Hiking - Destination

Shrikhand Mahadev: The Heavenly Himalayan Trek (Not for beginners!)

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They say that it’s easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top. And standing tall within the snowy Alps of the Himalayan ranges lies a literal climb to Elysium, where the view from above is one of the most chilling and breathtaking panoramas of the entire world below. Situated in the Kulu district of Himachal Pradesh, the Shrikhand Mahadev Kailash peak is India’s very own stairway to heaven.

Scaling up to a height of 5155 metres, this summit is one of the country’s most dangerous and spiritual treks or yatra within the Himalayan trudges. Each step of the trek promises you with the sheer thrill of one of the most scenic ranges of mountains in the whole nation - with glassy glaciers, vast valleys of flora and fauna and mist covered peaks as far as the eyes can see. This trek is recommended for someone who has been trekking for a while. Due to the elevation and challenging trek route, this trek is a big no for novice trekkers! 

Read on to know about:

  • The Shrikhand Mahadev Trek 
  • Shrikhand Mahadev Trek - An Overview
  • Legend Has It
  • The View From Above
  • Best Route To The Skies 
  • A Green and Spiritual Beginning 
  • Parvati Bagh or the ‘Flower Valley’
  • Knockin’ On Shiva’s Door 
  • Essentials For The Trek - From Prepping up to Camping Checklist!
  • Summing up

The Shrikhand Mahadev Trek - Staircase to Heaven

The summit is believed by many devotees to be the abode of the Hindu God, Shiva. Located in the Kinnaur Valley, this trek is primarily seen as a spiritual pilgrimage, that once spanned over 200 kilometres. Known to be one of the most dangerous and difficult treks in India, the Shrikhand Mahadev expedition finds its roots in the historical pilgrimages taken in the worship of Lord Shiva.

Located in the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, it is also considered one of the holiest destinations in the world, towering at a colossal altitude of 18,000 feet above sea level. 

Shrikhand Mahadev Trek - An Overview

Where is it located - Himachal Pradesh
Number of trekking days - 5 to 6 Days 
Trekking Grade - Moderately Difficult 
Max Altitude - 18,000 ft
Best Time to Visit - July to September

Legend Has It

A common tale within Hindu mythology, many locals believe that there once lived a demon called Bhasmasura, who was a devout follower of Lord Shiva. After several years of penance and meditation, Lord Shiva responded and granted him with a boon called Basma Kangan, or the power to turn anything he touched into ashes.

Filled with pride and eager to test his new power, Bhasmasur decided to touch Lord Shiva. But the deity was quick to vanish to the top of a mountain, and urgently sought the help of Lord Vishnu. Vishnu, disguised as the enchantress, Mohini, then tricked Bhasmasur into touching his own head, thereby turning the demon into a pile of ashes. This mountain top was then known to be Shrikhand Mahadev, the peak at which Shiva stood after his encounter with the demon.

Another legend also states how the five Pandava princes once took upon this pilgrimage to visit a meditating Shiva, at the top of the mountain. 

The View From Above

Mount Shrikhand Mahadev, 72 feet tall, is said to resemble the shape of a Shiv ling and one would have to cross an array of breathtaking glaciers before reaching to the top. However, the best part of the trek would have to be the magnificent view from the top. Apart from the vast spread of scenic glaciers, you can get a once-in-a-lifetime view of the Himalayan ranges, Jorkandan, Parvati valley and all the other surrounding peaks located to the south east of the Satluj river. 

Shrikhand Mahadev trek
The View from Above (source)

Best Route To The Skies 

Route 

The trek usually begins from the Nirmad side - although it can also be done from the Arsu side - where pilgrims and hikers commence their expedition from a village called Jaon village. Many treat this location as their principal base camp. An ideal time to go on this trek would be between the months of June and August. But remember to pack for both the summer heat and the cold weather conditions in the higher altitudes. 

By Car

Jaon village is situated 170 kilometres away from Shimla and can be reached by a rather lengthy car journey from Shimla to Rampur. Upon reaching Rampur, one would have to cross the river Satluj and from then onwards drive to the village.

By Bus

Other ways of reaching Nirmad include taking the bus from the Shimla ISBT. There are local buses available from the city to Rampur and one can take a cab service to the Jaon village through the Kullu district. 

By Rail 

One can also reach Jaon village through the Shimla railway. Shimla is the nearest rail head to the Kullu district and is connected by a narrow gauge line. 

Below is the Shrikhand Mahadev Yatra map

Shrikhand Mahadev yatra map
Shrikhand Mahadev Route (Source)

A Green and Spiritual Beginning 

It is a tradition for several pilgrims to visit the Maa Kali temple within the Jaon village, to receive the blessings from the Goddess Kali. The journey begins with a 3-kilometre walk to the next base camp, Singhaad. From here onwards, trekkers would have to endure a 12-kilometre uphill stretch to Thaachru, a path infamously known as the “Dandi ki Dhaar”. 

The trudge was named accordingly after its steep elevation of 70 degrees. On this pathway, you can thoroughly enjoy the green and luscious landscapes of the Kullu valley, where every corner is spotted with the exuberant spread of Deodar trees and sparkling streams and the alpine meadows along the trek welcomes every hiker with the feeling of wanderlust and refreshment. 

Shrikhand Mahadev trek
Kullu Valley 

Along the midway point, trekkers and pilgrims tend to take a pit-stop at Barathi Nalah, situated at an altitude of 7200 feet. This spot is found at the convergence of two small rivers and is generally used as a resting and replenishing spot. 

With another vertical climb of 6 kilometres left, one can notice the change in the vegetation around the area and the first day’s trek ends at Thaachru at 11,300 feet above sea level. 

Parvati Bagh or the ‘Flower Valley’

Pilgrims go forth on a 3-kilometre uphill trek to Kali Ghati or Kali Top, from Thaachru, where many stops to worship the Hindu deity Kali, the destroyer of all evil. The open air spot is situated at the very top of Danda Dhaar at a height of 13,000 feet. 

On clearer days, on can even see the Shiv ling shaped peak of the Shrikhand Mahadev summit, located atop of this location. And just like any thrilling rollercoaster ride, the journey experiences its first downward path towards Bheem Talai, a 1 kilometre walk away from Kali Ghati.

But another 3 kilometres walk downwards will land you in the glorious Kunsa Valley, space panoramically spread with every kind of greenery and flora the Himalayan range in the area has to offer and breathtaking waterfalls. The green valley is usually a relaxing resting spot along the trek and it gives every visitor the opportunity to indulge in some charming photography. 

After the Kunsa Valley, many arrive at Bhim Dwar for a quick period of replenishment and rest. The landscape in the area is embedded with colossal waterfalls, crisscrossing streams and rare flora and fauna. Legend also has it that this was the spot that the Pandavas chose to stay during their exile.

Here is the fruit of your strenuous trek-

After another 3 kilometre walk from Bhim Dwar, waits for the well renowned Parvati Bagh or the ‘Flower Valley’. Here, one is greeted with the rarest spread of Himalayan shrubs and herbs. Legend has it that this was once the place Goddess Parvati used to often use the valley as her place of rest.

Shrikhand Mahadev Parvati Bagh
Parvati Bagh (Source)

Tarun Goel from LoppWhole shares- "The path ahead from Parbati Baag is a boulder carpet that tests your acrobatic skills. Up ahead from NainSarovar, glacial crossings keep your mind busy and it's only after you’ve breached the 4500m barrier, you realize the scarcity of oxygen in the air. Another mystery that unfolds once you breach the 4500m barrier is a 180° view of the Great Himalayan Ranges all the way from Kinnaur to Parvati Valley. In the far off distance, a vigilant eye can spot the Kinner Kailash Peak hovering above the clouds. To the far left, the majestic South Parbati Peak appears at a stone’s throw away."

This breathtaking valley is the home to over 600 types of flowers and is the ultimate botanical paradise. For anyone who wishes to be welcomed by a colourful heaven of flora, Srikhand Mahadev Parvati Bagh is a must visit. It’s because of this picturesque magnificence has it been recognised as a National Park since 1982 and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005.

Knockin’ On Shiva’s Door 

The part of the trek closest to the peak is rather difficult and takes you through several obstacles like slippery glaciers, harsh and cold weather conditions and steep and dangerous vertical climbs.

After the 2 kilometre uphill walk from the Valley of Flowers, trekkers arrive at the picturesque landscape of Nain Sarovar or the “Holy Lake”.

It is considered auspicious for all pilgrims to take a dip in the lake after worshipping and paying their respects to the Goddess Parvati. The entire stretch of the land here is streamlined with sparkling brooks and boulders. 

Did you know?
Legend says that the Nain Sarovar lake is the tears of Goddess Parvati!

The trek forward, from Nain Sarovar, is almost vertical and extremely dangerous. While the first patch of the hike is a little less than an hour, the subsequent hike ahead requires a great amount of stamina, strength and care.

To reach the Shrikhand Mahadev peak, one would have to cross moraines, slippery glaciers, rocky terrains, small stone tunnels and multiple other smaller peaks - all in an uphill trudge. This part of the trek is said to resemble walking on a ladder towards the heavens, with an overwhelming expanse of clouds and mist around you. 

Shrikhand Mahadev
Trek Route to Shrikhand Mahadev (Source)

The Shrikhand Mahadev peak stands at a staggering altitude of 16,900 feet and upon conquering the summit, one can celebrate the peak of their journey with an exquisite view of the Himalayan range.

Once you reach the top, the feeling of relief and enchantment washes over you like the fresh crisp air of the mountains. For the pilgrims, this is a moment of pure divinity and devotion. From the top, one can easily view the tall pinnacles of rocks that are said to represent the Shiv ling, in the glory of Lord Shiva who is believed to reside there. 

Looking for the next inspiration? Check out the 7 best treks in the Himalayas

Essentials For The Trek - From Prepping up to Camping Checklist!

It’s a no brainer that this trek requires a great degree of strength and planning. And for such a difficult trek, it's essential for one to physically prepare themselves for the difficult trudges that lie ahead. 

What’s unique about the Shrikhand Mahadev Trek?

It is the varying strata of terrains and peaks one would have to encounter before reaching the final summit. And it’s vital that you prepare yourself and your rucksack for all the adventures that are about to come.

1. Physique

The trek consists of many hurdles and steep uphill hikes, hence asking a great amount of flexibility, coordination and stamina from anyone that wishes to venture upon it.

One would be required to build up their cardiovascular endurance, especially taking into account of the gigantic height of 16,900 feet they’d be covering.

Ideally, you can build up your stamina by indulging in an array of exercises like swimming, cycling and climbing the stairs across a period of few weeks. It better helps to finish each session without too many breaks in between. 

Another critical aspect of your physique that would need attention is your muscle strength. Doing 3 reps of squats every day helps you tighten and strengthen your leg and thigh muscles, giving you a better edge when it comes to those tricky vertical climbs. 

Shrikhand Mahadev Trek
Trek to Shrikhand Mahadev (Source)

Apart from this, adding abdominal exercises like crunches and planks to your workout tremendously helps to improve your core muscles. But at the end of the day, it’s very important to ensure that your muscles do not get stiff. 

Flexibility plays a crucial role in allowing a smooth journey through the fluctuating terrains of the trek and it can be best improved by stretching your lower back muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors and shoulders regularly.

This would additionally come in handy when your shoulders and back begin to strain from carrying a backpack for a prolonged period of time. 

2. Documents to Carry

Taking into account of the difficulty and the distance of the total trek, there is a great emphasis on making sure that you are physically fit to venture onto this expedition.

LivingIt Tip - A Word of caution
The journey is not meant for anyone suffering from a physical illness or light-heartedness.

The entire hike takes around an average of 5-7 days, it becomes mandatory to register and provide certain documentations. It’s alway advised to carry an original and photocopy of your government ID proof.

A medical certificate and disclaimer, filled and signed by both the trekker and the doctor.

3. The Basics You'll Need

  • Carry an extra pair of trekking shoes with good grip to overcome all the slippery slopes and rocky patches of terrain
  • Make sure that your backpack has a capacity of 40-60 litres, with a supportive and sturdy frame and straps. It’s also recommended that your carry a waterproof cover for your rucksack
  • Thermal clothing and 3-4 warm layers (fleece, woollen socks, padded jackets, woollen sweaters, etc) to tackle the temperature drops at the higher altitude base camps
  • An extra pair of trekking pants, in the case of rain or tear.

Vijay Kumar Sharma aka VJ Sharma from TravellingCamera shares bits of advice - "If you are in a good group of 6-8 people, I recommend you carry your own stuff and hire 3 porters. Have tents, sleeping bags & some basic utensils to make food. That will give you lots of flexibility to trek. You need not set targets for the day to reach a camping site. Wherever you find a good place around water, you can put your tents and enjoy the relaxing trek. And at times, it would be ok to not use the infrastructure and get rented shelter."

4. Necessary Supplements

  • Snow blindness is a factor many forget to take into account when packing for their trip. Remember to pack a pair of sunglasses to avoid this
  • You can always roll up and tie your sleeping bag to the top of your rucksack, to leave more space inside for other additional supplies
  • Carry a pair synthetic waterproof hand gloves and a pair of fleece or woollen gloves
  • Always be prepared for uncertainty. Sometimes treks can extend past sundown, making it absolutely mandatory to carry a headlamp or an LED torch and a trekking pole to better manoeuvre your way through the unpredictable trudges.

5. Others Essentials You'll Need

  • Always carry an ample supply of water and snacks (glucose sachets and dry fruits) for the trek. If you are in short of water, you can try the water filtration which is a survival technique during trekking. 
  • Other toiletries such as sunscreen, bug repellent sprays, moisturizers, lip balms and anti-bacterial soaps always come in handy
  • Carrying a set of plastic covers also helps to categorise your essentials and can always help contain waste or wet clothes. 

6. Medical Essentials

  • A tab of crocin as a general painkiller
  • A tab of Avomine for motion sickness
  • A tab of Digene for acidity or stomach upsets
  • A tab of Combiflam as a general painkiller
  • A tab of Disprin for headaches 
  • A roll of crepe bandage up to 3-5 mts
  • A small roll of gauze
  • Multiple strips of Bandaids
  • A small roll of cotton
  • A can of Relispray or Moov for muscle pain 
  • Any antiseptic cream or ointments

Summing Up

The Shrikhand Mahadev Yatra is one of the most popular, spiritual, yet difficult treks to venture upon in the Himalayan range. While the trail is well-marked and punctuated with dense forests and canopies, sparkling streams, vibrant meadows and sky-rocketing mountains, it is very important to understand that the entire stretch of the trek requires a great amount of physical preparation.

Having said, the thrill and adventure of the trek is once in a lifetime experience that every avid trekker must indulge in. Because at the end of the day, it is the climbing and conquering of the mountain that makes the view from the top so worth it.

If you are trekking in Himachal Pradesh, then don't miss the fascinating Prashar trek.  

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