Winter travel in the Himalayas needn’t be restricted to holing up under a blanket in your hotel room. Global warming, unfortunately, has made winters more bearable than earlier decades, making hardy travellers and tenacious trekking organisers realise that winter treks can be done and can be fun!
“Some seasonal treks in the Kullu valley can now be done even in winter,” says Vrighu Acharya, founder of Himalayan Brothers Adventure in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh.
“One needs to be physically and mentally fit, patient, and have a high threshold to tolerate the icy outdoors. Good quality outdoor clothing and waterproof trekking shoes are recommended. It’s challenging, but many of our guests have enjoyed treks in winter.”
Winter treks are usually shorter and can be completed in 2-3 days. The trek routes lead to areas closer to the snowline, while also being near villages and an accessible roadhead.
We recommend engaging reputed local tour companies and travelling in groups, rather than venturing solo. The troubles are few but the rewards are ample: you can see snow in its natural state, encounter almost no other tourist on the trail, the views are fantastic, and chances to spot wildlife remain high.
Here are 3 winter trek ideas in Himachal Pradesh that — with some fortitude — are entirely doable:
1. Prashar Lake: 1N/2D, Moderate Trek
Starting from the roadhead at Baggi village, the route up to the high-altitude lake and temple of Prashar in Mandi district takes you through evergreen forests and open meadows over 5-6 hours of trekking, and a night spent under the stars in your tent.
Apart from the picturesque lake, the mountain top also offers splendid 360° views of the snow-capped Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal, Bara Bhangal and Tirthan ranges.
2. Chanderkhani Pass: 2N/3D, Moderate Trek
The 3,660m tall Chanderkhani Pass is a formidable mountain opening across to Malana village and the Parvati Valley. A slightly daunting trek, the first night is spent acclimatising at a rocky shelter used by shepherds after a 4-hour walk through deodar, pine and walnut forests above Naggar village.
The next day, another hike of about 6 hours takes you to snowfields on the top of the pass from where excellent views of Deo Tibba, Gyephan and Indrasan peaks can be enjoyed, weather permitting.
In fact, weather decides the trek’s completion, and instances of trekkers having to return from halfway up are common. The aim, however, is not to traverse the pass, but to reach the highest accessible point in winter. Wildlife and birdlife is abundant on this trail, which is great for photographers.
3. Bijli Mahadev Temple: 1N/2D, Easy Trek
An easy one, this trek starts from Naggar and follows the off-road path to Kullu’s famous hilltop temple through thick forests of oak and cedar, and waterfalls. Expect to see several species of birds and small mammals in the sylvan forests of Kais Wildlife Reserve above Jana – the last tourist-oriented spot with dhabas offering traditional Himachali lunch.
Bijli Mahadev temple is a perfect example of hill architecture, built using wood and stone, and there are sweeping views of the Kullu and Parvati Valleys on all sides.
Trekkers usually spend a night camping in the forested ridge of Matikochar or in the meadows close to the temple, and return the next day by an alternate route that leads directly to Kullu town.
Image Credit: Click here