A beautiful circuit trek to Har Ki Dun Region

Har Ki Dun & Ruinsara Lake Trek

by Ashwini Paralkar

Ruinsara Lake
The misty Ruinsara Lake after monsoons; PC: Ashwini Paralkar

In summer of this year, I trekked to the beautiful undulating meadows of Dayara Bugyal. This classified “easy” trek brought me face to face with the mighty Mt. Bandarpunch. It was an emotionally uplifting experience. So, when I planned for my post monsoon trek it was fitting that I chose to go to the Har ki Dun valley and witness the beauty that Mt. Swargarohini is. Classified “moderate” this trek promised the big mountains, two summit climbs, ancient villages and a high- altitude lake, as a cherry on the cake.

After months of preparing for the trek, I landed in this quaint little, one street village of Sankri, a base camp for most treks in the region. The journey next day began with a ride to Taluka, from where we started our trek in the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park and Sanctuary. The first day I was undeniably a spectator to the way of life in the Himalayas. The bright pink amaranth a.k.a. rajgira, locally called cholai terrace farms were in full bloom. I didn’t mind being held up in traffic jam on the slope when the local shepherd whistled to his livestock, on their way back from the grazing pastures. We got a glimpse of the village Datmir, nestled high up, when we took a break near the banks of the river Tons. Locals of all age groups from villages from further up the trail, Gangad and Osla, went about their day navigating the terrain with such ease, it put us, the head to toe trekking gear laden city folks to shame. The light had started to fade in the evening and I was happy to see the tents up at the campsite of Chillurgad for the night. It was a long and tiring day but was well worth it.

Gangad Village - Har Ki Dun
Gangad Village - Har Ki Dun; PC: Ashwini Paralkar

No need of an alarm here up on the mountains as I was woken up by the chirping of the birds. Never have I ever seen sky so blue. As a Mumbaikar who is so used to grey skies, I couldn’t believe my eyes. After a hearty breakfast, garma garam chai, quick warmup and endless cuddles with all the mountain dogs, we set our eyes on our next campsite, Kalkatiyadhar. We had to cover shorter distance than the first day, but, it was definitely the toughest in mine opinion. Some gradual and some steep inclines brought us to a vantage point, where one could clearly see the cradle shaped valley with Har ki Dun on the left and the route to Ruinsara tal on the right. Slow and steady, huffing and puffing at times, we reached the campsite when the weather took a turn that evening and I saw my first hail storm in the Himalayas.

Hata Peak - Har Ki Dun
Hata Peak - Har Ki Dun : PC Abhishek Sohu

I was up and early the next day all excited for the summit climb to Har ki Dun. We came across a waterfall where the sunrays were just kissing the top of the mountain and the day looked promising weather wise. The views were absolutely stunning with the entire mountain side covered with pretty wild flowers. It was an easy day on the legs and the final push brought us to this vast opening to the valley, with Hata peak on the left. I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement when I saw Mt. Swargarohini I, II and III glistening in the morning sun with a clear view of Jaundhar glacier on its left. We raised the tricolour and sang the national anthem, saluting the massif. After we had our hearts content, the walk back to the campsite of Boslo began.

Swargarohini at Har ki Dun
Mt Swargarohini and the meadows of Har ki Dun; PC: Ashwini Paralkar

What has stuck with me most on this trek is the variety of terrain you transition day after day. The morning walk from Boslo began with the most calming experience ever. Over grown fern made way to dense pine forest. The rhythmic chant of the cicadas while walking through this section put me in meditative state of mind. It was one of those moments that will live with me for the rest of my life. Once out into the clearing the trail lead along the Ruinsara river with mist covered pine forest on its opposite bank. This time of the year also meant we were walking amongst giant growth of Himalayan Knotweed, which made for a pretty picture. The day seemed never ending, but the sight of snow-covered Mt. Kala Nag and Bali Pass breathed a lease of life in us. The campsite of Unitgad at the banks of the river was an enchanting experience until it gave way to a constant drizzle overnight.

Black Peak on the way to Ruinsara
Kalanag/Black peak (the leftmost peak) on the way to Untigad; PC: Arnab

Another D-day dawned on us, and we set out early for the high-altitude lake. The overnight rains and the continued drizzle made it very misty and terrain very boggy. A gradual ascend took us to a spectacular silver birch forest. As we approached the lake it was pretty apparent that the views were not going to be clear. None of the peaks surrounding, let alone the lake, was in clear view because of the thick fog. But to my surprise the lake was completely surrounded with wild flowers. Well, we didn’t get the grand views but were certainly not disappointed with the little details. Later we retraced our steps back to the campsite and began what would essential be the journey back.

Ruinsara Lake at the onset of Summer Season
Ruinsara Lake at the onset of Summer Season. PC: Abhishek Sohu

It was another arduous day with steep climb up to the next campsite which was now slippery due to continuous rain. The guides hand held us, literally, through the section to a massive clearing, which was the Devsu thatch. After the rain came the sun at the opportune time to give us the best sunset of the trek, followed by even clear skies for the most spectacular milky way sight. It was truly surreal.

The journey back to civilization, took us through the ancient village of Osla. Freshly picked apples sold by a village lady gave me a much-needed energy boost. We also got a chance to visit the local government school where we were given the warmest welcome and a folk song performance by some of the kids. I believe these are our future trek leaders and guides who would continue the tradition of welcoming people from across the globe, even if for just a few days, to experience what it is like to live amongst these enigmatic mountains. I had brought stationary with me to be distributed to these deserving kids and it brought so much joy to end this adventure on such a high.

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