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Photo Courtesy : Vaibhav Chauhan

Kuppar Bugyal Trek

Experience Himalayan forests like never before

  • One of the least explored regions in Shimla is the forest land.
  • Endless expanses of moist deodar trees, mixed coniferous forests and rhododendron forests sit breathing quietly over a large part of this popular hill station.
  • These forests reside in what is known as Pabbar Valley, where Kuppar Bughyal lies.

DIFFICULTY:

Moderate

TRAIL TYPE:

Alpine pasture lands and thick forests

DURATION:

2 days

BASE CAMP:

Khada Pathar

BEST SEASON:

October to February

Experience Himalayan forests like never before

Kuppar Bugyal Trek is one of the least explored regions in Shimla is the forest land. Endless expanses of moist deodar trees, mixed coniferous forests and rhododendron forests sit breathing quietly over a large part of this popular hill station. These forests reside in what is known as Pabbar Valley, where Kuppar Bughyal lies.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek

The main wildlife species found here are brown ghoral, black bear, Himalayan brown bear and a wide variety of monal pheasant species. However, it is strange that with so much abundance of flora and fauna, there is no established national park in this area, which explains how conveniently land mafia has been able to encroach the land by cutting down the forests.

Exploring trekking possibilities in Pabbar Valley of Himachal Pradesh was something I was very keen on doing. My cousin from Shimla, Kunal, shared my enthusiasm. When we previously met, we had decided to trek to a peak that stood at an elevation of over 3,200 metres in the valley. The tip of the hill had been cleared for grazing and had been named Kuppar Top.

About Author:

VAIBHAV CHAUHAN

Vaibhav is 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.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek Guide

Experience Himalayan forests like never before

One of the least explored regions in Shimla is the forest land. Endless expanses of moist deodar trees, mixed coniferous forests and rhododendron forests sit breathing quietly over a large part of this popular hill station. These forests reside in what is known as Pabbar Valley, where Kuppar Bughyal lies.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
Kuppar Bugyal Trek

The main wildlife species found during the Kuppar Bugyal trek are brown ghoral, black bear, Himalayan brown bear and a wide variety of monal pheasant species. However, it is strange that with so much abundance of flora and fauna, there is no established national park in this area, which explains how conveniently land mafia has been able to encroach the land by cutting down the forests.

Exploring trekking possibilities in Pabbar Valley of Himachal Pradesh was something I was very keen on doing. My cousin from Shimla, Kunal, shared my enthusiasm. When we previously met, we had decided to trek to a peak that stood at an elevation of over 3,200 metres in the valley. The tip of the hill had been cleared for grazing and had been named Kuppar Top.

My journey started from Delhi, where I boarded a bus and reached Shimla early the next morning. Kunal and I boarded a local bus from Shimla bus stand to Khada Pathar. It goes through the Shimla-Rohru road, which is usually a nightmare to travel on. The best mode of travel here is either a local bus or an SUV.

After a non-stop bus ride of over 500 km (Delhi to Khada Pathar), we reached Khada Pathar at 12 noon. We had a quick lunch and started off with our trek. The thought of camping at Kuppar was abandoned after we got an update from a Forest Officer that camping has been temporarily disallowed owing to frequent sighting of a Himalayan brown bear at the Bughyal side. This meant we had only the second half of the day to explore this trek and be back.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
Pubbar Valley

For those looking for a comfortable accommodation in Khada Pathar for the night, HPTC offers one of their flagship hotels, Giri Ganga Resort, next to the road going to Jubbal-Hathkoti close to the local markets.

Alternatively, you can find accommodation in PWD and Forest rest houses here as well, subject to availability.

We decided to start our trek from Khada Pathar itself, hiking via the narrow non-metalled road going till Giri Ganga, 6 km ahead. The purpose of doing this was to enjoy the scenic forest cover that blankets the Kuppar region and to make the trek more fun by increasing its distance from 3 km to 9 km, one way. From Giri Ganga Resort, we walked for another 100 meters on the Khada Pathar – Hathkoti road, till there was a small road turning right and up the hill. This is the road that leads all the way to Giri Ganga. Those who are in a hurry can drive all the way till Giri Ganga and commence their trek from that point. Keep in mind that you must carry water with you, snacks, a torch and a poncho. There are no provisions available after you move out of Khada Pathar. So, carry all the essentials you may need.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
A View of Kuppar Bugyal

As we entered the diversion of the road leading us to Giri Ganga, I couldn’t help but notice similarity between this trail and the Hatu Peak trail in Narkanda, another trek in Himachal Pradesh. As we walked towards the interiors of the Kuppar Valley, cold refreshing breeze blew in our direction. I always come back to such places for the sheer liberation from the rat race life has become, even if that would be for a week, a day or less.

Kunal, being a sturdy pahadi boy, was eager to reach Kuppar in record time, for he was practically sprinting and I had to struggle to keep up with him. As we were hiking along the road,the Kuppar top and its Bughyal were clearly visible. There were patches of snow as well in the Bughyal area of Kuppar. Three kilometres into the hike, there were series of sharp hairpin bends, which meant we should have ideally saved time by climbing up the mountain instead of following the road. That way, we would have saved couple of kilometres at least. My advice to people planning to do this trek is to climb the hill after you complete first two kilometres of the trek. It will save you a lot of time. Throughout the trek, we could find no signs on the trail defining the route to Kuppar or even to Giri Ganga. Hopefully, with more people venturing to Kuppar, the local administration may take this up as a priority.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
Peaks from Kinnaur Ranges

As we negotiated these hairpin bends, we were welcomed into a forest that had tresses over a century old. Tall, green, proud, many of them so magnificent, seemingly so alive, giving an impression of conversing with one another with rustling whispers.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
Traversing the dense forests of Kuppar

The final hairpin bend got us towards the other side of the hill and we could see the Giri River gushing below us. We were now nearing Giri Ganga and it was only a kilometre away. We covered this part swiftly, eager to reach Giri Ganga, which is the source for River Giri. Giri Ganga has ancient temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Kali in its vicinity.

When we reached here, we could not find the pujari of the mandir or the caretaker of the area. The place was completely deserted. Kuppar peak was visible straight above us and around us was nothing but a dense forest, through which we had to find our way to Kuppar Bughyal. The altitude reading of Giri Ganga was at 2,700 metres. We had three more kilometres to trek. It was already 3 pm and it was getting cloudy. We took a five minute breather and resumed our hike.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
On the way to Kuppar Bugyal

Since there was no marked trail, we had to rely on our sense of direction to reach Kuppar. We climbed a hill and soon disappeared inside forest cover. We knew we had to climb upwards and keep left. Since we had been warned that this forest consisted of a healthy population of bears and leopards, we hoped to pass undetected.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
Entering Kuppar Bugyal

As we climbed up, we found a tributary of River Giri running on the right side of the hill. We decided to come down the first hill and cross the tributary only to climb the second facing hill. The same was again repeated when we climbed the second hill and we saw another tributary of Giri running down. Coming down the second hill, we crossed the second tributary and climbed the third hill facing us. We calculated that we would now only need to hike straight up this hill and it should lead us to Kuppar Bughyal. However, the vast never ending expanse of the forest cover kept us tensed about the choice of trail we made. It was only later, when Kunal gave a huge cry of relief that I realised that we were on the right trail.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
Few Meters to Kuppar Top

Right in front of us was the first patch of land cleared for grazing. Most of the patch was covered with snow. The path now onwards was covered with snow. We had to go through the next forest section now. Another half a kilometre of hike later, we reached a point, where there was a substantial amount of land cleared for grazing. Towards our left, was the entry point of Kuppar Bughyal. At this point it started to rain, which then quickly turned into a hailstorm.

Out came our ponchos and in went our cameras. By this time, the visibility was pretty low and the hailstorm soon turned into a snowfall. Experiencing snow in April was a revelation and while enjoying the prospects, I was concerned over the lost opportunity of photographing the Bughyal the way I would have liked to.

Kuppar Bugyal Trek
Snow at Kuppar Bugyal

We still had to explore the other side of the Bughyal, some 600 metres in length and climb another 50 metres towards the higher grounds of Kuppar. In the background, we could see the Kinnaur peaks of Hansbeshan (5,420 m), Krunshikring (5,088 m) and Chanshal side of peaks in a distance – all obscured in a thick haze of clouds. The altitude reading said 3,200 m. The debate on Kuppar to be 3,500 m as said by the locals was now put to rest.

The visibility now was alarmingly low and we decided it was wise to now dash back toKhada Pathar. While making our way back we made use of the information collected of the trail by following down the third hill climbed previously, till we reached the second tributary of River Giri. From ther,e we followed the tributary till it connected to a larger one and accordingly we took a left turn. From there, it was a straight hike down till Giri Ganga. So, in retrospect, following River Giri is the best way of finding your way back. By 7 pm, we reached Khada Pathar, where my cousin’s friend was waiting to pick us up and we proceeded towards his place, in a nearby village.

Cardiovascular endurance

The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be 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. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.

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. 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.

backpack

No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.

What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.

How much should my bag weigh?

“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.

box2
Trekking hack

One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.

How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.

 

Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.

box1
Backpack essentials

Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.

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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.