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Photo Courtesy : Sadanand K

Kanari Khal Trek

An excellent alternative to Bagini Glacier Trek

  • Trekkers often say that hiking to Bagini Glacier and Changabang Base Camp is dicey, thanks to unpredictable weather and difficult terrain.
  • To these trekkers, Kanari Khal in the Joshimath region comes as a refreshing change. Situated approximately 11 km from Bagini Glacier at an altitude of 4,150 m, this trek to the summit ridge poses just the right amount of challenge, beauty and adventure.
DIFFICULTY:

Moderate - Difficult

TRAIL TYPE:

Round trail which starts and ends at Jumma Village. Trail goes through rivers, waterfalls, high-altitude grassland, forests and mountain villages.

DURATION:

5 days

BASE CAMP:

Joshimath

BEST SEASON:

In summer, early may to Mid June

Kanari Khal Trek

The Kanari Khal Trek is packed with rivers, waterfalls, high-altitude grassland, carpets of wild flowers, snow-covered peaks, forests and mountain villages. It’s an easy-paced trek, with changing sceneries. If you’re planning a trip to Josimath or Badrinath, you could add few more days and cover this highly rewarding trek.

Author: Vaibhav Chauhan

How to do the Kanari Khal Trek

Day 1: Drive from Joshimath to Jumma. Trek to Ruing village

  • Altitude: 2,800 m
  • Time taken: 2-3 hours, 3 km

The trek starts from an unassuming village called Jumma, which is an hour’s ride from Joshimath. Pick up trek ration and kerosene at Joshimath or on the way at Suraithota, as there are almost no supplies available after you begin the trek. The ride from Joshimath to Jumma is a little bumpy. You’ll drive across villages like Tapovan, Reni, Lata, Suraithota and Phagti. In between Suraithota and Jumma, the road winds beside River Dhauliganga. This makes for a lovely drive, especially in autumn. But it can be equally menacing during monsoon.

Kanari Khal Trek Bridge

Jumma is close to the border of Tibet. As a result, the afternoons are packed with fierce winds. You’ll feel this as soon as you get off your vehicle. The trek starts at a steel suspension bridge over Dhauliganga. The ascent to Ruing begins after crossing the bridge. The path to Ruing is mildly steep and meanders through the forest. Ruing is around 3 km from Jumma and it won’t take you more than 2-3 hours to reach there. It is a small village with a few houses and a tiny shop with basic requirements. If you’re camping at Ruing, you can stay at the Panchayat Ghar. Sometimes, the village elders may not permit you to stay here for the night. If that is the case, trek 2-3 km further to a meadow, which lies just before the ascent to Dronagiri. Camping at this meadow has two advantages. One, you get closer to Dronagiri, which will be your next destination tomorrow. The climb to Dronagiri is a tad difficult, so you’ll be taking off a little bit of the strain from tomorrow’s trek. Two, a lovely stream runs by the meadow, making it a convenient and picturesque place to camp at. Kanari Khal Trek Ruing village

Day 2: Ruing to Dronagiri Village

  • Altitude: 2,800 m to 3,610 m
  • Time taken: 5-6 hours, 8 km

Pick up where you left off yesterday to trek to Dronagiri. The trail is well-laid through the forest and hard to miss. Within 4 metres, you’ll enter a landslide zone. There are two routes here – one going up and another going down. The trail going upwards is a mere remnant of what used to be the main route to Dronagiri, until it was destroyed by massive glaciers from the Nandikund region. Take the trail going downwards, which is in a small canyon-like region. It’s full of scree. It could be tricky to negotiate this section. If you aren’t sure-footed,take help from a guide or porter.

Kanari Khal Trek Alpine meadows

The trail is at a steep inclination of around 60 degrees. There are mud-slides and streams criss-crossing your path as you get to the top. Although hiking in this section is taxing, the view from the top is very rewarding. It’s straight out of a painting. The horizon is dotted with the snow-covered peaks of Hathi Parvat and Ghori Parvat. In summer, flowers around the place are in full-bloom. It’s gorgeous. From here, you have to climb higher on a cemented pavement to reach Dronagiri. As you climb, you’ll begin to see signs of the approaching village. Dilapidated houses dot the trail. These are all uninhabited and look ancient. The village itself has no shops. The nearest bazaar is at Suraithota, almost 20 km away.

Kanari Khal Trek Dronagiri village

There are two camping options at Dronagiri. One of them is on the outskirts of the village, and another one is a GMVN that is currently nearing completion. The pricing of these places really depends on how you and your guide can negotiate with the chowkidar. In the autumn of 2014, it cost Rs.1,500 for a room, for two trekkers from England. If you’re camping here, take time to look around the village. Two things here might surprise you. One – the presence of satellite phones! After being deprived of technology, this might come as a welcome change, as you can make local calls (within UttaraKhald) for Rs.2 per minute. But these phones might not always be in working condition. Two – the presence of solar lights. The village is speckled with solar tube lights and street lights that function quite efficiently. There is also a temple built in tribute to the Bhumial God. It is situated on the upper reaches of the village. From this temple, you can catch your first glimpse of the Mt. Dunagiri.

Day 3: Dronagiri to Longatulli

  • Altitude: 3,610 m to 3,800 m
  • Time taken: 3 hours, 3 km

Today’s trek is quite easy. After leaving Dronagiri, trace a path that meanders to a high ridge, from where you can catch your first views of Rishi peak and Bagini Nala. Around 30 minutes after leaving the village, you’ll come across a concrete bridge over Bagini Nala. There is another trail going left from the bridge. Do not take that trail as it goes to Kanari Khal and gradually towards Garpak village. Cross the bridge and continue on the ascending trail. This area is almost completely void of vegetation. It’s packed with boulders. Around 90 minutes after crossing the bridge, you’ll come across a green patch beside a stream. This could serve as an emergency camping ground. Longatulli lies an hour away and you can camp there for the night.

Kanari Khal Trek Beautiful apline flowers

Side excursion for the day: Trek to Bagini Glacier A.B.C and back to Longatulli, 14 km in all.

 

This is a strenuous trek but worth the effort. The route from Longatulli is not steep, but it continuously ascends with boulders all the way. After 2-3 hours of hiking, you reach a plain plateau, which is Bagini Lower Base Camp (12,360 feet). You can see Rishi Pahar, Satminal and Hardeol peaks standing majestically from here. Bagini Upper Base Camp is around 4 km from here. At a distance of around 45 minutes from the Upper Base Camp, there is a lovely camp site called Bagini Advanced Base Camp (15,530 ft). The trail remains consistent throughout; it ascends mildly and turns steep occasionally. Try to cross the Bagini Nala/Garud Gad/Garud Stream early in the morning, because as day the progresses, so does the volume of water. The route here is not well-marked. But on careful observation, you can spot cairns – small pebbles positioned one on top of the other – to locate your trail. Soon you’ll reach the Bagini Glacier, also called Garud Base Camp. Spend some time here with beautiful views of snow-covered peaks, sometimes hiding behind a thick layer of fog. Keep in mind that nights here can get very cold. So, start your trek back to Longatulli soon. Retrace the same trail all the way back.

Day 4: Longatulli Camp to Garpak via Kanari Khal  

  • Altitude: 3,800 m to 3,340 m
  • Time taken: 7-8 hours, 13 km

Proceed on the route to Bagini Glacier for 1 km, till you reach the tri-junction bridge over Bagini River. From here, the trail to Kanari Khal goes towards the left side of a steep ridge. The shepherd trail here is narrow and very steep. The trail is above the treeline and has an expansion of tall grasses all over. In the distance, you can see the saddle of Kanari Khal. Observe Bagini River gushing below you in a narrow gorge.

Kanari Khal Trek Kaneri Khal top

The climb to Kanari Khal takes around 3-4 hours. Once at the top, the view of Dunagari and other peaks in the vicinity is breathtaking. As you walk alongside the ridge line of Kanari Khal, observe Nandi Kund Pass ahead of you on your far left. Kanari Khal has a huge spread of beautiful alpine flowers. They make for a pretty sight. A trail here goes towards your right all the way to Kalla Khal. The one towards your left goes down to Garpak Village.

Kanari Khal Trek Nandikund Pass

The descent to Garpak village is brutal. It is a sharp descent of 800 metres over grassy ridges that are slippery. The narrow trail comes down through numerous scissor bends. This needs to be covered at a slow, steady pace. It takes around 4 hours to cover this 4 km section.

Kanari Khal Trek Descent from Kaneri Khal

Day 5: Garpak to Jumma via Ruing

  • Time taken: 7-8 hours, 8 km

After yesterday’s grueling trek, today’s trek is a scenic one. You’ll be trekking along Lampak and Bagini streams all the way to Jumma. One kilometer down the trail from Garpak towards Ruing, you’ll come across a bridge over Lampak stream. Walk alongside Lampak stream till it merges with Bagini stream. Here, cross the bridge and connect to the village trail that comes from Ruing. From here retrace the trail you took on day one, all the way to Jumma. From Jumma, you can take a jeep to Joshimath. Lead picture, Day 3 and Day 4 pictures by Sadanand Kamath. The rest of the pictures are from Indiahikes’ Documentation of Bagini Glacier Trek.

 

Cardiovascular endurance
This trek requires a good amount of endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. Make sure you are able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.

Strength
This is another area you should work on. There is a lot of trekking distance that you will cover carrying your backpacks and trekking along with your backpack is not a very easy task. You have to walk on uneven terrain during the trek. It could be taxing for your legs. For this, strengthening your legs will help. You can do some squats to strengthen them. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set.

Flexibility
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.

Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.

Bare necessities

  1. Trekking shoes: The trek distance is long and you will have to walk for long distances which need you to have comfortable trekking shoes. You can watch this video to learn to choose the right trekking shoes.
  2. Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.

The Miyar Valley Dun trek happens round the year except for monsoons so make sure your have the proper clothing as per the season demands so you can keep yourself protected during the trek.

Clothes

  1. Three (Five in Winter) Warm Layers: You will be trekking and camping at high altitudes. So make sure you have the apt clothes for the climatic conditions. It will be cold at the higher altitudes so make sure you have at least three layers of warm clothes to protect yourself.
  2. Two trek pants: One pair of pants should suffice for this trek. But you can carry one spare pair in case the first one gets wet. Wear one pair and carry one pair.
  3. Two collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry one.
  4. Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.

Accessories

  1. Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. There might be snow in Har Ki Dun Valley or from Kalkatiyadhaar (depending on the season you are going in), so carry a pair of sunglasses.
  2. Suncap: The sun is more harsh at high altitudes so wear a suncap to protect your face and neck.
  3. Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
  4. Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
  5. Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
  6. Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
  7. Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.

Others

  1. Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks.
  2. Toiletries (Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste)
  3. Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
  4. Two water bottles: 1 litre each
  5. Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.

Mandatory Personal Medical Kit

  1. Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
  2. Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
  3. Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
  4. Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
  5. Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
  6. Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
  7. Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
  8. Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
  9. Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
  10. Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
  11. Gauze – 1 small roll
  12. Band aid – 10 strips
  13. Cotton – 1 small roll
  14. ORS – 10 packets
  15. Betadine or any antiseptic cream
  16. Moov spray (aches, & sprains)

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Vaibhav Chauhan

Vaibhav was associated with Indiahikes as a Writer & Chief Explorer. He is an avid traveler with a passion for trekking in Indian Himalayas. With his roots in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh, the love for the mountains is in his blood. When not travelling he likes to spend time interacting with like-minded trek enthusiasts and read books on travel and mountaineering.