Monday, October 31, 2022

Milam Glacier Trail - Landscapes

Earlier in the month from October 10th to October 18th, I walked the Milam Glacier trail in the Kumaon Himalaya, Uttarakhand. A four day walk through the Johar Valley from Lilam village near Munsiyari to Milam took me past some fantastic landscapes and geology. 

After an initial breathtaking climb which takes you from about 6000 feet at Lilam to more than 9,000 feet at a high ridge known as Mainsingh Top, the trail descends towards the Indo-Tibetan Border Police outpost at Bugdiyar. After this, a gradual ascent takes you higher, with the rest of the walk undulating between 10,000 to 11,000 feet ASL. I was lucky with the weather. After walking the first two days in belting bone chilling rain the skies cleared and I was treated to some gorgeous views of the High Himalaya. 

I am posting a few pictures of the landscapes along this scenic route. The pictures are roughly ordered from the start towards the end of the trail.

The Greater Himalaya near Bawaldhar, a small resting stop which we came across on the first day.

Another view of the Greater Himalaya in the vicinity of Bugdiyar. Notice the steep slopes, narrow valleys and the sheer rock faces and the cascading Goriganga river. 

A lovely rough trail near the Laspa area. The October colors really makes the landscape radiant. 

After Laspa, the Greater Himalaya made up of high grade metamorphic rocks give way to the low grade metamorphic and sedimentary terrain of the Tethyan Himalaya. You do notice a change in the topography from the sheer steep slopes and narrow valleys typical of the Greater Himalaya to the wider valley forms and gentler gradients of the Tethyan domain. 

The Goriganga at Rilkot. The river is more serene here making a soothing gurgling sound as it flow past. Also check out the gorgeous longitudinal gravel bars in the river channel. Permanent Link: Goriganga at Rilkot.  

The high meadows of Martoli. This is a beautiful if desolate place with stunning views of the high Himalayan all around. 

A lone resident of Burfu surveys his kingdom. Most of the villages were empty of people as residents had migrated to lower altitudes for the winter. The flat plateau seen in the background is a glacial outwash terrace. It was formed by streams redepositing debris that accumulates in front of a glacier. Thick layered river deposits create a plain in front of the glacier. At a later point in time, the river cut through its own deposits, forming flat terraces stranded high on the valley slopes. 

Encounter on a lonely trail. After walking alone for hours, it is always fun to meet the locals travelling between villages. We met this small caravan between the settlements of Burfu and Bilju. Permanent link: Encounter at Bilju.

 A house in Milam village basks in the October sun. 

The Goriganga snakes its way down Milam Glacier through the fabled Johar Valley. This location is a few kilometers downstream of the glacier. 

Near Milam Glacier! The actual glacier is about 4-5 km upstream of this location, but this is a good photo spot along the trail.

What a trip! I think late September to early October is really the best time to visit this area. The countryside is lush and you get clear views of the Himalaya. The local residents have still not migrated to lower altitudes and you can get to enjoy their company in the many hamlets along the way. However, this year, rains continued well into the second week of October. I feel with climate change there will be a greater unpredictability to October weather in the future.

Finally, a big thank  you to Emmanuel Theophilus, Malika, Kamala Pandey, and Munna Singh Nitwal for being such gracious hosts and making my trip so memorable.

A post on geology tips for trekkers is coming soon...