Leaving the tourist behind, the traveller in me began my journey from Haridwar to Himalayan Eco Lodge, Kund. This long journey with a surprising twist by the midnight has to be chronicled for reasons none other than it was my FIRST TREK! So the blog is divided into 3 Legs one that begins in Kund, second that hits the right chords at Deoriatal – Chopta. Last one, The Moment of Epiphany – Chandrashila Peak Summit Climb.

(6 Feb, 2017) Leg 1: One that begins in Kund

The journey began from Haridwar, as we entered Rishikesh, the world of jeeps, rafts & tourists: setting the right mood for an access to the outdoorsy world. Having reached H.E.L Kund at around 6 in the evening, we hogged away the dinner, after a tiresome journey. Retiring to the bed early, seemed no less than a blessing as we had to get up early the following day. But seemingly all that we were destined to was an hour of peaceful sleep, until the earth shook us out of our slumber. Yes, it was an earthquake!

A Glimpse: Deoriatal Lake                    Photo Credit: Sandeep Juyal

The twist of the night made us run out of our beds, grabbing our overcoats; skipping a beat here & there to gather in the open space as we just witnessed an Earthquake of 6 points on the Richter scale. The word ‘scared‘ seemed of such less weight to describe the nights’ trauma. With a group of 40 students trembling at the very thought of an earthquake, shook our senses even more so. What would have followed then but a series of endless calls & the terrific news on T.V., breaking out to us that the epicenter of the earthquake was close by (in Rudraprayag). How strange & adventurous can life turn especially when you have already opted to experience the mountain outdoors?

The trek we were destined to, seemed a bleak possibility the next day, for all we got was spontaneous after-shocks of the earthquake, rendering us sleepless for more than the latter part of the midnight.  The endless words from the roommates experiences of the Nepal earthquake to strange hallucinations, made us tip & skip until we managed to exit the indoors, when the outdoors were no less threatening. Especially, in the mountains with a possibility like landslides & huge structures falling off, we bet managed to stay strong.

In all one strange thing about travelling in a group is that we humans are caring & selfish, all at the same time. Panic leads to fear & vice versa, in an event like this one must be prepared with an emergency bag by the bedside. This is not to welcome any mishap but to avoid getting into one. Rest, all’s well that ends well! And as the morning sun shone at us, I realised real adventure is that, which is experienced in the strange workings of nature. Although there is no cheat code to it but if travel is in your lineage, you will always find a way out. And that was about the last night!

Leg 2: Hitting the right chords at Deoriatal – Chopta

A Reflection: Deoriatal Lake ; Photo credit: Sandeep Juyal

The hike from Sari village to Deoriatal, is a rather exciting one. The efforts invested to witness this much celebrated high altitude lake, Deoriatal paid off well. The lake gets its name from a legend associated with it, that Pandavas, when in hiding from the Kaurava King, Duryodhana took a halt over this beautiful lake to quench their thirst. The four Pandava brothers in order to fetch water for their mother, died for their inability to answer the questions that Yaksha Devta put forth. However when the fifth son Yudhistra’s turn came up, he answered all questions correctly, resulting in the dead brothers reviving from death. And we were no less revived from our fatigue as we witnessed the peacefully located Deoriatal Lake, reflecting in its waters the giant peak of Chaukhamba & the other snow-capped mountains. What a rewarding sight indeed! Camping next to the lake just made it all the more better, accompanied with the right company & a finger licking dinner.

The following morning was full of pleasant views by the lake watching the Himalayan peaks envelope us from within & without! Adding to the thrill was the beautiful Himalayan mountain dog, playful at its best, seeing us off as we trekked down for our next leg of journey to Chopta. For the next leg of trek we halted for the night, at Baniyakund campsite. The campsite had its own charm, a little below the road head it set the perfect ambience for a Himalayan experience. The giant peaks on all sides glowing in their magnificence, were a refreshing sight for the forlorn souls! An abandoned shepherd hut right below, breathing in itself with the little windows letting some light in, made for a perfect setting of a campsite.

Soon we were called for a quick briefing for our Trek the next day, for which we were made to do a short acclimatisation hike close to our campsite. The hike began from the road head itself, under the watchful eyes of the guides, the pinnacle trees & the guardian, snow-clad mountains. With little hints of snow everywhere the hike brought us a step closer to an evening of snow play & breath-taking views. This hike was just a starter to what the real thrill of trekking to Chandrashila would be like. Yes it was not easy, for walking on snow is no child’s play, unless your roots lie in the mountains & you are accustomed to it.

Nevertheless, the day came to a standstill as we returned to the campsite & watched the stars hover over us as we basked in their glory, sitting close to the bonfire. The soup & dinner seemed less fulfilling than the moons light playing peekaboo everytime, as we indulged in perfect conversations with other co- trekkers. Soon we all retired to our bed as the next day began early at around 4.30 am for us. Today’s sleep was meant to be reviving to restore ourselves for the Final big day!

Leg 3: The Moment of Epiphany – Chandrashila Peak Summit Climb

Captured!!                           Photo credit: Sandeep Juyal (Empty Bag Films)

For an early morning departure from the campsite, we hopped on to the bus at 5, destined for the first leg, Chopta- Tungnath Temple hike. The star spangled skies made it all the more thrilling to begin the trek with. The sun was yet to shine & the ringing of the temple bells made for a perfect spiritual start to the day. We began the trek from Chopta road head, towards the highest Shiva shrine in the world, The Tungnath Temple. Having once been here as an infant of 6 months, it was a replay of memories I couldn’t revive other than in the photographs, it was a big day!

One careful step at a time, the headlights paving way in the icicle snow paths, such was the trek like! And slowly when the skies lighted up the love for mountains was meant to arouse! The absence – presence of the sun yet to appear, the merry chirping of the morning birds were just a few of a trekker’s delight. Slightly chilling winds, hit our faces but not to our troubles, rather refreshing our purpose of getting to the Himalayas! Slow & steady seemed all appropriate for we were steadily closer to our destiny with every harsh step on the snow. Life had never been so slow & beautiful all at once. This is all about mountain travel; you never seem to get enough, & even the slow seems rapidly moving forward.

Having made our way uptill the Tungnath shrine, accompanied by silent winds of snow bubbling from the mountains every now & then, made for an ideal snow trek. The way upwards was getting challenging, while the bigger summit was yet to begin. And there we were finally at the revered Temple of Tungnath. The temple peeth is closed during this time (February) of the year; however we were given a good shelter in the temple premises, to stop over for a brief brunch. A lot was required in order to begin the last leg of our Trek to Chandrashila Peak. A lot of energy & enthusiasm, to be precisely. This halt was as much a recharge point as a vantage point for an upclose view of peaks like Bandarpoonch, Kedar & Chaukhamba.

Tungnath Temple. Photo credit: Sandeep Juyal.

And then began the much awaited Chandrashila peak climb. This is about a km ahead of Tungnath, at 4000 mt, above sea level. The closer we were to the peak the greater the enthusiasm, surprisingly it just kept venting. The adventure quotient is without a doubt unbeatable, with every stealthy step that we took, ensuring that the sanctity of the mountains is maintained we were just some distance away from our goal. Now came a steep climb uphill to reach atop the Chandrashila peak, with the aid of a bleh rope, we hushed our way uphill, of course with the help of guides.

The last few steps & we were already ignited deep within, with what was in store for us. The time had come where with one breath I could say I have scaled a peak & with other I was simply numbed by the terrific views. The snow clad peaks & valley right below; accompanied by the silent gush of winds seemed like an applause to our achievement. All that came to my mind was “it is for the ignition of our dampened souls that we must explore the outdoors, with views that can redeem your life, every time it’s out of breath!

The trek of course did not end here. Our childish idiosyncrasies were brought to play as we slid down the slopes of snow, to reach the base. The way down is as challenging as the climb uphill. The snow melts towards the noon. The icicles formed on the path, are a big challenge to cross. Yet leaving no stone un-turned we crossed these hurdles, slipping & skipping on each turn the soul took to get back to normalcy.

Simply hop on to this trek for a lot of reasons unmentioned, as this trek will not fail to surprise you! What stands alone is your will to challenge, fall & come back with a greater force. That’s a lesson from the mountains, so here I am in love with the mountains: that moment of epiphany!

Don’t forget to carry:

  • Camera
  • Sun glasses
  • Trekking shoes
  • Portable Chargers
  • Emergency Medicines
  • Thick Track Pants
  • 1 small day backpack
  • Scarf
  • Water Bottle
  • Cap
  • Light snacks to munch.
  • Chocolates
  • Lip Balm
  • Torch
  • Warm Fleece
  • Waterproof Jackets & Trousers
  • Gloves – 2 Layers
  • Plastic bags

Accessibility from Delhi –

Delhi – Haridwar (Volvo Buses/ Train) – Himalayan eco Lodge (Kund) – Haridwar (Buses/ Taxi)