Kareri Lake and Minkiani Pass

Overnight bus to Dharamsala, and then a 1.5 hr taxi to Kareri village via Ghera. About Rs 1,500 one way. Our taxi contact was Suman, 94182 53008.

Day 1: Kareri village (5,600 ft) to Kareri lake (9,650 ft), approximately 15 km and 7 hours one way, easy to moderate difficulty

Day 2: Kareri lake to Minkiani pass (13,950 ft), approximately 14 km and 8 hours roundtrip, challenging due to steepness, routefinding and altitude

Day 3: Back to Kareri village, approximately 15 km and 4 hours

Map link: http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/de/map/kareri-lake-minkiani-pass_59389#14/32.3143/76.2725. Credits Simon Gottwalt.

Day 1: Kareri village (5,600 ft) to Kareri lake (9,650 ft), approximately 15 km and 7 hours one way, easy to moderate difficulty

The trek starts from the Forest Rest House area, the highest roadhead in Kareri village. The trail ascends straight up a small ridge from the roadhead, then left onto what feels like a road and is mostly flat or gently ascending and has three small concrete bridges to cross.

This part is about 4 km, an hour of walking. You’ll cross several small streams, but the turn up to the lake is when you come to a river and a large concrete bridge over it. The trail heads up the right bank of the river, so you don’t cross the bridge, but drop down before it and start heading up.

The trail is very obvious, and has lots of mule droppings, the route is quite popular! This part is quite straightforward, you stay on either side of the river, crossing back and forth a couple of times. The first crossing happens over a set of boulders after about an hour from the road and bridge. The crossing is not hard, but there is one exposed step across.

The trail then goes through some soft clayey soil, so gets a bit split up; after the boulder crossing it heads left up the hill away from the river to avoid some large rocks, and up the left flank of the valley. It then winds through the valley for quite a bit before once again coming to the river and a crossing over a longish footbridge made of metal. This is about another two hours up.

Now the trail stays mostly by the river, and will wind through a few small boulder fields where it gets scattered, but will generally resume with cut steps. There’s really no other way to go, it’s an obvious trail by the river. Another hour or two up, and you’ll start hitting shepherd huts, indicating you’re quite close to the lake.

The trail will feel like it’s getting split again, but will resume with the stone steps from time to time, and will cross once again over the river. Look for the steps across the river to indicate where to go. This crossing is easy, and not exposed at all. You’re now very close.

Another ten minutes, and you come to a temple on your left overlooking the lake. You can stay here if you can find an unoccupied hut-shelter, it is apparently quite popular in summer. Even in late October we had lots of company, and there is a guy making maggi and tea, so you can, if you want, dispense with tents and stoves, and just eat at the temple. Hygiene is easy too, there’s a toilet shack below the temple you can use which is quite clean.

Alternatively, you can head a bit further down the lake to pitch camp alongside a set of shepherd huts overlooking the valley below. The view’s a bit more spectacular, but it is windy, so be prepared for wind chill, the lake is at the foot of a set of mountains, so winds sweep down at speed. Camping is recommended if you want privacy and solitude. We stayed at the temple compound, because we reached in the dark at around 7 and were too tired on our first day to want to pitch.

Day 2: Kareri lake to Minkiani pass (13,950 ft), approximately 14 km and 8 hours roundtrip, challenging due to steepness, routefinding and altitude

From the lake you wind anti-clockwise to get to a boulder field heading up the obvious and large gulley. You’re choosing the flattest ascent up, and trying to avoid boulder fields by going on grassy areas. There was an odd sort of trail from time to time, but nothing consistent, so you have to use your instincts to try to avoid the boulder fields, which make for very slow going, and pick out patches of soil to travel over more evenly.

You will head for a snow field, and stay to its left until you rise over a small hillock (not visible from the lake), where you essentially continue left and in a small valley, crossing over patches of rocky soil and boulder fields. From the lake, this is the broadest and flattest area of the mountain heading up to the highest peak on the ridgeline.

The trail is not marked at all, but you will see cairns occasionally, and you’re basically going up a boulder field, skirting left and right to stay off the stones as much as possible.

The most interesting part of the hike is the bit where, having stayed off the huge boulder field in the broader gully below, you take a little dip left over a narrow saddle to find a little notch. This is marked with a prominent cairn and puts you up into the last hour or so of your hike. It feels a bit like rounding a false summit, and you see another set of minor ridges up higher and around you.

The route continues up here, you can feel the mountain narrowing on either side, and now you’ll find little bits of maintained trail, for the first time. In late October, there was snow on the trail, so it occasionally made for diversions. The trick here is to avoid getting onto rock and exposed parts, and looking for consistent little paths through which are safer.

The final thirty to forty minutes will feel hard, the altitude really kicks in, but the pass, with it’s Shivji trishuls and red prayer flag, is really quite spectacular. It’s above the clouds, offers spectacular views and sunshine, and feels more like a summit than a pass. The terrain beyond is wild and barren, so you feel like you’ve done some mountaineering, gotten up above treeline and onto rock and scree. Super rewarding.

The way back down is arduous, and difficult because you’re constantly on steep rock and grass, so be careful of twisted ankles here. Hiking poles are highly recommended for balance, and hiking shoes laced super tight to offer maximum ankle reinforcement. We had cloud cover on our way down, but it wasn’t too dense, so while we couldn’t see the lake from on top, once we got through, things were visible again, if a bit hazy.

Day 3: Back to Kareri village, 4 hrs

You just backtrack from the lake back to the village. If you arrange your taxi appropriately, you should have time to make it back to Dharamsala for a nice warm meal before taking the bus back to Delhi.

5 thoughts on “Kareri Lake and Minkiani Pass”

  1. Can the whole trek be taken in end of January?
    Also we do not plan on taking any guide. So will there be problem finding the way .
    what is the possibility of having any wild encounter and how to avoid them?

  2. The weather will be pretty hostile, super cold, and we had several long days, so needed the sunlight. There will almost certainly be snow this time of year as well. We wouldn’t advise doing this for the first time in winter, it was hard enough in summer, unless you’re a very seasoned trekker and really know what you’re getting into.

    Lots of rocky crossings as well, and with little bits of ice or slick, wet surfaces, you’re looking at something much trickier and more dangerous. Not sure about animals this time of year either; when we went there were lots of people on the trail, so the animals stayed away, but in winter that might also change.

  3. Good Read. Wish I had read this blog before my trek to Kareri Lake. Have shared my experiences in my blog, do visit and share your comments!

  4. Not necessarily, the route was quite straightforward. But, that also depends on your experience level. If you’re new to the area, and haven’t done much leading or routefinding, you should hire a guide. We did have to scout the trail quite a bit.

    Anuraag

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