By Arundhati Roy
It seldom happens that a place initiates a new phase in someone’s life. It tends to inspire the person in a way that was previously unknown. A trek to Chandrashila summit raises questions in a person which can never be answered but only contemplated.
This trek takes you to the world’s highest Shiva temple situated in Tungnath which is one of the Panch Kedar temples, at a height of 12074 ft. The summit of Tungnath is Chandrashila Peak at an altitude of 13000 ft. above the sea level. This is an all season trek known for breath-taking landscapes and dense forests surrounded with excellent views of the peaks.
The trek begins from Deoriatal, amid nicely stretched greenery, which reminds us how vast and overpowering Mother Nature could be. The trail winds through five different varieties of forests; Oaks, Maple and Rhododendrons are the prominent variants that one would not miss to spot. The trek is full of sudden, uphill trails covered with wooded trees, and then within a blink of the eye, there is a moss-covered downhill trail through enveloping tunnels.
This stupendous sight is followed by the trails that weave through clearings in the jungles in Rohini Bugyal. There are tall trees on the way which lay fallen on the ground with wild mushrooms growing on them. If one manages to see the entire scene from a distance, it would appear as if these beautiful elements of nature have been deliberately placed in order to create an awe-inspiring moment.
If there’s a bird watchers’ trail, then it has to be Deoriatal. The Himalayan woodpecker and Verditer Flycatcther can be easily spotted here. It has more birds to show in one day than the entire Goechala trek. There is a waterfall on the way, which invites trekkers to bathe in it after the exhausting 12 hour trek to the village of Chopta.
The last stretch of the trek is from Chopta to Tungnath, and then to Chandrashila. It seems short when cited in terms of distance, i.e. 3 .5 kms, but the trail ascends sharply via a series of 11 scissor bends. The walk is made pleasant due to the magnificent view despite the continuous steep climb.
This trail passes through a section of Bhoj trees before the Tungnath temple, on a concrete and stone laden path. The entire route is surrounded by the Himalayan range of mountains. Every time one stops to catch a breath, the view doesn’t fail to amaze.
Wide, lush, green meadows stretch for as far as the eyes can see, with the clouds continuously rolling in and relaying with sunshine. There comes a point where the excitement to reach the destination demands rest and makes one stop and think about where they are standing, with just a few souls scattered at a distance. If any elderly local passes by you nonchalantly, don’t be intimidated. They’re very friendly.
The trek from Tungnath to Chandrashila is an ascent of 600 feet and is even steeper than the previous one. It might just be of 1 km but the climb tends to be very hectic. A part of the trail presents a view from a cliff which looks over layers of mountains in the distance thinly veiled by clouds.
The trek is, literally, a walk through clouds and an extremely exhilarating experience. The steepness is scary but the thrill to reach the top with nothing to climb beyond it, keeps one motivated. Nothing can beat the view at the top of the summit, as it looks over parts of the Himalayan mountain range including Nanda Devi.
The altitude gain could hamper the breathing but it’s all forgiven, for the feeling of accomplishment cannot match anything.
To be able to spend some time at the tip on the Chandrashila summit can prove to be an once-in-a-lifetime experience. The mountains and the sun carry on in their usual ways, as if indifferent to anybody else’s presence. It is this moment when one gets to have that conversation with one’s self; the question of one’s minisculity in front of this gigantic world amid the colossal mountains layered one up on another.
But then again, maybe that’s what mountains do to you. All that remains in our hands is how we wish to mould this experience and come back to the same peak again with more humility in ourselves because that’s all we can ever be… a little bit humbler, every single time.