A brief list of High Altitude Passes across Uttarakhand


The basecamp of Lamkhaga Pass

Mountain pass by definition, is a navigable route through a mountain range or over a ridge. From thousands of years, mountain passes have been used to cross towering walls of rock and ice. They have played a crucial role in amalgamation of cultures, trade, migration and travel.

Mountain passes, though seldom utilized in the former ways, continue to attract adventure lovers. They comprise of some of the most challenging treks in India. Often connecting two different communities speaking totally different languages, passes take us to some of the most remote regions deep inside the Himalayas. From watching enormous Himalayan peaks to walking on crevasse ridden glaciers, they are meant for the brave hearted.

Col is the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks. Most of the cols require climbing techniques for crossing. The ones listed here along with mountain passes are trekkable. Many of them still need a basic knowledge and skill of mountaineering.

The state of Uttarakhand is a treasure trove for trekkers and climbers. Some of the mountain passes and cols here are so difficult and inaccessible that years go by before anyone crosses them. Here is a list of mountain passes and trekkable cols in Uttarakhand (the list is not exhaustive):

Panorama of the Rupin Pass, visible in the centre, in the far away background
Panorama showcasing the Rupin Pass, visible in the centre, in the far away background.

1. Rupin Pass | 4,690 meters

The route of this trek follows the river Rupin upstream. One can witness the Garhwali culture as well as the Kinnauri culture in either side of the pass. There is a stark difference between the two and the most prominent indicator is the style of houses. Though easier compared to most of the other members of the list, this trek provides entirely different but beautiful views on each day.

2. Nalgan Pass | 4,500 meters

Another one of the passes connecting Garhwal to Kinnaur, Nalgan pass is a rarely traversed route quite close to Rupin pass. The route can include Baraadsar lake and a short detour includes Kanaasar lake. These are some beautiful and least visited high altitude lakes.

3. Borasu Pass | 5,360 meters

Borasu Pass connects Har ki Dun to Kinnaur. One gets to cross crevasse ridden glaciers and steep rocky patches to reach the pass. The stream on Kinnaur side is lined with flower beds from late summer. It is a perfect route for those willing to switch to a difficult and remote trek.

Ascent to the Borasu Pass

4. Bali Pass | 4,900 meters

A pass between Har ki Dun and Yamunotri, Bali Pass provides magnificent views in the Ruinsara valley. The entire south face of Swargarohini group is visible in this trek.

The Bandarpunch range and the depressions of the Saptrishi Kund visible in the background as we descend from Bali Pass.

5. Lamkhaga Pass | 5,300 meters

One of the most difficult of the passes between Kinnaur and Garhwal, Lamkhaga pass offers some breathtaking landscapes on both sides. It is a crossover between Chitkul and Harsil (the latter is close to Gangotri) and can be done from either of the villages.

6. Singha Ghati pass | 5,090 meters and 7. Khimloga Pass | 5,712 meters

These are some of the least documented and less known passes between Garhwal and Kinnaur. Tapan Pandit and his team have explored and completed these.

8. Phachu Kandi Pass

This is another route between Har ki Dun and Yamunotri (first one being Bali Pass). The villagers on either side use this route since a long time.

9. Dhumdhar Kandi Pass | 5,500 meters

One of the most difficult routes in Uttarakhand, this trek takes one to the common basecamp of Swargarohini and Black Peak, and also to camp 1 of Black Peak. The pass is avalanche prone and risky and requires good experience of difficult treks.

10. Darwa Pass

Darwa Pass is a classic route between Yamuna and Bhagirathi valleys. The trek includes Dodital on the way and the trail is often through lush vegetation and forests. Though short in duration, it is considered to be a difficult trek.

11. Kalindi Khal | 5,950 meters

Kalindi Khal is a high col with one of the most challenging routes in India. It connects the sacred pilgrimages of Gangotri and Badrinath. One gets to trek in close proximity of some renowned Himalayan peaks like Shivling, Meru, Bhagirahti group, Kedar Dome, Nilkantha, Chandra Parvat and Avalanche peak. Kalindi khal trek passes through meadows, moraines, glaciers, rivers and a lake.

12. Auden’s Col | 5,490 meters

A challenging trek connecting the pilgrimages of Gangotri and Kedarnath, Auden’s col promises spectacular views. The challenges are physically demanding require prior experience of difficult and high-altitude treks. The Gangotri group of peaks are quite closely visible.

13. Bamsaru Khal | 4,600 meters

This trek takes one to a virgin valley. A number of Himalayan peaks are visible from the route. The trails pass over untouched meadows.

14. Mayali Pass | 5,400 meters

This is another trek which connects Bhagirathi valley to Mandakini valley (apart from Auden’s col). Some beautiful landmarks on this trek are Sahastra Tal, Kush Kalyan plateau and Masar Tal. Peaks on the southern side of Gangotri glacier are visible in this trek.

15. Kanakata pass | 4,548 meters

The crossing of Kanakata pass is a part of Sunderdhunga valley trek. It offers magnificent views of peaks like Maiktoli, Mrigthuni, Panwali Dwar and Tharkot. The added bonus of dense forests, remote Kumaoni villages, glacial lakes make this an amazing trek.

16. Panpatia Col | 4,548 meters

The legendary route between Kedarnath and Badrinath, Panpatia col was opened by the mountaineer and former IMF leader Debabrata Mukherjee. This route is one of the riskiest in Garhwal, owing to the hidden crevasses and unpredictable weather. The trek passes through the vicinity of some beautiful giants like the Chaukhamba massif and Nilkantha.

17. Bhyundar Khal | 5,100 meters

The less trodden route ahead of Valley of Flowers leads to Bhyundar Khal. Trekkers encounter moraines, rivers, icefall, deep crevasses, glacial streams, meadows, flower fields and glorious view of Himalayan peaks. This trek is again a challenging one.

18. Gupt Khal | 5,835 meters

Gupt Khal, which translates to ‘secret col’ was discovered by Frank Smythe on his expedition to Mount Kamet. The trek crosses the Bhyundar Khal first and then the route diverges. This is one of the least traversed passes of Uttarakhand. Basic knowledge of mountaineering is required for this journey since it has the risks of hidden crevasses and falling icefalls. One gets to walk over gigantic ice fields and to untouched and remote interiors of the Indian Himalayas in this trek.

19. Kunth Khal | 4,500 meters

Another trek which can be combined with Valley of Flowers, Kunth Khal was closed for 45 years and has been opened for trekkers only in 2016. The ridge to the pass is full of the flower Brahma Kamal.

20. Kuari Pass | 3,820 meters

Possibly the easiest among the trekking passes in the list, Kuari Pass provides trekkers an amazing view of some of the highest peaks of Uttarakhand including Nanda Devi. The original route is a crossover between Joshimath/Auli and Wan, and can be combined with Roopkund trek. The itinerary is usually shortened these days and the trek returns back to Joshimath/Auli.

Kuari Pass Trekking Route

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