Ranthan Kharak- A Trek To Fairyland In The Kumaon Himalayas

Ranthan Kharak Trek:

I wasn’t very excited when I first heard of the Ranthan Kharak Trek. After all, there were no thrilling passes to cross, no glacial lakes to gaze into. At 12,800 feet, even the ascent didn’t sound very challenging. But, considering it was only six days and the fact that I was getting stir-crazy since my last trek in October 2023, I decided to go for it. 

From the outset, I was pleasantly surprised, and then thrilled, and ultimately spellbound! 

In all the years I have spent outdoors and trekking in the Himalayas. I have rarely enjoyed any six days as much as on the Ranthan Kharak Trek. This trek is an amazing gem of the Kumaon Himalayas. What added to the magic was the great company of my fellow trekkers, exceptional care and hospitality from the Himalaya Shelter Team, and the fact that this trek is still relatively unexplored, and therefore devoid of the maddening crowds you find on the more popular tracks.

ranthan kharak- himalayashelter.com
Trek to Ranthan Kharak, PC: Bachan Rana

Day 1- Drive to Gogina:

Day one was mostly taken up by the drive to Gogina village, our starting point in Bageshwar district of Uttrakhand. If, like most people, you are driving up from the railhead in Kathgodam or the nearest airport in Pantnagar, this will mean a long 10 to 11 hour drive. I would suggest reaching a day early and spending the night in Almora or Kasar Devi. This will make the journey easier and give you more time to explore interesting areas along the route.

From Almora, it is a pleasant 5-hour drive, with plenty of scenic spots for a break. I especially enjoyed the drive from Bageshwar to Kapkoth along the Saryu River. The road is mostly good except the last 20 kilometers after the turn-off from Sama. From there on, it’s a bumpy ride all the way to Gogina. But, the beautiful surroundings largely make up for the discomfort. 

Ranthan Kharak Trek Gogina- himalayashelter.com
Gogina Village (Start Point of Ranthan Kharak Trek, PC: Bachan Rana

I reached well in time and accompanied our camp cook, Shyam Singh. He is popularly known as “Chacha,” to a nearby house on a quest for fresh buttermilk and vegetables. The evening was spent eating a great meal made with the produce we scored and getting to know the team and around a cheery bonfire.

Day 2- Gogina to Namik: 

This day had a spectacular start. The second I unzipped my tent and peeked out, Mt. Dangthal was there to greet me in all its snow-capped glory. Chirping birds and the clear blue sky made for the perfect backdrop as I had breakfast and got ready for the hike. The trail literally started at the end of the road, which is in the process of being extended till the Namik village.

namik village- himlayashelter.com
Namik Village, PC: Bachan Rana

One day soon, people will be driving up. But for now, you can still enjoy the walk. The first kilometer or so is along the under-construction dirt road, before branching off onto the forest trail. There is a cheerful stream that we crossed right at the start, like a beacon for all the fun things up ahead. The trail was relatively easy, and we kept stopping for pictures and laughter. 

After crossing the suspension bridge over the Ram Ganga river, there is a sharp ascent that gets you to Namik in the Pittoragargh district. The trail was well-marked and maintained. And we passed some of the local residents going up and down. 

ramganga- himalayashelter.com
Bridge Over Ramganga River, PC: Bachan Rana

At Namik, we camped in a beautiful meadow with a freshwater spring, or “Naula” close by. Some of us read or rested after lunch, and I played spectator at a local cricket match in a nearby field. At night we feasted on ‘gulab jamuns’, bajra rotis and delicious sabji made of Fiddlehead ferns’ or ‘limura’ as they are known locally. 

Day 3-Namik to Bajimanian:

After a restful night, I woke up full of beans and excitement for the day’s hike. At around 7,400 feet, Namik was nice and cool, but I couldn’t wait to get higher. After a sumptuous breakfast of pancakes, porridge, and buttered toast, we stretched under the watchful eye of Sonu, our youngest guide, and were all set. 

The walk started with a steady ascent through a beautiful broad-leaved forest filled with bird song. Being part of the old trade route to Tibet this trail has exceptionally well-laid stones throughout. I couldn’t help but wonder at the dedication and labour it took to create this path. About halfway through, we crossed a stream where we re-filled our water bottles, and after just a short ascent from there, our trek turned from run-of-the-mill beautiful to astoundingly majestic. 

From that point on, we walked through the most magical ancient rhododendron forest. All around us, as far as we could see, we were surrounded by the most beautiful blossoms in every imaginable shade of pink. We seemed to have entered Wonderland, and after the initial excitement and frenzied picture-taking, we could all just stand still and try to take it all in. 

This dreamlike walk ended with another unforgettable experience. We reached the campsite at Bajimanian, only to find that most of the residents from Namik had come up there before us to celebrate a yearly harvest festival and offer the first crop of wheat to the gods. After setting up camp nearby, we enthusiastically joined the villagers in the feasting and were lovingly served the mouth-watering aloo, puris, and wheat halwa. By evening the villagers left, after cleaning up and leaving the meadow pristine again. You could never guess that an entire village had cooked and eaten there.

That night I went to bed with a big smile, thankful to be there.

Day 4- Bajimanian to Ranthan Kharak and back:

This was our big day with almost 14 kilometers of walking. We had decided to camp at Bajimanian instead of moving ahead to Thal Thok or Chophu as Bajimaninan had a water source and water was going to be scarce further ahead. The plan was to leave camp early, make a push for the Rantank summit, and return back before dark. ‘Chacha’, our super talented cook and the entire Himalaya Shelter team made sure we had a big breakfast and started as per schedule.

rhododendrons at ranthan kharak
Rhododendrons on full bloom, PC: Keya Rathore

The walk initially took us through “Kharaks” or clearings surrounded by more pink rhododendrons in full bloom. There were times when we were walking over a bed of flowers and the crisp mountain air added to the magic. Within 45 mins, we were at Thalla Bugyal, after which the trail moved above the treeline. From here to Thal Thok and beyond we walked through grassy meadows. 

picture at Ranthan Kharak
Picture at Ranthan Kharak, PC- Keya Rathore

The trail of Ranthan Kharak got pretty steep at some places, but our enthusiasm didn’t ebb. By mid-day, the sky was getting very overcast but we were all very keen to make it to the top of the Ranthan Kharak. At Chula, we left our bags under a ledge and made a push for the summit. The heavens greeted us with a loud roar just as we reached Ranthak, and suddenly there was a snow storm with winds that threatened to blow us off the mountain. As we headed back, our guides made sure everyone was safe and kept looking out for us every step of the way.

We reached a small shepherd’s hut in Thal Thok in the midst of a raging storm, and amazingly our guides not only found shelter for us,  they served us tea and a hot lunch right there. By the time we had eaten, gotten warm, and laughed, the sun came out again and we made our way back to camp in more docile conditions. 

Day 5-Bajimanian to Namik:

This was a spectacular morning, we woke up to clear skies and the magnificent mountain views of Nanda Devi, Nanda Devi East, Nanda Kot, and the Dang Thyal peaks. 

ranthan kharak- himalayashelter.com
Views of Mountains Range, PC: Bachan Rana

After breakfast, I had to really push myself to start walking as I didn’t want to leave and go back. It was a nice easy walk back with lots of breaks just because we all wanted to spend more time in that fairyland. We reached Namik by afternoon and ate a delicious meal which included sabji made from stinging nettle and a roasted spicy chutney.

Day 6- Namik to Gogina:

This last day of our Ranthan Kharak Trek was an easy downhill hike for the first half. We explored Namik village and saw the local school on our way.

Villagers of Namik, PC: Himalaya Shelter

After crossing the Ram Ganga, we walked up towards Gogina village. Towards the end of the trail, we met our merry little stream again, and this time, we all happily jumped in, to wash off the dust and create another memory. From Gogina, we said goodbyes and drove back to reality.