Chopta-Tungnath-Chandrashila is one of the most popular treks because of it’s shorter duration and amazing views. It was my third time on this trek each one has a very special memory associated. Reaching the starting point Chopta from Hrishikesh takes about 8 hours, through Devprayag,Srinagar and Rudraprayag where the route splits for Kedarnath and Badrinath. For Chopta take the Kedarnath route and take a detour after Kundli, before Guptkashi, this detour goes via Ukimath. Lord Shiva and his entourage moves from Kedarnath to Ukimath during winters.
Breakfast @ Devprayag
After the detour, drive gets on to the picture perfect route through rhododendron valley. This part of journey is a pleasant change from the intensely commercialized Delhi-Badrinath/Kedarnath route because there is hardly any regular tourist/pilgrims flow, as only those who wish to cover both Kedarnath and Badrinath take this route. Local traffic is also thin and hardly any construction activity is in-progress, even the towns enroute Chopta are quite and sleepy. This is when you feel first time the freedom from hustle bustle of city.
Ukimath to Chopta
chandrashila peak from a distance
Fifteen minutes before reaching Chopta the route uncovers into lush green meadows or Bugyals. For people who wish to stay in relatively “more” comfortable accommodation can opt for Mayadeep Guest house in Dugalibbitta, just fifteen mins from Chopta, else accommodation at Chopta are also pretty decent. Once you reach Chopta, you can choose to stay at one of the few lodges, one of them is Hotel Neelkanth with off season rate ~500Rs for a 3 bed room off-season (Late Oct to April), during season it could go upto 1500 as well, since it a religious destination. One can find decent food at couple of dhabas which serve pretty much everything.
There is still no electricity at Chopta and mobile signals are also sporadic, however the lodge provides hot water and light using solar powered CFLs.Either you can start trek around 2 A.M to reach Chandrashila directly before sunrise, or if possible reach Tungnath on day 1 early before sun down and stay at one of the few lodges (mere hutments) or Kali-kamli dharamshala. Since a drive from Hrishikesh takes about 7-8 hours, one reaches Chopta around 4 in the evening, so it is better to stay at Chopta and take rest and start in the late hours for Chandrashila directly, rather than pushing for Tungnath same day. If one wishes, it is good to make a short 1 hour trip on the Tungnath route to get into the groove and acclimatize a bit. Come back have food and take rest. We started at 2 in the morning along with a local guide, just incase any help is required. Otherwise also these hills are quite safe, in terms of both humans and animals and there is no incident reported, moreover the route till Tungnath is completely cemented path till Tungnath, with chest-tall guard-grills on tricky portions. Since the initial route is through thick forests it is good to have a local, accompany you for a sum of ~400Rs.
path leading to bugyals
It takes a while before your muscles get warmed up on the steep gradient.Initial part is through rhododendron forests, though were no flowers now, it looks really good when rhododendrons are at full bloom. Nevertheless after this initial trek of some 800 mts in pitch dark, we reached a point where view opens up into the bugyals, with the majestic Chaukhamba in the backdrop, visible during the day. From here one can see the zig-zag path going up till the top. There are few small shops and shepherd huts, which are occupied during the season. Since we were here when it was getting too cold, all were abandoned till next season. One advantage of starting at night is psychological,as you don’t know what lies ahead, so it’s a bit easy to cover the hour and a half climb of moderate grade.
well laid path
daytime view of the path ahead
looking back at the slopes
After almost two hours in the trek, the other portion of the mountain is uncovered, marked by a small hutment with few bells and a Trishul placed next to it. On this face is a straight path leading to Tungnath. The path is straight however still not easy on the gradient. From this point is also visible the Tungnath and Chandrashila peak. Halfway on this path, there is a GaneshTemple on the right, on the way back you can climb the stairs to Ganesh temple to see the view of entire Chamoli valley on the other side.
path the face leading to Tungnath
looking back from ganesh temple
Just before entering Tungnath, there is a small tea-shop and lodge (Hotel Devlok), we made a stop-over there for hot Maggie, it’s owner Sri Sujan Rana a very nice person. You can also stay here incase you choose to stay at Tungnath. After this pit-stop you can push directly for the peak, crossing Tungnath (3600 mts), take the path going right of the stairs leading to Tungnath temple.
way to Chandrashila
This path is is a narrow path and initial portion is lil tricky, with deep valley on the right. After couple of hundred meters, the path is again a zig-zag climb on the west face of Chandrashila.
frosty path to chandrashila
notice the temple on the peak at top
Since this path is a kachha rasta and dotted by loose stones and rocks, one has to be really careful, further because of morning frost, stones become quite slippery and extreme care needs to be taken.
After about a 45 mins climb on the pahadi rasta, view of lifetime welcomes you. The peak is adorned by a small temple and lots of Cairns.It is believed that Lord Ram meditated in penance after killing Ravan on thepeak of Chandrashila, literally meaning moon-rock.
As soon as the first light of day breaks, one gets magnificent views of Chaukhamba, Kedarnath, KedarDom, Gangotri peaks on the left..Till you wait for the sunrise, you can enjoy the calm of this place. Despite the bone chilling cold and winds at the peak, it is the place where one can be at sort of divine peace. At 4100 mts this is one of the highest points around, one can get a superb 360 degree un-obstructed view of the valley and majestic peaks beyond.
Before the sun rose from beyond the peaks the first light of sun gave a golden hue to the majestic massif of Chaukhamba, no matter how many time I visit this place, I am spellbound by the beauty. By the time you enjoy the mountain tip turning scarlet to the whole mountains turning golden, sun sneaks out of the peaks at a distance for a breathtaking sunrise. As the sun rises on the horizon all the chill and weariness gives away to the views of lifetime, unveiled by the sun, layers beyond layers of mountains, till the great walls of ice peaks. Like any other such place, you have to be there to get the complete feel.
looking back at the shadow of chandrashila
After spending some more time on the peak we headed back, in the sunlight frost starts melting making rocks slippery and dangerous, it could take more time and caution to get down on this slippery path down tillTungnath Temple. Tungnath is the highest of the 5 Kedars, viz Kedarnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, Kalpeshwar & Tungnath. It’s a small shrine which looks pretty much like Kedarnath, with ancient idols of lord Shiva and other deities.One can offer prayers in peace and get the puja done in a quiet and simple manner, unlike most temples. You can also contribute for the maintenance of the temple. After a relaxed maggie and Parantha break at Ganesh hotel, another place to stay at Tungnath, we headed back to Chopta through the same route making small stopovers. On the way down one can enjoy the awesome vies and the green slopes. On the way down we came across lot of pilgrims on ponies and on foot, eager for darshan of lord Tungnath, on 30th October it is one of the last chances to get darshan this year, as the temple close on 2nd November, with Kedarnath temple already closed. During this season it is quite unpredictable of the weather, as it cab turn bad anytime, most of our trek from Tungnath to Chandrashila was under the thick cloud cover. We were lucky that the views opened up as we reached the peak. On the way down, most of the views were under the cloud cover.
it was a steep route, indeed…
In the broad daylight one can see the wide and deep views. Also, we saw the steep slopes on which we had made our way up till Tungnath. Before reaching back, you can make multiple halts for enjoying the bugyals and fresh air.
Story of TungnathTemple (source – wikipedia)
The Tunganath myth is indelibly linked to the origin of the Panch Kedar temples built by the Pandavas. The legend states that sage Vyas Rishi advised the Pandavas that since they were culpable to the slaying of their own relatives (Kauravas, their cousins) during the Mahabharata war or Kurukshetra war, their offense could be pardoned only by Lord Shiva.
Consequently, the Pandavas went in search of Shiva who was avoiding them since he was convinced of the guilt of Pandavas. In order to keep away from them, Shiva took the form of a bull and went into hiding in an underground safe haven at Guptakashi, where Pandavas chased him.
But later Shiva’s body in the form of bull’s body parts rematerialized at five different locations that represent the “Panch Kedar” where Pandavas built temples of Lord Shiva at each location, to worship and venerate, seeking his pardon and blessings. Each one is identified with a part of his body.
Tungnath is identified as the place where the bahu (hands) were seen, hump was seen at Kedarnath, head at Rudranath, his navel and stomach surfaced at Madhyamaheshwar and his jata (hair or locks) at Kalpeshwar.
Contacts @ Chopta/Tungnath –
Hotel Neelkanth, Chopta –
off-season rates – 500, for a room with 3 beds.
season rates – can go upto 1500
Birendra (our Guide) – 9458912994; he charged us 400Rs for trek till Chandrashila.
Hotel Devlok, Tungnath – 9927590165 (sri Sujan Rana)
off-season rates – 100-200 for 3 bed
season rates – 300-400
Ganesh Hotel – 7457906080
off-season rates – 200-300 for 6 bed
season rates – ~500
Typical season is Mid-May to September end.
More photos @ Flickr