Inspiration and oppurtunity. That was all I needed to venture into my first solo trek.Inspiration i had aplenty and a Friday off coupled with most favorable weather was a godsend opportunity.Bag was packed with usual alacrity and I was ready to plunge headfirst into ecstasy.Call of the Himalayas cannot go unanswered.
Third Kedar and the highest Shiva shrine, Tungnath, situated at 3800 mts sits at a comfortable 3.5 kms trek from Chopta.1.5 kms further up is the peak Chandrashila.This coupled with Deoria Tal was just about the right amount of effort in terms of difficulty and distance for a solo trek
There is something about the start. I met some fellow trekkers heading for same destination visually excited.We decided to travel together to Chopta to cut short the expenses.Plan was to take bus to Rishikesh and then jeep to Ukhimath and Chopta.
Chopta , called mini Switzerland, is a beautifull village perched at an altitude of 2700 mts.It has yet to witness the wonders of electricity and only has a handful of buses/jeeps plying to and fro.There are some guest houses but we decided to trek to Tungnath having learned that some shopkeepers have gone to open the shops and kickstart the season.
Trek to Tungnath is fairly easy for someone used to trekking. A paved path making way through thick forest takes you from 2700 to 3800 in span of 3.5 kms. In april third week, the first patches of snow were found just below Ravan Shila.Unsurprisingly there are a multitude of stories signifying the importance of the place in mythology.Justly named Ravan Shila was once seat of meditation for Ravana and Chandrashila for Rama himself.
Clouds had vieled Chaukhamba , although parts of lesser peaks like Banderponch glittered in evening sunlight through clouds, when I reached near Tungnath after an hour of leisurely walk. The characteristic dome of the temple stood high in the lonely compound laden with old snow.There was little activity in the dharmshalas near the Temple which , had the kapats been open would be bustling with clamour. A friendly shopkeeper promised to arrange for a stay while busy shoveling pile of snow that had amassed right in front of his small guest house.Having plenty of time and energy and fueled by opportunity to take sunset shots, I decided to head for Chandrashila along with some other trekkers.
The ridge above the temple presents a unique view of the temple compound. The zigzag paved path to Chandrashila was buried under snow and so a more direct route was followed. Chandrashila is 1.5 kms from Tungnath and the gradient is not too tough when clear of snow. Presence of old snow however had made it very slippery and I was glad to finally get to a route that required trudging over shrubs than hardened snow.
Mountain tops are generally adorned by Devi’s Temples in this part of the world and I was not surprised to find Ganga Temple atop with the gates marking the altitude, 4000mts. I was however surprised to not get to hear any folklore that could point to its significance, may be a little more company of locals could have helped.The view from Chandrashila was supposed to be 270 degrees but what I was greeted with was just a small part of that large angle, owing to clouds. The immaculate weather however made up for the loss of views. The eerie silence ,in which even a buzz of a distant fly was clearly audible, coupled with heavily overcast sky and such magical environs created mystifying atmosphere. The moments we live for.
Back at Tungnath it was extremely chilly especially in the room I was staying for the night owing to large amount of snow that had accumulated behind the walls.The weather had started to clear which afforded some hope in that hopelessly cold room.
Magnificient Chaukhambha greeted us in the morning looming large behind some unnamed ridge.Although a little hazy. the striking massif of Chaukhamba looked much closer than I had expected. I set out for Chandrashila again, hoping to get the much touted 270 degree view. The snow was much harder to trudge upon in the morning after the frost and if it was not for the deep footsteps of previous day, it would have been a tricky affair to reach the top. Although I couldn’t get to see the whole panorama owing to haze, I will take the view afforded to me any day.
Trekking down to Chopta was easy and I was well on time to catch the bus that would drop me to Taal, enroute Deoria Tal. 4 Kms trek to Deoria tal starts from village Sari, connected through 4 kms road to Chopta-Ukhimath way at Taal. Hoping to get conveyance from Tal to Sari was stretching luck a fair bit and it turned out I was not so lucky. I along with 2 others decided to walk all the way to Sari and then Deoria Tal. A stroke of luck at halfway to Sari brought a jeep and we were allowed to travel on roof. The roof was hardly accommodating for 3 persons along with luggage of those lucky to be travelling inside.Although scary in bits, owing to some overconfident maneuvers of the driver that left us clinging for dear life, it was a memorable experince.That also afforded us some time to relax in Sari , a lovely village.
Deoria Tal , 2400 mts , lies 4 kms from Sari.Ascent is a little steep but the distance is too little to be troublesome and can be covered with ease. There is a SwamiNarayan temple on the way just above Sari village which bears striking resemblance to the better known temples like Tungnath but is very recently built.The view of Chandrashila from here is very enchanting.
Deoria Tal unexpectedly turns up after a corner and more unexpected is the sheer beauty and calm of the place.It is mostly surrounded largely by picteresque forest and on the remaining side has Chaukhamba and other peaks (Kedar Dome, Neelkanth etc)looking into it.Some friendlylocals have setup small establishments which eliminate the need of carrying camping gear and provisions as food and accomodation in tents is available at very decent rate.Given the ease of approach and facilities I was surprised to not find many takers. This place is taken right out of a postcard and thats an understatement by all standards.
A clear morning afforded me chance to take that prized shot.Although a bit hazy for my liking, I could finally capture reflections of Chaukhamba and other peaks in the lake.This shot will be one of the things I will remember this trip by.
I learned there is a trek route to Ukhimath straight from Deoria Tal.The idea to take the route, although not clearly marked and almost non existent at some places, seemed sensible enough. Its a definite no if you are short on time as path is not straight forward and its easy to get lost, as I did on more than one occasion. Although there is no danger apart from getting too tired and late.the route takes through unexplored and thick forest and has some dreadfull vertical drops at some point.This adds some adventure in an otherwise bland day of return travel.
I reached Ukhimath at around 1:30 having walked considerably more than was actually required owing to wrong routes taken. And if it was not for a helpful old shepherd who spotted me taking a wrong route, it would have been a lot more tiring.The good part was over and it was time for that dreadful journey back.
Trekking alone was a memorable experience.It was more than an adventure,it was a learning. Many a times this question has been asked, why trek solo? I can not answer it to others.But there was a moment when I was standing alone at the top of Chandrashila listening only to my heavy breathing.And in that moment, may be by the eerie calm, or may be by the subtle magic of mighty peaks, or even by something beyond perception, the question was answered for me beyond all doubts.