My 2012 Spring/Summer Travel and Trekking master plan..

By @Saravana |
Trek.. Trek.. Trek.. I've finally decided what my next trip is going to be all about. Initially i wanted take my cycle along and do a mix of bicycle touring and trekking, but the more i researched on the routes i wanted to take the more i realized that i can do most of my trip on foot crossing over the mountain ranges on foot instead of cycling around them.

I plan on starting from the Gharwal region in Uttarakhand and end up in the Rupshu region of Ladakh traversing the Kinnaur and Spiti valleys. All these regions are connected by a series of high altitude passes which were traditionally used by the locals to get across the valleys. With the right timing and a bit of luck i should be able to safely trek across them all with reasonable weather conditions to help me along.

The weather is the key though. In May many of the passes would have a lot of ice and snow, making things difficult (lost trials, hidden crevasses etc). The passes should clear up by June, but come July the monsoon rains would start and the swollen rivers and streams might be impassable and there is always the danger of flash floods looming. Late September and October would be the best time for trekking but i have made prior arrangements elsewhere (a Basic Mountaineering Course at Darjeeling/Sikkim). So it is a fine line picking and choosing the treks in the right order but after a few days of pouring over trekking guides and online blogs, i think that i've come up with a rough route which would get me safely from Gharwal to Ladakh, fingers crossed.

I intend on doing these treks Alpine style. That means trudging along carrying a pack weighing anywhere between 25-30kgs (depending on how much food i'am carrying), ideally with no porters and no guides. It will be tough going at first, i'am sure, but in time i should get stronger and so would my basic high altitude trekking and camping skills. 

May : Uttarakhand, trekking in the Lower Himalaya

Late Apr/May is going to be my month of learning and acclimatization. I'll be spending the month in the lower Himalayan region of Uttarakhand, doing some acclimatization treks in the Lower Himalayas.

The main objective for this period, in addition to exploring this beautiful Dev Bhoomi, is for me to gain necessary strength and fitness to trek with a heavy backpack. I plan on doing most of the treks in the Apline style, carrying everything required to survive in the Himalayan wilderness for anywhere between 5 to 10 days. Plus there is always my laptop and camera gear (~5kg) which i have to lug around with me everywhere. This season i want to try my hand at, panoramas, night photography in the mountains and also at creating time-lapse videos of the places i go to. All of with require a sturdy tripod, panoramic ballhead and other gear which all add to the heft and bulk.

My plan is to start off with the simple and easy hikes at lower altitudes and slowly moving on to longer and progressively more difficult treks at higher altitudes. 

My final trek in Uttarakhand would be the Rupin pass trek which would take me across the Dhauladhar range, from the Gharwal region of Uttarakhand to the Kinnaur region of Himachal Pradesh. From all accounts it is a spectacular trek which involves crossing numerous snow bridges and climbing a 3-tired water fall. Finally the access to the 4800m pass is though vast snow field followed by a short steep climb to a rocky gully at the end of which is the pass.

June : Kinnaur Valley.

The first week of June should see me (hopefully) descending the Rupin pass towards the beautiful Sangla village in Kinnaur valley. The Kinnaur valley is dotted with many such charming villages and i plan on visiting most of them scouting for a perfect location for my plans to stay long term (few months a year) in the Himalayas.

A picturesque setting, 3G internet/Broadband access, good road connectivity to explore other parts of the Himalayas are all that i'am looking for. Himachal Pradesh (as opposed to Uttarakhand which is considerably less developed) should provide many such locations. And i hope that its going to be a case of picking and choosing the right place based on my whims and fancies.

One trek i'am really looking forward to doing this period is the pilgrimage route around the Kinner Kailash Massif a.ka the Kinner Kailash Parikrama. It looks to be a very impressive trek with stunning views of the Kinner Kailash massif. I'll be doing this trek slowly, visiting villages like Charang, Kunnu and Chitkul on the way. I've timed it for mid-June. Hopefully by then most of the ice and snow would've melted in the Charang La (5280m) pass and the worst of the monsoon rains would still be a few weeks away.

Finally my exit from the Kinnaur valley would be through the Bhapa (4800m) pass which should take me across to the Spiti Valley. This would be another tricky trek with its numerous water crossings, not so obvious trail and the final long steep scramble up a scree slope the 4800m Bhapa pass. I'll plan to do this trek in the last week of June hoping that the monsoons wouldn't have reached the Kinnaur valley by then.

July : Spiti Valley escaping the worst of the Monsoon torrents.

By July the monsoons would be in full flow in the Himalayas and i hope to escape the worst of them by crossing over to the Spiti valley before they start. Ofcourse with the climate change happening, even Spiti is not spared the monsoon rains but the valley should be relatively dry when compared to the lower valleys in the Himalayas.

I plan on exploring most of the Spiti valley by foot. Many of the villages in Spiti are located upon the (orographic) left bank of the river with well defined trails connecting them. It should be a fun way to explore the valley and would give a chance to visit many of the smaller villages which i otherwise might've given a miss.

One issue with the Spiti valley is its sparse 3G internet connectivity. Apart from Kaza and Tabo, i do not know of any other places which have mobile internet connectivity. So i plan on spending a week or so in Kaza catching up on pending work from there. 

Finally i'll be leaving the Spiti valley during the beginning of August. Starting from Kibber, through the Parang La pass to the Tsomoriri lake in Ladakh. This is the one trek i'am most looking forward to doing this year and infact i've planned all my other treks around this one. After the initial tough climb to the 5580m Paranga La pass, the rest of the way should be a gently walk along the Pare Chu river with a final tricky crossing of the Pare Chu river when turning north towards the Tso Morriri lake. 

August : Exploring the Rupshu region of Ladakh in full

The whole of my August and the first week of September would be spent exploring the many grasslands, passes and peaks surrounding the Tsomoriri lake. 

Assuming i safely cross the Pare Chu river, i should arrive at the Tsomoriri lake by the first week of August. It should be the perfect time to visit the region  with greenery all around and wild flowers blooming in the grasslands by the lake. 

Ideally i would've loved to spend a couple of months in the region, but i don't have that luxury as i have to be in Darjeeling by September 15'th to attend the Basic Mountaineering course conducted by HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute). So that leaves me with little over a month to explore the region to my hearts content.

In that time i hope to climb a couple of easy 6000m+ peaks (the 6600m Chamsher Kangri and the another one just north of the Korzok village). If time permits i'd also like to visit the Tso Kar lake and spend a few days there. Finally, i plan on leaving the region by walking along a unnamed valley south-west of Tsomoriri lake which should take me all the way to Pang under the shadow of the spectacular sandblasted cliffs along the Pang river.

Sep - Oct : Basic Mountaineering Course at HMI Darjeeling.

Starting September 15'th i'll be taking part in the 1 month Basic Mountaineering Course at HMI (Himalayan Mountaineering Institute) in Darjeeling. The camp would be located under the spectacular south face of Kanchendzonga, one of my favorite trekking destinations in India.

Completing the basic course should make me eligible to take part in the advanced course which would open a whole new world of high-altitude mountaineering for me. So i'am really psyched and looking forward to attending the course.

I plan to return home by the end of November, so that leaves me about a month and a half of travel after completing the mountaineering course. But i've not yet decided where to go during this time.

I do not want to linger in Sikkim as most of its beautiful regions are out of bounds to independent travelers. That leaves me either Nepal (maybe the Annapurna region) or the now familiar Uttarkhand and Himachal pradesh to take advantage of the perfect trekking weather. There's also the chance that by then i would've become sick of the mountains (too much of anything is never a good thing) might just hop on a plane to South East Asia. Only time will tell.
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