in between, or the glacier feeding the river at the end of the valley,” she says.
A peek into the subalpine forests on the first day of the trek. Given this is a monsoon trek, you see the forest at its greenest best. Picture by Thanashyam Raj
2. The 8 km-long Valley of Flowers
Here’s another gem from the Valley of Flowers. This picture gives you a beautiful bird’s eye view of the valley. It’s your first view of the Valley of Flowers as you trek from Ghangria.
The Valley of Flowers trek is set in the Nanda Devi National Park. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This picture truly gives you the feeling of being in a National Park. This is specially why the whole world wants to trek here.
As you climb above the treeline, the first view of the Valley of Flowers opens up to you. From here, you climb down into the valley and walk among the flowers. It’s a 2 km trek from this point until you meet the river again. Picture by Kavya PS
3. The grasslands of the Bhrigu Lake trek
The Bhrigu Lake trek has always been celebrated for the Bhrigu lake. But when Indiahikes founders set foot on it in 2017, they came back stunned at the grasslands on the trek. Nowhere in Himachal had they seen such flawless grasslands extending for miles together. It was all the more special because of the easy access — these grasslands are hardly a day’s climb from Manali.
This photograph is a peek into those manicured grasslands. The perpetually snow-capped mountains around make for a terrific European setting.
A herd of sheep grazing in the manicured grasslands of the Bhrigu Lake trek. The Pir Panjal ranges look on in the backdrop. Picture by Parth Tiwari
4. Tiny people around Bhrigu Lake
I had seen this picture of Bhrigu Lake before. At first, I didn’t think much of it. Then we zoomed in and realised that those tiny black specks around the lake are people!
That’s when the sheer size and scale of the lake hit us. Sitting at 14,000 ft, with a commanding view of the Pir Panjal range, is this alpine lake — frozen in June, lush with flowers in August. It’s a miracle that such a gem of a lake exists in silence, just above the hustle and bustle of Manali.
A view of the Bhrigu Lake, just as you’re approaching it. The tiny black specks dotting the banks of the river are people. Picture by Subhashis Pal
5. Balu ka Ghera on the Hampta Pass trek
One of the most photogenic sections of the Hampta Pass trek is the Balu ka Ghera campsite. This campsite is set on a river delta where the Rani Nalla gently spreads out, depositing the soft silt that it brings down. You camp on this “bed of sand.”
Even though we have seen several pictures of this campsite, it is rare to find such a terrific balance of snow, greenery, light and shadow, all in one photograph. It is possible to see such vibrant colours only between the first and third weeks of August, where you see greenery as well as snow.
The bed of sand at the Balu ka Ghera campsite. If you trace your finger upwards in the narrow valley, you’ll be tracing the route to Hampta Pass. Picture by Prakhar Srivastava
6. Shea Goru, Hampta Pass
In deep contrast to the previous campsite is Shea Goru. The Hampta Pass trek takes you from the lush Kullu valley in Himachal to the stark desert-like terrain of Lahaul.
The contrast in the terrain is clearly visible in the two photos. It’s hard to believe that you start in the greenery of Balu ka Ghera in the morning and by early evening, you’re in the deserts of Shea Goru.
A view of Shea Goru, the post-crossover campsite. Notice the browns and yellows on the mountain sides, with the rocky river bed. It’s worlds apart from the greens of Balu Ka Ghera. Picture by Ayan Das
7. The Karah Campsite on the Pin Bhaba Pass trek
Here’s another dramatic trek any hard core trekker will fall in love with — The Pin Bhaba Pass. One of our trekkers took this picture in the lush greenery of the Kinnaur valley. The exact location being the Karah campsite.
“If ever there is a debate about one of the prettiest settings for a camp on our treks, then the grasslands of Karah would be right on top,” writes Arjun Majumdar, the founder of Indiahikes, who documented the trek in great detail.
The Kashmir-like setting of the Karah campsite makes it one of the prettiest campsites of all our treks. Picture by PR Photography.
8. Entering the dramatic landscapes Spiti on the Pin Bhaba Pass trek
There are few treks that can leave trekkers dumbstruck. We’ve seen trekkers stand and gape at the scenery from across the Pin Bhaba Pass. Because this is what the pass opens up to.
After trekking through moist greenery for days, you suddenly enter another world. It’s a world where oranges, pinks and purple hues dominate the landscape.
Two trekkers pause while trekking in Spiti after crossing the Pin Bhaba Pass. Picture by Dr Jitendra Tanna
9. A bridge over the River Lidder, Tarsar Marsar
“Very few things come close to trekking in Kashmir,” says Arjun. It’s because of picturesque sights like these that no other trek comes close. The gentle Lidder river, the poplar trees dotting the banks of the river, the small bridge that trekkers cross…
You see this on the first day of the trek, and it gets exponentially better, as you’ll see in the next picture.
A small bridge over the Lidder river, which trekkers cross. This is the view on just the first day of the trek. Picture by Mohit Bhatt
10. The Tarsar Lake
The Tarsar lake will steal your heart. To give you an idea of the mind-boggling size, take a look at the trekker on the right side of the picture.
“The icing on the cake is when trekkers learn that they are going to be camping right on the banks of the lake for the night,” smiles Sandhya UC, who was part of the exploratory team to Tarsar Marsar.
Spot the trekker in the picture taking in the view of the Tarsar Lake. Picture by Mahesh Dusane
11. In the shadow of Mt Harmukh
Mt Harmukh plays a significant role in Kashmir. It was from Mt Harmukh that the K2 and Masherbrum peaks were discovered. “Mt Harmukh is also bordered by the daunting Karakoram range,” writes Latika Payak, in her article about trekking in J&K vs trekking in Himachal and Uttarakhand.
Trekkers camp right at the base of this mountain at Gangabal campsite. This is one of the rarest pictures we have seen. It captures the mountain from the bottom to the top, depicting the true proximity of the mountain. It has also been shot in late September, the beginning of autumn. This is why you see such crisp, cloudless skies.
Trekkers take in the view of Mt Harmukh from the Nandkol Lake, a five minute walk from the last campsite on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. Picture by Satyen Dasgupta
12. A mother horse and her young one in the grasslands of Kashmir
Kashmir is one of the only regions in our country where you see wild horses grazing in gay abandon. Especially so on the Kashmir Great Lakes trek. You walk through 75 km of remote Kashmir, through few of the most picturesque grasslands, and it’s truly heaven on earth.
Here’s some motherly love, where a horse and her foal graze in the lush grasslands. Picture by Pradeep BR
So those were 12 of the rarest pictures of our monsoon treks. It was not easy choosing these from our archive of more than 10,000 pictures. We’ll have more of these coming up soon.
Meanwhile, for easy access, I’ll leave you with details of each of these treks. Just click on the links below to take a look at the dates and details.
If you’d like to see any other kind of photo stories, just drop in a comment. We’ll see if our photo team can put it together!
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