Jiwa Nal – Parvati Valley Trek: Meanderings in Great Himalayan National Park, Sep '13

#1 Jan 8th, 2015, 16:51
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Oct 2008
New Delhi
  • parth.rkt is offline
Meanderings in Great Himalayan National Park: Jiwa Nal Parvati Valley Trek

Summary: An overview of the Jiwa Nal -* Parvati Valley trek undertaken in GHNP during September 2013

Team Members: Parth Joshi, Karan Bharti

Additional Support: 3 porters

In hindsight, the trek was another one of those ‘perchance accidents’. Ditched by the porters in the cool, crisp morning air of Manali for the originally planned Bada Bhangal trail, we were not too keen on the cold, dry deserts that lay ahead, and on Karan’s advice, retraced our steps to Neuli in the Sainj Valley, one of the three entry points to the Great Himalayan National Park, a 1100 sq km expanse of pristine and diverse Himalayan ecosystems. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage in June 2014, we hope and pray that the isolation and solitude of these environs remain intact.

Though the Tirthan Valley region of the park receives many visitors and offers a greater number of trekking options as well, the Sainj Valley is relatively less explored. There have been not many mountaineering expeditions in the park as well, the only instance we found was of that of Chakri and Yashe peaks, and a 2010 expedition which included the Sentinel Peak. Apart from the notes of Sanjeeva Pandey, the park director from 1998-2006 and an active proponent of GHNP’s sustainable future, Payson R. Stevens, an avid guardian of the park, and summary of an Alpine Club Expedition, there was very little data available, but Karan, a local from the Tirthan Valley, was confident of the trail. September was the best time of the year as well, with little snow expectancy and weather holding out well. No mules also imply relatively quieter and cleaner climes and campsites.

The trek permit is issued at Neuli, from where one can drive up to the village of Shanshar, the last motorable point. From Shanshar to Bhagi Kashyari is a short but steep climb, and as we were to discover later, a preview of the undulations to come. The village itself is a compact setting, with not many camping spots, but an old primary school building provided good shelter.
We started out leisurely on most mornings, and more often than not found ourselves covering up for the folly the entire day. Leaving Bhagi Kashyari at 8 am to the chirps of Rose Finches, Long Tailed Minivets and Scaly Breasted Wren Babblers, the undulations hit us soon. Ascending and descending rapidly all through the day, it was almost dark by the time we hit the Kandi Galu notch (3627 mts), the first pass. Cold and winded, we caught the last speck of sunlight to locate a fallen roof portion of Subli Thatch. The hour long descent, through in pitch darkness, was not very strenuous, though we could sense very little human activity looking at the vegetation on the trail.

The first rays of dawn revealed the magical canopy that surrounded the thatch, the conifers aping triangles in perfect symmetry. We were in jogini country now, between the deities of Kandi Galu and Phangchi Galu, and every morning presented itself with a roti and halwa ceremony. Huffing up for half a kilometer, we immediately started descending into the Jiwa Nal valley, the trail now a jamboree of loose gravel and slippery rock. Dwarf rhododendrons on either side of dry stream beds constantly, and we hit the gorge after a swift half an hour descent.

The Jiwa Nal gorge is steep and narrow, with broken and interspersed trails that can become very confusing to the untrained eye. The river, which eventually meets Sainj, was at its frothing best in September, and bridge hunting became an exercise, with the trail now virtually invisible. Thrashing for an hour through flowers and rocks, certain sections involved twenty foot climbs. Technically unarmed as we were, experimenting with the tensile strength of the flora was the order till noon, when we arrived to find the much sought after bridge too brittle. Backtracking a couple of kilometers after trying a couple of water crossings unsuccessfully, we eventually crossed over to the other side. Climbing hard for about an hour, it was a sheer delight stumbling at Dwada Thatch at 3pm when we’d been expecting another moonlit walk.

We were more or less above the tree line now. The regular itinerary prescribed a hike to Sarthu Pond and back as the rest day followed by a grueling 23 kms the next day. A group of locals sauntered by on their way back from collecting wild garlic, and we were able to get an idea of what lay ahead. Wanting to avoid the hike back from Sarthu pond, we decided to try our luck ascending directly to Khandedhar top, from where the access to Phangchi Galu would be a lot easier.

The bright clear morning made the walk ahead from Dwada Thatch a sheer bliss. Having starved for scenery during the last two days traversing though narrow gorges and barren rocky massifs, the meadows literally brought the swagger back into our stride. The landscape was now ethereal, with Jiwa Nal bisecting through the glacial slopes. A relatively gentle 4 hour walk led us to Sarthu pond, a small glacial pond trickling into the raging river below. Loitering around the lake for an hour, a cool gust of wind reminded us of the fading daylight, and we scrambled up ahead.

The next few stages were the trickiest, with no clear trails visible on the sharp ascent. Fifteen minutes of binocular hunts led us to a couple of burjis (small stone markings left by shepherds). Burji by burji, we scrambled up the slopes. One of the sharpest ascents on the trail, we were able to spot a small herd of Himalayan Blue Sheep (bharal). The sight had us scampering up breathlessly with the telephotos, and it was almost 4 pm by the time we reached Khandedhar Top (~ 5000 mts), the swaying grass on one end complementing the scree on the other. The glacial winds could be felt strongly now, and with a thick mist rolling in, we hustled down to the nearest flatland and camp. Aided by easy availability of wood during the past three days, this was the first and only time when we had to take out the kerosene stoves. The valley offered some interesting mountain shapes, and should see deeper explorations in the future.

We woke up to a frosty morning but the mist started clearing out around 9 am. Merging back into the trail towards Phangchi Galu was the next challenge, and about half an hour of trail hunting, punctuated by silhouettes of an Ibex on the far mountaintop, found us in the familiar company of burjis and unoccupied shepherd encampments. The climb up to the pass is arguably the toughest on the trail, the narrow, constant uphill punctuated with numerous stream crossings.

Phangchi Galu (4636 mts) is the highest point on the trek, and it opened up to a vast river of scree on the other side as the winds lashed the pass. The region was almost completely snow free at this time of the year, which made the descent a bit easier as compared to snow, though traversing the sharp rocks with rock falls all around was a spooky experience. The descent into Parvati Valley saw us entering into a thick layer of fog, and the weather gods, having heeded our daily offerings of roti and halwa between the two passes, finally let the rain roll. The drizzle threatened but never turned into a downpour, and we reached our campsite at 5 pm, the gushing Parvati at the other end signaling the entry back into civilization.

The walk down to the village of Pulga next day was an easy downhill, though made terribly slippery by the drizzle. The hot springs at Manikarn offered cleansing in the arms of divinity, and one starts wondering how to measure every corner of these vast mountains before hydropower muzzles in that paradox of sustainability and progress once again.


1. Itinerary
Day 1: Shanshar, 2100 mts – Bhagi Kashyari, 2600 mts; 8 kms, 3 hours

Day 2: Bhagi Kashyari, 2600 mts – Subli Thatch, 3300 mts, 20 kms, 11 hrs; begins with undulations followed by a very steep ascent that can be technical in stretches. The descent is modest, but better to have an early start and wrap it up in daylight

Day 3: Subli Thatch, 3300 mts – Dwada Thatch, 3150 mts; steep descent and ascent with ‘hard to make out’ trails… the shortest day of hiking in terms of distance, but the descent and river crossings can be tricky

Day 4: Dwada Thatch, 3100 mts -*‐ Sarthu Pond, 3500 mts – Khandedhar Top, 4400 mts – Lalbatti campsite, 4000 mts, a gentle first half followed by steep ascent in the afternoon, ot so hard a climb if you are sure of the trail, the last half hour of descent is beautiful

Day 5: Khandedhar/ Lalbatti Campsite, 4000 mts – Phangchi Galu, 4600 mts – Chippi, 3400 mts: Steep ascent and descent as usual, the downhill is easier after the moraines though, the route, though made tough by the fog, is actually pretty distinguishable, but one has to keep persisting towards the left once on the glacier’s tongue as the moraines can mislead

Day 6: Chippi, 3400 mts, Pulga – Barshaini – Manikarn, a very steep descent, but a relatively easier day as the woods and patched of civilization refuse to leave you at the mercy of the elements, the sulfur at Manikarn is a divine concoction for the aching disposition

2. Avifauna: GHNP is boasts of hosting five pheasants, a feat rare for any national park, viz. Western Tragopan (of which the park has the highest number), Cheer Pheasant, Himalayan Monal, Kokla and Khaleej Pheasan, the first two being endangered species. Snow Partridge, Snow Cock and Hill Partridge are other key high altitude birds.

3. Fauna: The park is home to the Snow Leopard, which benefits from contiguousness to Pin Valley National Park, Himalayan Black Bear, Tahr and Musk Deer.

4. Flora: The region is home to a diverse variety of lichen, from highly medicinal species growing
out of the glacial frost to the mehndi plants.

5. Seasonality: September is by far the best month to see the valleys in all their colours, but May-June and October would also offer a challenging terrain

​Shoot up on that, bright Bennu bird.... Eftsoon so too will our ownsphoenix spark spirt his spyre and sunward stride the rampante flambe. Ay, already the somber opacities of the gloom are sphanished. Brave footsore Haun! Work your progress! . . . The silent cock shall crow at last. The west shall shake the east awake. Walk while ye have the night for morn, lightbreakfastbringer.... Amain.

- James Joyce
#2 Jan 12th, 2015, 19:50
Passion for Football & Trekking never die
Join Date:
Aug 2009
  • Legend is offline
great Snaps mate...waiting for some more snaps...
Rules r meant to be broken
Don't break rules in Himalaya
Please Keep Himalaya clean & plastic free
#3 Jan 12th, 2015, 20:03
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Jul 2014
Sunder Nagar, India
  • Tarun Goel is offline
brilliant stuff
#4 Jan 21st, 2015, 18:32
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New Delhi
  • parthapratim is offline
amazing ! Bring on more !
Keep Travelling and Exploring
#5 Jan 28th, 2015, 19:27
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  • SomPan is offline

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