All who have been following my globetrotting adventures know by now that I had embarked on an epic 10 day adventure with Great Indian Outdoors (GIO) in March, earlier this year.
My journey was exciting as well as challenging but the most important part was the learning. I learnt that you can literally do anything if you put your mind to it.
I have never done a snow trek before – there, I said it!
Now, not only did our all women adventure group trek right up to Deoriatal and camped overnight there, but we also embarked on this moderately difficult snow trek to Tungnath.
Scaling the Snow Trail from Chopta to Tungnath
Although my planning was poor, our group’s preparation was legendary. GIO arranged everything from proper snow hiking boots to anti shock hiking sticks for us. The amazing tour guides informed us of the hurdles we might come across as well as basics since most of us were first time trekkers.
They were encouraging and confident which boosted our spirits as well.
My only request to our head tour guide Govind was, ” I want to see the Himalayan Monal.” Monal is the national bird of Nepal and also happens to be the state bird of Uttarakhand. As an avid birder, it was a pity I had never seen this magnificent member of the pheasant family. Secretly, that was one main reason for visiting Chopta, and I kept my eyes peeled at all times, hoping to spot the bird.
Since the trek started from Chopta (And this area has witnessed several sightings of the Monal), I was on high alert from the start. Leading the group to avoid the chaos/noise, Govind and I scaled the snow in search of our feathered friend.
I would admit the first 30 mins were pretty easy, as I paced ahead of the group. Sounds a bit strange: walking too much ahead of the group is not considered good. You may want to write a line on how you wanted to keep at the head of the group, for a clear sighting – lest, there was some noise and the bird would scoot.
There was a paved path, that consistently ascended. Sprawling meadows rolled from where we stood. The usual canvas of green had turned white since it had snowed last night. Even the hills were magical, my mind was cued only to finding the Monal. We must have walked about 2 hours, when it happened.
Govind waved and started pointing towards the left – there they were – an exquisite pair of Himalayan Monals (male and female). I was in birder’s paradise. No one else in the group understood my enthusiasm but I just dropped my backpack and started taking pictures frantically. Sadly, the birds were coy and the lighting was poor, still, I got some semi-decent shots of the beauties.
Now that my “reason to visit Chopta” was fulfilled, I finally looked around to take in the breathtaking beauty and I was at a loss for words.
I have never seen so much “white” in my life. The snow covered landscape was nothing less than mesmerizing. I just wanted to sit and take pictures of those wooden cabins in the snow, silhouettes of leafless trees and surrender to this glorified white landscape in front of my eyes.
“Keep moving, keep moving.” I heard Govind’s voice echo in the empty valley and I was reminded I need to keep my pace in order to reach the summit.
After around 3 hours of taking pictures, walking (and falling) in snow, slowly and steadily moving up and encouraging each other as we went on – we finally reached Tungnath.
Tungnath is well-known for being the highest Shiva temple in the world at 12000 feet – this sure did feel like an achievement. I noticed few girls in our group were so happy they cried (yes! it was an emotional whirlwind). The sense of achievement was overpowering and no one could take that away from us.
We still had to trek back down, which was trickier than coming up, but hey – if we could do this, we were ready for anything.
Few girls went further up to Chandrashila but I was already experiencing major altitude sickness so I decided to stay and soak in the views.
Top Tip: While altitude sickness can happen to anyone since it is a by-product of lack of oxygen, it helps to keep yourself hydrated and give rest. In my excitement of climbing an additional 1000 feet to Chandrashila, I could have fainted and caused problem for the group. If your head feels woozy or aches during a high-altitude trek, it is recommended to stop and take rest.
On the way back, the snow was already melting (hence its advisable to start as early in the morning as possible) and we had a hard time fixing our feet anywhere in the snow.
Finally, after a lot of skidding and sliding, I just let go on the fear of falling – thats when I could walk easily and enjoyed my hike down to Chopta immensely. I fell a couple of times but it didn’t hurt at all and I noticed few others were following suit. We all talked and fell and giggled and finally made our way back down.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience and considering it was my first snow trek, I had to give myself a pat on the back too.
Starting Point – Chopta
Time Taken – 4 Hours
Difficulty Level – Moderate
Best Season – This is an all year round trek with exhilarating views, both in summer and winter.