The Warwan Valley, known as the Salt Route, has been one of the most ancient and sought after treks in the Trans Himalayas. This valley connects the Ladakh Himalayas from the Suru Valley to the Kashmir Himalayas. The Valley of Warwan, falling in Kishtwar district, is situated in the upper reaches of Himalayas at an altitude of around 7000 feet above sea level. It is bound by Kashmir Valley on one side and Ladakh on the other and remains completely cut off from the rest of the world for around 7 months in a year. Warwan Valley trek is full of extensive mountain walking with some steep climbs and sharp descends.
Srinagar to Panikhar, is a 264 km journey so it is suggested to leave early in the morning. Panikhar is a small village comprising a handful of typical Zanskari two-storied houses with huge casement like windows. Panikhar is pretty and petite and is a pristine oasis amidst the Ladhakhi deserts. It takes about 10 hours to reach the base camp from Srinagar. Reaching here a day before you start your trek is imperative in order to get properly acclimatised with the weather.
The next day, you have to cover a distance of 15.6 km from Panikhar to Sumdo or Denora. The trail gradually ascends from 10,800 ft to 12, 350 ft. Carry about a litre of water with you before you leave is quite sufficient as you would come across several flowing. As you are ascending you would be leaving behind the village life and entering into a barren terrain through the Zanskar mountains. Continue to trek till the Panikhar Nala confluences with the Suru River. From here you can get a peek at the mountainous beauty on your right as you come across a freshwater stream where you can fill your bottle. Walking past the meadow you will come across a Bakrwal settlement again, and you will be able to have a glimpse of your camping site at Sumdo little ways from there. Continuing your trek again you will come across a place where the Panikhar Nala loses its strength and gets separated into distributaries. This spot is a marker for Sumdo. Often the water levels of the streams rise, making it difficult to camp here. In such case, walk past the basin to Denora, a grassy land that has a higher elevation than Sumdo and does not flood.
From Sumdo or Denora you have to trek towards Kalapari the next day, climbing from 12,350 ft to 12, 850 ft within a span of one and a half hours. Crossing a few Bakrwal huts you would come across another basin to be crossed with bare feet and if you are visiting during the monsoons you find yourself stepping on a bed of wild blushed flowers and blossoms. Here, take several snaps with your camera to capture the picturesque panoramic view of Sumdo and Denora. Next, as you walk for another half an hour you would enjoy an uninterrupted view of the Kalapari valley in front of your eyes. You would be leaving behind the confluence of two great valleys with icy walls covering most their skins as you prepare for a short rest for the day.
This stretch of the trek is going to be the longest one in your itinerary and you have to climb from an altitude of 12,850 ft to an altitude of 11,500 feet via an elevation of 14,450 ft, covering a distance of 20-21 km. To start on this stretch, you will have to leave behind the Kalapari and advance through the serpentine trails through the moraines, towards the meadows. As you proceed towards your destination, you will cross several glacier-fed streams and lakes, large greenish lakes with chunks of ice blocks floating here and there along with skyscraper ice walls trying to pierce through the heavens above. Gently sloping snow fields descend on your left while a vast frozen lake glimmers at you on your right. The mountains on the opposite are sparsely greenish and passing several other glacial moraine-filled terrains, you will be able to view the Kaintal Valley. Trekking further, you will reach the meadows of Kaintal where you would be camping for the night.
The next day you would be descending from a height of 11, 500 ft to 10, 900 ft to cover a distance of 19km. The terrain is mostly grassland with intervening streams that bring you at a grass hump. You can either climb that hump or cross another river basin to reach Humpet. The beau of the Humpet terrain is spectacularly amazing and dumbfounding. Crossing Gujjar huts and the Bobban Hill Pass, you will arrive at Sar trail. Taking the Sar trail you will finally arrive at your Humpet campsite.
This stretch requires you to cover a moderate trail of 19km for descending from 10,900 ft to 9,200 ft. Leaving Humpet, the woods of Silver Birch and Police Kotha, you will arrive at the true region of the Warwan Valley. Crossing several other Gujjar huts and similar terrain you arrive at Sukhnai where you would rest for the night.
In the next stretch, you descend further from an elevation of 9,200 ft to 8,300 ft traversing 16 km. You would cross the River Chenab on your way as well as several villages including Rikanwas. From there you should proceed towards the Margi and Gumbar Villages. Crossing Basmina and several streams along the Marwah trail, you will meet with a four-wheeler dirt track at Chaudraiman leading you to the village bearing the same name. Here we can stay for night.