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Abode of The Gods - Kinnaur Kailash

**In June 2010 Joel died while leading The Great Himalayan Bike Adventure.
The itinerary pages of all his trips, including this one remain here unchanged.**

See Our treks for current treks

'Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look beyond the ranges'
Rudyard Kipling

Our Circuit of Kinnaur Kailash, the summer abode of Shiva, is set in a little visited Himalayan kingdom bounded by the Zanskar and Himalayan ranges, high over the Sutlej gorge and the old Hindustan Tibet highway.

Our journey takes us via the old summer capital of British India, Shimla, to the Tirung valley where we begin our high traverse, or 'Kora' of the sacred peak crossing the 5266m Charang pass and descending into the Sangla valley, known as the most beautiful in the Himalaya, with its distinctive villages - steeply sloping roofs, rich wood carvings and elaborate temples - before trekking on through the beautiful forested hillsides of the Dhaula Dhar range in their glorious autumn colors to cross the Rupin Pass into the ancient region of Garhwal.

This trek is packed not only with demanding days trekking and stunning high Himalayan scenery, but brims with a rich history of trade, religion, and diverse ethnic groups that make for an experience for both body and soul.

Outline itinerary

Day 1 - Friday 3 October 2008 - arrive Delhi

2 - Fly Shimla 2206m

3 - Shimla 2206m

4 - Drive Thangi 2645m

5 - Trek Lambar 2930m

6 - Trek Shruling 3370m

7 - Trek Charang Day trip 3500m

8 - Trek Lalanti 4200m

9 - Trek Base camp 4670m

10 - Trek Chitkul 3450m via Charang Pass 5200m

11 - Trek Kanda 3650m

12 - Trek Kanda High camp 4000m

13 - Trek Waterfall camp 3950m via Rupin pass 4540m

14 - Trek Jakhu 2650m

15 - Trek Sewa Dogri 2000m

16 - Trek Netwar 1400m

17 - Exploration day

18 - Exploration day

19 - Drive Mussoorie

20 - Drive Delhi

Day 21 - Thursday 23 October - depart


Middle hills, alpine and high pass trekking

Remote little visited villages and valleys

A circuit of Kailash, sacred to Hindu and Buddhist

Trek into remote and unique Rupin valley

Incredible views of the trans Himalayan ranges

Stunningly beautiful approach drive via the Sutlej valley

Little known and fascinating ethnic groups


No current departure - see Our treks

Cost - US$2650

Group size 8 max

hotel single supplement $50


Joel Schone

Arrival hotel

Cottage Yes Please

Delhi office contact

REN Tours, Treks & Expeditions

Our service includes

airport transfers

Hotel in Delhi, Shimla & Mussoorie

group transportation

lightweight expedition-style trek:

Responsible trekking staff who have worked for us for over 8 years

All porterage on trek by porters fully equipped with good gear (insulated jacket, rain pants, hat, gloves, boots and sunglasses)

Warm and weatherproof dining tent equipped with

Solar charging system for trekkers cameras

Compact Himalayan library

3 Superb Asian vegetarian meals a day

Roomy tent on trek, double for singles, triple for couples

Our service excludes

insurance, Indian visa

meals in Delhi, Shimla & Mussoorie

international flights, equipment rental, alcohol and soft drinks, laundry, tipping and other items of a personal nature



Trekkers say

Just a short email to say that I am thinking of you and to thank you once again for the fantastic time in India. ...

Anyway, what I really wanted to say was that I really enjoyed and learnt a lot from your history stories as I knew of most of the lecture content. You managed to teach a very amateur historian like my self a bit of history!

Martin Kear, Kinnaur & Nanda Devi 2007

On a sunny autumn day the Sangla valley is Himalayan heaven - sparkling running water everywhere, the trees russet, yellow, red, fawn; all playing with light and shadow against a cerulean blue sky above sharp white peaks; and throw in the vivid green velvet facing on the topis above the tan faces and flashing smiles of the Kinnauris we pass, and the image is complete. Every time there is the slightest breeze you pick up another scent - fresh cut wood, pine, sage, and more. Find a tree to lean against, stretch luxuriously, and take it all in - Kipling had it right - 'surely the Gods live here!'

Joel's diary, Kinnaur 2007

Detailed itinerary

Day 1- arrive Delhi

Joel will be at the airport to meet you, look for the Project-Himalaya sign. We drive to our hotel in Paharganj, the main bazaar of Delhi, and over dinner, discuss gear and our adventure.

Day 2/3 - Fly & stay Shimla

Not quite as romantic as taking the train, but it gives us more time in Shimla; we should be settled in our hotel by noon, and have the afternoon and all the next day to explore the former summer capital of British India - discovered in 1817 by British surveyors and quickly becoming a popular retreat for the homesick Brits - the climate in the winter months very much like home, and much more bearable in the summer months then the heat and dust of the plains. By 1830 the British had purchased it as a resort for officers and in 1864 it became the summer capital of India, with tons of files and baggage being transported from the then Capital, Calcutta, at the start of the hot season.

Shimla saw many famous visitors over the years, from Emily Eden, sister to a 19th century viceroy, whose diary recorded the first Afghanistan war, to the fictional hero Harry Flashman. Kipling set many stories, including crucial chapters of 'Kim', here. Visitors would spend their days at garden parties, dinners, balls and picnics and soon it grew to resemble a small English country town with cottages, tree lined walks, churches and cricket pitches.

History was made here, with post war conferences deciding the future of India and Pakistan. And now? Among the hordes of ice cream devouring Indian tourists, there are still the cottages, churches, the Gaiety Theater and Viceroy's Lodge, and of course, the never changing Himalayan backdrop.

Day 4 - Drive to Thangi & camp 2600m

A beautiful drive through the once Kingdom of Kinnaur, one of the few Himalayan regions that was never ruled by the Guge kingdom of Western Tibet. Despite this independence, there was a thriving trade with Tibet, and a progression of pilgrims, traders and explorers have passed through the deep gorges that characterize the region. As we drive up look out for the very distinctive dress and features of the locals, in early Hindu texts they were referred to as 'celestial musicians' and were known for their great beauty. They follow a religion which is a mountain mix of Hinduism and Buddhism, with music traditionally playing a large part in their festivals - the village centers always have an open bandstand pavilion reminiscent of a British seaside gazebo! We should be in Thangi by late afternoon, via the huge Kinnauri fort at Morang. Camping space is limited and we may sleep in the local public works bungalow.

Day 5 - Trek to Lambar 2930m

At last on the trail. Just eleven kilometers today, but at this altitude is quite enough. We drop to the valley floor and the Tirung Gad after five kilometers, before climbing to the small settlement of Lambar. Today is one to go slowly, drink lots of liquids, and enjoy the alpine scenery. After lunch, (our usual fresh bread, salads and cheese) we can visit the small village centre, and settle into our comfortable dining tent. Life on the trail! Over dinner Joel will talk through camp routines and some altitude issues.

Day 6 - Trek to Shruling 3370m

A longer day today, passing through forest and pretty alpine meadows, crossing towards the river that flows from the pass we will be crossing soon. Today we make nearly 400m in elevation at the post 3000m stage, and as ever, drinking plenty and taking it slow and easy is essential for your acclimatization, which is essential for your enjoyment of the trek. Shruling camp is set in wide meadows, and we arrive with plenty of time to kick back and enjoy our surroundings.

Day 7 - Acclimatization day - trek Charang, camp Shruling 3370m

Today is an acclimatization day, and we trek the short way to Charang village, site of the Rangring Tungma Temple, home of a small community of Buddhist nuns. The feeling of antiquity here is almost touchable...and we have time to wander through the village and take in the unique architecture, and chat with the friendly locals. The monastery, established by lamas from Tibet (just three days walking from here) over 500 years ago, is fascinating. A legend says that bandits came down from Tibet in the 19th century to pillage the Gompa, but they were so moved by the images inside they gave up their weapons - the nun in charge then leads you off to a side room and shows you a huge pile of weapons - bayonets, knives, kukris, and sabres. Where they came from, who knows - but some of them are ancient. The nuns see very few trekkers and will entertain us to salt tea. We will be back in our camp for a late lunch.

Day 8 - Trek to Lalanti 4200m

A longer day, we can expect to be on the trail for at least seven hours, ascending out of the Tirung Gad on the ridge above the Shurtingting Gad; look to the east and the peaks you see are in Tibet; one of the Gerard brothers, Scots who were known for their explorations, entered Tibet that way in 1821 via the Charang pass. We camp at Lalanti after passing through Zoni Dogri and other high altitude grazing areas used by shepherds for centuries - they crossed from Tibet in search of ever higher grazing for their livestock; they believed then what is known as a fact now, that high altitude herbs are rich in nutrition. But we feast on another of Tenpa's excellent meals before the first Himalayan pass crossing of our journey.

Day 9 - Trek to Charang High camp 4670m

An easy day but we are making elevation towards our pass, so we take it easy and enjoy the high pastures; look out for both Mani stones along the trail carved with the Buddhist 'o mane padme om' and the occasional small Hindu shrine. The high pastures here were once home to yaks and sheep, all now sadly gone as the trans Himalayan trade has stopped. It should take us some four hours to our camp, even in early autumn, a cold one. Time to slip into that cozy down jacket and settle into our heated dining tent for the evening.

Day 10 - Trek to Chitkul 3450m via Charang La 5280m

After taking it slowly over the preceding days we should be ready for the big day. Away by 6AM, it should take us five hours to the pass given good conditions. We follow old moraines past glacial lakes to the snowline around 4780m, where the trail (when you can find it!) steepens - if there is snow, walking poles are essential. The upper slopes steepens considerably to plus 45 degrees, so care is needed. The top is marked by Buddhist prayer flags and Hindu tridents, and the view of the Kinnaur range is spectacular. Then we descend to a plateau where we may camp, or push on down across rubble and moraine to the small mountain community of Chitkul, with its 500 year old temple dedicated to the Goddess Devi.

Day 11 - Trek to Kanda 3700m

The Sangla valley is reckoned by Himalayan aficionados to be the most beautiful in the Himalaya, and it is certainly up in my top five; and we have time to enjoy it as we trek down river and climb to the beautiful pastures of Kanda. As we climb away from the Sangla valley, the views of the Kinnaur kailash range are framed by the browns, golds and russets of the forest we walk through - a delightful sight.

Day 12 - Trek to Kanda high camp 4000m

Moving away up this delightful valley through picturesque summer settlements in 2007 we were already overloaded with the beauty of our surroundings - as we stood taking it all in I glanced up - and less then 5 meters above our heads, three Siberian Cranes glided past in perfect formation. If it were not for the pictures, we would have thought we imagined it. We camp in high pastures with our next pass on the horizon.

Day 13 - Trek to Waterfall camp 3950m via Rupin pass 4540m

We follow the Daundaro up for a steep 400m to the trail junction for a sister pass, the Gunas Ghati. Our trail climbs gradually across pastures then scree to the top, a sheer ridge; in 2007 we followed the footprints of a lone yak through deep snow - and (true) on top they simply vanished, gone. From top we have good views of Jorkanden (6473m), Saro (6080m), and other peaks around our last pass, The Charang la. More impressive are the line of ridges marching away into shades of grey and blue towards the plains of India. The pass is a sheer ridge, from where we head down through a narrow gully (and some years a short glacier crossing) to the plateau at the base of the pass - from here we trek on further past the cave shelters at Ghodwas, crossing and re-crossing the Rupin Gad and descending past a series of (yes, more superlatives) stupendous waterfalls before reaching camp at Saruwas Thach, or waterfall camp as we call it.

Day 14 - Trek to Jakhu 2650m

Now we have some long days, but probably the loveliest in the Himalaya - I always call it "Kipling country" as he only ever wandered through the middle hills and set some of his most moving stories here - as we cross and re cross the Rupin gad, and descend past huge old moraines to meet our first trees, birch and rhododendron; after five hours walking we see the first village houses, and meet our first villagers, cutting grass for winter fodder. Above the village there is a stunning vista of canyon walls and forest, and the village is a spread out series of wooden houses and temples. We camp by a school, and soon have friendly village children all around us. To sit outside your tent with a coffee and breathe in the smells of an Indian hill village and rest your eyes on meadows and trees - lovely!

Day 15 - Trek to Sewa Dogri 2000m

 A long day today, 20 kilometers! We descend into the high pasturage of the shepherds of the Nalgani valley, and after three hours we enter the first village - Jikson - where all around the villagers are preparing for winter with pulses and squash laid out to dry on rooftops and in the courtyards; in 2007 we were asked again and again where we had come from; trekkers are a rare sight here, and villagers greet you with a smile; they stop, make eye contact, and raise their hands in formal greeting. The stone they build their earthquake proof houses from is quarried here and the trail sides are lined with large blocks ready for transport. After four hours we reach the flats around the Rupin river, then ascend through thick forest to Sewa Dogri, spread out on a wide plateau at 2000m among house sized boulders. We camp in a clearing in front of the village temple.

'A lovely place to spend a night. A small clearing is bordered by the village shop on one side and the temple on the other - this last looms like some bizarre Victorian folly or even Gigantic Genga game - in this rural scene it looks very odd, especially as, like all the temples in this strange valley, the outside walls are decorated with plaques and cups that look like they should be on some Victorian Headmasters proud sideboard ('Netball 1952' 'Head boy 1933'). Here our porters, Nepalis from the Kulu valley, feel equally out of place. We read, check our maps and discuss the day in the gloaming, to the hum of Nepali conversation and the village shutting down around us'

Joel's diary Kinnaur 2007

Day 16 - Trek/drive to Netwar 1400m

The sun hits our camp at 7AM, and as the village awakes we head off, a very hot stage in October as we are low, though forest to the roadhead, at Dhaula, like all road heads, a bit scruffy, so we head on through scattered forest and meadow to the main road at Netwar...a standard Indian hill bazaar. A pleasure in 2007 was the forest rest house compound, where we camp now outside the old bungalow.

Day 17 & 18 - Exploration

These are spare days, or exploration days. In 2007 we climbed above Netwar to a wonderful camp in dense forest, trekking through beautiful villages; that night a leopard visited our camp. How we use these days is up to us!

Day 19 - Drive & stay Mussoorie

A wonderful five hour drive takes us to one of the lesser known and thus quieter hill stations, 'Old Muss' as some called it. If they have finished restoring it, we hope to stay in the old castle-like Savoy hotel. In 2007 Joel chatted for a while with Ruskin Bond, one of India's best known writers, at a book signing in Mussoorie, and he raved about the Savoy, so fingers crossed it is finished. Joel is both an enthusiast and an encyclopedic source of knowledge of Indian history, and he will be your guide to the bookshops and the intricacies of hill station architecture, from cast iron shop fronts to corrugated iron rooftops.

Day 20 - To Delhi

Away by 5AM as the development around Dehra Dun has made traffic in the once tranquil Doon valley a bit congested - we should be in Delhi by late afternoon.

Day 21 - Thursday 23 October - depart

Goodbye for now as we drive you to the airport.

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