Valley of Flowers (Frank Smythe's Valley of Flowers)


In his book Kamet Conquered, Frank Smythe nick-named the Bhuidhar Valley (then known as Bhyundar) in the central Garhwal as the Valley of Flowers in 1931. To mountaineers the Bhyundar Valley will always be known as the Valley of Flowers.

It is a place of escape for those who have wearied of modern civilization. You would have to descend in winter to warmer and less snowy levels, but for half a year those in search of beauty and solitude can find peace in the Valley of Flowers.

To the southeast of the shrine of Badrinath, in the Garhwal, is the small village of Bhuidhar.

Like true explorers they decided to return by a high pass instead of the usual trade route. They crossed Bhuidhar Pass (5150m/16897ft) and descended into the north Bhuidhar Valley.
Like many valleys in Garhwal, this one was in full bloom. With its wide meadows and seemingly endless
loveliness it must have seemed like paradise after the hostile
and barren slopes of Kamet.
The valley was visited in 1862 by Colonel Edmund Smith, and by TG Longstaff together with Arnold Mumm and Charles G Bruce in 1907. But it took Frank Smythe's scientific eye and philosopher's heart to recognise it as the Valley of Flowers.
Since then many have traversed the valley’s high passes and thousands visit it every year. Today it is one of the best-known valleys in the Indian Himalaya.
After his first brief visit in 1931, Smythe returned to the valley in 1937 and stayed for four months. Each week botanical specimens were sent to Joshimath and then on to Edinburgh where they were housed in a specially built hot-house in the Royal Botanic Garden. Inspired by Frank Smythe's work, Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Garden sent Joan Legge to spend a few months in the Valley of Flowers.

With porters she trekked across the lower foothills, reached Joshimath and finally Govindghat on 25 June 1939. She walked up slowly, collecting samples along the way.

On 4 July she went up the slopes towards Khulia Garva, slipped and fell to her death. Legge's sister requested that her body be buried in the valley. All the items she carried and collected were listed and sent to England and a small grave was built where she lay. Her sister visited the site in 1940 and erected a small memorial, which still stands there, with the following inscription from the Bible:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills
From whence cometh my help

Since this grave is the only point of reference in the valley most visitors who reach here believe, rather erroneously, that it was Joan Legge rather than Frank Smythe who discovered the Valley of Flowers.

Today the Valley of Flowers is a national park and is well-preserved. This valley owes much to Frank Smythe. The name he gave it caught on and he made the place famous. As a result trekkers, non-mountaineers and even weekend visitors find their way to this easily accessible place of glorious beauty. Outsiders now know that there is much more to the Himalaya than shrines and snow.