Trekking in Himachal Himalaya is an awe-inspiring experience. That is a universally established fact accepted even in the far-off galaxies.
Winter trekking takes you to the next level. You get to witness the beauty of Himalayan Ranges in their absolute glory. With no vehicles around and and white ‘silver’ shining in every direction, you feel the awesomeness of Himalaya that mesmerizes you forever. And that’s when your definition of wilderness changes.
There are many travel destinations in Himachal that are connected to the road for about 8 out of 12 months. Here we are talking about low-altitude Himalayan tourist destinations that get their much needed break from the onslaught os SUV’s and Bullets during these 3 winter months. These very travel destinations turn into an adventure trek during the winter season. The best thing about such treks is that you are familiar with the surroundings. You have been there at least once already.
It’s only during these winters; all those mountain ranges that look so far away come close to you. The breathtaking view offered by the shining mountain ranges is something that lasts for a lifetime.
Sample this, the spectacular view of the Rohtang Pass in winters.
Here are five popular and relatively easy winter trekking routes in the Himachal Himalayas that you might want to try this year.
And when I say easy I just don’t mean ‘tough‘. If only walking on snow was easy.
For instance, black bears come down from the high-rises in search of food and shelter. So you see, it’s not that easy.
1. Saryolsar Lake Trek (3300 meters) Hidden under a thick cover of pine, with Monals (Western Tragopan) chirping all around, this is one of the most fascinating winter treks in the Himachal Himalayas. The lake is located just 5 kilometres from Jalori Pass top on the Aut-Banjar-Sainj Highway (SH-11), this lake is frequented by many during the summer season. However, the winters of Banjar-Shojha offer you a fabulous view of the Great Himalayas Ranges. You will find the tea-shop, at Jalori Pass, open in 8 out of 10 cases. However, it is best to carry supplies from Shojha-Jibhi or still better from Banjar itself.
The trek starts either from the Jalori Pass or Shojha depending on the snow. Supplies and guides are easily available at Shojha. At max, you will have to walk 10-12 kilometres in snow, in the worst case scenario.
Risks: Although the shop atop the pass usually stays open but it would be great if you carry your own food supplies. The trail is usually foggy and it becomes difficult to find the right path if it is snowing.
2. Triund Hill Trek(2900 meters) Triund is a damn crowded yet popular travel destination of the Dhauladhar Himalayas. Come summers and you will find hundreds of desi-videsi people walking to catch a closer glimpse of the Dhauladhar Himalayas from the Triund Hill. Of late, Triund has emerged as a popular winter trekking destination. The best thing about Triund Winter Trek is availability of guides, supplies, and camping options atop the hill. Even the Snow Line Café remains open for most of the winters. The Forest Rest House also remains open for guests. However, if you intend to trek here in winters, come prepared to pay exorbitant amounts for silly (yet essential) stuff. For instance, a cup of tea for 50 rupees.
Although you may do good without a trek guide in summers but during winters always take a trek guide along because snow-walking is a romantic idea. And romance in India is a risky business.
Risks: Rains and Dhauladhars’ are inseparable. Without proper gear, you may find yourself caught in a tricky situation. Make sure you are appropriately geared for both the rain and snow. A snow trek is amusing only if you have to walk ‘on snow’, if you have to walk ‘in snow’ it might as well become a nightmare.
3. Parashar Lake Trek(2750 meters) The Parashar Lake (Hill) offers a spectacular view of the entire Dhauladhar Range. And, I believe that alone is a compelling reason to trek to this lake in winters. The Pagoda style temple of the great Rishi Parashar immersed in snow takes you back in time. Spending time with the temple priests and listening to their stories is an additional incentive. These temple priests are far better than any seasoned trekker you have ever heard of. They walk in knee-deep snow to keep the tradition of the hills alive. For instance, just to light a candle in the temple.
Camping besides the frozen lake, on a thick snow bed is something every trekker dreams about. And with an IIT coming up in a nearby village (30KM) you don’t have much time because an all season road is to be proposed here very soon. Hurry Up!
Risks: Although there are two rest houses and a temple sarai but you gotta ensure that you’ve reserved your stay in advance. Sometimes phones don’t work in the region and if that happens, you’re on your own. Staying out in cold after having walked 10km on snow isn’t a great idea. Not for me atleast!
4. Bijli Mahadev Trek(2500 meters) The Electric Mahadev, as I call it, is another beautiful snow trek in the Himachal Himalayas. Located atop a hill, Bijli Mahadev is a Shiva Temple that safeguards the Kullu and Parbati Valleys. There is a ridge atop the hill that covers itself with a snow carpet during winters. The lovely 360o view of both the Kullu and Parbati Valleys from the top is worth every trouble. This trek starts from Chansari Village which is just 3-5 kilometers from the temple. The walking distance depends on the snow. You may prefer to walk on the road or take a short-cut as well.
A gorgeous meadow with an ancient Shiva temple, famous for its stone Shiva-Linga that shatters every year on the eve of Maha Shivratri when each time lightning strikes it, only to be resurrected by the Pujari.
5. Shikari Devi Trek(3300 meters) Like every other trek mentioned above, this holy shrine is also connected to the road. However, the road status has always been under construction. During winters, one can reach as far as Janjehli and that’s where from the trek starts. There are stay options at Janjehli and a PWD Rest House as well.. Shikari Devi also offers a commanding view of the Dhauladhar Himalayas and if you are a little more adventurous than you should be, you can hike even further towards the holy shrine of Kamrunag Dev. However, the entire track remains covered in deep snow and you will have to make your way through a thick forest. With no habitation around, you will surely get a ‘closer’ look at the wildlife.
Risks: This is probably the most difficult pick of the list. Shikari gets truckloads of snow, being the highest point in the region. Although the temple sarai is available across the year, one must be geared up appropriately to fight wintry nights and wild animals.
Bonus Trek: In April. Across the Rohtang Pass. Eight Hours on Foot. An Insight into the winters of Lahaul Valley.