The adrenaline rush on climbing the misty trails, understanding the legends behind the mountain peaks, trekking endlessly and finally getting the view of the majestic Himalayas. Trekking in Uttarakhand is one of the most memorable experiences for many such reasons.Chandrashila trek via Chopta and Tungnath is among such treks which managed to leave me breathless. Both, literally and figuratively.
The mountains got its name from the literal translation of the term “Moon Rock“. As per their legends, Chandra (the Moon God) had spent some time at these mountain peaks in penance, after which it got its name.
Located at an approximate altitude of 13,000 feet above sea level, Chandrashila gives a crystal clear view of peaks including the Nandadevi, Kedar, and Chaukhamba.
It is perched right in the heart of Uttarakhand. When I looked around me I could see I was surrounded by beautiful villages and cities afar. From that height, I could watch the melting snow and lakes make their way through cracks and creases and pass through miniature like hamlets. The heart analogy added along with this view made me picturise the flowing waters as a network of veins reviving the villages around it.
What to know before trekking
I had travelled solo, so I had to climb with the extra luggage of trekking gears. Without the gear attempting to climb the mountains would be dangerous as well as quite tiring.
So make sure you have your trekking pole in hand and shoes with a comfortable grip.
This is also where taking along an experienced guide would be highly recommended! Especially if you are a beginner in trekking.
They would enlighten you on the technicalities regarding the trek including the required fitness, flat-footed techniques, consultation on medicinal intakes and so on would be described in detail before you ascend the peak.
Without appropriate information, before you could even make it halfway through, you’d already been making 10 stops on your way.
Make sure to wear light clothes which can dry quickly. Track pants would be more comfortable for ascending the peak and try avoiding jeans or other bodycon clothes. Keep a handy raincoat as well in case of unexpected rainfall.
Mountains are a little too unpredictable and knowing the right weather and the nature of it is essential before you start going to the top.
There aren’t many shops or stalls around the peak, so make sure you carry a sufficient amount of water along with you. It’s quite important that you keep yourself hydrated.
How to reach
Chandrashila is a common trekking spot and the number of people who flock here every other day to experience the Himalayan glory is beyond astounding.
Sari village is the base point for the trek and is easily accessible through Haridwar. There are almost all modes of transportation available to this camp.
The nearest rail line is at Haridwar, from where a cab or bus service can be availed to Sari village. It is roughly a 7-hour drive away from Haridwar, after which Chopta lies at a distance of about 56 kilometres.
In terms of air travel, Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport at a distance of 180 kilometres from Chopta.
The route map would follow a trail from Haridwar to the base camp Sari, to the Deoria Tal. 60 kilometres from here lies Chopta from where the trek would go in the form of a loop to Tungnath- Chandrashila and back to Chopta.
Alternatively from Sari village, the Kund camp is also taken as a starting point but it’s not so common.
When to visit
Now, this is yet another feature of Chandrashila that makes it one among the best trekking spots.
It is a year-round trek, open during all seasons. The most popular ones are autumn and winter treks.
Winter treks are comparatively harder to climb because of the rise in snowfall levels. Climbing through the slushy snow, even though a tedious task, sure is thrilling and exciting.
During monsoon not only does the trail transform from a moderate to difficult climb, but there are also risks involved around the route to Chandrashila as well.
If you’re trekking via Chopta, you might have to take extra precautions as they have often experienced landslides and other havocs.
This doesn’t pose much of a problem to a typical adventure enthusiast who’d take up the risk of trekking through all the downpours. Very understandably so as well, the view of the mountain ranges with the rain falling like silver threads is sure worth every trouble was taken to reach on top.
Apart from the climatic concerns, the usual duration of the trek lasts for around 4-5 days
The Four-day exploration
The uneven terrains covered in coniferous trees leading to the summit is a 4-day enchanting tale.
Haridwar to Sari (Altitude – 6,600 feet)
The stay kept changing occasionally and a proper stay per se was at Haridwar, from where I had to leave for Sari by early morning. The base camp is situated in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and is approximately a 7-hour drive away from Haridwar without much interruptions and halts.
Here there’s an array of campsites, homestays and houses for accommodating the trekkers.
I had reached by around 6 in the evening and had to take a break for the day to start for the Deoria Tal trek the next day.
Sari is a perfect overnight camping spot. There wouldn’t be even one dull minute around here with the bonfire and musical night with other campers.
Deoria Tal Trek (Altitude: 7850 feet)
This was among the best parts of the trek.
Even though the Lake was barely 2 kilometres from Sari, the trail is quite uneven and with an elevation of around 1300 feet, it took more than 40 minutes for me to complete it.
This was also mostly because I chose to halt at the maple forests and the Hawa Ghar amidst it. The localites have transformed bits of the land for the purpose of farming as well. They are a bunch of really kind people and offered warm brewing tea to the trekkers.
Walking through the dense expanse of greenery, exiting it towards the emerald lakes was like having found a piece of priceless treasure after ages. Here camping facilities are arranged on prior notice. Other than that they also provide sites for those who wish to pitch their own tents.
An overnight stay in the camps, facing the night light reflections in the beautiful lake is a ritual for those who come trekking to Chandrashila.
Off to Chopta (Altitude: 8800 feet)
Packing off from the Deoria Tal camp, the next destination was Chopta. This is when the trek gets moderately challenging. The elevation is heightened and without proper gear, I would’ve struggled ten times more to trek.
The pathway can get a bit confusing as it involves walking past the vast forest and there aren’t many people we could spot on the way.
More or less, it’s like a Hansel and Gretel walk through if you have no idea of the route.
Reaching Chopta would take around 8-10 hours depending on how often you stop at pit-stops.
A lot of water points can be found en route, make sure to fill up your bottles before taking off from here. Few of the stops include the ones before Akash Kamini waterfalls and Rohini Bugyal.
If you’re assisted by a trekking guide, they’d direct and halt exactly at these points for refreshing.
There is also a Forest guest lodge on the way where you can choose to relax for a while before continuing the trek.
The ridges are among the best spots to view the sunset. By the time the sun was slowly bidding away, I was almost drained out. The view along with the Himalayan birds chirping away was a sight to the sore eyes.
Trekking trails beginning from Sari follow a pathway between the humble settlements of the Garhwali people. Not long before I reached Chopta, there were small huts made completely out of scratch. I was told that these were the mountain shepherd’s abode.
Reaching Chopta later in the evening, I pitched my tent and wrapped up for the night.
Circuit trek (12100 feet)
I was prepping to leave behind the snow-dusted mountains of Chopta on Day 4. Going in the form of a circuit was the trek from Chopta to Tunganath-Chandrashila and back to Chopta.
This is the main trek and the ascent is a steeper climb. Reaching the peak takes beyond 5 hours and on the way, you’d pass the infamous Tungnath temple.
At an elevation of 12000 feet, the temple is said to be the highest Shiva temple in the world. The vibe radiating from this temple is unmissable. On the entrance there are bells clanging against the wind, colourful buntings fluttering, and the welcoming idol of Nandi before the shrine. Hold the pause button to the trek here, and not only will you get to relax but it’s a great meditational experience.
The brick structure is barely 2 km from the Chandrashila peak. The Upper base is a 45-minute trek from the temple. I wish I could’ve captured an image of the misty trail, but I was beyond mesmerised to have even expressed how I felt about being there at the very moment. Along with this was the cold breeze hitting my face and complete silence other than the sounds of the boot crushing the snow with every step.
On reaching the peak, starts the dilemma of not wanting to go back. The 360-degree view of the entire valley below the high mountain passes, it’s a view you’d wish to see every single day.
This is one of the challenging and exciting treks you could go for, and definitely a rite of passage to the adventure enthusiast within you!