“O dear Himalaya…why are you so amazing, can I kiss your peak or can I just let your silence speak…O dear Himalaya…”
I had just reached the campsite for Har-Ki-Dun, while the others in the group were still slowly climbing the last stretch, oblivious of how beautiful the Har-Ki-Dun campsite was. I had motivated them, or they would like to think “pestered” to walk 16 km today from Sema only because there wasn’t any reason to camp anywhere else enroute. Of course, they hated me for pushing them beyond their comfort zone, but I knew once they are here, the beauty of the place would take away most of the tiredness of the climb.
The sun kissed peak and the Glacial river set the scene and in that moment of awe which comes with reverence for these heavenly mountains, I sat there thoughtless, finally finding comfort in the motherly love of the Himalaya.
I’d been to Har-Ki-Dun earlier and had crossed over from the Yamunotri Valley. Hiking via Saru Tal, I’d wandered without water for 30 hours. The bugyals (Meadows) are a funny place in this part of the world! Sometimes in the winters the water sources freeze, Making it tough to find water. Water a word almost synonymous with the word Himalaya (the abode of snow). My advice when hiking on offbeat routes, always go with a local guide or group.
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” -Frank Herbert
Har Ki Dun which translates into English as the Valley of God is one of the most beautiful hikes one can take in Uttarakhand. Situated in the Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand border, Har-Ki-Dun lies completely within the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park. Named after Freedom Fighter and one of the architects of Modern India — Govind Ballabh Pant from the Smoky Hills of Almora, Uttarakhand.
I had a few friends join me for the trek. Something, they wanted to try out as an experience. I appreciated their inclination to come for a hike, explore the outdoors than spend another holiday to Goa or Bali. Of course those are experiences as well, but it’s not comparable to hiking. Hiking certainly unlocks new dimensions, the effort involved in reaching these amazing hiking destinations is a spiritual awakening in itself.
“ The mark of a successful man is one who has spent an entire day on the banks of a river without feeling guilty about it” -Chinese Proverb
Supin River originates in the various glaciers at Har-Ki-Dun in the Bandarpunch Range. Flowing right beside the Har-Ki-Dun campsite is one of the many tributary streams of Supin, which is one of the main reasons for the heavenly visuals at Har-Ki-Dun campsite.
Few know, that Supin is one of the major tributaries of the reverential Yamuna. The larger Supin meets River Rupin at Mori forming the Tons River. Tons, the largest tributary of Yamuna discharges more water than the Yamuna itself, merging into it at Kalsi near Dehradun.
As I sat beside the River lazily not thinking about the world anymore, immersed in the feeling of oneness with the Himalaya, I felt alive and energetic again, and maybe that’s why even the ultra productive Chinese feel that one shouldn’t feel so guilty about spending a lazy day at the river doing nothing 🙂
Walking: the most ancient exercise and still the best modern exercise.”
Traveling in a four-wheeler is one of the most sickening feeling in the mountains. I feel dizzier and motion sick sitting in a vehicle than gaining altitude fairly quickly.
Given a choice, I’d get down and start walking. Walking makes you breathe and breathing makes you feel alive.
To reach Har-Ki-dun the nearest Road-head is the little hamlet of Sankri. It’s a long drive from Dehradun via Mussoorie (the overrated Hill station). The nearest ATM is in Mori/Purola. So it’s advisable to withdraw enough cash at Mori or Purola.
BSNL is the only cellular network which provides some sort of connectivity in this part of the country. The commercial telcos haven’t invested in any infrastructure here. (Another reason why the govt. should still be invested in critical sectors like Telecom, electricity to bring connectivity to the remote villages)
Sankri is a small village but houses two very decent hotels built by some enterprising individuals who have made some good money managing the local trekking scene. Sankri also serves as base camp for another hike to KedarKantha peak, promoted by hiking agencies typically in Winters.
Taluka is the next stop after Sankri, where the trail to Har-Ki-Dun actually starts. Taluka is connected to Sankri by an ill-maintained Jeep Road and takes about an hour and 15 minutes to traverse this distance in a Jeep.
Again, sometimes it’s just so much easy to walk, with random conversations in your head.
You need special shoes for hiking — and a bit of a special soul as well.
Hiking is not just about finding or trying out a new experience. It’s a totally different way of seeing the world. Hiking not only takes you to some of the innermost, remotest, unseen, unimaginable and beautiful parts of the world, but it also teaches one to lead a life of minimalism.
Of course the Trails are treacherous at times with ups and downs, you don’t have the comfort of a mattress when you lay down in your tent but in the end how you embrace it matters! You need some kind of a special soul and thinking to absorb it… Just like Life, When you stay patient and perseverant, during the ups and downs that’s when you reap the rewards. Similarly, with hiking, you not just connect with yourself, know yourself better but also the rewards are the beautiful sights few mortals get to see and experience solely because of the efforts they put in!
Har-Ki-Dun is a moderate trek, but the rewards are great! From Taluka, Har-Ki-Dun is about 27kms which can be done in a day, but it ideally takes 2–3 days for trekking teams to reach Har-Ki-Dun. We decided to do it in a couple of days because we had first-time hikers with us… The First day we were supposed to cover 12kms from Taluka to Sema. And then the next 15kms from Sema to Har-Ki-Dun on Day2
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” -Edward Abbey
The Trail up to Sema is not very difficult and we found a quite spot next to the river to fix our camps. There are a couple of villages on the way, Gangaad and Dhatmeer. While Dhatmeer is a little off-route, Gangaad presents an opportunity to buy last minute refreshments/essentials and my be share a conversation with locals…
The Month of April can be unsparing not only in the Lower altitudes but also in the Himalaya. But by the time it was evening, we were already searching for the jackets, gloves and our beanies…
We captured a couple of video interviews with the group and then slipped into our tents for a well-deserved sleep.
Day 2, was long for the team but not tough. The trail was long, steep in some areas and winding especially after one crosses the bridge from Sema on to the other side. Osla is the Last Village on the trail and also the Last village where postal letters are delivered to by the India Post.
Further down the trail from the bridge as one crosses the fields and climbs further up, the Complete Bandarpunch Range opens up with Kaala Nag (Black Serpent), Bandarpunch main and Bandarpunch West peaks Visible. Even Swarga Rohini is visible initially when ascending the Trail.
From Osla to Har-Ki-Dun is a decent climb till Kalkatiyadhar where the trail winds to the North and one gets the first views of Har-Ki-Dun valley.
“ Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” -Richard M. Nixon
The First Sights of Har-Ki-Dun are a welcome relief from Kalkatiyadhaar (after a steady climb). The trail from here has its ups and down but it isn’t very difficult. The only big climb is at the end of the trail, where one finally climbs to the Har-Ki-Dun Campsite. Though not a difficult hike at all, the sights of these towering mountains would definitely be inspiring for someone starting out trekking in the Himalaya.
Few people know, that the same trail also takes one to the Borasu Pass (5450m), a high-altitude mountain pass connecting Har-Ki-Dun valley in Uttarakhand with Chitkul in Sangla (Himachal Pradesh). The pass is also located very close to the Tibetian border and thus it’s mandatory to carry prior permissions to traverse or venture in this region. In the ancient times, this pass acted as the trade route between the Kinnauris (of Himachal) and the Garhwalis of Uttarakhand.
There is also a trail from Sema to Ruinsara Tal (a mid altitude lake) which further takes one to Yamunotri pass at 4940msl. From here one crosses over into Janki Chetti in the Yamunotri valley.
“When preparing to climb a mountain — pack a light heart.”
– Dan May
Hiking in the Himalayan region comes with its stories especially of the Pandavas dating way back to the 3000 BC. — in my opinion, Pandavas were the early explorers of the Himalaya and the most bad-ass trekkers of their time! One such story of Pandavas is related to Swarga Rohini.
Swarga Rohini a mountain massif visible from Har-Ki-Dun is famed for many reasons. Swarga in Hindi means Heaven and Rohini roughly translate to ‘luminary’ or a ‘star’. Thereby Swarga Rohini roughly stands for being the Path to the heavens. It is believed by Indians that the Yudhistir (Eldest Pandav from the famous Epic Mahabharata) along with a dog ascended into heaven via Swarga Rohini.
Geographically though Swarga Rohini has four peaks. Swarga Rohini I ( 6,252), II, III and IV. Though the 4th is usually hidden except for someone attempting the climb to one of the peaks.
Swarga Rohini is famed for being one of the most difficult mountains to Summit in the world. While not particularly high by Himalayan standards, and not the highest in the Bandarpunch range, Swargarohini I is notable for its dramatic local relief. For example, its north face drops 2,000 meters in less than 2 kilometers of horizontal distance, and its south face achieves the same drop in less than 3 kilometers. This makes it a steep and challenging climb.
Very Few teams have been able to make a successful summit of this mountain.
Har-Ki-Dun also presents an opportunity for Side hikes to Jaundhar Glacier which is about 4.5–5 km from the Har-Ki-Dun campsite. It takes one even closer to the SwargaRohini massif. SwargaRohini I which is generally hidden behind it’s Sister SwargaRohini II, is more prominently visible when one approaches the Glacier. There is a beautiful waterfall too on the way to the glacier
“Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.” ― Hermann Hesse
It’s difficult to describe the beauty of the Valley of Gods, maybe the pictures can do some justice.
Sometimes brevity is the soul of wit after all 🙂
My real self wanders elsewhere, far away, wanders on and on invisibly and has nothing to do with my life.”
After spending a couple of days at Har-Ki-Dun, we returned to Sankri.. While the group went back to civilization, I moved to the higher grounds of Dharamshaala and further to Indrahar Pass for yet another beautiful tryst with the mountains.
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