“Where the glacier meets the sky, the land ceases to be earthly, and the earth becomes one with the heavens; no sorrows live there anymore, and therefore joy is not necessary; beauty alone reigns there, beyond all demands”, said Halldór Laxness, a writer born to a country full of glaciers, Iceland. No wonder what he said feels so true and so correct for glaciers do lend such extraordinary beauty to the Earth. And yet what he said is of course limited to no single country or territory but to endless regions of our massive planet. One could even witness something so beautiful and so poetic, a sight where “beauty alone reigns” in India itself. Our gorgeous country is home to many glaciers, one of the prized ones being a glacier that goes by the name of Khatling located in the state blessed with a bountiful of mountainous beauty, Uttarakhand. Adding to Khatling’s charm is the adventure it takes one on as reaching there requires a trek to be taken by the searching souls.
How to reach: Take a flight or train to Dehradun. From there travel by road to Ghuttu village or Gangotri depending on the intended route to take.
Best time to visit/trek: May to June, September to October. Peak monsoon is in July which ought to be avoided for the slush and added difficulty in the trail.
Duration: 11 – 13 days subject to route. Make sure to plan with time for acclimatizing your body as you will be trekking up to high altitudes and your body needs to be prepared for that.
Altitude: Approximately 4,600 metres or slightly above 15,000 ft.
Route: Possible routes (these are of course subjective to the route you personally opt for or decide on along with your local guide as per the places you want to cover, the feasibility as per the weather and also the experience level required, amidst other factors)
- Gangotri – Nala Camp – Rudugaira – Moraine – Auden’s Col – Khatling – Zero Point – Uddar – Chavni – Gangi – Dehradun
- Ghuttu – Reeh – Gangi – Kharsali – Bhedikharag – Khatling – Bhedikharag – Gangi – Panwali Kantha – Maggu Chatti – Triyuginarayan – Gaurikund – Dehradun
This is a challenging and demanding trek, thus, make sure to get your workout regime in place to prep in the best possible way so that the trek is an enjoyable and safe experience for you. Proper gear would also be needed so pack light but pack right!
This glacier is said to be the source from which River Bhilangana flows. Khatling is surrounded by snow-capped peaks all around it, giving your eyes a complete treat. The peaks include Sphetic Pristwar, Jogin Group, Barte Kauter and Kirti Stambh, perched as mighty protectors overlooking the glacier from their varying heights. The trek commences in Ghuttu and the best part is that the route itself acts as a warm welcome to the mountains because you cross pretty hamlets such as Kalyani, Bhomakgufa and Gangi along the way. Gangi is the last village leading up to the route, making it a comfortable choice for accommodation as well.
But before you slap on your boots and get kicking along the trails, how about a little story to let you know who you are visiting? It is said that Lord Shiva was in deep meditation amidst these snowy powder-puffed peaks. The lord was in strong concentration when a fair maiden named Bhilangana spotted him. The maiden sought his attention and thus performed many tricks to seduce the lord. Shiva did not fall into temptation but was infuriated at her attempts, that too while he was in such meditation. He then not only rejected the maiden but also cursed her. The curse then turned her into liquid, flowing in the grooves and the gaps between the hills above, i.e., River Bhilangana as seen gushing away today is actually believed to be the cursed maiden. Who knew a curse could also lead to something that our eyes have only deemed to be as so beautiful? Just something for the mind to ponder upon. Nevertheless, considering all this the locals still believe her to be a divine soul and the river is treated with due respect in accordance.
Click here to read about Kalihani Pass Trek in Himachal Pradesh!
The trek commences with an easy trail where the meadows mark the commencement of your next few days to come. Green meadows spring out from one corner to the next, with specs of rocks and streams adding to the personality of these grasslands. It is like the commencement of a good book where you are getting acquainted with the characters which in this case are the surroundings, then starting to forge a friendship with them which happens just as you start to find peace and joy in the cold temperatures and their winds, all the while with the promise of something more which is as you know in your heart that a lot more awaits you on the adventure you are beginning. Thus, you commence your book and walk into this story to write one of your own.
From Reeh and Gangi, characters such as forests also come to play their part. Now these forests with their range of oaks, pines and fir trees will pen numerous chapters and lend their presence to the story for a significant part. After this you will be greeted by River Bhilangana who lends an aura of mystique and ancient pasts to this trek. Hear more about the myths wrapped around her as you sit beside the river with locals, all looking at her soft waves. From the river you make a gradual ascent as the steepness increases in order to lead you to an eventual clearing between the thick forest cover. Get used to that camping life because this is a long trek, so, your tent will be home for quite a while. Some of the best memories are made with a tiny tent finds too many strangers turned friends huddling up together inside it to talk about their day’s adventure, their lives and whatever their heart pleases.
And finally, after an entire week’s effort you will find yourself rewarded with one of the most unfiltered views of a glacier that one can see. The mist in the air thickens and the cold will come pinching your skin, but you will find yourself transfixed as you see Khatling with its ice formations that flank the foothills of tall mountains encircling it. Sit down to let it all sink in or jump in joy for having made it. And maybe remember Halldor Lazness’s quote, you know from the beginning of this article, play it in your mind and tell me if it feels true to you as you smile back at Khatling.
Click here to read about Dev Kyara Trel in Uttarakhand!