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The Complete Guide to 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.

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

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

Hanging bridge at the start of the trek, Jumma

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 in 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.

 

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 meters, 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, Dronagiri

The trail is at a steep inclination of around 60 degrees. There are mudslides and streams crisscrossing 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 the 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

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 – is 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 in the upper reaches of the village. From this temple, you can catch your first glimpse of Mt. Dunagiri.

Day 3: Dronagiri to Longatulli

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

This strech 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

Alpine flowers on the way. Picture by Sadanand K

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 the day 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

Kanari Khal seen at a distance. Picture by Sadanand K

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 ridgeline 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

Nandi Kund Pass as seen from Kanari Khal. Picture by Sadanand K

The descent to Garpak village is brutal. It is a sharp descent of 800 meters 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 Kanari Khal to Garpak. Picture by Sadanand K

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.

Difficult Sections

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Plan Your Travel

Joshimath is 256 km from Rishikesh and 273 km from Haridwar. Take an overnight train from Delhi for Haridwar and reach Haridwar early in the morning. From Haridwar one can take a jeep or bus to Joshimath. Daily buses ply from Haridwar and Rishikesh and take 10 to 12 hours to reach Haridwar. From Rishikesh, one can take a shared Jeep which plies from Rishikesh Badrinath road near GMVN Bharat-Bhoomi Guest House. The roads to Joshimath are in good condition except for a few stretches at Srinagar to Rudraprayag and from Chamoli to Joshimath section. The road journey is long but scenic, passing via Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Karanprayag and Chamoli. Jumma Village is an hour jeep ride from Joshimath town.

Trek Contributors:

Lead picture, Day 3 and Day 4 pictures by Sadanand Kamath. The rest of the pictures are from Indiahikes’ Documentation of Bagini Glacier Trek.

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