Uttarakhand in the Monsoons: To Travel or Not


Hemkund Sahib Valley of Flowers
Sri Hemkund Sahib


One of the important decisions that a potential tourist to Uttarakhand has to make is – should I travel to Uttarakhand hills in the monsoons?? At Dream Mountain we too have had long telephonic conversations with our guests and potential guests on this subject. So here in this blog-post we are putting to pen our general advice on the subject  for the benefit of all readers.
First and foremost, it is a fact that driving conditions in the hills of Uttarakhand are not the best even in the balmiest of weather conditions. The Himalayas are a very young mountain system compared to the mountain systems in Deccan India or those in Europe and the Americas. This is what the Encyclopaedia Britannica has to say about the Himalayas:
During the Jurassic Period (about 201 to 145 million years ago), a deep crustal downwarp—the Tethys Ocean—bordered the entire southern fringe of Eurasia, then excluding the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian subcontinent. About 180 million years ago, the old supercontinent of Gondwana (or Gondwanaland) began to break up. One of Gondwana’s fragments, the lithospheric plate that included the Indian subcontinent, pursued a northward collision course toward the Eurasian Plate during the ensuing 130 to 140 million years. The Indian-Australian Plate gradually confined the Tethys trench within a giant pincer between itself and the Eurasian Plate. As the Tethys trench narrowed, increasing compressive forces bent the layers of rock beneath it and created interlacing faults in its marine sediments. Masses of granites and basalts intruded from the depth of the mantle into that weakened sedimentary crust. Between about 40 and 50 million years ago, the Indian subcontinent finally collided with Eurasia. The plate containing India was sheared downward, or subducted, beneath the Tethys trench at an ever-increasing pitch.
During the next 30 million years, shallow parts of the Tethys Ocean gradually drained as its sea bottom was pushed up by the plunging Indian-Australian Plate; that action formed the Plateau of Tibet. On the plateau’s southern edge, marginal mountains—the Trans-Himalayan ranges of today—became the region’s first major watershed and rose high enough to become a climatic barrier. As heavier rains fell on the steepening southern slopes, the major southern rivers eroded northward toward the headwaters with increasing force along old transverse faults and captured the streams flowing onto the plateau, thus laying the foundation for the drainage patterns for a large portion of Asia. To the south the northern reaches of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal rapidly filled with debris carried down by the ancestral Indus, Ganges (Ganga), and Brahmaputra rivers. The extensive erosion and deposition continue even now as those rivers carry immense quantities of material every day.
So basically the weak upper sedimentary layer on the Himalayas are still in the process of erosion and because of this the roads in these mountains are particularly vulnerable to landslides, cloudbursts sagging etc, specially during the monsoons.
People are generally aware of the difficulties of travelling in India in the monsoons, and more so in the Hamalayas. So why is it that you would still like to travel to Uttarakhand in the monsoons? The answer lies in the Valley of Flowers and the shrine of Sri Hemkund Sahib. As luck would have it, the best time to visit the Valley of Flowers is in August and early September. That is, in the thick of the monsoons. After mid-September the flowers in the Vally start to disappear and by end September or early October the Valley and Sri Hemkund Sahib is closed to visitors. In 2017 entry to both these places was closed on 3rd October. This year(2018) we hear that the date is 5th October.
So it boils down to this- if you are travelling to visit the Valley of Flowers or Hemkund Sahib, you have no option but to visit during the monsoons. Otherwise, if you are on a Char-Dham-Yatra, you are well advised to delay your visit till the monsoons are over as you still have time. We hear that the Yamunotri sector has been closed to vehicular traffic because of persistent landslides for the last 20 days. Travel to Gangotri has also been affected by bad road conditions.
Luckily, traffic to Joshimath and Govind-Ghat has not been affected by the monsoons in spite of the bad road conditions. The patch beyond Govind-Ghat towards Badrinath is risky as there is a major landslide zone at Lambagad beyond Govindghat. At the time of writing this post one of our guests who had ventured to Badrinath has not been able to return for two days because of the landslide at Lambagad.
 So as long as your itinerary does not require you to travel to Badrinath during the monsoons, you should be able to make it till Joshimath and Govind-Ghat, although in a shaken condition.
Let us know if you have any specific queries. We will try to keep you updated on the road conditions. Also please check our “Monsoon Update” section for additional information.

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