Chopta - Chandrashila Trek | Trekking experience in Himalayas


A cold winter 5-day trek to Chandrashila peak organised by The Great Escape, Hyderabad. Trek started on 27th Jan from Haridwar and ends on 1st Feb at Rishikesh.

It was the mid of December. I was trapped in another boring, monotonous and routine-ish office review meeting. The scene in the conference room was as same as always. The presenter as usual was blah blah-ing, the nodders aka the serious pretenders, the half awake half asleep Hmmm-ers, the bindass, openly catching up on their Zzzs and I, looking for an escape found myself wistfully looking at the tea and biscuits. I swear they looked more interesting to me than the presentation.

I was seriously asking myself over and over again, "Why am I here again?" when suddenly my phone rang loudly. Thanking my stars and not the one to let go of this god sent opportunity, I excused myself from the meeting room to attend the call.

The call was from my friend Raju; an avid trekker. You see, I'd been pestering Raju for the last couple of years to include me in one of his trekking sojourns. The call was to enquire whether I was interested in being part of his trekking group. I guess he finally gave in to my nagging. With more than a Yes from me, he introduced me the Hyderabad based trek organising group, The Great Escape and asked me whether I was ready for my first trek from Jan 27th to 1st Feb in Himalayas – Chopta-Chandrahila trek. Boy oh Boy! Was I!

So excited was I that before he could complete describing the whole itinerary, I was already on my system booking my flight tickets. And by the end of the conversation, I asked him the list of things that I needed to carry in my bag. Caught unaware by my enthusiasm, he fumbled and mumbled that he hadn't yet confirmed his participation in the trek but will now register for this trek to Himalayas – Chopta - Chandrahilaand promised to update me with the progress and would suggest further tips on the programme soon.

This was our schedule:
First day - From Haridwar to Sari village
Second Day - Sari village to Deoria Tal
Third Day - Deoria Tal to Chopta
Fourth Day - Summit trek to Chandrashila peak
Fifth Day - Chopta to Rishikesh

With days passing on and with no further communication from him, the restlessness in me grew. Unable to squash my restlessness any longer, I made calls to him and messaged him. Quelling my anxiety, a Whatsapp group was created by the organisers for easy flow of communication among all the participants wherein soon a list of things to carry for the Himalaya trek was shared. This was my first time being on a trek and the list really helped.

Raju helped me in getting most of these items like trekking shoes, backpack, walking stick, head torch etc. as these items were not available in my city. There were however other stuff like track pants, thermals, woollen socks etc. that he couldn't buy because size mattered. Thankfully, Wifey stepped in and bought them online; making sure that they fit.

I was informed that the trek to Chopta - Chandrahila would start from Haridwar on 27th Jan. The organisers were meticulous in booking group train tickets from Delhi to Haridwar for 26th Jan night. This would ensure that there wouldn't be any loss of time in grouping the team at Haridwar.

Finally, I had all the items required for this trek and was ready with my packed bags by the first week of Jan. With nothing much to do on my hands, I started counting the days for the trek to begin.

But as they say, no trip can begin or be completed without a few bumps and scares. Right? Eh! True to its nature, a message was shared on our Whatsapp group that about 100 flights bound to Delhi were to be cancelled / rescheduled on 26th Jan due to Republic Day celebrations. This stressed out all of us and made us anxious. With our fingers crossed, we silently prayed that this should not have any effect on our programme. Thankfully, no such thing happened. We were good to go.

Fifteen days before the start of our journey to Chopta - Chandrahila, I received a surprising but pleasant call from Jamila; the organiser and one of the participants in the trek. Since the trek was during peak winter, she gave me instructions on how to prepare for the trek, what I could expect during our trek, what precautions I should take etc. This call gave more insights about the trek and helped me in preparing myself both mentally and physically.

And finally! Finally! That D day did arrive that I was itching for! And I took my flight to Delhi. All members were closely tracking the movements of each other to ensure that none of our flights was cancelled/ got delayed. Thankfully, all the flights landed in Delhi in time with just a delay of an hour or two, which the organisers had already cushioned in the schedule and hence, it didn't affect our schedule. All the members assembled at Connaught Place, Delhi. After the initial introductions, we all headed to New Delhi Railway Station to board our train to Haridwar.

OUR TEAM

Our Team (L to R)


Hero by attitude and by profession – Mithun
Ever Optimistic – Raju
Yours Truly
Bahubali of our team; self-proclaimed manchi baludu – Anush
Charm of our team – Aprameya
Ever energetic, always bubbly – Jamila
Soft spoken, complete mismatch between attitude and name - SamaraSimha
Iron Lady with steel like resolute - Sangeetha
Silent assassin, official photographer of our team - Ganesa

Day-1 of the Trek to Chopta - Chandrahila - 27th Jan


Our train reached Haridwar early morning at 4 AM. The organisers ensured that not even one single minute was wasted waiting for the rides. As we step outside the station, we found our mini bus waiting for us. To save ourselves from the early morning biting cold, we rushed into the warm comforts of our van. And thus started our journey to the Himalaya mountains

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Our day 1 destination was a small village Sari near Ukhimath. En route, we stopped at dhaba and helped ourselves with piping hot paranthas (which had become our staple food for the rest of our trek) and a cup of hot tea. To complete the quota of previous night's sleep we dozed off in the van. After our siesta, we felt energised and listened to Bollywood Numbers with few of our young members shaking a leg or two.
As we cruised along, we were awe stuck by the beauty of nature and couldn't resist ourselves taking pictures.

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At about noon, we reached Ukhimath and paid a visit to Omkareshwar Temple there. The idols of this temple are actually the Utsav Doli of Lord Kedarnath is brought from Kedarnath. Since Kedarnath remains closed during winters, these Utsav Dolis are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped here for six months.

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Around 2 PM, we reached our day 1 destination, Sari, where our stay was pre-arranged. After refreshing ourselves in our rooms, we headed straight to the kitchen, where hot paranthas with dal and curry along with rice and pickle were waiting to be devoured by us. Our eyes then fell upon the luscious citrus fruits that were hanging from a tree across our dining hall. They tempted us so much that Mithun and Anush plucked one for each of us.

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With nothing to do for the rest of the day and with a lots of time to kill, some of us thought that scaling the mountain behind our guest house would be a nice warm up and would prep us for the upcoming Chandrashila peak. Six of us set about and were on our way up to the mountain, while the others prefer to stay back in getting to know the locals to understand more about their life style.

The local women were very warm and friendly and even offered some hot tea. They talked in detail about how they toil for their livelihood and how happy they are with what they have. The team which headed for the nearby mountain was led by ever enthusiastic Jami and Raju. Since this was first ever experienced in trekking, I was exhausted to the bone and totally wanted to give up and return back. But the good guy that he was Anush came forward, encouraged me with his words and gave me a helping hand in scaling at difficult terrains.

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In no time, we conquered the peak. (We declared it as a peak by us and that nobody else other than us could ever go further up). We spent some time, cherishing our accomplishment and taking in the sheer beauty of it. Well, no activity is complete without selfies and groupies. Right eh? Well, we did just that. We clicked away countless pictures of us and the peak. After we were pleased with our picture taking, we made our way down to reach the guest house by 6 PM. We spent the rest of the evening warming up around the campfire that was set by the guest house and played cards for some time to entertain ourselves. After having our dinner, we decided to call it a day and headed to our rooms to catch our beauty sleep.

Day-2 of the Trek - 28th Jan


The next morning, we were ready by 8 AM, had a heartful breakfast and started towards Deoria Tal. We left our extra luggage with our van driver, who would join us at Chopta on 1st Feb. The three Oldie Goldies of the team; me, Sangeetha and Raju took it upon ourselves that we would lead the trek and started ahead of the team. After a while we realised that not only did we take a wrong path but were separated from the rest of the team; who were already on their way to the destination well ahead of us. Not perturbed by the turn of events, we continued our trek and after a tiresome period, we realised that we were completely off the track with no soul near and around us. We three were the only ones left in the vast visible mountain range.

Though the GPS tracking showed that we were near to the Deoria Tal, we weren't sure how to reach there. Though Sangeetha and I were petrified, the ever Optimistic Raju assured us that this was very common in any trek and boosted confidence in us. After some distance, we finally met some locals who were collecting firewood. Taking directions from them, we continued our trek towards our destination. The GPS finally showed us that we had almost reached Deoriatal. The rocky mountain then gave way to a snowy path. The sight of deep inches of snow and walking into it just melted all of our tiredness. The sight of snow bowled us over so much that we went on photo spree.

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A walk of half a kilometre in the snow finally led us to Deoria Tal and we were awe struck with the first sight of the lake

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We were finally reunited with the rest of our team at the lake. After we recounted our tale of how we lost our way and found our way back, we all spent some time on the banks of the lake. As per the Govt. Rules, no one is allowed to go into the lake, lest they pollute the surroundings and the nature.

At around 1:30 PM we all headed to have our lunch to a nearby eatery. After our lunch, we headed back to the lake. We had a walk around the lake, captured the beauty of nature through our camera lens, played in the snow; made a snow man and threw snow balls on each other.

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While we were busy absorbing the nature, tents were set up for us and for other visitors around the lake by the guys we had hired. There were a total of about 15 to 20 tents around the lake and three of them were set up for our team.

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At sundown, when the biting cold became too much to take, we went back to the eatery for another cup of hot tea. We requested the canteen guys to arrange for a bonfire which they out rightly refused to do. Their refusal was not because they didn't want to light it but because they had no firewood and fetching it was an arduous task for them. Instead, they handed us an axe and told us to get the firewood on our own if we wanted a bonfire. Samarasimha Reddy took pity on his shivering team members and took it upon himself to get the firewood from the nearby forest. The warmth of the bonfire and the tempting piping hot food on the table gave us a nice respite from the cold and hunger to our tired bones. But before the bonfire burnt itself out, we hurried back to the warmth of our tents.

But the burning issue was how to team ourselves in the tents. As each tent accommodated three people, we debated on who will sleep in which tent. With me included, there were three persons who snored with different levels. It was finally decided that each tent would have one snorer. Anush and Raju were the hapless victims who shared the tent with me and had to put up with my snores all night long.

Day-3 of the Trek - 29th Jan


The next morning we, the snorers were teased to no end. The hapless victims to our snoring got their sweet revenge by teasingly calling our snores as jugalbandi and continued with their banter all day long.
Day 3 of our trek was the longest trek with 16 Kms. of snow laden path. Everyone had their breakfast early, carried their packed food, and started their trek by 8 AM.

Few hundreds of meters from the lake, the stunning nature took our breath away. The trail and surroundings were covered deep in snow. It was as if the mountains and trees were painted white. Taking in and savouring the pristine beauty of nature, each one of us was moving at our own pace. But the difficult terrain and rocky edges made the trail difficult for Sangeetha, a first timer just like me. She fell behind. But, the ever helping Anush took upon it himself to accompany Sangeetha and kept in pace with her. He accompanied her for the entire day, encouraging her and carrying the luggage for her.
Raju who was ahead of the trail and who was one of the hapless victims of my snores felt the need to catch up some of the Zzzs and found a right place for his siesta.

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Though the trek was arduous, the magnificent sceneries and frequent warmth words from Jami, the perfect organiser who ensured the wellbeing of all the members – "Hello RK Sir, How are you? Is everything OK? Do you need any help" made the entire trek look easy.

Around six in the evening, we reached Chopta; our destination for the day. We were completely exhausted and drained out. Our caretaker for the next two days, Dharveender Singh welcomed us with much deserved and refreshing hot tea. We gulped down two to three cups of hot tea. The temperature outside was not just cold, it was bone biting cold. We were told that the previous night's temperature was minus 7 degree Celsius. Since no bonfire was allowed in the region of Chopta, we all surrounded the only source of heat; fireplace in the kitchen and gave company to Basanthi, the pet cat of Dharveender.

The original schedule of the trek was to take rest the next day, and start our trek to Chandrashila peak at 4 AM on the day after to see the sunrise from the peak. It is said that the sunrise at the Chandrashila peak is sight to die for. But no one was in a mood to take rest. We wanted to scale the Chandrashila the very next day. But then again the idea of waking up and start trekking in the sub zero temperatures sent shivers down the spine and wanted to start scaling the peak after sun rise. Also, as we were likely to save one day from our original schedule with this proposed deviation, we wanted to spend this extra at Rishikesh and indulge in some adventurous sports. But the problem with this proposal was that the van with our remaining luggage would arrive at Chopta on 1st Feb to pick us up as per original schedule. The bigger problem than this was to convey and convince Jami with the revised plan. But who will bell the cat? That was the question.

After much discussion, the task of conveying this and convincing Jami was given to Raju, considering the respect he commands from Jami. Surprisingly, Jami readily accepted the proposal and made few calls to ensure that the van reached and would meet us at Chopta the next day evening.

Having set the next two day's programme, we retired to our respective rooms in the guest house. Whatever the reason; could it the exhaustion owing to the full day's trek or the sound-proof techniques we applied for snores, we totally zonked out and had sound sleep that night.

Day-4 of the Trek - 30th Jan


The next day we woke up fresh. We took our time to get ready as today's trek was short. After having breakfast, we started our trek to Chandrashila peak at about 10 AM. After about three hours of trekking in deep snow, we reached Tungnath temple, which is about three to four kilometres from the base. We paid a visit to Tungnath temple and offered our prayers to the deity there. While a few decided to stay back at the temple, others proceeded further to Chandrashila peak, another one and half kilometres of steep trek and returned back in two hours after scaling it.

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By 5 PM, we were back and headed over to Dharveender's kitchen. While the team was savouring the delectable kichadi, Dharveender regaled us with his stories; his interactions with Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Hema Malini at their bungalow, helping Rajesh Khanna at an airport, as a photographer covering the wedding of Ritesh Deshmukh and Genelia etc. He entertained us by reciting some Shayaris which we enjoyed thoroughly. We dedicated that evening to Dharveender. At night we assembled in one of the rooms and passed the rest of the night till late with Anthaakshari and other games.

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Next morning, we started back downhill in our van. At Rudraprayag, we had a stopover for lunch. At Rudraprayag we parted ways with Raju and Jamila who headed towards Joshimath for their further trek and the rest of us headed towards Rishikesh. On our way, we had a brief stop at Devprayag, where the rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi meet and take the name of Ganga River.

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Anush took the role of organiser in the absence of Jami. He made few calls to his acquaintances and arranged a tent accommodation deep in the woods at the outskirts of Rishikesh, near Shivpuri with river rafting and transportation to other adventurous sports included in the package. At about 6 PM, we were at our resort which was a few kilometres farther from Shivpuri.

We refreshed, gathered around the bonfire and enjoyed the evening snacks and tea. Having been deprived of good food that suited our palette, we practically pounced on our snacks consisting of hot pakodas, salted peanuts and masala papads and devoured them till late. At 9 PM our hot dinner was ready and we were served lots of mouth watering dishes which we devoured again in no time.

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Day-6 – 1st Feb


Next morning, we had a sumptuous breakfast by 7 AM. After our breakfast we were ready for our ride which was arranged by the resort who were ready to take us to the river rafting point which was about 7 Kms from Shivpuri. Our guide prepped us on what to expect during our ride. Each had a life jacket strapped onto them, we started our 26 km rafting. With a rafting guide to accompany us, we all had a rafting experience of a lifetime; jumping out of our raft, drenching ourselves completely in the cold Ganges water.

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After the enjoyable river rafting experience, we headed for some more adventurous sports like bungee jumping, Flying Fox and Giant Swing. We first went for Flying Fox; wherein we were strapped to a rope cable that was mounted between two mountains. We whizzed from one end to the other and viewed the Ganga River from the mountain height.

Next on our agenda was bungee jumping. Though each one of us was raring to try it, I backed out at the last moment. Don't ask why. Go figure. The brave hearts of our group; Sangeetha and Samara went ahead to experience their once in a lifetime chance of Bungee Jumping. Satisfied and done with our 'dare devil' antics, we decided to self-present ourselves accomplishment certificates to each other.

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Now it was time to say goodbye. With hearts tugging, heartfelt memories to cherish and with promises to meet again with another trek, we parted ways and headed towards our respective destinations.

I thank each and every member of the team who made the entire week memorable. I thank The Great Escape for arranging such a beautiful trek to Chopta-Chandrashila. Special thanks to Wifey who encouraged me from the beginning to go for this trek and ensured that all the required things were properly packed and helping me pen down this trekalogue.


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