Har-ki-dun, which is now a popular trekking destination, was rather unknown back in 2011, when Naveen Kanakadandi went for it. Together with Great Hyderabad Adventure Club (GHAI), he organised the trek with 10 participants in April 2011. Judging by his recollection, he thoroughly enjoyed himself during the trek.
It was a beautiful and moderate trek. Har-ki-dun means ‘Shiva’s Valley’ and one can definitely feel his presence. At least, I felt that way due to the beauty of the place.
Q. Was this a personally organised trek or one done with an expedition group?
I personally organised it, in collaboration with GHAC.
Q. We have heard of GMVN accommodation available at Taluka, Osla, Seema and Har-ki-dun? Does that imply this trek can be done without carrying tents, sleeping bags, etc?
Yes there was GMVN accommodation at Taluka, Seema and Har-ki-dun. We stayed in a GMVN guest house at Taluka to begin with, but later, we stayed in tents at other camp sites. It is advisable to have tents available.
Q. What was your team size including support staff?
We were totally 10 of us – 6 participants, 1 cook and 3 porters.
Q. How many days had you given for the trek? Which camp sites did you identify to stop for the night?
We planned for 10 days from Hyderabad to Hyderabad but found that around 7 days are sufficient. Our camps were at Taluka, Osla and finally, Har-ki-dun.
Q. From where does one find reliable guides and porters? Any reference of a guide you would like to give us?
My friend, Prashant Pai, who was also hosted this trek, brought the guide, whom he was already in touch with.
Q. There is a motorable road from Sankri to Taluka. What was the condition of this road?
The condition of the road was not good at that point of time. It’s full of rocks and there are waterfalls in between.
Q. Did you trek from Sankri to Taluka? Please elaborate on your experience of reaching Taluka.
We went by a jeep from Sankri to Taluka. By the time we reached Sankri, it was around 5:30 pm. On April 22, 2011, we started at 4 am from Hyderabad. We took a flight at 6 am to Delhi and from Delhi, a bus to Dehradun, where we reached by 6:30 pm. By then, there was no bus to Sankri. So, we halted at Dehradun in a hotel and then took a bus to Purola at 6 am the next day .We reached Purola at around 1:30 pm, had lunch there and then took another bus to Sankri.
I want to specifically mention the Jeep ride from Sankri to Taluka. The jeep that we took was the last one for the day to Taluka and there were totally 22 people. We initially thought of trekking along but took the Jeep, as we were already tired due to the bus journey on bad roads throughout . All our team members sat atop the Jeep, on the luggage which was tied with rope. (Not joking!) I was sitting in front, to the extreme left, atop of the Jeep, holding the rope with one hand. There were too many pebbles and the road was very narrow and uneven. Only one vehicle could go at a time and oncoming vehicles could somehow manage to cross at the turnings. To the left side, was a 2,000 ft drop into the valley of Gobind Wildlife Sanctuary and to the right, were trees and hills. That 10 km ride was very exciting and I even tried to take a picture of myself with my left hand, while holding onto the rope with my right. Balancing like that was one crazy act but I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I would not advise anyone to try it.
Q. Do you find suitable sources of drinking water on the trail?
Q. We hear that the camping grounds at Osla are a better option for camping than the one at Seema. Your take?
Osla is a better option to camp in the grounds behind an old school (which is not running now). We even played cricket and had lots of fun with the children there.
Q. Did you try the food available at the local dhaba? If so, how was it?
We only tried Maggi. Irrespective of whether it gives you energy or not, when you are exhausted, it really does not matter. Have something.
Q. What was the average day and night temperature you encountered?
10-15 degree Celcius in the morning and 2-5 degree Celsius at night.
Q. What was your experience of Day 2 of your trek?
The trek from Taluka to Osla is pretty decent and moderate. The last stretch from Seema to Osla appears to be difficult due to its steepness but it’s manageable. There are a lot of stones on the way; so if you are not wearing good shoes, your feet will take a beating.
Q. Any tricky section in the trek that one should be aware of?
River crossings at two to three places. They are not difficult but you’re required to be a bit careful.
Q. Tell us about the day you trekked to Har-ki-dun camp site? We have heard that the views of the Jaundhar Glacier from the Har-ki-dun camp site are very scenic. Your take?
The trek to Har-ki-dun camp site was a bit tiring as there were many ups and downs. Also, the gradient at a few places was pretty steep, which made it difficult. Before reaching Debshu Bugyal, I took a longer route to the place where we decided to break for lunch. The long route could have been by-passed to save 2 km. Before reaching the last stretch, there was a river crossing, where we needed to be a bit careful. In between, we made and ate lots of snow lollipops that tasted awesome with orange candy in our mouths.
The last stretch was a bit tiring and difficult, but the moment we reached the camp site at Har-ki-dun, we felt very refreshed by the scenic beauty. We forgot all the pain and felt that it was worth it.
The view across from the valley to Jaundhar Glacier was awesome. It completely stands by its reputation. Swargarohini looks mind-blowing. It literally looks like a stairway to heaven. Another thing to add is that while on the way to Har-ki-dun, we could see the tip of Banderpoonch range too.
Q. Did you see any wildlife while in the valley?
There were lots of langoors on the way. I was able to spot a snow leopard (if I have recognised it correctly) at the valley across the river from a distance of 200 m. I couldn’t capture it on camera though.
Q. A day’s trek to the snout of Jaundhar Glacier is always advisable. Did you explore ahead from Har-ki-dun to this route? If so, tell us about your experience.
Yes. We did start a hike to Jaundar Glacier. The views that we got while on the way were spectacular. Needless to say, Swargarohini was amazing. We also did some sliding at a particular point midway, which added to the fun.
We spent a lot of time in playing there, but by then, the weather got bad. Despite this, we tried to move on but were forced to stop and turn back as the visibility was slowly decreasing and going ahead would mean trouble.
Q. Is there any other route for exploration that you may want to suggest from Har-ki-dun camp site ahead?
Yes. You can explore the route behind the GMVN guest house at Har-ki-du,n where there is a lot more beauty to witness. Four of us went for this exploration.
At that point in time, it was full of snow, which added to the fun even though it was a bit difficult to walk. We ventured daringly into the route behind the GMVN guest house, carefully managing to walk in the snow and crevasses in between. Initially, we started off by deciding to go till the highest point that we could see from the guest house. After reaching that highest point, we saw another point ahead of us. Like that, we went on chasing highest points for almost 5 hours which took us, I guess, to an altitude of around 4,500 m. Up to this 4,500 m point, we were madly rushing from point to point, without noticing the beauty around. We suddenly realized that we had come a long way and decided to stop there and take in the beauty of the place. One person from the group, for some reason, said “Let’s chant Omkara. At that moment, without any hesitation and irrespective of caste, creed, religion, all of us instantaneously chanted Omkara for around 5 minutes and then stopped. Come to think about it, it’s an unforgettable moment.
While returning, we played the sliding game again. We also made cakes with snow, wrote our names on it, threw snow balls in the air, etc. It was a lot of fun. We all turned into kids. Aah! I’m back in Har-ki-dun while describing this. Mt. Swargarohini always seems to be calling. I will definitely think of climbing it in future.
Q. Would you advise trekking from Har-ki-dun to Sankri in a day, while returning, for those hard pressed for time?
That should be alright, but again, as mentioned above, you should have good shoes so that you don’t end up with blisters.
Q. Which is the most suitable month for this trek?
From the last week of April to the first week of May should be perfectly fine. Sometimes, due to delay in monsoons, it can be done even in the second week of May. I suggest you take a call based on weather.
Q. How would you sum up your Har-ki-dun trek experience?
It is a must-do trek for every Himalayan lover and beginner. While most of the points are covered in the above questions I’d like to add one thing about the return journey by Jeep from Taluka to Sankri. It was drizzling and midway, a huge tree fell over the road, due to which no vehicle was able to go ahead. Luckily, I was carrying a rope so we tied the tree to the Jeep and 10 of us pulled and pushed the tree till after 45 minutes of effort, we were finally able move it aside.
Overall, it was a fascinating and wonderful experience. We spent an extra day exploring at Har-ki-dun campsite -simply mesmerised by its beauty.
Q. Any regrets regarding the expedition?
None. One mistake I made was to go with Woodland shoes, due to which I ended up getting blisters while returning.
Q. Any advice for people planning to do Har-ki-dun Trek?
Just go for it. Go with Quechua shoes or any other good shoe that can protect your feet from uneven stone-strewn terrain. Also, beware of sun-burn.