Mandani Valley Trek - Touching the Shrines and Pilgrimage with a Difference
Mandani Valley trek is one of the tough and less explored treks in the Garhwal Region of Uttarakhand. The valley connects the Madhmaheswar trail to Kedarnath at Chorabari Glacier, the origin of river Mandakini. The trek involves crossing 3 high altitude Cols, the highest being the Bisali Col (4750 mts)
It is a universally accepted fact that, being in deva bhoomi and walking amidst the mountains of the Uttarakhand Himalayas is a divine experience !. Mandani Valley trek is no exception to it !
Untrodden paths meanders through the pristine alpine forests, walking through undualating meadows with snow clad mountains for company, which play hide and seek with passing clouds !. Exploring the valley , steeped in mythology and Crossing the high passes so fascinating and challenging !
After successfully completing the first leg of the High Altitude Panpatia Trail in May 2016, the continuation of it from Madhyamaheshwar shrine to Kedarnath was in our list of must do treks and finally in September , our wish was fulfilled. Fortunately, this Mandani valley was our first trek where we would be passing over 3 High Altitude passes. So the enthusiasm and challenge was beyond our expectation ! We followed the below Itinerary
01 Day : Dehradun / Haridwar to Ransi 240 km dur 08 hrs
As planned we reached Jolly Grant Airport on 16 September in the morning. Our guide Balbir was waiting to greet us.The weather was ideal, all team members knew each other so we started our journey towards Ransi village the base camp for our trek. After a long bumpy ride, passing through Ukhimath we reached Ransi at 5 pm.
Ransi is a quaint sleepy village, with beautiful views mountains in distance.Ransi also serves as starting point for Madhyamaheshwar,which is one of the Panch Kedar !.
We piched our tents, in a bugyal closeby. We got aquainted with trek leader and staff for rest of the day.
02 Day : Ransi to Saniyara Kharak 2850 m
In the morning, all freshened, we assembled and were ready for the start of trek.Our trek leader told that it will take 5 hours to reach our campsite.The first day of the trek is always taxing.Leaving behind the habitation we started climbing uphill with heavy rucksacks. The zig zag climb made most of us tired and were panting.Nevertheless we soon gained rhythm and walked without any issues.
As we climbed higher and higher, snowclad peaks shimmered in the distance.The sight of tents made us happy, we were greeted with hot lunch
The campsite served as vantage point overlooking the hills.The view of golden rays kissing the Chaukamba peak in the evening was a memorable experience !
Campsite at Saniyara
03 Day : Saniyara Kharak to Paturi 3300 m
The Next day we started early as it was a long day of walking 8 km.Initially we walked through the birch forest with canopy. We could see the snow clad peaks of Mandani 6193 m and Chaukamba Massif 7138 m. The forest was teeming with birdlife, we could spot Tree pie, Red billed blue Magpie, Fly catchers in the thickets. Butterflies fluttering in morning light, pre dominantly it was Himalayan Tortiose shell. We spent most of time going behind them, forest gave way to grasslands The uphill was not tiring due to lungful of fresh air and panoramic views on the either side of the ridge !
We reached the Paturi campsite in the evening, the whole valley was covered in mist !.We were served hot soup and was follwed by a dinner. In the night we could hear bell sound at Madhyamaheshwar temple echoing down from the valley.
04 Day : Paturi to Thouli 3865 m
In the morning we surprised to witness the grandeur of mountains looming in the distance and was a perfect silhoutte.Though members had a good pace,we wanted to be experience the journey !.We spent time photographing the mountains, admiring nature in riot of colurs.
We crossed the Thouli Top 3920 m with ease, From here we descended to Thouli.The trail was insterspersed with rocky outcrops and grasslands !
After, short breaks including packed lunch of Parathas and Pickle, a good about 9 hours of trek we reached the campsite before dusk !
View of Chukambha Peak and Mandani Peak ( L - R )
05 Day : Thouli to Dagla Bugyal
We started as usual after breakfast, the trail was uphill with no clear path.After walking through grassland for 6 Hours we reached green patch iaround 4 pm.
06 Day : Dagla Bugyal to Mandani Bugyal
We woke up early to the song of the bird.After early breakfast we started with guide, porters followed us.We passed through undualating grasslands, the snowy peaks guarding the valley stood as sentinels.The valley was a kaleidoscope of colors.
We descended the valley in the far end, it was steep around 70 deg inclination, the rhododendron trees bushes grew here profusely.Heading down precariously,holding them balancing over slope .sliding sometimes and after crossing the ice cold stream in the dark we reached a flat ground .All were dog tired.porters arrived bit late, we assisted them in pitching tents , we were served hot dinner soon.The full moon appeared behind the snow peaks and sound of gurgling stream was soothing. It was windly and cold all night !
Day 07 : Acclimitization Day & Exploration
We had decided to call it a, free day for acclimitization, as everyone was tired.We woke up a bit late. The ' U ' shaped valley was enticing with rewarding views.
Our guide had decided to perform puja here at a temple on the banks of river usha, he began to narrate the mythological story assciated to it.
It is said in puranas and believed, that goddess Durga slayed the demon Mahishasur here and buried him into the earth. She took the shape of the rock and decided to sit on him forever. That rock still remains at the same place.In Epic Mahabharat, it is said that Pandavas passed through Mandani valley when they were on their final journey to Swargarohini !
We performed puja and prayed for good fortune !
Along with the guide we head straight to exlore the surroundings.The stream wihich was flowing swiftly in the night had receded a bit.The marshy place was dotted with flowers of different hues and colors.
We could see Erigerons, Asters, Primulas, Potentillas, Geranium, Mongia Longifora, Bistorta and Saxifraga Parnasifollia in full bloom. It was sunny and windy too. It was difficult to photogtaph the flowers, as they were swaying in tune with blowing wind.
The water in the stream began to increase as the day passed.I literally felt that we were in a flower valley.The Impatiens had grown profusely, dotting the meadows next to stream.
A mushroom glowing in the sunlight drew our attention and was highlight of the trip.The white flowers of Angelica resembling a inverted Umbrella was attractive.
The Polygonum, Lingularia, Androsace grew far inside the valley at the base of the rocky wall of the mountain.We quenched our thirst in the glacial water, we last track of time and had spent around more than 3 hours in the exploration.We were in no mood to get back to campsite.By then we had spotted around 16 species of flowers.
We reached campsite around 3 pm, had hot lunch and called it a day !
08 Day : Mandani Bugyal to Yeonbuk Base - Altitude 4130 M
All woke up early, all were excited to reach the base of Yeonbuk Col.We took the left ridge and traversed till we reached the top.We got a birds view of the entire valley and mountains from close quarters.
It was a long day.It snowed a bit and trail became slippery. We took shelter in a natural caves enroute to Yeonbuk base.All the members reached campsite by 5;00 pm. We made a rock outcrop as makeshift kitchen and pitched our tents on the grassy patch, next to a rivulet overlooking the Col !
Indeed !.The campsite in short was a Virtual Paradise !
09 Day : Yeonbuk Base - Mahapanth Base 4450 m
We were advised to startly, se we wake up bit early at 5;00 am. Armed with camera i decided to climb to the highest point in the valley to photograph the first rays of sun on the mountains.In the dull light i noticed a animal resembling a goat, in the dry thickets.The sun was palying hide and seek with a clouds.The golden light was yet to come and rays kiss the valley. I sat quiet, the shy animal blackish in color with horns, started running up.It was Himalayan Serow !. I was fortunate to sight it for the first time.
Himalayan Serow resembles a cross between a goat, a donkey, a cow, and a pig.
They are herbivores and are typically found at altitudes between 2,000 metres and 4,000 metres (6,500 to 13,000 feet).
They are a medium-sized mammal with a large head, thick neck, short limbs, long, mule-like ears, and a coat of dark hair.
Himalayan Serow Scientific Name : Capricornis thar
Little short of our campsite, I took a detour and headed down ward with an intention to get better view of mountains.Suddently i spotted a fox, basking in the sun beside a huge boulder. I felt that i was double lucky to sight wildlife !.
Himalyan Red Fox Scientific Name ::Vulpes Vulpes
Normally these rare species are found in a range of habitats, from isolated mountain regions in the high altitudes in remote Himalayas, They are not harmful and move away if they forsee any danger !.
I resumed my trek with the teamates, we climbed the ridge opposite to our campsite.The whole valley was glowing, i could sight the depression in the mountain far way, Balbir pointed at the Yeonbuk col.Huge Boulders, made the climb tiring and after 3 hours of arduos climb we reach the 1st col.
It snowed a little, we saw huge Cairns, marked at the pass and whole valley on the other side was visible.Entire valley was covered with boulders and we had to pass through rockfall area.
After a descent and climbing for more than 3 Hours we reached Bishali Col, hidden far end in the valley.Being highest point of the entire trail,it was killer climb.
Porters had reached well in advance and established campsite on patch of land, surrounded by boulders.We reach campsite around 5 pm.We had Hot tea with biscuits and after a chit chat we squeezed into the tents.
10 Day : Mahapanth Base to Kedarnath
We started our trek after breakfast.The path was full of boulders,after a gradual ascent and screen descent of scree, we reached a glacial pond below snow clad peak.The snow fall in the previous night had made boulders slippery.
We negotiated the path, hopping from boulder to boulder.After a steep climb, a 3 hours, walk reached much awaited Mahapanth Col 4602 m.we waited for all members to arrive,after a customory group photo we thanked each other and rejoiced over successful climb.A wide valley opned up below us, we made a steep descent on rocks.A small mistake could cause severe danger, our guide kept advising us from back !
We could hear the bell sound reverbarating in the valley.We were curious to visit the abode of Lord soon.After 3 hours of descent, we could catch a glimpse of shrine from the far end corner behind the shrine.
In all spirits we reached the Kedarnath dham around 5 pm, after waking for 6 long hours.We stayed in swargarohini Cottage of GMVN and blessed to have darshan of Lord Bholenath !. The whole valley and mountains Kedarnath and Sumeru glowed and came alive as the western skies were ablaze !. We prostrated and thanked the Lord for being generous with us.
11 Day : Kedarnath to Guptkashi 1319 m
We visited the shrine again at 5;00 am, finally started our descent at 8:00 am.The serpentine path was never ending.After 5 hours of descent we reached Gaurikund by 2 00 pm.It started to drizzle a bit, few members expressed their desire to visit Triyuginarayan temple.
After spending some time at ancient temple, we drived down to our stay at Guptkashi !
12 Day : Guptkashi to Dehradun
We thanked our Guide and all our staff , who had been with us in entire journey.We bid farewell with a heavy heart, after discussing our future plans.We reached Dehradun as planned at 8:00 pm.
Tips for those planning Mandani Valley Trek
- Mandani Valley is a part of Kedarnath Wildlife Santuary.Permission to trek can be obtained from Ukhimath Forest Office - Uttarakhnd
- It is a remote, High Altitude trek, strenuos and strictly not advised for beginners
- Please check with guide about trail and reconfirm.Because only few guides know the route.
- Respect wildlife and himlayan environs.Follow leave no trace policy.