Diwali is over, leaving us to now turn our attention to the last festive week of the year, together with Secret Santa and NYE getaways. In some parts of the country, winter is already peeping through the sky and many of us are planning our year-end destinations. However, if you happen to be an adrenaline junkie looking to ditch the beach and up your game this year, this article’s been looking for you.
Here is a quick guide to some of the more daunting winter treks you can sign up for in India.
Where: Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir
Average temp: – 15 to –35°C
This is by far the toughest winter trail to aim for this December. As the River Zanskar freezes over in the Ladakh valley and temperatures drop below -25 degrees, locals walk on the frozen river to commute. While it may be cakewalk for them, for mountaineers, the Chadar (quilt) Trek is as dangerous as it gets. Shivam Tomar, founder of the a travel company Nomadic Trips, who has successfully completed the trail, says, “The high altitude and the unbearable temperature makes the path even more difficult. You need to have a strong immunity and be medically fit. Don’t attempt this otherwise.”
Snow Leopard Trek
Where: Spiti, Himachal Pradesh
Average temp: – 5 to minus 20°C
Close to 14,000 ft above sea level and with chances of encountering the majestic Snow Leopard… You must have guessed by now that this picturesque trek is not for the faint of heart. As you trace the pug marks of the Big Cat, be prepared to also spot Blue Sheep, Red Foxes, Magpies and Golden Eagles. However, intensive preparation is required to embark on this trail. “Only people who are comfortable waking at least 20-25kms on flat land will be able to successfully complete this trek,” says Tomar, who is planning to go for the same in early 2017.
Stok Kangri Trek
Where: Ladakh, J&K
Average temp: -20 to 10°C
With a distance of 40 km at the height of 20,800 ft, the Stok Kangri Trek is possibly as easy as it gets on this list. If you’re a good walker and not afraid of heights, this can be a fabulous experience. The view you at the end of the trek, overlooking the highest peak in Leh is a postcard frame covered in snow. It is essential to acclimatize for a couple of days once you reach Leh. The trek turns out to be an exploration of sorts as you make your way on fresh snow – slipping and gliding. Make sure you spend some time in the Stok village as your make your touchdown.
Another takeaway: On a clear day, you can see Kanchenjunga in full glory.
Green Lake Trek
Where: Lachen, Sikkim
Average temp: -5 to 10°C
The Northeast has some of the finest mountain trails in the country and seasoned mountaineers are not unfamiliar with the region’s diverse terrain. The Green Lake trek near Lachen with its breathtaking view of Kanchenjunga may not be as well-known, but getting there can literally prove to be quite breathtaking as well. Be ready to make your way through a dense cover of rhododendrons and blue poppies forest in a moderate-to-steep climb. The trek brings you to the Kanchenjunga base,where you can camp for a day or two.
PS: There’s a huge possibility that you may spot snow leopards. Beware and behold!
You can find out more about the Green Lake trek, including the permissions required, here.
Kalindi Khal Trek
Average temp: Varies from -8 to 5°C, 8-15°C and -10 to 5°C
Embark on a strenuous trek from the banks of the Ganges at Gangotri as you move towards the Gaumukh Glacier via the Himalayan Pass. The path is replete with rocky glaciers and patchy snowfields. “This is one of the toughest ones to pull off. Requires extremely high immunity and ability to walk up inclines,” says Tomar.
Referred to as the Big Daddy of all treks in Garhwal, and covering a total distance of 99 km, the high-altitude route is just the right amount of challenging for trek junkies. Note that it does require some fundamental knowledge of mountaineering, and it goes without saying that you have to be fit.
Here’s a look at a basic itinerary for the Kalindi Khal Trek. Plan your leaves accordingly!