Trek to Bishali Col Glacier- Among the challenging treks in India

We describe one of the challenging treks in India in the Lower Himalayan range in the Kedarnath Wildlife sanctuary. This post details to the readers a trek tale comprising crossing of three high altitude passes, skirting two glacial systems in the vicinity of the Gangotri mountain range. It is easily categorised as one the best treks to explore in Uttarakhand. This post is in a story format for ease of viewing.

Challenging Treks in India

One of the best treks to explore in Uttarakhand State

The  Indian mountain ranges of the Himalaya are generally barren, remote, beautiful but hardly documented. Most of the outlying regions are known to mountaineering enthusiasts affiliated to IMF or the local villagers. This is a favourable aspect for it keeps the area pristine and untouched. This helps in having an abundance of challenging treks in India.

best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
Trekker faces the challenge of traversing glacier

Some of the best treks to explore in Uttarakhand state come under the various Wild Life sanctuaries. This particular trek begins from Mandini Valley (located well inside the Kedarnath Wildlife sanctuary). Finally, it ends at the holiest high altitude Kedarnath temple located in the lower Himalayan range near to Mandakini river. The key highlights of this trek are the following

  • Average elevation: 4400 mts
  • Crossing three high altitude passes, i.e. Hembook col pass, Baishal col pass and Hanuman pass
  • Unique flora and fauna are specific to this region, including a range of medicinal plants.
  1. Crossing two glacial systems, namely the Yembuk glacier as well as the Bishali Glacier.
  • It is a part of the ancient trek route which connects Madhmadheswar with Kedarnath temple passing close to the Chorabari glacier.

So without further ado let us begin the tale of this trek into the wildlands of the Lower Himalayan range.

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A trekker’s song – As my heart and mind soar freely in flight through the unchanging unending sky with snow clad mountain ranges all around, it brings vibes and melodious songs of hope coursing through the innermost region of my heart..

Exploring Mandini Valley and trek to Yembuk Col Base Camp.

The first day of this particular trek covers the section from Mandini valley till Yembuk base camp( distance – 12 km / Elevation gained – 500 mts ). The terrain involved a steep climb at an incline of 40 deg for close to 3 km to gain elevation.  The average elevation on this section would be around 4200 mts. As we were still beneath the tree line, this was a total bear country. I am referring the Himalayan black Bear with whom no trekker wishes to cross paths.

best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
A moment of breather as we keep climbing

I undertook this trek as a part of a larger trekking expedition. However i would rate this particular stretch which i am describing in this post as one of the most challenging treks in India. This is on account of the remoteness of the trek and the unforgiving terrain where it is undertaken.

best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
The mystical beautiful Mandini Valley

Best treks to explore in Uttarakhand- Check out Mandini Valley trek

Mandini Valley is a magical, mystical valley deep in the Gangotri Range of Himalaya. It is visited by determined trekkers or the adventurous local villagers. They traverse the valley to cross over the surrounding mountains ranges to reach Kedarnath temple located on the other side.

best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
The view of the Himalayan peaks from Mandini Valley

As I begin the steep climb, walking alone in my own space without the sound of manmade interference there settles a rhythm of walking that finds its place with a rhythm of breathing. Time fades. I cease to think of life back from where I came. ( Best treks to explore in Uttarakhand – read about Satopanth Lake Trek here )

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I involuntarily look up and pause in my movement. High up, I see something. As I gaze, the camera which is strapped on my chest is removed with a smooth involuntarily movement. Without thinking, without composing or judging, I press the shutter and this pause terminates with the shutter’s sound. This sound, unlike the roar of the glacier river below, is so acute to my hearing. The pause has ended, and I return to the action of walking. The trek continues up the slopes of an unnamed mountain slope deep in the Gangotri region.

Best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
The steep climb upwards

Campsite at Yembuk Base Camp

Yembuk  Base camp is a site chosen by trek teams who wish to climb the nearby Mt Yembuk Col and is a pleasant campsite just above the tree line at an altitude of 4400 mts. However, the presence of a large number of rocks again induced images of the Himalayan Bear. The campsite, as mentioned, is in a lovely tiny meadow having a gentle glacial stream flowing with a green carpet of grass all around.

In this trek, all gear is carried by porters on their backs which includes the cooking fuel, raw cereals, tents and sleeping bags. This trek is absolute remote and hardly even finds mention in the regular trekking tales. This is one of the reason why i am inclined to refer this in the category of challenging treks in India.

  • best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
    Peaceful Yembuk Camp site
  • best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
    In the company of extinct glaciers and few live ones too
  • best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
    Yembuk base camp
  • best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
    Evening dinner being prepared

The campsite visuals at Yembuk Base Camp

From the Yembuk base camp, as the evening approached a close, I could see the golden blaze of the setting sun and the angry looks of the glaciers all around the slopes of the sorrowing mountains shrouded in the approaching darkness and the perennial shade of the mountain peaks. A foreboding look indeed.

Treks such as these are genuine in every way, how should I describe this thought !! Extremely raw vibes, unpretentious to the hilt and with no social wannabe clamouring around. The very nature of these remote treks discourages the crowds from coming to these regions.

one of the best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
One of the best treks to explore in Uttarakhand

Trekking across Bishali Glacier

My pause ..
through steps of my journey
without a context or history 
I bear witness to images ...
brought about by connect and distance 
created by passion and stillness within !!!

There was a slight drizzle in the morning as we broke camp. Mt Yembuck, with its brother peaks, looked down on us as we welcomed the start of another day. In the remote mountains, no matter how beautiful is the starry night, every trekker waits for the morning dawn for it gives hope and succour to the heart within.

Today we moved ahead to egress out of the Mandini Valley periphery through a gap in the towering mountain ranges – Yembuk Pass ( altitude 4630 mts ).

Coming face to face with Yembuk Glacier

The other side of the pass involved a descent through moraine area towards Yembuk glacier. The moraine area was particularly steep. My guide and head porter stayed close to me throughout this section, and the worry was visible on their face as they repeatedly kept looking at the mountain ridge above us. Interested in knowing about best treks to explore in Uttarakhand – read about Nandi-Kund Lake trek here.

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Yembuk Glacier formed millions of years ago and with no human contact eyes us warily. Creavsses greeted us out here, some small while the others were big. In the eerie silence with the sound of the snow crunching beneath our boots, we made our way across the periphery of the glacier not daring to go inwards towards it.

I came face to face with blue ice, the pure ice formed millions of years ago, which never melts. Each monsoon it reveals when the glacier moves and the upper layer of snow melts away. But then winter comes knocking back, and buries the blue ice deep into the bowels of the glacier to await its emergence the forthcoming monsoon. Such is the saga of the land out here.

I saw bizarre frames of rocks, several hundred tonnes in weight balanced on ice stools stuck nd frozen to the glacier river, no more independent unless the glacier suddenly decides to let them loose when it shifts and moves forward. There is a continual movement here but on a scale of time in which we humans have no significance.

Post crossing Yembuk glacier we moved towards Bishali Pass(4900 mts ). This was deep moraine country with a frame of the earth which was cold raw and cruel. I sensed no warmth here but only a cold gaze upon me all the time as we walked in the shadow of the towering mountain ranges to our right.Indeed these vibes make this qualify for challenging treks in India along with the likes of Panpatia Col Trek, Auden’s Col , Milam glacier trek .

The experience of Bishali Glacier

Bishali pass at an altitude of 4900 mts ( 16076 feet)  is reached in the afternoon. We are cold, tired and hungry while the freezing rain greeted us with a sneer smile. There was no respite, no turning back. All I could do is pull the lips shut, tighten the sodden boots and walk into this surreal world forwards stumbling towards an unseen campsite. But first I needed to the skirt the Bishali glacial system.

I witnessed the formation of glacial streams as the ice melted forming channels which eventually joined together to form a more significant stream flowing into the yonder somewhere. There were these deep crashes heard somewhere in the mist, indicating that the glacier was breaking and realigning itself. The fog, however, shrouded everything from my gaze save the immediate vicinity. Such was the scenario that fateful day out in the Lower Himalayas.

  • challenging treks in India
    The slow-moving river of Ice
  • challenging treks in India
    The Bishali Glacier
  • challenging treks in India
    A landscape that does not encourage visitors
  • Welcome to a trek like no other

We did not talk among ourselves, each man in his own space, head bent down, moving ahead through this subpolar battlefield on the face of the earth. The glacial water flowed beneath the ice. In some places, I could see it flowing furiously reminding me that I was still walking on the glacial river when a fissure might open up with little or no warning at all.

I am cold wet and fatigued from the excessive concentration. All senses alert and drawn to an excellent breaking point since morning, but the end was just not in sight. Eventually, by around five as the last light was upon us, we reached an area of safety among huge boulders away from the glacier. In the cold rain we gratefully pitched tents to call it a day.

One of the most challenging days that I had ever encountered in those times which drew upon me to marshall all my willpower. Guarded by unnamed mountain ranges on all sides, this region decided whom it will allow to pass unhindered ahead.

Challenging treks  in India
The rudimentary campsite amidst towering mountains

Trekking towards Kedarnath Valley

There is in silence; a loss of form 
there is in darkness; a discovery of pure attention .....

The night was eerie and cold in its vibes. All I could do was twist and turn in my sleeping bag, waiting for the breath of dawn on my skin. Dawn came ever so slowly, and the sight of it filled my heart with hope. Two cups of tea later, I was positively buoyant of the day.

best treks to explore in Uttarakhand
A world of glaciers all around as far as the eye can see… the rocks float on a river of ice

Today we had to crossover the remaining part of the Baishali glacial system and after that ascend to Hanuman pass. Post crossing the same I would be entering the Kedarnath Valley and the completion of the trek.

Crossing over Hanuman Pass & Mahapanth Sarovar

The path through the Bishali glacier is navigated slowly and carefully. I did not wish to commit a mistake in this final section after having come all this way. After four hours, I laid my eyes on Mahapanth Sarovar, a mystical lake at the foothills of the mountain ranges leading to Hanuman Pass.

Uttarakhand tourism
Mystical Mahapanth Sarovar

By now there was a spring in the step as we soon crossed over Hanuman Pass( 4450 M)and entered Kedarnath Valley. From now onwards, it was a long slow descent into the valley. After paying our respects to the guardian deity of the Kedarnath temple, we visited the main temple itself.

Uttarakhand Tourism/ Click here for HD format

There were no crowd of devotees, and it surprised me. The temple staff informed that a landslide had shut the path connecting Kedarnath temple with Gaurikund( 22 km away) for the past three days. There were surprised to see us and enquired how did we land here. To that, we replied that we came across the mountains. Mountains which acted as the barrier to the Kedarnath Valley. Hearing this amazed them to see this being attempted in deep monsoons.

Have a look at the short Video clip here

Epilogue – Challenging Treks in India

Such is the beauty of this most amazing of all treks within the Kedarnath Wildlife sanctuary crossing three mountains passes and two glacial systems. I hope my readers liked this short abstract trek that is typically not found in the blogging articles. Do comment and lets us discuss if there is any specific thought that comes to your mind.

In case you are interested in further visuals ranging from architecture to travel destinations, flora and fauna of India. So click on below mentioned link.

Would you be interested in reading a few more articles related to treks and exploring India , well scroll down

  • A visuals story on trekking in Kashmir. Read here.
  • My visuals from the hypnotising Nageen Lake in Kashmir & the frame life of those who reside there. Have a look
  • A journey into the Buddhist monasteries of Ladakh. Read On.

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41 Replies to “Trek to Bishali Col Glacier- Among the challenging treks in India”

  1. Stunning visuals with lucid writing makes your blogs a must read. The trek must have been arduous but worth it. Great going Sumit. Waiting eagerly for your next blog.

  2. The trekking worm has again started to stir inside me, reading this post of yours. Beautifully described and lovely pics.
    Could imagine myself walking on the snow amidst the wonderful landscape.

  3. Himalayas are so beautiful and an adventurous place. Your photos are just awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is a well written guide. This makes me wanna trek Bishali Col Glacier one day. Hope to visit India in the future!

  5. What an amazing trek that is! I find trekking peaceful as I am one with nature.

  6. The view at Yembuk Glacier looks breathtaking! I have read a few posts featuring outdoor adventures in India and I’m truly craving to give it a try!

  7. These places were amazing, I love how you detailed it. Very informative, looking for more of this. I like how this place were formed for trekking.

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