Situated to the west of Nepal, Kumaon consists of three valleys. This region is often confused with Garhwal. In fact, Garhwal was once a part of Kumaon until the British separated it and gave it a different name.

The first valley, in the east, is the Byans Valley. At its head, there are several peaks above 6,000m, some of which are technically difficult to climb. The peaks Sangthang and Lalla We can be approached from here. Some parts of the region are still out-of-bounds for foreign climbers.

The Milam Glacier Valley (Johar) is the central valley of Kumaon. Its eastern branch has an excellent trail that goes through Kalabaland Glacier. The Chiring We peak (6,559m) rises from the Kalabaland Glacier. To its south lies Suj Tilla (6,373m), a formidable and difficult peak. The Panch Chuli group forms the head of the southeastern valley of this section. It has five different peaks which were climbed with great difficulty. At the head of the Milam Glacier are the Hardeol (7,151m) and Tirsuli (7,074m) peaks. Nanda Devi East was scaled from this valley.

The western valley of Kumaon, known as Danpur, is flanked by peaks such as Panwali Dwar (6,663m) and Nanda Khat. This area is popular with trekkers. The Sunderdhunga Valley branches off from the Pindari river and leads to the southern foot of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary.

The area from where the Rishi Ganga starts is the famous Nanda Devi Sanctuary, the centrepiece of the Kumaon region and Uttarakhand. Until 1934, the gorge of the Rishi Ganga was the least-known part of the Himalayas. The Nanda Devi range is a long one, about 120km in circumference, with many peaks above 6,000m, shel-tering approximately 380sq km of ice and snow. The Nanda Devi Peak (7,816m) is regarded as the most beautiful peak in the Indian Himalayas. In 1936, Bill Tilman and Noel Odell reached its summit. The ridge between these peaks was explored by an Indo-Japanese expedition in 1976.

Adi Kailash, Byans Valley
Adi Kailash, Byans Valley

The other noteworthy peaks on the rim of the sanctuary are Changabang (6,864m), Rishi Pahar (6,992m) and Bethartoli Himal (6,352m). Nanda Devi’s Northern Sanctuary was visited by an expedition from Japan (the first in the region in 40 years) that climbed several peaks. The northernmost peak of the Inner Sanctuary, Changabang, was climbed by the Indo-British team led by Chris Bonington in 1974. Four days later, an Indian team climbed Devtoli (6,788m), located in the Inner Sanctuary’s southernmost tip. Although several peaks have been climbed, there are many unclimbed peaks too, particularly in the northern part of the sanctuary.

In order to preserve and restore the fragile ecosystem, this area is now closed to trekkers and mountaineers, who had earlier caused much damage. It is not known when and whether anyone will be permitted to climb or trek here again. However, the peaks on the rim of the sanctuary can be climbed by approaching them from the side valleys outside the core area.

A campsite in Kagbhusandi Upper Valley, Uttarakhand
A campsite in Kagbhusandi Upper Valley, Uttarakhand


Lying in the centre of the Indian Himalayas, Garhwal has been popular with mountaineers for years.

Central Garhwal: This area has several trekking options. Bhagirath Kharak, Kagbhusand, Valley of Flowers and the Arwa valleys have several peaks and sub-valleys. The famous Badrinath temple attracts many Hindu pilgrims. There are high-altitude lakes such as Shastru Tal and the beautiful valleys of Bhilangna and Gangotri. Many high peaks in these areas have not been climbed.

Western Garhwal: Valleys to the extreme west of the Garhwal house some lovely trails and peaks. Many students and mountaineers have trained in these areas. Trekkers probably have the best choices here – Har ki Doon,Ruinsara, Obra Gad, Bharadsar Lake and Nag Tibba. This area is convenient for a quick trip from Delhi.