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Panwali Kantha Trek
04 Nights 05 Days, Uttarakhand, India
Panwali Kantha trek is one of the best winter treks in Uttarakhand which is suitable for hikers looking for a multi day trek on an easy to moderate gradient. Panwali Kantha is also a good trek for beginners who want to experience a Himalayan trek.
Situated on the south-western end of a ridge in the Kedarnath region, there are two ways to approach Panwalikantha. The one TrailHikers take begins at Triyuginarayan, the temple town marking the spot where Lord Shiva is said to have solemnised his wedding to Parvati. You can stay overnight at Sonprayag 10 km away, or Gupkashi (37km) which offers more accomodation options. The other route begins at Ghuttu, 62 km north of Tehri. But the access from the latter, southern axis, is a lot steeper, popular as “Ghuttu ki chadhai, German ki ladai” (meaning easier to face German Army than to do the steep climb of Ghuttu!).
In any event, the walk from Triyuginarayan is a hugely satisfying one. On the first day, you climb through lush forests, go past waterfalls and brooks, and into a bowl ringed by snow peaks. On the second, you walk a stone path bordered by unending gardens sloping into distant valleys. Horses and sheep graze in the mist, lammergeiers circle overhead and, close at hand , snow peaks flirt with the monsoon clouds. No matter where you choose to rest, a spring of crystal clear water is within reach.
Warning: If you want to see monsoon flowers, be prepared to get wet.
Triyuginarayan (15 hr drive from Rishikesh)
Dehradun Railway Station
Jolly Grant near Dehradun
You can see the notch of Maggu high above Triyugi (1,982m), off to the south and west. The track, deeply rutted by the monsoon run-off, is a steady gradient through the village, past the school, and into the commons on a shoulder above it. From here, it turns right (more westerly) and submits to the forest. Even in the monsoons, the broad, cobbled path holds up through paradise of vegetation – ferns, grasses and fungi at the ground level, towering trees overhead. There’s plenty of water en route. If you take a short break after an hour and a half, your refill should keep you going up to a charming wooden bridge, under which a crystal stream rushes, fresh off a waterfall to your left. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic, with fallen tree-trunks, soft cushions of grass, and a little island where the stream divides for a short stretch. Twenty minutes later, the vegetation thins, rhododendron shrubs make their appearance, and you know Maggu Chatti (3,086m) is around the bend. There is enough flat land for a camp, a stream close by, and abandoned shelters offer plenty of cover for cooking.
Climbing gently out of Maggu Chatti, the path pulls south. Like a camera tracking away from a scene to reveal more and more of it, you are witness to a growing panorama of Great Himalayan peaks, Meru, the Gangotri Range and the Kedar Dome. Maggu virtually marks the tree line and from here on, shrubs and flowers dominate the slopes around. Half an hour out of the camp, there is a series of switchbacks up to the ‘khal’ or pass of Kinkhola, at 3,400m. It’s a great place to perch and take in the morning’s walk and the undulating line of the snows. And, on the return, it is a more scenic camping spot than Maggu.
But it’s a long walk to Panwali, and the day’s delights have just begun, so head south now. All day, the trail snakes up and down the knife-edge of the ridge, a stony ribbon through the vast acreage of green. There are at least two points where you have to trudge up a little knoll, to the next spur of green. Always heading south-west, about half-way into the day’s walk, the ridge broadens into meadows, where Gujjars graze enormous herds of sheep and goat, watched over by bear-like dogs. Looking west, over the Bhilangana Valley, on the Khatling trail.
By early evening, you should be in a gentle cleft under the ridge. It seems a good place to camp, but do head on up to the main meadow of Panwalikantha (3,963m), less than 2 km away. Marked by a clump of Gujjar shelters and a decrepit ashram, the meadows are vast and rolling, so camp where you please. If you are there in mid-August and if the skies are clear, look out for ‘shooting stars’ of Perseids, the spectacular meteor showers that peak on August 12 each year.
If you absolutely can’t spare a day to explore the meadows, take your time heading back to the ridge to Kinkhola Khal. Set up camp on the level meadow on the northern side, in the lee of a high knoll. But if you want a grandstand view of a Himalayan sunset, walk down to the pass and onto the opposite hill.
Retrace your steps back to Triyugi.
Panwali lies on the old pilgrim trail from Kedarnath to Gangotri. You can map many routes out of here. If you want to retrace the old route, you would head south to Ghuttu, then west to Budha Kedar, and gradually veering north, getting into the Ganga Valley at Lata. Or, from Ghuttu, you could do a sharp turn to the north and head for Khatling Glacier. The latter trail offers many possibities – Shastru Tal in the west, or an exit at Kedarnath by way of Masar Tal, Painya Tal and Vasuki Tal.
Getting to Rudraprayag : Take NH58 from Delhi to Rudraprayag via Haridwar, Rishikesh, Devprayag and Srinagar. The highway is good but it’s a long tiring drive that takes more than 12 hrs. Direct buses only to Haridwar from Delhi
From Rudraprayag to Sonprayag, it’s 68 km/3hrs by car or 4 hrs by bus. Tryuginarayan, the penultimate village on the Kedarnath route, is a rough 5 km ride from Sonprayag. The dharamshalas in Triyuginarayan are clean and welcoming, trailhikers recommends an overnight stay at Suyal Saur, some 45 km down the valley.
Rudraprayag to Guptkashi is 40 km/1 1/2 hrs by taxi or 2 hrs by bus.
RETURN: Take the same route back to Rudraprayag and Haridwar.
Yes, it is absolutely essential to take a guide for this trek whether you are trekking solo or in a group.
The best season for Panwali Kantha trek is from Aug to Oct.
It is ideally recommended for 15+ age. Panwali Kantha is a high altitude trek which is not suitable for children below 15 years.
Yes, in fact all the Himalayan are quite safe for women & solo travelers. People of the region are very warm, caring & hospitable in nature.
Camping tent accommodation (2-3 per tent).
Guides & porters in the region will never demand any tip money from you. They just need their daily wages paid by the trek operator. However, it is always encouraging if one can give a little tip to them if they provide good services.
Indian currency is accepted