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Great Himalayan Journeys
Winter 2015-2016 news

The Great Himalayan National Park and the Sainj and Tirthan Valley

 

Overview

 

The Great Himalayan National Park has been described as undoubtedly the most pristine mountain landscape in the Western Himalayas. From the Andes to Nepal and Tibet, to the mountains of Eastern Europe and Western China - the pressures of a growing human population have left the landscape – even so-called “national parks’ - overgrazed, denuded of timber, devoid of wildlife and covered with signs of animals and their shepherds. This trekking paradise in an exception.

The Park offers the causal hiker and serious trekker a wide range of experiences. Trails range from relatively easy day walks in the Ecozone to challenging week long or longer treks through an arduous and spectacular terrain. GHNP ranks as one of the best national parks in the world and reveals its beauty, diversity, and depth through time spent in exploration. From the road head, the trails leading to the Park pass through subtropical pine forests. They rise towards the dense coniferous and mixed deciduous woods of the temperate zone, which is entered at about 1800 m. In summer, the spreading canopy of green and silver oaks and horse chestnuts provide welcome relief from the sun. Above this zone, at about 2500 m, cool-temperate forests of fir and spruce occur on northerly slopes, with brown oaks on southerly aspects. Above 3000 m, these forests grade gently into a sub-alpine zone of birches and rhododendrons, diminishing in size as the tree line is approached. Above 3000-3200 m, we find alpine meadows, splashed with a great variety of flowers and higher again is the realm of rock and ice that rules the high peaks and ridges. At GHNP, there are numerous habitats for exploration: from lush forests of oak, conifer, and bamboo, to gentle alpine meadows; from swift flowing rivers to high elevation glaciers. The terrain and geology are diverse. If you get lucky, there are opportunities to observe endangered species of the Western Himalayas in their natural habitat.

Because of its complex geography and great variations in altitude, the limited area of the Park encompasses an enormous range of species, which span the subtropical to the alpine. Few ecological sanctuaries present such a variety of wildlife habitat and biological diversity in such a small area. The Park is the foremost priority for conservation in the North-West Himalayas. Its remote location has thus far spared the Park many of the problems that have affected natural ecosystems elsewhere in India. The occurrence of temperate and alpine ecosystems in a geographically compact area make GHNP the most significant and biggest conservation unit in the Western Himalayas. This status further protects the relatively inaccessible rugged terrain which represents the ecology, geology, and biota characteristic of the North-West Himalayas.

The indigenous culture of the mountain villages, adjacent to the Park, also offer unique experiences for the traveler. Isolated for centuries from the large urban centers, these remote hamlets developed a highly distinctive culture, based on the worship of local deities (devta) which are celebrated in numerous local, regional and national festivals. From the characteristic architecture of the houses and temples, and the folk wood carvings that decorate them, to the silver jewelry and woven wool shawls and blankets, there is a great range of local crafts to see.

The management of Great Himalayan Journeys is involved in a multifaceted way with the training of the forest guards, with developing educational and promotional material, advising on parks management plan. Working hand in hand with the Friends of GHNP an international association to raise awareness about the park, we are involved in research and a lot of developmental activities in the park.

Flora and Fauna

 

Among the large mammals that travellers may encounter, there are several species of herbivores that are characteristic of the Park. The Goral (Naemorhedus goral), a small goat-antelope is found in the lower forests; the Himalayan Tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) in the higher forests, and above the tree-line the Bharal, or Blue Sheep (Pseudois nayaur). These mammals are the prey for Leopards (in the forest zone) and Snow Leopards (above tree-line). Himalayan Black Bears inhabit the forests, while Asiatic Brown Bears occur on the alpine meadows. Among birds, the Park is well known as the most important site in India for the endangered Western Tragopan. Four other species of pheasant occur in or adjacent to the Park, the one most likely to be seen by visitors is the Himalayan Monal, an abundant bird in the higher forests, although rather shy. Raptors are also a prominent feature of the Park, with Lammergeiers, Himalayan Griffon Vultures, and Golden Eagles being seen regularly.

When to go

 

The general climate of the Park is quite temperate and the best time for visiting is in Spring (April-May) and Fall (September-October). Summer brings monsoon rains and winter brings colder temperatures and the possibility of dangerous snow storms, especially at higher elevations. Being remote and insulated within the Kullu valley, the Park has its own microclimate. At higher elevations, unexpected thunderstorms can soak the unprepared trekker. Just as quickly, the storm can pass, leaving the sky saturated with azure blue

Highlights for GHNP

 

Trek in one of the last bastions of pure, unaldultrated wilderness in the Himalayas

Alpine meadows, lush mixed forests, snow-bound peaks- all in one trek!

Look out for a myriad of endangered species like the Himalayan Ibex, Himalayan Tahr, Brown Bears and elusive Snow Leopard

A veritable birding paradise home to the engangered Western Tragopan

Interact with the shy but extremely warm shepherds of the Tirthan Valley