Sometime in February; when the winter sun was blazing down in Bangalore; I was yearning for the mountains. I toyed between a quick drive to the Nilgiris, a couple of hours away or make way to the Himalayas for a week. I finally zeroed in on Chopta Chandrashila Trek after comparing numerous short treks like Kuari Pass; Brahmatal etc. This trek also includes a camping night by the Deoriatal and a stop at Tungnath the highest Shiva Temple. This is a far easier trek than what I have done in the past but this time around all I wanted was to spend a few days in the lap of Himalayas and not do anything touristy.
- Duration:5 Days ; Location: Starts in Rishikesh/Haridwar and ends at the same location
- Highest Altitude: 13100 feet. ; Difficulty Level – Low
- Views: Deoria Tal; Tungnath the highest Shiva Temple; 360 degree view of the mountain range of which Mt Chaukhamba is the centre point.
- Best Time:
- Dec-Feb: Typical Winter Trek with lots of snow
- March-May – Spring Summer Blooms specially Rhododendrons and very pleasant weather though afternoons can be very warm
- Sep-Nov- Autumnal Clear Sky; cool weather and clear views of the mountain ranges
- Travel Tip: This trek can be done in shorter time like 3-4 days if you choose to drive most part of it.
- Health Tip: Though this is an easy trek but would strongly recommend to plan your physical schedule a month in advance climbing steps; running or other cardio exercise for 30 minutes and strengthening exercise for the legs -3 days a week. The last stretch of the peak climb can be a challenge and the view from Chandrashila is spectacular. AMS can strike anyone so keep drinking water and munching pop corn to remain healthy
- Trek Guide: I joined a group trek with Trek The Himalayas
5 days of Bliss on the Chopta Chandrashila Trek
Day 1: Driving to Sari at 6600 Feet
Drive from Rishikesh to Sari Village; distance of 200 kms covered in about 8-9 hours with generous breaks for breakfast and lunch. Until Rudraprayag; the road winds upwards along the Ganga and then Alaknanda. The view of the river winding through the mountain ranges is a breathtaking sight; something that I could watch all day and let the world go by.
Day 2 : Trekking to Deoriatal at 7800 Feet
Sari is a pretty village and the terraced cultivation fields in different shades of green make it even prettier. The steps leading to Deoriatal are right in the middle of Sari Village and a few houses have been converted to home stays for trekkers and travelers who want to experience the beauty of the mountains. After gorging on spongy Aloo Parathas we set out for Deoriatal. Though it is just about 2 kms away; but the climb is steep and may take about 1 to 2 hours. We camped by the lake in the afternoon and strolled around at sunset soaking in the sudden splash of showers.
Mythology: While some believe this lake is Indra Sarovar as referred in the Puranas where divine beings came to take a dip while others believe that the Pandavas passed this way and Bhim dug this lake to quench his thirst.
Day 3: Deoriatal to Chopta via Rohini Bugyal at 7800 feet
I walked along the lake in the morning in the hope of spotting Himalayan birds but all I experienced was blissful chirping. The reflection of the Chaukhamba Peak in the still waters of the lake is a picture perfect moment.
It is the longest day of the trek in terms of distance (16kms) but this trudge through mountain sides and meadows was a relatively easy trail.Soon after breakfast we walked along the left bank of the lake towards the mountains. Within minutes of crossing the lake the entire vista opens up on either side. On the right there were different hues of green along terraced fields dotted with specks of color from the local houses and on the left snow covered Mount Chaukhamba along with a range of peaks was resplendent under the morning sun.
I took a short break to admire the beauty of nature and chatted up with local women who climbed up through steep tracks from nearby villages including Sari to gather firewood. Its almost a daily chore for them to keep the home fires burning, their immense capacity for hard work and physical endurance comes from the zest to overcome all difficulties. I watched in awe as they gently tip toed through the bushes wearing flat soled slippers, climbing trees in a jiffy with sarees tied tightly around their waist chopping dead leaves and branches. For the next 2 hours we walked with the views of mountains(Nanda Devi, Trishul, Nandaghunti, Kamet, Dronagiri, Chaukhamba, Kedar dome, Thalaysagar, Gangotri ranges, Jahanukut etc.) on the left.
Around 1 pm we reached Rohini Bugyal, a vast open meadow surrounded by brightly colored rhododendron trees. The blooming season had just started in March and it was already a bright splash of colors. After rolling on the grass for a while, we slowly trudged towards our campsite which was on a meadow at the base of the mountains.
Day 4: Chopta to Tungnath-Chandrashila and back at 13000 feet
The camp site is beautiful; but sleeping on a slope is never so easy. After a night of tossing and turning; I looked forward to day break to trek up to Tungnath and Chandrashila. Tungnath is also known as Tritiya Kedar ; one of the revered Pancha Kedars and attracts many devotees during season due to its easy accessibility. The paved pathway upwards began with a gentle ascent and soon turned a bit steep. There was snow on either side and at one point I felt I was trudging through a snow field.
After an hour; I could see the spire of the temple and it seemed to be within reach. There is something about the human mind which instantly gets energized with a destination in sight. The temple was closed but the courtyard was accessible. This is one of the temples believed to have been originally built by the Pandavas in obeisance to Lord Shiva to atone their sins of killing their kith and kin in the Kurukshetra war. We spent some time sitting around before making the climb to Chandrashila.
The climb to Chandrashila (Moon Rock) is short, steep and arduous. It was about 45 mins of rigorous cardio exercise negotiating through melting snow, rocks and slush. The 360 degree panoramic views from the top are mesmerising to say the least.
I walked along the ridge with the wind on my face and then settled myself on a rock for a few moments of quiet contemplation. There was something ethereal about the place and am sure sunrise would have been an excellent experience though I could make it there at noon.
Descent was easy but I took my time, measuring each step to prevent tripping and slipping. A Monal appeared on the way and disappeared as quickly before I could get to focus my camera.
Day 5: Chopta to Rishikesh
The return journey to the plains is always one of mixed emotions. The bus ride through mountain terrains through tiny hamlets and small towns is yet another aspect of multi cultural India. Young children on their way to school waved by holding small flags and palanquins decorated with Rhododendrons (Buransh). They were celebrating the arrival of spring in the hills as the mountain sides turned a blazing riot of colors with rhododendron blooms. We made a customary stop at Dev Prayag watching over the quiet Alaknanda and the effervescent Bhagirathi merging to form the Ganga. Every time I am there, the sight of the formation of Ganga stirs a vortex of emotions as she winds down through the mountains towards the plains, flowing over rocks, stones, sand and mud to sustain life !!
Alternative Routes for this Trek
- Option 1: Combine it with trip to Kedarnath and drive up to the base of Tungnath. Trek up to Chandrashila and Tungnath in a day
- Option 2: Public Transport/Shared Vehicle/ Private Car
- Drive up to Sari; stay overnight in a hotel/homestay
- Trek up to Deoriatal for sunrise and descend by lunch. Drive to Chopta and stay in a hotel/homestay
- Trek to Tungnath/Chandrashila
For Other Himalayan Treks
- Stopping By Chadar on a Snowy Morning
- Date with the Sleeping Buddha in Sandakphu
- Walking through Paradise
- In Search of Elusive Sunrise
- 10 Reasons why every Himalayan Trek is a Pilgrimage