Warwan Valley – The greatest adventure in Kashmir
The Warwan valley is a well kept secret that will catch every trekker unawares and shock him with beauty and adventure alike. It is nestled between the stark, sharp Ladakh side and the gorgeously green Kashmir valley. This vault was first unlocked by Indiahikes in 2015. It only left us cursing ourselves for not having discovered it earlier!
The trail eases into the trek with the barren mountains of Ladakh until Sumdo, which is a web of streams. It then challenges the trekker with the Lomvilad pass and astounds with the grandeur of the Bracken glacier. It then finally welcomes you into the true Warwan Valley. For an experienced trekker, this is true paradise. The nomads and the animals here live a simple life, in complete awe of the complex beauty around them. The horses happily trot in blithe disregard of their otherwise equestrian elegance.
Whom is the trek meant for?
This trek is purely meant for adventure seekers. Along with being extremely fit, prior high altitude trek experience is a prerequisite. There are tough stretches of the trek that require navigating over the massive Bracken glacier and moraines. This can take a toll on your body. Hence we recommend that a participant must be no more that 50 years of age, unless they meet the fitness requirements. The minimum age requirement is 15 years. On a different note, the Warwan Valley is the untouched, isolated side of Kashmir. If you enjoy miles and miles of nature, devoid of the carbon footprint of man then the Warwan Valley is your paradise.
Difficulty level and Preparation
The Warwan Valley trek is classified as a difficult trek. The terrain changes constantly over the days- rubble, glacier, moraines and a narrow path that precariously overhangs the river. Each day is long, covering nearly 20 km. It totals to a whopping 100 km in six days. The Lomvilad pass day is extremely tiring as you are trekking from dusk to way after dawn.
The long days and not so friendly terrain demands high physical fitness. Strengthening your core muscles is extremely important. This will help you manage the added weight of a backpack which can tire out even the most hardy trekkers. Click here to learn how to prepare and get fit for the trek.
The glacier walk before the pass
What are the risks involved?
The base camp Panikher sits at 10,800 ft. This is a considerable altitude when coming in from the plains. This is where you will be most susceptible to catching Acute Mountain Sickness. This can be avoided by going on a course of Diamox. The trek from Kaintal to Humpet has stretches where the narrow trail hangs directly over the river. These can be cleared with cautious, confident steps.
Here’s a short itinerary for the Warwan Valley trek:
|Day 1||Panikhar is a 9-10 hour drive from Srinagar. Arrive at Srinagar the night before. Pick up at 6:00 AM. Cab cost – Rs.12,000 per vehicle to be shared by trekkers.|
|Day 2||Panikhar (10,800 ft) to Sumdo/Denora (12,350 ft); 5-6 hours, 15.6 km|
|Day 3||Denora (12,350 ft) to Kalapari (12,850 ft); 1.5 hours, 3 km|
|Day 4||Kalapari (12,850 ft) to Kaintal (11,500 ft) via Lomvilad Gully (14,450 ft); 11 hours, 21 km|
|Day 5||Kaintal (11,500 ft) to Humpet (10,900 ft); 6 hours, 19 km|
|Day 6||Humpet (10,900 ft) to Sukhnai (9,200 ft); 8 hours, 19 km|
|Day 7||Sukhnai (9,200 ft) to Chaudraiman (8,300 ft); 7 hours, 16 km|
|Day 8||Buffer day|
|Day 9||Depart from Srinagar|
Please note that you will be staying at a guest house in Panikhar. The stay on all other days is in tents (3 per tent).
Here is a detailed itinerary for the Warwan Valley trek.
Day 1: Getting to base camp – Panikhar
- Altitude: 10,800 ft
- Time taken: 9-10 hours drive from Srinagar. Pick up at 6:00 AM
Panikhar is a village so small that you are already in the next village even before you have stepped out of Panikhar. It is a collection of few houses in typical Zanskari tradition. They are usually double-storeyed with large windows, small balconies and a barn below the sloping roofs. Almost always the houses have their own field where the folks grow their own produce. So none of the houses are clustered. Panikhar is small, shops are few. You can get a few last moment supplies here but not enough for a trek. Make sure you’ve made trek purchases at Kargil, including shopping for groceries and greens.
At Panikher, you can stop at J&K Govt’s tourist bungalow. If that’s full, there are two-three lodges at the market. The stay should cost you Rs 700-1000 per room. Panikher is an extremely pretty village. Ensure that you arrive at Panikher a day earlier. Take long walks across the valley.(Panikher is in Suru Valley) The barren mountains are a terrific contrast to the lush valley in between. Arriving a day earlier helps you acclimatise as well. At 10,800 feet, you are already at a considerable altitude.
Day 2: Panikher to Sumdo/Denora
- Altitude: 10,800 ft to 12,350 ft
- Time taken: 5-6 hours, 15.6 km
- Trek gradient: Difficult. Continuously but gradually ascending trail.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water. Your first water source will be a stream running down the cliffs, 2.5 hours into the trek. This will be followed by several streams from where you can refill your water bottles, if required.
Take the road to the market. Continue past the sub post office on your left. (The BSNL tower is in the fields on your right). The road naturally curves to the left arriving just above the Panikher Nala. The river is big and strong.
Walk along the road to the bridge that crosses the river in another 10 minutes. Across the bridge veer left following the river upstream. The landscape changes immediately. The village of Panikher is no longer visible. Up ahead is the narrow valley that you have to trek on. The govt is making a dirt track for four wheelers which was a trekking trail earlier so it becomes fairly easy to walk on. 500 meters into the trek, you’ll find the tents of local authorities check post. Enter your names and details at the check post (very friendly and just a cursory formality) and resume your trek.
The trek climbs very gradually on the four wheeler dirt track, inching deeper into the valley. The landscape ahead continues to reveal more layers of barren mountains. On your right, the milky white river continues to tumble and froth as it nears the confluence with Suru.
Look on your right as the mountains rise almost like cliffs towering many thousands of feet over you ending in jagged ridges that touches the blue sky. The sky, needless to say, is a blue that you have never seen.
Two and a half hours later, the trail suddenly comes across a stream running down the cliffs on your right. This is your first water source for drinking. After this, there is plenty of clear water streams and there is no necessity to fill your bottles.
Ten minutes later, around a small bend, the trail comes up to a wonderful lush green grassy meadows with streams and brooks running across it. A perfect place for a small break, snacks and refill, take a ten minute break here. The locals call it a Doksa ( a meadow).
Further on, the trail continues to climb gradually. Half hour later, over a bump and another curve, the trail comes across a wide clearing. The first Bakarval settlements are now visible.
The trail now narrows down to a wide walking track. Continue walking on the trail. Another half hour later, over a wide curve, you get the first glimpse of the two intersecting valley up ahead. Below which is Sumdo, your camp of the day.
In a few minutes, the trail suddenly climbs a mound to top over a stream that needs to be crossed. Convenient boulders make the stream easy to cross. If the water is high, walk a few metres upstream to cross over. From the stream in another twenty minutes, a spectacular change of scenery unfolds. It comes at you suddenly, so look over for it.
The Panikhar Nala suddenly goes quiet. What was a gushing river is now a wide river basin over a flat plain. The river splits, distributing, forks, rejoins and does this multiple times over the basin. In between these splits and forks are grassy meadows, each more lush than the other. You have arrived at Sumdo– the confluence of two rivers. Up ahead, the confluence is clearly visible.
Camping is possible in the grassy knolls of Sumdo. Take care to select a knoll that has a slightly higher ground. In the evenings, water levels rise. An alternative to camping at Sumdo is to go ahead slightly along the basin to Denora, which is nothing but the farthest end of Sumdo. The same grassy basin exists at Denora- with the added advantage of having gained an extra hour of trek time. Denora is on the basin that faces the valley to the right of the confluence. You don’t see the Denora campsite until you round the bend to face the valley on your right.
Camp at Denora for the day. Avoid crossing the streams to Kalapari. In the evenings, the streams are fuller and laden with more glacier fed water.
Sumdo/Denora is a dreamy campsite. Getting the opportunity to spend time here is a gift that needs to be cherished.
Day 3: Denora to Kalapari
- Altitude: 12,350 ft to 12,850 ft
- Time: 1.5 hours, 3 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. The trail gradually ascends and will require you to cross icy, cold streams at multiple places.
- Water sources: You can refill your water bottles at the several streams that you cross.
Start the day by taking off your shoes. Multiple streams need to be crossed to get to the other end of the basin. The direction to the take is the valley to the left, sticking to the right of the Nala that rushes down the valley.
A good landmark is the Bakarval settlements at the bottom of the valley. The trail climbs to the right of the settlement. Crossing the frigid water of the streams take time. Though waters are not very deep, they are icy. After every crossing, you need to give yourself a few minutes to get sensation back in your feet. It takes about a half an hour to cross the basin.
On the other side, take the trail that leads to the Bakarval huts. Climb the mound to the right and behind their huts. Five minutes later, the climb flattens out to a large grassy meadows. Looking back, the entire basin of Denora and Sumdo come into view. The panorama is so wide that it takes a complete swivel of the head to capture the entire scenery. The trail from the meadow climbs uppish to get to another flower decked clearing. If you are in season (July/Aug/Sep), the slopes on your right are carpeted with wild pink flowers.
Half hour later, the trail climbs out of the mound to reveal the first views of Kalapari meadows. Lovely clear brooks run through meadows making it an ideal place to camp.
Behind again, is the junction of two valleys. Large glaciers dominate the junction of the valley to the right. Ice walls hang almost to the bottom of the mountain. The setting is mammoth and large scale. Waterfalls are on the other side of the river that falls down thousands of feet make the setting complete.
Treat Kalapari as a short rest day, an advanced camp for the pass crossing next day. The pass is on the valley to the right above the gravelly mound and not visible from Kalapari.
Day 4: Kalapari to Kaintal via Lomvilad Gully
- Altitude: 12,850 ft to 11,500 feet via 14,450 ft
- Time taken: 11 hours, 20-21 km
- Trek gradient: Difficult. Initial descent on a snow patch followed by 2 glacier walks for a couple of hours lead to a steep ascent to the pass. A gently sloping, snowy 30 minutes walk brings you to a sharp descent and a series of switch backs followed by a 1 km walk on the Kaintal glacier. Trek through rocky moraines for over 3 hours before finally reaching a regular path that lead you to the campsite in the Kaintal meadows.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water. You will find streams along the trail to refill your water bottles.
In what is going to be the longest day of your trek, it is imperative you start early. A 7 am start is ideal.
Though there are sections of snow on the day’s trek, no special equipment is required. The snow crossings are not difficult to manage. Follow the trail that heads out of of Kalapari to the moraines up ahead. The trail snakes through moraines and is clearly visible.
Half hour later, the trail tops the moraines at a large rock, below which a good volume clear stream flows. The views from the rock of the Kalapari meadows, the Kalapari summit and the glacier in front is superb. Look behind the rock at the towering glacier topped mountains that overlooks the setting as well.
The trail from the rocks evens out. Ten minutes later, look for the first surprise of the day. A large green lake, dotted with chunks of snow and ice comes into view. In front, to the right, large blackish glacier feeds the lake. Ahead of the towering ice walls of Kalapari peak almost meets the lake from the summit.
The trail starts around the lake, getting to a large snow patch. Descend down the snow patch to the blackish glacier below. The glacier is hard ice with enough debris as it gives you firm footing.
The glacier is long, about a kilometre wide. Continue walking until you get to its other edge, half hour later. Towards its end, start around some crevasses to climb moraines on your right.
The trail through the moraines heads towards the open end of the valley. Again, about forty minutes later, get on to another icy glacier, this time, descending from the mountain face on your right. Walking on the moraines gets you directly below the Kalapari peak.
Cross the glacier, veering slightly to the right, to see the trail climb to a narrow opening in the valley leading to the pass. Climb the small section of a snow patch and get on to the ridge that takes you to the pass.
The moment you get on the ridge, the view all around changes. You get commanding view of streams that run down to your left, lakes that form below. On your right are the flanks of Kalapari. The ridge climbs quickly. In about 20 minutes, it tops the pass. The pass is marked by cairns and stones painted in red in Urdu.. The pass is at 14, 450 feet. The view on the other side of the pass is spectacular.
Large snow fields lead out from the pass. They are gently sloping at easy to walk on. Get on to the snow field in front, keeping a general direction towards the valley opening towards your right. It takes about half hour to get there.
On your right a large lake, almost frozen, is in your view until you get close to the opening of the valley. At the opening to the valley, you get your first view of what lies in store on the other side.
Thousands of feet below is a greyish moraine filled glacier. On opposite mountains are greenish grasslands, though sparse and mostly snow laden. Stick to the left flank of the valley and begin your descent. The descent is easy and sometimes over snow.
Within half hour you get to ledge with an astounding view. To your right are huge mountain flanks. Out of the flanks emerges a wide glacier that tumbles to the bottom is a greyish, crevasse filled mass. It is a sight that most trekkers have never seen.
From the ledge the trail descends steeply to the glacier is a series of switches back in fifteen minutes. Stepping on to the icy glacier, avoid the crevasse in front by starting around it to the left. This is the magnificent Kaintal glacier.
Descend on the almost flat glacier, keeping a line around the centre of the glacier. The glacier is a rock hard ice with hundreds of channels of rivulets running over it. Moraines on the surface make it easy to walk on.
Continue walking on the glacier for a kilometre or so downstream until the icy surfaces gives way to the bouldery moraines. Deviate to the left flank of the moraines and continue to descend through the rock. At this stage, you will be able to see the Kaintal valley below.
The valley initially is a rocky basin followed by grasslands. It is the grasslands that is your camping ground target of the day. The descent through the rocky moraines is hard on legs and knees. The trail is barely perceptible. Keep a general downward direction and you are likely to bump into the barely visible trail now and then.
It takes over two hours to descend through the moraines to get to the edge of the glacier and a faint upper grassy area. It is another hour of descent through very rough moraines before you get to the basin of the river that emerges from the bottom of the glacier.
The trail is still not easy as you need to cover more moraines and boulders. It is easily another hour before you get to your ground target of flat grassy meadows of the initial Kaintal grasslands. The grasslands come in large patches. The trail is now more regular. Continue walking on the trail keeping the river always to your right.
It has been one of the largest and hard days of trekking. The Kaintal meadows is a just reward for the day’s trek. The beauty of the meadows is worth the price of the long descent through the moraines.
Day 5: Kaintal to Humpet
- Altitude: 11,500 ft to 10,900 ft
- Time taken: 6 hours, 19 km
- Trek gradient: Difficult. Walk in the meadows with several gradual ascends and descents on grassy mounds interspersed along the trail.
- Water sources: You can refill your water bottles at several streams that you will cross today.
Nineteen kilometres can look really long for an average trekker. However, on the Warwan valley trek, such distances are the norm. The walks after the pass crossing are level. Covering such distances don’t take long.
From Kaintal, take the trail that hugs the side of the river. Walk past a few Gujjar huts on your left. Within minutes, you’ll get a clear stream to hop over. There are plenty of such streams along the trek to Humpet. There really isn’t an necessity to fill water at the camps.
Beyond the stream, the trail opens up to a wide river basin. Setting down to the basin is a wide, lush, green meadows that is fairly long. Approximately 2 kms long, it takes about a half hour to cover the distance end to end (You’ll of course stop now and then just to take in the beauty)
The grassland is filled with horses grazing in the wild – a sight that is a treat for the eyes. Beyond the grassland, a small stream needs to be hopped over. Right after the stream, get on to the trail that climbs the grassy hump in front.
The view from the top of the hump is spectacular. The trail to Humpet is always an alternative between a wide river basin, usually meadowy, or the trail climbs to grass hump. If the hump looks too high, take the trail that skirts around the hump on the edge of the river.
Two hours later, approximately 6 kms, the trail again drags down to another lovely grassy river basin. This one is especially marked by square rocks that lie on its grassy surface. Almost every large boulder is chiselled like a square. This is the square rocks meadows- a good spot for a short break.
Climbing another hump brings you to a set of Gujjar huts on top. On the other side of the mountain, look for the pass opening of the Bobban Galli trail. This is the alternate, direct trail from Sumdo. The route is shorter but more strenuous. Horses, too, cant take this trail.
Getting down from the hump brings you to the large Sar grasslands. Sar is usually the grassland where you camp if you’ve descended down the Bobban Galli route.
Sidenote: there are 7-8 streams to cross, usually at the end of every grassland. Most of these streams are easy to hop over. Two of these streams, however, require you to take off your shoes and wade across. The water though, is never more than knee deep, usually lower.
Continue on the Sar grassland as the trail takes a wide curve to the right in a northerly direction. The Kaintal glacier finally goes out of view. After the long Sar grassland, the basins become shorter and more gravelly. Towards the north intersection of two valley’s in the distance gets into view. Humpet is at bottom of the intersection on the left. It takes another two hours of crossing three other basins and skirting around edge of humps to finally round the last edge to get to Humpet.
The view changes totally at Humpet. On the opposite bank of the river is Thangkam, a small Gujjar/bakarval settlement. The trail takes a sharp curve to again face west. In the east are the snow capped barren mountains of Ladakh. On the west are the lush green snow capped mountains of Kashmir.
Humpet is a many layered grassland. Climb one of the ledges where there is also a clear stream flowing down. Camp on the ledge to get a commanding view of Thangkam, the wide Kaintal river basin and the lovely grasslands of Humpet.
Day 6:Humpet to Sukhnai
- Altitude: 10,900 ft to Sukhnai 9,200 ft
- Time taken: 7-8 hours, 19 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. Initial climb followed by continuous descent for about 3.5 hours. This is followed by an undulating trail which culminates in another descent for a couple of hours.
- Water sources: You will find plenty of streams along the trail to refill your water bottles.
The day’s trek is dramatically different from the day earlier. From the Humpet, the trek descends down two valleys to the meticulous grasslands of Sukhnai. And the supremely beautiful village of Sukhnai.
Take the trail that heads out of Humpet towards the end of the valley in a westerly direction. The trail initially climbs the mounds behind Humpet, before topping at a ridge from where you have clear views of Gujjar huts on your left and the valley below. It is a narrow valley with the Kaintal Nala rushing down in gorges at the very bottom. Silver birch trees come in view. Get down as the trail to first treeline of silver birch trees. The trail rounds a curve to hang precariously over a very steep edge of the valley that heads to the bottom directly. There are multiple trails. Take the topmost trail, which is relatively safer and with confident steps, skirt the tricky zone, which is not long. Continue to descend until you get to a small waterfall on your left. This is a good spot to fill water. The descent down the valley is rapid and quick. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the end of the valley. Coniferous trees hang overhead.
At the junction of the valley, a clearer river from the valley on the right joins the Kaintal Nala to form a bigger river. The rivers now joined together heads south, down the valley on your left. There is small clearing at the end of the valley. Once army outposts used to exist here, now it is an overgrown clearing. The clearing is called Police kotha. Look up to the other side of the valley to spot the trail that leads to Sheshnag and to the Amarnath yatra.
At this junction, you have entered the true Warwan valley and Kashmir. Also, for the first time, the trail gets into a North-south direction (all the way to Inshan), the true direction of Warwan valley. Continue on the trail as it begins its descent down the valley. The valley is still very narrow, with only occasional small clearings. For most times, the trail hugs the edge of the valley overlooking the river. Once or twice, for brief moments, the trail hangs directly over small landslides that leads to the river. Looking down can seem a risky proposition. But with confident steps, these sections can be cleared easily.
There are plenty of streams to hop over on the descent so water is never really a problem. Two hours on the descent, spot the wooden bridge over the river that crosses over to the Sheshnag trail. The clearing before the bridge is a good spot to take a brief rest before continuing on the trek. Cross the bridge and turn left heading downstream. You are still on a southerly direction but now on the true right of the river. The trail is more distinguished and broader, as indication that it is more frequently used.
Within ten minutes of the bridge, the trail runs into a larger stream that needs to be crossed. If the water is high, you’ll perhaps need to take off your boots to cross over. The trail rises and falls after the stream. In about half an hour, the trail again gets into a zone of overhangs that leads directly into the river. As earlier, confident steps should see you through the tricky patch in ten minutes. Beyond the overhangs, you get the first views of the mound of Sukhnai in the distance. It is a lovely view of pristine grasslands that is now a mound in the centre of the valley. It is still a long distance away but serves as a useful beacon. In another half hour, the trail drops down to the river suddenly. At the bottom is a small grassy clearing right beside the river. Stop at the clearing for lunch- which almost looks like an ideal picnic spot.
After lunch, continue to descend towards the mound of Sukhnai. The trail now opens up to a wider valley with lovely grasslands to view on the other side. Along the way, spot the streams that tumble down the grasslands, besides coniferous trees and Gujjar huts making the setting too perfect even for pictures. It takes another two hours to finally get to the mound of Sukhnai. The grassy mound is extremely pretty with horses grazing peacefully on it.
The trail veers to the right of the mound, sticking to the bottom and finally emerging at the farmlands of Sukhnai ten minutes later.
This part of the trek is startlingly beautiful, with fences on the border of the trail, with neat farmlands below. Flowers grow abundantly on either side of the trail. The trail climbs a small mound to reveal first houses of pretty Sukhnai a distance away. Below on your right, look for the bridge that crosses the river to lead to settlements on the other side. The setting is extremely beautiful.
Continue on the trail that leads to an old stone hut directly above Sukhnai village. It takes another half hour to get the hut. Topping the hut, reveals for the first time the entire village of Sukhnai below you. It is startling to see a closely packed village settled in such a picturesque setting- almost like the Gaul village of Asterix.
Getting down to Sukhnai, there are many bylanes that takes you deep inside the village. Avoid getting into them. Take the uppermost trail of Sukhnai and climb out of the village, past some houses and shops, to the stream that borders Sukhnai on its southern edge.
Look for a camping ground upstream. There are plenty of spaces to camp.
If you need more privacy, head further down the trail to Inshan trail, crossing the stream over a wooden bridge. You can camp anywhere as the grasslands on your right, but look for a running stream for your water source.
Stay close to Sukhnai- you can replenish supplies, buy tit bits or even chat with locals. There is also a phone booth in Sukhnai where you can make calls. The army also has an outpost at Sukhnai. In an emergency, you can seek the Army’s help. The army is helpful and love interacting with trekkers. The vast pastures of Sukhnai is almost dreamlike. The rest of the every must be spent in just loitering about and clicking photographs.
Day 7: Sukhnai to Chaudraiman
- Altitude: 9,200 ft to 8,300 ft
- Time taken: 6-7 hours, 16 km
- Trek gradient: Moderate. The trail gently descends and ascends throughout the day.
- Water sources: You will pass several streams and villages where you can refill your water bottles.
The trail beyond Sukhnai gets extremely picturesque. You are in a valley, with vast tracks of grasslands, farms and pastures on either side.The Marwah rivers slices the valley on the left as it meanders its way towards the Chenab.
The valley is populated by villages every 5-6 kms. The villages themselves are extremely pretty, almost from another era. The trail is now more frequented with villagers moving from one village to another. Step onto the trail as early in the morning as possible. If you have camped near Sukhnai, there are two streams to cross one after the other. On one of them, if the streams is water laden, you’ll perhaps need to take off your shoes.
Walk on the trail taking in the pastures on the way. In the distance on the other side of the river is the pretty village of Rakanwas.
Keep to the right of the river until you get to a wooden bridge over the Marwah river is about an hour. On the other side of the bridge is the Rakanwas village, perched on top of a hillside.
Across a fallen top on the other side of the bridge is a shorter trail to Rakanwas. Take the trail and cut through the farms around Rakanwas to get to the village in another ten minutes. Rakanwas is interesting as it is pretty. The moment you step foot into the village, the sweet smell of pines, of the wooden houses of Rakanwas gets to you. The villagers are curious. May come out of their homes to see an ‘outsider’. Spend ten minutes chatting with them and continue on your way. From the centre of the village, take the upper trail out of the village to get on to the main trail towards Inshan.
From Rakanwas, the trail enters another good section of the trek. The ferns and pastures open up in grand colours all around. Vast tracks of land on either side, unblemished as far as the eye can see stare in the front. The trail gently descends. Ten minutes outside Rakanwas, two barn houses close to Gumbar village come in view. A small patch of coniferous trees lie beyond the houses. From your spot on the trail, the setting is as perfect as it can be.
Keep to the trail as it get closer to the barn houses. Villagers on horses are common, almost like how people use scooters in the cities. After a while, it isn’t surprising to find horsemen galloping towards a village raising a cloud of dust behind them! What is an incredulous scene from a movie looks a part of the setting on the trek.
Getting closer to the barns, gets you to another barn house on your right. Soon after the barn, the trail splits. Take the trail to the right, avoiding the trail to the left that heads towards Gumbar.
Looking back on the trail at the pretty barn house will remind everyone of a fairytale countryside that one has imagined but never been.
The trail climbs a small mound before descending towards Margi, a village still some distance away. On your left, spot roots of some houses of Gumbar village.
Continue on your trail for the next half hour until you get to a barn made of reddish wood. The trail curves around the barn, gets to its end, and turns right again, along a stone wall that gets to a wooden bridge over a stream. The setting around the stream is very picturesque, though the water is not too good for drinking. You are just outside Margi village. Cross the wooden bridge, continue on the trail for two-three minutes until you get to another stream. The water is clear and safe for drinking.
Across the stream, the trail bifurcates. The trail ahead gets into Margi village. On your right, at a right angle is the trail towards a wooden bridge over the Marwah river. Don’t take the trail to Margi, but cross over the Marwah river turn left and in short climbing burst, get on the main trail directly opposite Margi on the other side of the river.
Continue on the trail with Marwah on your left and Margi slowly getting out of the view on your left. The trail takes a wide curve towards the right getting into view of the village of Basmina for the first time.
Basmina is much further away. Again, vast lands of unbroken green pastures line the heart of the Warwan valley. Rolling hills with carpeted grasslands rise from either end of the valley. Pines dot the hills as its upper fingers, Every fold of the mountain has a shiny, glistening stream running down to meet the ever growing Marwah.
It takes close to an hour to get to Basmina village. A clear stream fences the village are on one side. Cross the wooden bridge to enter the village. Basmina is a much bigger village with shops, people and lot more houses. Run offs from the stream channels through the village, as they supply water to the houses. The villagers, ever curious, will stop you to ask you questions about your trek.
Continue on the trail through the village as it leads out of the village in ten minutes. Outside the village, the Marwah moves away from the trail towards far left of the valley. The trail on the other hand, takes a path that is sometimes on the centre and at times to the right of the valley. The trail continues along pretty farms with their picket fences on either side. The setting is extremely pretty.
The trail is wide enough for a four-wheeler with multiple walking lanes. It is another 6kms of Chaudraiman- which takes about an hour and half for most trekkers.
The river fans out in the plains near Inshan pc: Pradeep Kumbashi
A lovely grassy hump on the right suddenly climbs as you get closer to Chaudraiman. On the other side, the marwah suddenly spreads out in a wide basin, spewing out distributaries. It is extremely grassy with horses and cattles grazing in the mini meadows that are formed in the basin. Lovely pine trees with shady banks overlook the basin as it threads its way through.
No matter how much your heart wishes to camp, you are forced to move onto Chaudraiman. The full Chaudraiman village gets into view another fifteen minutes.
A medical dispensary, few government houses signal the start of the village. Continue on the trail and head towards a side trail on your left that leads to a wooden bridge over a large stream that cuts through the centre of the village. Cross the stream, veer left and get to the taxi stand two minutes later. Chaudraiman is connected by road to Inshan, Larnoo, Anantnag and further onto Srinagar. Shared vehicles are frequent and there isnt any difficulties in getting vehicles that will take you to Larnoo, across the Mangan Pass.
Larnoo is 4 and half hours away and sometimes takes 5 hours to reach. From Larnoo there are instant connections to Anantnag – another 1 and half hours away. From Anantnag, instant connections are available to Srinagar that usually takes about 2 hours to reach. It does not make any sense to book a vehicle for yourself to Srinagar. It turns out to be expensive. Shared vehicles are common and widely used. It is also possible to book all the seats of a shared vehicle, if you have a lots of trekking gears,
A road bridge is getting made at Chaudraiman over the stream. At the current pace of work, it wouldn’t be surprising to find vehicles plying directly to Basmina village by 2016. At Chaudraiman, trekkers have completed 97 kms of trek. It is possible for to trek further to Inshan, another 6 kms away, to complete 100 kms of trekking. You get vehicles at Inshan as well.
The trek from Chaudraiman to Inshan is also pretty as it overhangs the Marwah river. The river below again fans out to a very pretty basin, making it an exquisite sight. Small side villages pop out on the left of the trail making the scenery complete.
However, the logical end of the trek is at Chaudraiman. It makes sense to take a vehicles immediately and getting to Srinagar by late evening night, saving a day and bring to an end to a trek that will remain one of the most wonderful moment of your life.
Day 8: Buffer Day
Day 9: Depart from Srinagar
How to get fit for Warwan Valley trek
Warwan Valley has been graded as a difficult trek. On most days, you are covering 20 kms in high altitude. Trekking for 20 kms each day with a backpack on can tire out even the most hardy trekkers. This trek demands you to be in your top physical condition.
Cardiovascular endurance – Target 10 km in 60 minutes
On the Warwan Valley trek, you are trekking an average of 20 kms each day in a terrain that is not too friendly. To prepare your body, begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 10 kms in 60 minutes. It takes time to cover this distance in a given time- so start slow, and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.
Strength – Target 4 sets of squats with 20 in each set
This is an important area you need to work on. At the end of this trek, you would have completed a 100 kms in 6 trekking days. For a trek like this, you must strengthen your core muscles.
Flexibility determines the amount of movement your bones can make in any direction around joints such as shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.
It is an aspect that will help you trek comfortably. Stretching your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors and lower back muscles regularly, promotes relaxation in the tissues reducing the strain on your back. On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, for a 100 kms trek can become a strain. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.
Here’s a guide to help you get fit for the trek in 4 weeks.
Also consider HIIT training regime for a trek like this one.
What to take on Warwan Valley trek
- Trekking shoes: The Warwan valley trail with it’s loose mud, moraines and trekking on overhangs requires you to have a shoe with good sole grip and high ankle support for steep climbs. Forclaz 600 from Decathlon would be a good choice. You can watch this video to help you choose the right trekking shoe.
- Backpack (40- 60 litres): Backpack with sturdy straps and supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
- Three warm layers: While the days in deserts of Suru Valley near Zanskar would be warm, the nights will be extremely cold. Carry two sweaters and one padded jacket.
- Three trek pants: Three pairs of pants should suffice for this trek. Denim/jeans and shorts are not suitable for trekking.
- Three collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sunburns on the neck and arms.
- Thermals: Carry thermals for use at night.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness.
- Suncap: The sun is more harsh in high altitude deserts and will zap your energy. So carry a suncap to protect yourself.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks.
- Toiletries: Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitiser. Do not carry wet wipes since these are not biodegradable. If you do happen to use wet wipes to clean up after a trek, make sure you bring them back with you. The same holds for used sanitary napkins. Carry a zip lock bag to put used wet tissues and napkins. Bring this ziplock bag back with you to the city and do not dispose wet tissues and sanitary napkins in the mountains.
- Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
- Two water bottles: 1 litre each
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
- Dexamethasone – one strip
- Nifedipine – 5 tablets
- Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
- Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
- Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
- Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
- Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
- Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
- Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
- Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
- Gauze – 1 small roll
- Band aid – 10 strips
- Cotton – 1 small roll
- ORS – 10 packets
- Betadine or any antiseptic cream
- Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
- Knee cap, if you are prone to knee injury
- Anti fungal powder
Here’s a guide to help you pack for the trek –
Click on the images to see them full screen
Here are some more photographs by Pradeep Kumbhashi
Trek fee: Rs. 16,500/-*
*GST at 5% is payable on the trek fee
- Accommodation during the trek (camping- 3 per tent)
- All meals – vegetarian
- Trekking permits and forest camping charges
- Trekking equipment (tents, sleeping bags, ice axes, ropes, etc.)
- Safety equipment (first aid, medical kit, oxygen cylinders, stretcher, etc.)
- Services of an expert trek leader (qualified in basic/advanced mountaineering courses)
- Services of an expert trek team (guides, cooks, helpers, porters/mules)
- Transport to and from the base camp (Srinagar to Panikhar and return from Inshaan to Srinagar)
- Food during transit to and from the base camp
- Backpack offloading charges – Rs 1750* plus GST of 5%. Charges for last minute offloading during the trek will be Rs 335 per day plus GST of 5%. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kg. No suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will be allowed.
- Stay at Srinagar on the last day is not included
- Personal expenses of any kind
- Anything apart from the inclusions
Terms & Conditions
1. Cancellation: If a trek is called off at the last moment due to a natural calamity/unforseen circumstances (like rains, earthquake, landslides, strike, bandh etc), Indiahikes will issue a trek voucher for the full amount. The voucher can be redeemed for the same trek or another trek in the next one year.
In case, you wish to cancel your trek, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cancellation requests are not taken over phone.
The cancellation charges are as under:
- Cancellations prior to 30 days from the start of the trek — full refund.
- Cancellation between 30 days and 20 days to the start of the trek — 50% refund.
- Cancellation less than 20 days to the start of the trek — no refund.
Please note: In case of refund, there will be a deduction of 4% (bank charges) from the total fee you have paid. Also, if you have opted for a trek insurance, the amount will not be refunded.
2.The trek fee includes all costs of the trek from the start at Panikhar to the end of the trek at Inshaan.
3. Pick up: Trekkers are picked up from Srinagar TRC (Tourist Reception Centre). Usually, trekkers are clubbed together with other participants to make a group. The group travels together to Panikhar in shared cabs.
4. Transport:Transport from Srinagar to Panikhar and return from Inshaan to Srinagar can be arranged by us at an extra cost. Participants are expected to share the cost of the cab. The amount is to be paid directly to our transporter. No service tax is applicable on transport cost.
Note: Indiahikes only arranges the vehicle pick up and is not responsible for any issues during transport.
5. Backpack offloading: Indiahikes expects all trekkers to carry their own backpacks. All common gear will be carried by the support team. If for some reason a trekker is unable to carry his or her backpack, he/she can offload the same by paying an additional charge.
Backpack offloading charge for the entire trek duration is Rs. 1750/-* plus GST of 5% Partial offloading is not allowed. Charges for last minute offloading during the trek will be Rs 335 per day plus GST of 5%. The backpack cannot weigh more than 9 kgs. No suitcases/strolleys/duffel bags will be allowed.
6. Emergency during trek: In a trek a medical emergency or any other emergency may arise. If for any reason you are sent down from the trek then Indiahikes will make arrangements for your return to the base camp or nearest road head. A staff will accompany you. He may not be a trained personnel.
Evacuation or dealing with emergencies is extremely difficult in the mountains. It is time consuming as well. A normal trek of 2 hours may take 6 hours in an emergency (a sick person is not easy to evacuate). Doctors do not go along with a team. Doctors are not available at the base camp or nearest road head either. Indiahikes trek leaders are trained to administer first aid and know how to deal with issues related to the mountains. However, they are not doctors.
Registering for this trek is an understanding that you have read up on the difficulties of high altitude trekking and understand the risks. You have also understood what AMS, HAPE and HACE are. You have taken efforts to educate yourself and you are in a position to manage your own altitude related emergency
7. Fitness: A high altitude trek in the Himalayas requires considerable fitness. Your body needs to train itself to process more work with lower levels of oxygen. Cardiovascular training before a trek is critically important. Training must include strength and flexibility workout. We have laid out the eligibility criteria here. Registering for the trek is an understanding that you will undertake the mandated fitness training. Indiahikes has the right to reject candidates who do not meet our eligibility requirement at the base camp.
8. Non-liability: Indiahikes is not responsible for any loss/damage of your gears/equipment or other belongings on the trek.
9. Payment: Payment for the trek can be done online through credit/debit card or net banking. Cheque/draft or cash is not accepted.
10. Drinking and smoking during the trek is strictly prohibited. If found flouting the rules, your participation on the trek will be cancelled with immediate effect.
11. Safety Protocol:
a. While our itineraries are designed to allow for adequate acclimatisation, most treks in Indian Himalayas climb quickly, which is called forced accents. Unavailability of camp sites and the Indian Himalayan terrain are the reason for this. There are chances that you will feel the effects of altitude sickness and oxygen deprivation while on this trek. Please be aware that your trek leader may deem it unsafe for you to continue trekking at any time, and arrange for you to descend to a lower attitude.
b. Our trek leaders will conduct routine health checks at all camps to measure oxygen saturation, pulse and blood pressure. Indiahikes reserves the right to exclude any trekker from climbing higher on the trek without refund if the trekker’s vital readings are below accepted norms for that altitude. These norms are available with Indiahikes trek leaders.
c. This is a high altitude trek with rough, rocky and snowy terrain. It is important that you are a fit and confident walker in mountain terrain, able to manage ascents and descents by yourself within a reasonable time. Indiahikes reserves the right to turn around a trekker if in the opinion of our trek leader they are unable to complete the itinerary without requiring exclusive assistance. Please realistically self-assess your fitness and suitability for this trek before registering.
How safe is Warwan Valley trek?
The Warwan Valley trek is a difficult one. One of the reasons it is a difficult trek is that the you are covering 20 km per day in terrain with loose mud, moraines, overhangs and where the trail is sometimes barely perceptible. There are a lot of tricky sections on this trek. Pushing your body in that high an altitude without being acclimatised may be dangerous. There are very high chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness.
If you have registered for this trek, then here is some information that you must know in order to have a safe trek. At Indiahikes, we believe that as long as you are well-informed and well-prepared, you can survive easily at high altitudes.
What Indiahikes does to ensure your safety
Our philosophy is simple. We ingrain safety aspects in the people we work with, in the processes that we follow, and in the equipment we carry. All our trek leaders are trained repeatedly on safety issues and protocols. Most issues are resolved with their intervention.
Right from the time you decide to register for the trek till the last day of the trek, these safety procedures will be running in the background. We have listed a few of them below:
1. Fitness criteria before registration
Over years of organising high altitude treks, we have found that safety issues thrive amongst those who are unfit and unprepared for the trek. So we have introduced an eligibility criteria for the Warwan Valley trek. Anyone who wants to register for the Warwan Valley trek has to meet the fitness requirements, with the ideal BMI. The BMI and fitness regime will require proof. A high altitude trek is not to be taken casually.
2. Monitoring health on a trek
On the Warwan Valley trek, your Trek Leader will be monitoring two aspects thrice a day.
- Oxygen Level
- Pulse Rate
Your Blood Pressure levels will be checked once a day.
This will help us ensure that your body is acclimatising as required.
Every trekker will be given a Health Card at the beginning of the trek. The Health Card is issued to monitor the trekker’s daily health, wherein they will be entering details about their health everyday. It also contains details of what symptoms one should look out for and what action should be taken during emergencies. These Health Cards will be collected back at the end of the trek.
3. High Altitude Medical Kit
Your trek leader will be carrying a full-fledged high altitude medical kit. This will include basic medicines and specific medicines catering to altitude sickness – Diamox, Dexamethasone (tablets and injections) and Nifedipine. Your Trek Leader will also be carrying a portable oxygen cylinder throughout the trek. In addition to that, there are oxygen cylinders installed at all high altitude campsites for any emergency situations.
4. High Altitude Trek Equipment
Depending on snow/ice condition of Lomvilad Gully, trekkers are provided micro-spikes for better traction on snow. Trekkers are also provided with gaiters such that no snow enters their shoes. You will have qualified technical guides with you, who will lead the way on difficult terrain.
All our sleeping bags and tents are custom-made for high altitude. If it is cold outside, it will be around 10 degrees warmer inside the tent. The sleeping bags can withstand temperatures up to -10 degree Celsius.
5. Being hydrated and well nourished on the trek
You need to drink a minimum of 4 litres of water every day during the trek to ensure that you’re well hydrated. De-hydration on a trek can make you lose energy very quickly and intensify the effects of AMS. Your trek leader will brief you about the amount of water that you need to carry with you at the start of each day as well as water sources on the trail.
We provide trekkers with nutritious meals to ensure that they are energized to complete the trail each day. Apart from this, snacks or packed lunch is provided wherever the trail before a meal break is likely to be long. Make sure that you do not skip any meal as this can lead to serious health emergencies on high altitudes.
With all these processes and equipment in place, you can be rest assured that you will have a safe trek with Indiahikes.
Nevertheless, you will need to be cautious and report the slightest of symptoms to your trek leader as soon as you feel them.
What you compulsorily need to know if you’re going on the Warwan Valley trek
Acute Mountain Sickness:
At altitudes above 10,000 ft, the chances of being hit by Acute Mountain Sickness cannot be ruled out.
All the campsites on the Warwan Valley trek are at considerably high altitudes and you walk long distances every day. Trekkers can develop symptoms of altitude sickness at any of the campsites.
At any campsite, inform your trek leader about your condition immediately if you identify any symptom of AMS. If the symptoms don’t alleviate it is best to head down to a lower campsite.
This risk can be avoided by going on a course of Diamox. Even while on Diamox, the risk of AMS still prevails. While AMS can be treated with rest and medicines for the most part, the symptoms must be recognised before it can go to advanced stages – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
HAPE and HACE are critical conditions that can be fatal within hours.And they can occur without AMS preceding them. So it’s doubly important to recognise any symptoms and nip them in the bud.
Take this specific precaution – Go on a preventive course of Diamox
We strongly advise you to go on a preventive course of Diamox. Diamox is a blood thinner and helps you acclimatise much faster and reduces the chance of AMS by around 80%. Take half a tablet twice a day from one day before your trek.
What to do if you have symptoms of AMS?
If you feel any symptoms of AMS on the trek, you must report to the Trek Leader immediately. Do not wait till the end of the day’s trek. Do not try to handle it yourself either. Our Trek Leaders are well-trained and experienced to handle any cases and they will be the decision makers in any such cases.
Watch the below video to understand the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness. In this video, Arjun Majumdar, the founder of Indiahikes will also tell you the protocol to follow when you see someone showing symptoms of AMS.
Exit points on the Warwan Valley trek
There are no easy exit points from this trek. After crossing Lomvilad Gully on Day 4, you are committed to completing this trek – because you are trekking through very inaccessible region. This is part of the charm of trekking in Warwan Valley and also its danger. It is highly imperative you are prepared for this trek.
Most situations are resolved by the trek leader’s intervention. If, however, evacuation is required, it is carried out by the Indiahikes team. The affected participant is moved down to the nearest emergency medical centre as soon as possible. However, evacuation, especially after crossing Lomvilad Gully, will take days. In Warwan Valley, you can only be turned around from Kalapari or Denora via Pankihar. It is important you understand these risks before coming on this trek. Medical expenses, if required, at the medical centre are to be borne by the participant.
In case of a medical emergency, Kargil has a district medical centre, which can be accessed from the Panikhar side. On the Chaudraiman side, Anantnag has the closest hospital, and Larnoo has a medical centre. Smaller centres are present at Chaudraiman, Inshan and Bismai, but these can provide only very basic treatment. It could take over a day to get to any of these places, depending on which point in the trek you are.
Why you should personally know about the risks and precautions of high altitude treks
If ever you find yourself alone at high altitude, either while trekking independently or with another organisation, there are some life -saving steps you can take. Firstly, you should be able to recognise symptoms of altitude sickness. So acquaint yourself with the symptoms.
Secondly, there might be instances when you have to administer medicines to yourself or to a fellow trekker. There are three life-saving medicines that we suggest you always carry on you – Diamox, Dexamethasone and Nifedipine.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, do not administer these to anyone without consulting your Trek Leader. If you are trekking independently then you need to know when exactly to administer these medicines and in what dosage.
Also ensure that you are well hydrated throughout the trek and do not skip any meal.
You can watch the video below to learn about HAPE and HACE and how to tackle them. In the video, Sandhya UC, partner at Indiahikes, explains in detail about High Altitude Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema, what the symptoms are and how to tackle them.
We cannot stress enough on how important it is for you to communicate any symptom to your Trek Leader. Only then your trek leader will be able to take steps at the right time.
Acute Mountain Sickness
If you’re of the opinion that fit people don’t get AMS, please get rid of that notion right away. AMS can affect anyone without paying heed to their fitness and prior experience at high altitude! Altitude sickness does not distinguish between a first timer and an experienced trekker.
For more detailed information about Acute Mountain Sickness, you can download and study the manual below.
How to get to base camp- Panikhar
Srinagar → Kargil → Panikhar
The Warwan Valley trek starts from Panikhar. Panikhar is small oasis in lower Suru Valley, 67 km south of Kargil. We’ll be picking you up in a Sumo/Tavera cab from Srinagar. The pick up with be organised at 6 am on Day 1 from Sheikh Tours, Sathu Barbara Shah Chowk (near flour mill), Srinagar. It costs Rs 12,000 which is to be shared by 5-6 trekkers. Kargil is 6-7 hours from Srinagar and Panikher is 2 and half hours from Kargil. Here is the location of the pick-up point.
If you are trekking independently, you can take a shared taxi from Srinagar. Leave Srinagar early as the last shared taxis for Panikher leave Kargil taxi stand by 1:30-2:00 pm.
Chaudraiman → Larnoo → Anantnag→ Srinagar
We’ll be arranging transport from Chaudraiman. You will be changing vehicles at Larnoo and then again, at Anantnag (The cost of vehicle comes down considerably if you change vehicle than arranging one vehicle from Srinagar to do the entire circuit). The travel from Chaudraiman to Srinagar will take 8-9 hours.
You are expected to reach Srinagar on the last day by 8-9 pm. Book your flights for next day if you are planning to leave right after trek.
Here’s what trekkers have to say about trekking with Indiahikes!
“Indiahikes offers the best of all I have seen in other groups! I must admit it that for the first time in my life I did something which took me out of my comfort zone. Not only this trek helped me to learn a lot of things but also helped me to inculcate discipline in my life.” – Abhishek Jain, batch of May 2016
“The trek was really awesome. I personally learnt a lot from the trek. Indiahikes provided us with good services, even at the time of emergencies. Also, the entire team is a group of concerned nature lovers!” –Aishwarya. batch of May 2016
“Indiahikes is by far the most organized and caring trek company I know, if safety is the point then Indiahikes is the best, also you have routes throughout the country.”- Paramahamsa Kolagani, batch of May 2016