Trekking the Himalayas in the North of India

Trekking in the Himalayas of India was always going to have it’s surprises. The mountains of the Himalayas is home to some of the most unpredictable and arduous terrain on the planet. India itself also has the reputation of unpredictability. No matter what you do in India, there’s always the ‘Indian Surprise’ – a little curveball to keep you on your toes – and eight days of trekking the Himalayas would be no different.

Taking a break during the trek

Taking a break during the trek

I had just enjoyed 3 weeks in Manali – a welcome to the Himalayas I wouldn’t forget and after tearing myself away I soldiered on north to Kashmir. The trek was supposed to begin in Sonamarg and finish 7 nights later in Naranag passing through some of the great lakes and mountain passes of Kashmir.

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We were greeted with bad news on the first night. Kashmir had record snowfalls this year and was a little delayed in melting, we would have to keep an eye on conditions. The second day was meant to be a move in camp to Nichnai however the group leader had decided it would be best to leave the camp where it was and we would head towards Nichnai on a day hike as part of a reconnaissance trek.

The freshest drinking water going round.

The freshest drinking water going round.

Reaching Nichnai we saw first hand what we faced for the next few days. There was a lot of snow and no way around it. 

Returning to camp we had decisions to make – well kind of. I was happy to put my trust in the expertise of the two trek leaders, they proved to be very knowledgable and safety was clearly a priority of theirs. They had decided it was safe to go ahead for the next couple of days although they admitted at some point we may have to turn back. I’d come all this way, I was willing to give it a shot. The rest of the group – all 20 of them – were not as easily convinced. At one point it was looking as if it would just be me and trek leaders. Eventually 9 others came to their senses and jumped on board. It’s a shame the remaining 10, when faced with challenge and adversity let their fears overcome their logic.

We pushed on to Nichnai (3600m) the next day and set up camp, arriving just before a brief afternoon shower. Ironically enough, even though everyone had been afraid of the snow it was the mud that proved most difficult.

Looking back from Nichnai

Looking back from Nichnai

From Nichnai we headed over the pass – which would end up being our highest point at 3900m – and descended into Vishansar. We set up camp on a beautiful open meadow just 150m from the Lake. Vishansar Lake was still half frozen nestled in-between a horseshoe ring of mountains around one side. A semi-nomadic fisherman who had set up camp by the lake for 4 months invited me in for tea and watermelon (god knows where he got watermelon from).

Sharing watermelon with the local fisherman

Sharing watermelon with the local fisherman

The next pass through the mountains is where  we would run into trouble. The trek leaders, guides and helpers all trekked up to the pass that afternoon and set about clearing a path for the mules. They spent hours up on the pass and returned at 9:30 bearing the bad news that there was just too much snow for the mules to get through. We would have been fine but without our mules it was pointless. We had to go back.

Hiking through the snow

Hiking through the snow

We spent the next day at Vishansar playing soccer, frisbee, horse riding and I went for a short hike with one of the guides in the afternoon. It was good to relax for the day and enjoy the surroundings. We pushed through a huge day of trekking and skipped the Nichnai camp heading straight back to Sonamarg which gave us time the next day to explore the glacier across the valley before returning to Srinagar.

Sunsets at Vishansar

Sunsets at Vishansar

Although we didn’t complete the trek I had an amazing time the scenery was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and I can’t count the amount of times I stopped, looked around and said ‘Shit, this is ridiculous’. The nights were equally impressive and I thought I’d been treated to an interstellar show on the desert safari but the Himalayan skies blew that out of the water.

Have you trekked the Himalayas before? What was your experience like? 

12 Thoughts on “Trekking the Himalayas in the North of India

  1. “It’s a shame the remaining 10, when faced with challenge and adversity let their fears overcome their logic.” <– Isn't that true with so many people these days?
    Katie @ Domestiphobia recently posted…Boutique Hotel Spotlight: The James Chicago.My Profile

  2. Hey! We just watched a report about Leh and its surroundings on television… Must be very exciting to be there! We wish you good luck on your trip to Thailand :) Tascha & Patrick

  3. Haha, love that the guy just randomly had some watermelon! Love the little experiences like meeting this man, you could not predict them!

    Shame you weren’t able to complete the trek, but sounds like you had an amazing time anyway! I’ll bet the people that backed out at the beginning only ended up regretting it!
    Catherine recently posted…In Photos: Killybegs, An Irish Fishing PortMy Profile

  4. Wow. It looks so beautiful! Good on you for carrying on. I don’t think it matters so much if you don’t complete a pre-determined route due to extreme weather. It’s all about being there in the amazing scenery and spending time getting to know your group and guides. Your photos are stunning. Noone would know you didn’t go the way you were meant to! And that beard must have kept you pretty warm!
    Arianwen recently posted…Contiki Storyteller ChallengeMy Profile

  5. Your pictures are stunning – I can only imagine how much better it was in person. Sounds like you made the best of it when you had to turn back. I’m still shocked by how amazing the scenery is in Northern India, that first pic looks like the Swiss Alps or something. And the watermelon guy – how random! haha.
    Katie recently posted…Diving and Snorkeling Pemuteran BaliMy Profile

  6. Pingback: Photo Essay: Trekking the Markha Valley | theboywander

  7. Pingback: Bucket List #5: Train Muay Thai in Thailand | theboywander

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