It’s never easy to choose a trek out of so many beautiful ranges in the Himalayas. So, Arjun Majumdar puts down a handy ready reckoner to help you choose a trek for the summer, based on presence of snow, scenery, altitude, level of difficulty and other aspects. It is not easy to pick, but the guide here will hopefully help.
I admit that for most trekkers it is going to be difficult to choose a Himalayan trek this summer. There are too many of them and everything looks exciting.
I give below a guide on how to choose a trek. Some of the treks on this list are my personal favourites but I have tried to be as unbiased as possible. I have also given a ready reckoner guide that you can download in pdf format to get everything in one place.
In my experience, certain traits in trekkers seem to be a pattern. One, trekkers love snow. Stepping on snow is a big priority on any trek. Now, some treks in this list do not have much snow – so you need to factor that in.
Two, trekkers (especially those who have done Himalayan treks before) love the lofty heights of the Himalayas. The higher the altitude the bigger thrill it is. Again, not all treks on this list go very high.
Finally, trekkers love treks with variety in changing scenery. There’s a catch here: some treks move from one end of a valley to another, spread over a couple of days. Though the scenery varies, the change is not very perceptible.
With these thoughts, use this guide to choose a trek for the summer.
Rupin Pass in Himachal
The trek to Rupin Pass is like a maestro playing out a concert. It starts with a murmur and ends in a crescendo – leaving a trekker delirious. This is a trek that can be repeated number of times without monotony setting in. Every day and every hour, the scenery changes, sometimes so suddenly, that you need to look back just to get your bearings right. The camp sites of the lower and upper Rupin water fall are out of movie sets. This is the only trek where you cross a river multiple times over snow bridges. In September-October, the snow bridges would have melted, but the greens and browns of the meadows are more perceptible.
For me, the pass crossing is the best among all the treks listed here. It has so much adventure and thrill thrown in, that your heart doesn’t stop racing until you reach Ronti Gad, the camp site on the other side.
The Rupin pass trail has tremendous variety – so much so, that I feel the trek is too much of a good thing for a trekker. Trekkers expect all treks to be like the Rupin!
On the other hand, the first two days of the Rupin pass trek are long (over 10 km). To those not fit, the days can seem long and heavy. Also, getting to the base of the trek is a long road journey, sometimes bumpy – though the scenery makes up for the tiredness.
The Rupin pass trek for its thrill and variety gets a score of 4.5/5 from me.
Goecha La trek in Sikkim
A few things stand out in my mind about the Goecha La trail – and they are definitely the attractions as well. First, are the rhododendron-lined trails. If you get there in the first week of May, when rhododendrons are in full bloom, the money you pay for the trek is worth its weight in gold. Next are the sights of some of the world’s highest summits. Mt Kanchenjunga is so close that you can almost touch it. Mt Pandim and Kabru are a stone’s throw away. In no other trek in India do you get so close to major summits as you do on the Goecha La trail. Finally, sitting by the blue waters of lake Samiti will leave you mesmerized for a long time. To add to this, there is the exciting climb to the Goecha pass in the dead of the night, which gets your pulse racing at 16,000 feet.
On the negative side, the trail is akin to a national highway. Scores of trekkers take to this popular trail every day. Often, you may be jostling for campsite space or a spot in the trekker’s huts. The trek does not have great meadows. there is very little snow on this trek even though it climbs to 16,000 feet.
Though it is a very high altitude trek, I recommend it highly for first timers. The highlights of the trek make it extremely romantic. I give the Goecha La trek a score of 4/5.
Roopkund in Uttarakhand
Too much has already been written about the Roopkund trek. So I won’t get into the details. For me, the highlight of the trek is its alpine meadows. Sometimes, people don’t understand why I say the meadows are superb. Like a green spotless carpet, the meadows of Ali and Bedni Bugyal stretch as far as the eye can see, so vast that it takes two days just to walk across them. They are so perfect in the way they are laid out, that they look like the work of a high-end landscape designer. When you add the fantastic climb on snow to Roopkund and the descent to Wan through one of the best virgin oak forests, it is easy to see why Roopkund is a top ranked trek in India.
This is the only trek on our list that doesn’t have any flip side.
This trek is perfect for first timers looking to taste high Himalayan adventure. I give Roopkund a score of 4.5/5.
Kedarkantha summit trek in West Uttarakhand
First, Kedarkantha is actually a trek apt for winter. From the Chirstmas week of December until the first week of April, the upper slope of this trek (above 10,000 feet) is under several feet of snow. The snows start melting by the middle of April, so timing the trek is important.
On the flip side the trek is short – four days. Physically, it won’t challenge a trekker, who is used to more rigorous conditions.
Hampta Pass in Himachal
There’s lot of misconception about this trek. Many imagine it to be easy – just because it is suitable for beginners. It is not. The trek is moderately challenging. The long pass-crossing on snow over the Hampta pass can blow the wind out of anyone (depending on the amount of snow). The descent is particularly steep, almost like a cliff hanger. That’s where the fun is too. Hampta Pass has one of the best pass crossings in our country (if, again, you time it for snow). During the end of May, when snow lies wall to wall on the valley floor, the climb from Balu-Ka-Gera onwards, is a treat for the heart and soul. September onwards, the moraine is exposed and a different kind of scenery opens up. The view on the other side of Hampta pass, almost over a cliff, is another world.
Two other attractions make Hampta pass very hard to miss. One, its proximity to Manali allows you a lot of sightseeing opportunity before and after the trek. Two, at the end of the trek, an excursion to Chandrataal is almost a must do (provided the roads are open). To see the emerald blue waters of Chandrataal, people throng to it from far and wide. But with the Hampta pass trek you can hop over to Chandrataal with just a day extra in your itinerary.
As cons, the trek starts with a lovely pine and maple forest but the forest don’t last long. The meadows and clearings are pretty, but not very large. After the pass crossing, it is generally a narrow trail over scattered boulder zones.
Though the trek is ok for beginners, do not discount the fitness required. The Hampta Pass trek gets a 3/5 from me.
The ready reckoner here will help to plan your treks better. Download the pdf if you want to study the chart offline.
For your questions, comments and debate about the choice of summer treks, use the comments box below.