Pallavi and Prakash Chitnis, who did the Valley of Flowers trek with Indiahikes in August 2012, tell us their experience. Having a bit of knowledge about high-altitude trekking, they hand out useful tips for trekkers.
Q. Why did you choose this trek?
Prakash: We had been hearing about the Valley of Flowers for a long time. Last year, I had gone on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra through MEA and KMVN. So this year, we decided to take the plunge.
Pallavi: The beautiful alpine meadow and the high altitude lake surrounded by brahmakamals, was on my list of places to see for a long time. Had a glimpse of the route from Govindghat on the way to Badrinath in 1998 and knew that I too would trek up that path someday.
Q. How did you prepare for the trek?
Prakash: I was walking practically everyday about 6 km in a little over an hour and climbing five floors up to our flat at least once a day. I should have prepared more, especially climbing and descending stairs, since we wanted to walk and not use a pony.
Pallavi: My exercise schedule included brisk walk for an hour, combined with stretching and climbing up and down 7-8 flights of stairs. Besides, yoga and pranayam exercises to regulate breathing helped in preparation for the high altitude trek. Also, my mental preparation came from the fact that I’m an avid birder. I hoped to see high altitude Himalayan birds. If one strongly desires to experience such places then the mental preparation is automatic.
Q. What kind of equipment do you think is necessary or would help while doing this trek?
- It always rains in the hills, usually in the afternoon. A light coverall worn loosely would be better than a Duckback-type raincoat. You get as wet due to heat and sweating in the latter. There were light-weight plastic ponchos available at shops in Govind Ghat, which could be worn quickly in case of rain and stashed away when the weather was clear.
- The locals do go about in hawai chappals and barefoot, but a good pair of waterproof trekking boots are essential for trekkers. And learn how to lace these properly. In spite of all the precautions I took, while coming down to Govind Ghat on the last day my small toes were squeezed! My foot was sliding forward, making my toes crash into the shoe. I did retie the lace twice but to no avail.
- Clothes will get wet one way or another. A clothes string will always come in handy. Also separate polythene bags for wet/damp clothes are essential.
- Proper walking sticks with a curved handle are most useful.
- Fleece jacket (instead of woollen) is an excellent option for the monsoon season in Himalayas. It provides good insulation, is light weight and dries easily. Keep an extra pair of socks and medicines for tummy aches, headaches and diarrhea handy while walking.
Q. Do you have and tips on how to prepare for the Valley of Flowers trek?
Walk 10 km a day, plus ascending descending stairs of, say, an eight storey building, about twice a day.
Q. What were the major highlights of the trek for you?
The flowers, the birds, the ever-changing panorama, the cold mountain streams rushing down, the greenery. Beautiful blue poppies and brahmakamals growing along the Hemkund sahib route. Bonding with people while trekking up to Hemkund. Water, dry fruits and encouragement offered by strangers to complete the trek. Breakfast of parathas and aloo sabji under the large rock at Valley of Flowers. Watching finches and butterflies amongst alpine flowers in the valley.
Q. What was the most difficult part of the trek?
The last two kilometres to Hemkund took our measure. Every now and then, we would stop to catch our breath and rest our legs on the pretext of enjoying the scenery, looking closely at the flowers or taking a photograph!
Q. Please share some moments while on the trek that stuck the most in your memory.
The feeling of “I’ve done it” on reaching Hemkund was of course the peak. On the way, a halo appeared on the top of the mountain, as though highlighting a divine presence. The lovely lake set in the middle of the peaks when the weather cleared up for a while. Also, a bullfinch took a closer look at people lunching under the big rock at Valley of flowers.
Q. Do you have any suggestions for the future trekkers?
- Be well-prepared mentally and physically; when you’re not struggling, you will be able to enjoy the glamour of the mountains no words can describe.
- Above 10,000 ft, take things slowly and steadily. Eat/snack lightly but frequently and drink water regularly.
- Not a medical authority however can offer following tips from my experience. High altitude sickness can appear as headache, Nausea or diarrhea. Keep medicines near you in case of emergency. Ginger lime juice is a good remedy for travel & altitude related sickness
- Enjoy the beautiful surroundings; they energise you to achieve your goal. Avoid binging on glucose and sugar granules while walking. Eat dry fruits, biscuits or granola bars instead. While trekking up, do not sit down for long. The muscles that have been warmed up by exercise cool off quickly and get jammed. Walk at your own pace, set small targets, keep walking with a group and don’t give up.
For a detailed description of the trek take a look at the Valley of Flowers 2015 trek guide.