My first High Altitude Trek: Deoriatal – Chandrashila – Part 4

Date: 26 March 2018

Today is the most awaited day for us – Summit Day

It was snowing all of the previous night and there was so much snow which had accumulated on top of the tents. We had to just shove a little from the inside that snow falls and it would not fall on our head when we step out. And what a beautiful scene it had become when we stepped out! The entire campsite scenes had changed from green to white carpeted with snow.

We woke up at 3 am in the morning and after having breakfast and tea we started towards Summit around 5 am. It was pitch dark and we all had worn headlamps on our forehead which is the handiest source of light during trekking as it is hands-free. (Torch is not that handy as you have to also hold onto your dear trek-pole). We were getting tired more than usual and took lot of breaks in between where we were also supposed to drink more water as it helps avoid AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) as we were climbing to a higher altitude.

When it had snowed very little

The path till summit is a climb with stony path at first which turns into proper stairs carved out of same stones. The main challenge here was that the previous night it had snowed and because of that the stones were not fully covered with soft snow. There were parts where there was no snow, and some parts the most dangerous while trekking; verglas had formed. Verglas are basically thin coating of ice formed by the melting of snow and as we all know, walking on ice is very slippery. We did not have crampons on either so we had to carefully guide ourselves not to step on it as much as possible. There was soft snow right next to the stony path and we were trying to walk on it as much as possible. Socks and shoes were already drenched and the cold had got to the tip of toes at this point. Ignoring the chilly numbness we resumed.

(All picture credits to respective owner – all photos were not clicked by me. It is a consolidation of everyone’s during the trek)

Somewhere in between we found a tea shop and almost all stopped for hot tea here, some even had Maggi. But I just avoided getting a full tummy while trekking. On the way it had started to get brighter and the snow was melting creating more verglas. This is the reason we were told to start as early as possible in the morning so that before snow starts melting we could reach the peak. But we started a little late and it was affecting us now. What amazed us was that we could spot elderly women (age starting from 60 till 80) in nothing but a saree draped (not even a sweater on them) and wearing a mere hawaii sandals easily walking on the stairs till the top.

This is because before the Chandrashila summit we get one of the magical Shiva temple called Tungnath which we have to pass. One crazy fact is that Tungnath (meaning Lord of the peaks) is one of the highest Shiva temples in the world! It is the highest among the Panch Kedar temples in the Tungnath mountain range. The steps are also only till this temple. We reached this temple and it was closed during this time which is usually open only during a particular time of the year. It opens during the summer approximately during April/May and closed during winter on November.

We were about to sit and take rest here but then we were informed to continue towards the summit immediately because of less time. Here is where the real difficulty started, with no pre-defined path and we had to just trudge on the fresh snow from previous night. There was a very difficult point where the path was narrow and full of ice. Bhupender was there to lend a helping hand to everyone without which I couldn’t have crossed it. Then it was just trekking with the path shown by our guides.

Lol here’s me struggling on the snow πŸ˜›

Somewhere along the top, Apoorv who had previously done 3 high-altitude treks had become an expert in taking shortcuts. Even when we were taking roundabout on the steps previously, he was coming up in shortcuts which was time-saving but more tiring. Thanks to him, I started my then mini adventure of taking a steep shortcut to the top. Halfway I was so scared I would slip (even though on soft snow we won’t slip) that he gave me even his trek pole to help. After that we could only follow the feet-long footsteps in the snow of the previous trekkers who had passed here.

Route to the top

The ascent to the summit really took a lot of time and we had to stop in between each 10 steps to catch our breath because of the altitude. Finally after a lot of self-motivation not to give up, we finally reached the summit. It was such a heavenly experience up there. We could get a 360 degree view of all the nearby Himalayan peaks. We were all too excited looking all around. Bhupender then showed us and gave some information regarding all the peaks some of them were; the Chaukambha, NandaDevi, Kedarkantha, Haathi Ghoda. There is a Ganga temple which rests on top of the Chandrashila peak. Some of the views from the top:

We then took the signature picture of all trek members holding up the “Completed Chandrashila summit” banner.

Some of my summit photos here:

We had a lot of time on the peak; about an hour after which we started our descent towards Chopta. By now when we reached Tungnath we could see the place bustling with a lot of trekkers, locals. I considered ascent as the tough part of the trek, but descending down from the summit in the trails of melted snow and verglas is no less.

Rahul – our guide was with us during the entire time of descent and was helping us in the slippery patches. After crossing Tungnath and taking pictures, further down one of us started a snow fight! Within 10-15 minutes many of our clothes had got wet all thanks to playing in the snow. It was my first snow fight and even though my hands were freezing, I enjoyed a lot. We all were behaving like children irrespective of our age and what was even more surprising that certain local children passing by were also joining in on the snow fight. It was a different world altogether.

A video of the snow fight here.

With no urgency to reach the campsite, we were enjoying the walk down, had tea at a local shop and reached our campsite around 2.30 pm for lunch. After lunch few of trekkers went to sleep and few of us remained in the dinner tent having fun playing and singing songs.

Slowly, the reality was starting to kick in that I have to leave these people, this place and have to go back the next day. Making the most of the moment, I was clicking pictures and videos of the surroundings and of all the new amazing people I met and made friends. It was amazing the way how all the people who had come for this trek had bonded over the short period of time. This was one of the many instances where I was seeing strangers becoming friends and getting along so nicely. It was like people of different age, culture and even countries had come together for a common love they shared for the mountains.

This video during sunset still makes me feel nostalgic – link1. link2.

In the evening after tea we were made to gather together and sit around in a big circle by our trek lead. There was a session where we had to share our experiences, thoughts of the trek and everyone did. Later we were all given a trek completion certificate and an awesome fridge magnet with a photo of the trek and its name on it. We ended the evening on a good note, taking pictures and thanking all the Indiahikes members for all their support.

Within no time it had turned dark and people returned to their tents after dinner. We a group of few people with no mood to sleep gathered in the dinner tent, played UNO for sometime and then went to sleep with a heavy heart.

If you read till here, thank you so much. Click here for the next blog post Day5 of the trek

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