Khaliya Top: A hidden gem

 By: Shrabasti Mallik

Khaliya top is a snow-covered alpine meadow high up in the Kumaon Himalayas, around 12 km from Munsiyari in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. The trek from Munsiyari to Khaliya Top can be completed in a day but it’s better to plan it as an extended and relaxed weekend break. The actual climb to the Khaliya Top summit begins from Balati Bend, from where the peak is around 6 km. While termed as an easy to moderate trek, there are some steep climbs on this route as well. A hidden gem, the trek to this mountain top is sought-after only by those who love to walk through pristine snow even in summer, and want an off-beat experience. The trek route meanders through dense forests, and offers sightings of exotic mountain animals and birds. But it’s most well-known for the outstanding views of surrounding mountain peaks, including Panchachuli, Nandadevi, Hardeol, Nandakot and Rajrambha. If you can be at the summit during sunset, the mesmerising view of the setting sun’s hues painting the peaks in shades of fire will make the memory of a lifetime. Some experienced trekkers start early from Balati Bend to reach the summit for a sunrise show of nature. If you have some time in hand, after you have reached the summit, trek ahead for about one kilometre to Zero Point for a panoramic 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains. The sight of the undulating peaks enveloped in cloud is what pulls most trekkers back here again and again! In winter, between late-December to February, you can also enjoy skiing at Khaliya bugyal, an adjacent high altitude pasture blanketed with thick snow year-round. Ski equipment and training is available here during season. In summer, you can try paragliding at Khaliya Top. The trek is a must-try and even beginners can attempt it but physical fitness is necessary, and do not plan it without an expert guide. During winter, the trek can become challenging if you are not used to high-altitude snowy terrains. Carry adequate winter clothing even in summer. KMVN has a guest house near the summit and offers a comfortable break and you can book here,