Deoriatal Chandrashila Trek

Temple on Mt. Chandrashila facing Kumaun Himalayas. Shot on Mt. Chandrashila Summit, Uttarakhand, India.

The wind whistles through my hair as I march forward, one arduous step at a time. A steady burn is growing on my thighs. I look at my watch. 3:00 AM. Two more hours before I reach the summit.

Trekking has a way of rinsing away your cares. You gain an intimate knowledge of mountains that individuals who survive on distant glimpses do not. This is as close to heaven as one can get.

I am on the trail to Mt. Chandrashila. Literally translating to “Moon Rock”, it is nestled among prominent Himalayan peaks like Nandadevi and Chaukhambha.

Gritting my teeth, I wipe the steady flow of sweat down my temples. I can’t see anything beyond a few meters; it will be many hours before the sun peeks out from the horizon. My searchlight illuminates the path in the pitch darkness. As I approach the summit, I ponder on the journey that got me here.

It was November of 2019. I was on the Deoriatal – Chandrashila trek (organised by Indiahikes), hiking up Mt. Chandrashila. 

It started by taking a bus from the sacred city of Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Sari, a tiny village up in the mountains. The ride wove through the entire expanse of the state, offering great views of the landscape. 

From the base camp Sari, we set off into the mountains. We trekked through Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, passing through stunning pine forests. Ferns paved the way as we trudged towards Lake Deoriatal, the Himalayas peeking out above the treeline.

At camp Deoriatal, we got our first view of Mt Chaukhambha. It towered above us, often lost amidst the clouds.

Mt Chaukambha in Golden Light. Shot in Uttarakhand, India.
Mt Chaukambha

The next day we headed towards Camp Syalmi, going through dense forests and meadows. Rhododendron and maple trees swayed as we passed them by. Walking along ridges and through meadows, we passed through the most picturesque parts of the trek.

Mt Chandrashila was now visible along with its neighbour, the Kala Parvat. According to the Mahabharatha, the Pandavas hid their weapons at a glacial lake below the peak.

From Camp Syalmi, we headed towards the next camp at Baniya Kund. Lush forests surrounded us as we hiked up. We crossed streams and stone shepherd dwellings to get there. 

Mountain Forests. Shot by P N Shanavas

Many trekkers stay at this campsite, for it is one of the closest lodges to the peak. We went to bed quickly, for we had a steep incline to deal with tomorrow. 

We woke up at 1:00 AM to hike up to Mt Chandrashila. We trekked up in darkness to reach the summit for sunrise.

Before the summit lies the Tuganath Temple, the highest Shiva temple in the world. The climb follows a steep pilgrim trail with multiple twists and turns.

Tuganath Temple. Highest Shiva Temple in the World. Shot in Uttarakhand, India. Shot by P N Shanavas
Tunganath Temple. Shot by P N Shanavas

Tired beyond measure, I took one laborious step at a time. I did not look up, for the summit seemed as far as it did from the base. I pulled my hands close, for the cold had seeped through my gloves. My shoes squeaked over the thin blanket of snow. 

My path was illuminated by my head torch and the glow of the fading stars. It was faint; I could not see a mere few feet ahead of me. What lay in the blackness ahead of me, I didn’t know.

Then I noticed that the darkness was dissipating. The sun was rising! If I continued at this pace, I wouldn’t reach the summit in time to see the sunrise.

Informing the trek leader, I walked ahead. I had not come all this way to miss the striking sunrise. Determined, I quickened my pace, inching my way closer to the peak.

The first glint of red streaked across the sky as I passed the Tuganath Temple. I would come back later to see it; my only goal was reaching the summit. The suspense was building like the impetus of a crescendo, the topmost point gradually coming into view. 

Kumaun Himalayas from Deorital Lake, Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, UIttarakhand, India.
Sun-kissed Mountains

I reached the top just as shards of light pierce the cloud line. I was sore in every part of my body. I couldn’t feel my toes, and my lips were chapped, but I was thrilled to have made it. I pumped my fist into the air in jubilation.

I watched in awe as the sun climbed higher in the sky. It ascended behind Mt Nandadevi, one of the largest peaks in India. Vultures, the kings of the skies, circled against the rising sun. The surrounding hills wore a mantle of colours as the light touched them.

Mt Nanda Devi from Mt Chandrashila. Shot in Uttarakhand, India.
Mt. Nandadevi in the distance

I felt humbled in the presence of such majestic peaks. I couldn’t comprehend the magnificence all around me; it was too overpowering. I froze, my mind wiped blank by the elegance.

All pain and my worries faded at that moment. I was one with nature, basking in its glory. 

Trekking has a way of rinsing away your cares. You gain an intimate knowledge of mountains that individuals who survive on distant glimpses do not. This is as close to heaven as one can get.

Such is the nature of the great outdoors. The therapy of nature can soothe like no other. As the pandemic has made our lives feel baggy and shapeless, a little taste of nature can rejuvenate us.

I know one thing for sure. I am going back there as soon as I can. 

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

12 thoughts on “Deoriatal Chandrashila Trek

  1. I’ve done this one, really stunning isn’t it? Completely agree with your sentiments on trekking. Beautifully written piece:)

    Like

  2. A lovely, riveting piece. And lovely pictures too! A challenging trek clears the sinuses! My first sight of the Himalayas was a couple of years back, on a cycle trip to Sikkim. It was snowing and we were stuck at camp, and the clouds suddenly cleared for a bit and we saw Mt. Kanchenjunga suspended high above the clouds. I had never seemed mountains stretch so high, it was breath taking.

    Like

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