India is blessed with breathtakingly beautiful mountainous terrains in all four directions. It offers some of the most exciting and scenic treks in the world. But nothing matches the utter grandeur and splendor of the Himalayas that form a discontinuous, uneven wall from the north to the northeast of India. The tallest and one of the youngest fold mountain ranges globally, the Himalayas have a characteristic untamed beauty, peppered with fast-flowing waterfalls and rapids, offering an array of adventure sports opportunities.
One of these absolute must-go destinations in the country is the Pindari Glacier. Read on to know more about this beautiful place and the excellent 50 km Pindari Glacier trek route.
The scenic splendor of the trek:
The Pindari Glacier Trek is known for the hikes through the dense forests, cascading rivulets, verdant meadows, and mesmerizing views of the mountain peaks. The glacier lies on the edge of Mt. Nanda Devi (7816 meters), offering a peek into nature’s galore of the Kumaon region. The trail abounds in flora and fauna.
Sandwiched between the Nanda Devi and Nanda Kot (6861 meters), this glacier has lured adventurers since the last century. You will get captivating views of the Panwali Dhar (6683 meters) and Maiktoli (6803 meters) while on this trek.
Cultural significance of the Pindari Glacier Trek:
Apart from the abundance of nature, the Pindari Glacier trek offers you an excellent chance for village tourism. You can explore the villages of Almora and Bageshwar while you are on this journey and get a real taste of the Kumaoni culture. The locals of this region refer to the glacier as the ‘Soul of the Kumaon’ - primarily due to the large amounts of snow precipitated from the Nanda Devi and surrounding Himalayan summits that contribute to the existence of this glacier.
Flora and fauna around the Pindari Glacier:
The natural beauty and the rich wilderness of the Pindari Glacier, particularly around the south side, are unimaginable. Apart from the views of the massive Himalayan peaks, travelers can spot several species of plants and wild animals in the laps of the Pindari Glacier region. Khair, Sal, Sheesham, Teak, and Haldu abound in this region apart from the regular alpine vegetation of oak and rhododendrons in the higher altitudes. If you go deep into the Nanda Devi National Park, you will find more diverse vegetation, including fir, juniper, birch, and others.
The Nanda Devi National Park, situated around 43 km away from the Pindari Glacier, is bustling with wildlife. You can find over 80 species of animals, including rare species like the Himalayan Tahr, the Bharal, Himalayan Musk Deer, Snow Leopard, Serow, Himalayan Black Bear, Common Langur, Brown Bear, Goral, and many more.
The sanctuary also abounds in exotic avian species, including Warblers, Ruby Throat, Grosbeaks, and Rose Finches. The entire region is a paradise for birdwatchers and wildlife photographers.
Activities that can be performed on the Pindari Glacier trail:
The Pindari Glacier trail offers approximately 90 km round-trip distance that most people complete within 6 to 7 days. Trekking or hiking is the most popular activity. However, the Pindari Glacier offers the scope for other adventure activities like mountain biking and ice climbing.
History and geographical features:
Situated in the state of Uttarakhand, the Pindari Glacier is the origin of the Pindar river—a speedy tributary of the Alaknanda river—one of the two rivers that make up the mighty Ganges that flows down from Uttarakhand to the Bay of Bengal.
This route thrived as a trade way between the Empire of Tibet and India in ancient times. It was rediscovered back in the 1800s as a shortcut from Pindari to Martoli by the erstwhile (and, first) Deputy commissioner of Kumaon—GW Traill. Today, a col on the route is named Traill’s Pass after him and stands at an altitude of 5395 meters.
Subsequently, many explorers, both solo and part of teams, traversed this rediscovered ancient route, slowly bringing the spot fame and more visitors.
Pindari Glacier trek is quite reasonably priced, with multiple agencies offering packages starting from approximately USD 190 (INR 14000). However, this figure excludes the cost of traveling to Kathgodam and returning home from Kathgodam.
The last ATM is at Kathgodam, so you need to carry adequate cash for day-to-day expenses. Ask your tour advisor/guide about possible costs for a fair estimate. While many touring agencies often provide digital payment facilities for their customers’ ease, it differs from agency to agency.
Cell phone connectivity:
Cell phone connectivity is a scarce commodity for a big part of the trek, with reception getting faulty once you reach the village of Khati, which is the last settlement before Pindari. Only BSNL users might be able to squeeze in a call or two at Khati.
The Pindari Glacier Trek is easy to moderately difficult trek. The ease enables trekking amateurs and even entire families to embark on this adventure. The gradient is moderate, thereby minimizing physical exhaustion.
However, the total trek distance is 90 kilometers and takes around 6-7 days to complete. The length, combined with the unpredictable weather conditions, can give a hard time for the first-timers. Along with these, crossing the glacial terrain can be a tricky affair. The route between Dwali and Phurkiya is particularly treacherous, with the 2013 Uttarakhand floods destroying a large part of it.
The Himalayas are an all-season wonder with different faces to show visitors in different seasons—each breathtaking in its way. The Pindari Glacier trek can be attempted two times a year- The spring/Summer season (mid-March to mid-June) and the Autumn season (mid-September to early November).
Winters, from mid-November to mid-March, are absolutely unfavorable for trekking as temperatures drop well below zero degrees. Snowfall is rampant and often causes landslides.
Although monsoon in the mountains is breathtaking, it is not conducive for treks as they make the path difficult to grip and walk on, besides obstructing vision. Rainfall in the Himalayas also has severe consequences such as landslides, which cause loss to life and property, rendering roads, trails, and any form of transportation or communication quite impossible. Hence, the monsoons should altogether be avoided when planning treks at such high altitudes.
Spring/Summer (mid-March to mid-June):
Spring is considered to be the Pindari Glacier trek best time. The weather is very balmy, neither too cold nor too warm. The skies are mostly clear, and rhododendrons are in full bloom, creating a carpet of pink and purple for the trekkers to behold. The clear blue skies and bright sunshine with the backdrop of the Kumaon range allow trekkers and photographers to capture breathtaking frames.
However, the local climate is volatile and unforeseen showers are a common occurrence.
Autumn (mid-September to early November):
Alternatively, many consider autumn to be the Pindari glacier trek best time. Autumn skies at the Pindari Glacier are also apparent, despite the drop in temperature. During this time, the hills are beautifully draped in autumnal hues of browns, reds, and golds, and the air is dry and chilly. Humidity and precipitation are low, which makes the trails safer to tread than during the rains.
You need to prepare holistically for every Himalayan trek that you embark on. However, pack lightly and take only those that are necessary.
The Pindari Glacier is situated at an altitude of 3660 meters above sea level. As a result, dressing appropriately is critical to withstand the associated cold climate and handling the physical exercise of the trek itself.
It is always advisable to dress up in layers to trap warm air to keep the extreme cold from penetrating the multiple layers of fabric. Moreover, the weather in mountainous regions is notorious for changing throughout the day, so wearing layers will also let you take them off if you start feeling warm.
The imperative is to carry versatile clothing that lets you stay warm during the night and comfortably shielded during the sunny day. You can carry two full-sleeve t-shirts, layering one with a woolen vest or a lightweight woolen jacket for warmer times.
Fleece jackets and thermal inner wear will be necessary to stave off the cold, especially in the evenings. As rainfall is often sudden, waterproof jackets and bottom wear will come in handy. Having a poncho with you will help during these situations.
Trekking is mostly walking—hence comfortable hiking pants and joggers are the bare minimums when going on the Pindari Glacier trek. Denim is a big no-no when it comes to trekking. Besides, gloves, both woolen and waterproof, are going to be helpful as well.
Successful treks often depend on wearing high-quality trekking-appropriate footwear with a good grip. Trekkers are always advised to wear good-quality hiking footwear, which usually is waterproof, extremely sturdy, offers excellent grip on uneven trails, and protects the feet from debris and temperature extremities.
Besides a pair of high-quality trekking boots, one should pack 4-5 pairs of cotton and at least 3 pairs of woolen socks to layer up or down as required over the trek. Between treks, a pair of floaters or flip-flops should be adequate.
The mountains offer stark weather contrasts. Sunlight is quite intense during certain times of the day, while the cold is quite intense at night. For the latter, balaclavas, turtle necks, and protective woolen headwear are important.
Protective eyewear such as reflective sunglasses is essential for protection against sunlight and snow blindness, common in areas with snow. For those with prescription glasses or contact lenses, photochromic sunglasses are advised.
Carry 50-60 liter waterproof bags with rain covers. You can also carry a smaller, waterproof daypack if you decide to offload it while hiking. As trekking can be tiring, staying hydrated and full can help counter exhaustion. So, carrying adequate reusable water bottles and dry foods like cereal bars and cookies is also important. Use cutlery (reusable) for serving a quick meal.
Other essentials include newspapers, headlamps/flashlights with extra batteries, a power bank, extra sim cards, etc. One of the most important things that you should never miss out on is a pair of sturdy trekking poles. These will help you maneuver through challenging terrain.
Trekkers should carry absorbent towels for day-to-day use. Soaps, toilet papers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizers, wet wipes, tissue rolls, and other toiletries should also be at hand. Women should carry sanitary napkins, tampons, or menstrual cups as preferred.
Littering the mountains is a crime against nature. Hence, trekkers should reduce waste generation and properly dispose of non-reusable items.
Well-stocked medical kits are essential, especially for trekkers embarking on the Pindari Glacier Trip solo. Generic medication for headaches, diarrhea, common cold, fevers, body aches, allergies, muscle cramps, etc., can come in real handy. When traveling to high altitudes, sudden bouts of nausea and motion sickness are common. So, carrying anti-nausea medication is also highly recommended. You might need to drink water from natural sources during the trek, so water-purification tablets are highly recommended.
Cuts and bruises, along with corns, shoe bites, and blisters, are quite common. So, carrying band-aids, corn caps, and blister plasters are advised. Antiseptic ointments and liquids can help clean cuts.
Carry photo IDs and relevant documentation at hand—Aadhar Card, PAN card, passport for Indian nationals, and valid visa along with passport for foreigners. Carrying passport-size photos and multiple photocopies of the above documents are recommended.
The Pindari Glacier trek starts and ends at Kathgodam (554 m) in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand. The trek takes around 8-10 days. Read further for a detailed Pindari Glacier itinerary.
Physical and mental preparation is required to meet the challenges trekkers may face on this trek.
Preparing for the trek is incomplete without a continuous walking regimen. It is only through persistence, regular practice, and fitness training that one can build an excellent walking gait, pace, and endurance.
Building stamina for the approximately 90 km trek is not an easy feat. Walking on uneven terrains for at least a couple of months before the trek will help acclimate your leg muscles to withstand the long journey you are about to undertake. Strength and endurance-building exercises such as cardio, skipping, running, swimming is advised apart from back and shoulder strength-training for carrying weights for prolonged periods.
Embarking on any Himalayan trek comes with its fair share of unprecedented occurrences. There could be sudden weather changes, natural calamity, and even the scare of AMS. But staying on the trail till the trek is accomplished brings unending joys and satisfaction. And this is only possible with a clear, unwavering mind and endless determination. To achieve such a mental fortitude, practicing yoga and meditation are essential.
To sum up, the Pindari Glacier trek is a great place to start exploring trekking. However, this doesn’t mean the trails have nothing to offer for seasoned trekkers—the bonuses include picturesque scenery, plenty of bird-watching opportunities, exotic fauna that can be observed in the forests, and Nanda Devi biosphere reserve, as well as breathtaking waterfalls, log bridges, and snow-capped peaks.
The trek is sure to give you memories and photographs that you will cherish for a long time to come.