Valley of Flowers, seems to have become the most sought after trek in India over the last few years. I first heard about this trek in 2007. Being a nature lover, it captured my mind space and became a must visit place for me. After “last-minute” cancellations both in 2009 and 2010, I was not sure if I would ever make it to Valley of Flowers. But then my luck took a U-turn & I made it to Valley of Flowers in 2012. Despite many “if’s and but’s” like fitness of the road, accommodation, weather etc all went well. Looking back, I’m sure there are many more like me anxious to seek information and prepare fully before embarking on a Valley of Flowers trek. So here is a small primer.
5 things to prepare for Valley of Flower.
1. Weather Conditions for Valley of Flowers trek
Valley of Flowers (VOF) is a monsoon trek therefore rain is part and parcel of this journey. There are every chances that it’ll rain during your trip; It might rain everyday or if you’re super lucky, may be just for few hours!!. So before you begin, please understand VOF and rains are inseparable. Once you accept it and prepare so, it’ll make things easier.
Now that we have accepted that rains are part and parcel of Valley of Flowers trek, landslides are “byproduct” of rainy season on this route – Badrinath Highway. Almost all major landslide zones have been identified and provisioned for by Border Road Organization(BRO) who maintain this highway . The BRO is doing excellent job to keep the highway open for the vehicular traffic. A bulldozer is always on the standby at all such landslide zones. However, avoid travelling on the highway when the rains are in full force, specially during night time. I did not face any inconvenience when the traffic was stalled due to landslides, the road was cleared within half an hour. On a positive note, If you have never seen a landslide, it’s something to add on to your experiences.
3. How difficult is the Valley of flowers trek?
In reality, it’s technically not a serious trek. The walking path is quite wide and surface is either cemented or stones have been laid over it. Some sections do have steep ascend, but they form a very small part of the entire trail. Overall, the trail can be covered within 6-8 hours at easy pace. I will suggest you to improve your fitness level and stamina before undertaking this trek if you lead a sedentary life. Ideally, prepare your body for a month and half by working out and stretching routines. You need to ensure that your legs and calves are in great shape to undertake long uphill walk. Also, focus on your upper body parts too like shoulder and chest to prepare them well to bear the load of backpack/ daypack. Prepare yourself well and enjoy the trail.
4. Shoes…. Which shoes?
Shoe is the most important aspect of walking and surely it needs a special emphasis when you have to walk uphill for 6-8 hours and more on the subsequent days. As I wrote earlier, Valley Of Flowers is not a technical trek, you can use any sturdy, well cushioned shoes. Even then, there are two factors which needs special attention. One, rain makes things difficult. Two, stone laden path needs side support/ enforcement which an average sports shoes lacks.
Shoes with water resistant property will surely make things easier as wet shoe is the most difficult part to handle in this trek. Damp and cloudy weather doesn’t help to make shoe walk worthy, if it gets drenched in rain. You can opt for water resistant, high ankle shoes from Decathlon or Hi-Tec brands. Quechua Forclaz 500/100 from Decathlon is the most popular trekking shoe in India which can be bought from Decathlon stores or online through their website. Hi-Tec shoes are available on Amazon.in website. I’m not mentioning any specific Hi-Tec models since availability of these shoes is erratic. You can buy any other brand which offers sturdy shoes having water resistant property and has side wall enforcement for protection with adequate sole cushioning. Do note following points.
- If you have bought new pair of shoe, wear it for at least 15 days prior to trek so that your feet get used to it and its adequately broken in.
- Do not trek in old shoes which are on the verge of giving away. Some sites suggest you to carry spare pair if you are using old shoes to trek. I personally believe that it’s better to use a new shoes rather than to carry around extra pair which only adds to your backpack weight!
- High ankle is preferable, but if you don’t have one, it should not be a major cause of worry. I trekked VOF and Hemkund Sahib with low ankle shoes.
You’ll meet many pilgrims walking all the way to Hemkund Sahib on same trail wearing slippers, cheap Rs 200 sports shoes bought in Gobindghat and some are even barefoot. It makes one wonder – is expensive gear is actually important? I guess faith & strong mental mindset makes it all possible!
5. Rain Gear for Valley of Flower trek
Rain protection is another important aspect to prepare for in this trek. There are various options to choose from. Poncho, rain suit, rain jacket, umbrella….which one? Let me offer few points for your to consider each of them.
- Poncho will protect your upper body and backpack/daypack during rains. It offers no protection for your lower body,socks and shoes
- 2 piece Rain Suit. It offers complete rain protection barring your backpack/daypack. You need to buy rain cover for backpack/daypack separately.
- Rain jacket offers protection only for your upper body. No protection for your lower body and backpack. Usually, it has a built in hood.
- Umbrella is useless for this trek, as walking uphill for long period with umbrella is a tough choice. You can consider taking one along if you like to do some photography during light drizzle. It might also come handy when you are camping/ staying in Ghangharia.
- Gobindghat market offers cheap use and throw plastic ponchos. They are no re-usable as it’s made of flimsy material. If you intend to use these disposable ponchos do carry adequate numbers to last you for the entire trek trail. This can be your best option if you don’t wish to invest in rain suit or re-usable ponchos. I personally don’t prefer to use disposable ponchos. These ponchos are not disposed properly by users. Most trekkers & pilgrims heading to Hemkund Sahib dump them on the trail or wherever it pleases them adding to the growing plastic menace in ecological fragile zone.
Using any kind of rain gear mentioned above except umbrella during trek will surely cause lot of sweating as the material is not breathable. It’s best to wear no sweat material as cotton gets drenched with sweat and is difficult to dry off. Also, synthetic garments tend to dry faster in humid conditions in comparison to cotton.
The above five points deal with psychological aspects of Valley of Flowers trek which is not exhaustive in any ways. If you have some more questions or queries do post them here in comment section, I’ll be happy to answer them for you.
Check out Part 2 of this series: