If you are new to trekking & a nature lover, then this trek will change your life for ever.
If you are already an expert & have done a lot of treks earlier, then this must have been on your past list.
From villages, stream crossings, to rhododendron forests & river crossings, from view of mountain peaks, bugyals to glaciers, monals & ashrams, this trek has everything in it. This makes it one of the most famous beginner’s trek.
I went there on May 2018 along with my wife, uncle & Jai Singh (porter cum guide).
Summers – May to June – min of 0 degrees to 2 degrees , maximum of 10 – 12 degrees near pindari baba ashram, avg temp of 8 degrees – 14 degrees near Dwali & Khati.
Winters – Dec to Feb – below zero degrees & one can expect 3 – 4 feet of snow near ashram, 2 feet of snow near Phurkiya & dwali, few inches to 1 feet of snow near Khati.
Starting Point & How to reach
Video Link of View from Zero Point
DAY 1 – Reach Bageswar from Kathgodam
Considering you are arriving from Delhi, the starting point for most of treks in Kumaun region of Uttarakhand is Bageswar, which can be reached from Kathgodam by car. It takes around 4 hours to reach there. Kathgodam has rail station & is accessible from Delhi by no of trains. One can even drive to Kathgodam from Delhi. After you reach Bageswar, one usually takes rest before going for the rest of the route by car. There are a lot of hotels available here.
DAY 2 – 57 kms | 4 hrs | Bageswar to Kharkiya & 4kms | 3 hrs | Kharkiya to Khati
The next stop is Kapkot, which is 22kms from Bageswar (1.5 hrs by car). Kapkot is the last proper market before the trek starts. This is also the last place where banks are available, hence any kind of transactions must be done here. The porters usually buy all the essentials from here before heading to Kharkiya, which happens to be the last point of the motorable journey. From here onwards, one has to travel by foot.
Kapkot to Kharkiya is 35kms & takes 2.5hrs approx by car to reach. This duration is possible by availing the new route that is available. One has to turn left from Ritabagar & not go straight to Loharkhet. the point is shown in the map from where the route takes a left turn. The new route meets at Karmi village on way to Kharkiya. This saves valuable time. Long ago, people used to start their Pindari glacier trek from Loharkhet. This would take around 1 extra day to reach Kharkiya by foot.
Hiring cars from Bageswar is easy as a lot of them are available in the stand. If you have booked a porter for the trek, then he can take care of the car bookings also.
After one reaches Kharkiya & finishes the lunch there at few of the available dhabas, the walk to Khati village starts, which is 4kms & will take approx 3hrs if you walk steadily enough. Kharkiya is also the point from where one can proceed to Dhakuri which offers brilliant views of snow clad peaks.
On the way from Kharkiya to Khati one crosses the village “Jaikuni” which offers splendid views of two valleys in front of it. To the left is Sunderdunga river with Maiktoli peak, and on the right is the way to Pindari & kafni glaciers. The view of sunrise on Maiktoli peak is beyond comparasion. As one moves closer to Jaikuni village the peaks start to reveal themselves.
The road to Khati well laid with stones and you will cross a school using solar power.
One can also find many villagers along with their donkeys along the way. Donkeys are the only medium to carry heavy luggage to & fro from the village to Kharkiya.
DAY 3 – 12kms | 7 hrs | Khati to Dwali
Khati village has a lot of staying options in homestays. The homestays are available from Jaikuni village itself. We stayed at Annapuna homestay at Jaikuni and were relieved with the splendid view in front of us. The village Khati itself is beautiful to watch at from distance. It is extremely colourful and with the terrace farming it presents a picturesque moment.
Electricity is not available from Jaikuni onwards though we heard talks of permanent electricity being provided in a few months time. Hence the residents of the village rely on solar powered torches, lanterns, heaters, etc. Majority of the guides and porters for Pindari, Kafni & Sunderdunga treks live in this village. The village is bustling with children and their activities will keep you engaged.
After spending the previous night in this village, one needs to start early for the trek to DWALI which is almost 12kms from Khati. If you are walking slowly and taking 3 – 4 tea breaks in between it will take you 7 hours to reach Dwali. After the natural disaster in 2012-2013, the route to Dwali changed. The guides will take you via the new route.
From Khati village one has to reach the temple at the top of the village and follow the stairs by the side of it downwards into the river that flows below. The stairs may be slippery depending on rainfall. As we descend down the slope to the river below, we will face few landslide zones where one can experience falling rocks & pebbles on windy days. It is advisable to cross such areas with caution and to not take much time in doing so. The final leg in coming down to the river bed has an extremely slippery trail ( due to rains). You cant find any proper way & might need to sit on your backs sometimes to negotiate through the stretch of trail.
After you get down to the river bed, you have to negotiate through a maze of boulders big & small before you reach the wooden makeshift bridge to cross the small yet power packed river. It may look easy from the distance, but if feel the force you will understand how fast the water is flowing and its subzero temperature. As understood from the porter, these bridges often wash away due to heavy rainfall and they have to make fresh ones to keep things moving between Dwali & Khati. However these bridges are used by people as they take less time. When carrying load on donkeys, they prefer travelling on the more permanent bridges constructed on the river.
After crossing the river, you start climbing up the incline on the other side from few meters ahead of the log bridge. The incline is steep but one can easily go about it.
MAKE WAY for the DONKEYS….Throughout the trek, one will come across donkeys carrying luggage. The best option is to take the mountain side and stay still until the donkeys pass. This must be done to avoid any kind of collisions with them resulting you or the animal in falling into the gorge.
The path now crosses in zig zag fashion and sometimes an incline while at other times a decline. There are two stops in between Khati & Dwali where one can have tea & find some maggi, fruit drinks. You can sit and grasp some breath in these spots before going ahead further.
Although when it comes to taking rest, you have the liberty to sit anywhere and enjoy the natural beauty that this trek has to offer without loitering the surroundings. There are also seats available throughout the trail till Dwali where one can sit and relax.
The first sight of Dwali village is found few minutes after the last resting spot along the trail & it is a sight to behold. You need to go down the mountain again on the river bed & this time you need to walk through the boulders for quite some time before finally going up to Dwali. It is again a landslide zone which one has to carefully cross before going down to the riverbed. There are two river crossings on this final stretch & that too on log bridges. one river originates from Pindari glacier while the other from Kafni glacier. Both of them merge together at Dwali before flowing downstream to Khati.
STONE INDICATORS – It is quite easy to get lost in the maze of boulders while coming to Dwali along the riverbed. Hence watchout for stone indicators along the route like the one in the picture below. stones are placed on top of one another & points towards the direction you need to move.
At Dwali you rest for the day in the huts available or you can even set up your own tent. KMVN lodges are also available here. It is also from here that you get a glimpse of Nanda Devi East peak when you look northwards from Dwali.
DAY 4 – 5km | 3.5 hrs | Dwali to Phurkiya
The next day we travel to PHURKIYA camp which presents a constant incline climb. A major temperature difference also occurs between Dwali & Phurkiya as one gains a lot of altitude. It is 5km approx & will take you 3.5 hours to reach there. You need to start as early as possible in the morning to avoid the sudden downpours which usually starts from late afternoons in case they happen.
As one approaches near to Phurkiya, we can see a change in vegetation. The rhododendrons between Khati & dwali were much taller than the ones on way to Phurkiya. They give way to much shorter variety as one gains altitude. This is also the phase of the trek when one starts to come across the bugyals.
Phurkiya lies almost on the border areas of Nanda Devi National Park. Hence you can expect a rise in wildlife activity in the region. You start to find a lot of finches, tits, etc. The Himalayan Monal is in abundance and one can hear its call from long distances. The cliffs are shelter to vultures and eagles. You may also view the himalayan tahr here. One can get to see the flock of snow pigeons here.
KMVN TRHs are available at Phurkiya. There are normal huts along with swiss tents here with proper toilets. These TRHs can be booked via your guide/ porter who sends a word regarding the bookings to the daily travellers up & down from Phurkiya to Dwali/ Khati. You can cook your food here if you are carrying the necessary accessories.
We stay the night at Phurkiya before travelling to Zero point the next day. Phurkiya offers you the majestic views of Nandakhat (6611 m height) for the first time in the trek and you can view the sunrise on the peak as well.
DAY 5 – (7 + 7 )km | (5+5) hrs | Phurkiya to Zero Point & back
This is the last leg of the trek & usually everyone tries to cover zero point and come back to Phurkiya on the same day. My personal suggestion would be to spens a night in between Phurkiya and Zero point in one of the Shepherd huts. These huts are used by shepherds when they arrive in the bugyals for grazing their sheep during the monsoons and spend 3 months approximately at a stretch. For the rest portion of the year these huts remain unused and you can use them before leaving it clean and clear for someone else’s use in future. However, staying in bugyals has been banned by Uttarakhand High court as per recent informations received. We had stayed prior to such release of any orders.
In any case if you are returning to Phurkiya the same day, you have to start early by 5am in the morning during summers so that you reach zero point by 10am after which the clouds start to move in and obstruct the beautiful view that zero point has to offer.
As soon as one starts to move from Phurkiya towards Zero point, the peaks start to open up one by one, starting from Baljuri, Panwaliduar & Nandakhat. The beautiful Trail’s pass also becomes visible. you will come across an Ashram where Swami Dharmanand (famously known as Pindari baba) stays. He is very kind to offer tea on your onward journey to zero point.
You need to cross a boulder region between the ashram & zero point if you are going in summers. The final climb upto Zero point is worth its view with Panwaliduar and Nandakhat on left, Trails pass with Pindari glacier in middle & Changuch, Nandakot on right.
DAY 6 – 5km | 3.5 hrs | Phurkiya to Dwali
DAY 7 – 12kms | 7 hrs | Dwali to khati
DAY 8 – Khati to Kharkiya & back to Bageswar.