The slideshow is intended to ‘tell the story’ of the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area, and features a portfolio of photos from an 8-day trekking expedition led by Peter Howard in October 2017. The expedition was guided and supported by a team of six local community members organized by Himalayan Ecotourism, and followed the course of the Tirthan River valley from Gushaini to the high peaks at the head of the valley. The return route followed a slightly different path via an upland meadow at Nada Thach surrounded by ancient broadleaf forests of golden oak and rhododendron. The slideshow is arranged chronologically from start to finish, up and down the valley. It illustrates the diversity of forest types and ecological communities experienced during the trek, with each vegetation ‘zone’ determined primarily by altitude, from the broadleaf riverine forests at lower altitudes through various types of coniferous forest and above the tree-line into the alpine meadows and grasslands below the rocky peaks and glaciers. The biodiversity is illustrated with photos of a few of the large mammals encountered along the way (grey langur monkeys and Bharal/Himalayan blue sheep), some of the flowers, birds (Himalayan Griffon vulture), butterflies, fungi and lichens, many of which remain undocumented in the park literature. Religion plays an important role in local culture and many of the prominent natural features (caves, boulders, ancient trees) are revered, festooned in prayer flags and serve as places of worship.
Tourism is still in its infancy in the Great Himalayan National Park, and although the lower reaches of the picturesque Tirthan valley (below the park boundary) is a popular destination, very few visitors make anything more than a day trek into the park. A graded path has been developed for the more adventurous trekkers as far as Nada Thach (half way up the valley), but trekking conditions above this are primitive and require total self-sufficiency – and a healthy tolerance of risk. During our 8-day expedition we did not encounter any other person for 7 days, so became a tight-knit and convivial team by the end of the expedition (including an adorable stray dog that accompanied us throughout!).