‘A mountain trek not only lets you get close to nature, it can be a life-changing experience as well. Vinayak Surya Swami lists five unique winter trekking trails around Dehradun, which also allow you to give back to the local communities’
Mountaineering legend Edmund Hillary had once said, “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” To experience this, you needn’t climb the Everest. Start with simple treks. A trek is not just another vacation in the hills nor is it about conquering a mountain terrain. A trek challenges a person both physically and emotionally, and as seasoned trekkers claim, for experiences that change one’s life, stepping out of your comfort zone is the first step.
But trekking has to be linked with social sustainability as well. Organisations like Indiahikes (indiahikes.com) are encouraging trekkers to contribute to the environmental welfare of the trails they walkthrough. Here are five unique and not-so-tough trek routes you can embark on this winter around Dehradun, Uttarakhand. And while at it, you can also contribute to the betterment of the local communities.
It’s pure nirvana when, after a pre-dawn hike up a mountain, you are rewarded with a glorious sunrise that reveals several major peaks of the Himalayas. That’s what the Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek offers. From Nanda Devi, Mt Trishul, Mt Nanda Ghunti, Mt Dunagiri, Mt Chaukhamba to the entire Gangotri range, you can see almost all the highest Himalayan peaks from the trek summit at Chandrashila peak. After a six to eight hour drive, you arrive at the small, mountainous village of Sari with just 100 houses. After following a picturesque trail that winds through a variety of forests and mountains, you will reach Deoriatal or Devariya Tal. The campsite near the Deoria lake is set against the backdrop of the mighty Chaukhamba massifs. The trek then heads to Syalmi, Baniya Kund on day four and finally through to the Chandrashila peak via the Tungnath temple, covering an ascent of almost 5,000 ft. The trail also passes through the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary where one can spot a variety of birds.
For most trekking enthusiasts, reaching the base camp is officially the beginning of the trek and Raithal paints a picture well-suited to the experience. Several treks cross the rolling greens of Uttarakhand’s alpine heights. Locally called bugyals, these pastures are the bastion of shepherds. Dayara is a relatively lesser-known bugyal. A nine-hour drive from Dehradun through steep valleys with the winding Bhagirathi river as a constant companion will bring you here. Starting the following morning, the trek will take you to the campsite in Gui. The next stop is Barnala and the trail leading up to the campsite passes through thick forests of oak and rhododendron. On day four, the trail climbs to 12,057 ft and offers clear, stunning views of majestic peaks! The trail is covered in snow during winter.
This unique trek is among the few ridge trails in India. This trek not only lets you walk along a precarious ridge but also is very close to a summit climb experience. After a five-hour-trek through pristine mountains, it lets you experience the thrill of being on top of the highest point in the surrounding area and looking down at rolling peaks below! The panorama of snow-capped mountains stays with you throughout the trek, making you feel as if they are walking with you!
After an 8-10 hour drive to Sankri, the trek begins in the morning with a gradual climb through fragrant pine forests. On the final day of the climb, you will head to Bhoj Gadi and onwards to Pushtara via the Phulara Ridge. After mid-November, snow covers the trek route, and the challenge increases. You can also choose alternate routes.
Said to be a perfect winter trek, Kedarkantha offers even beginners the chance to savour the feeling of conquering a summit. And as mountaineers vouch, nothing beats the feeling of exhilaration and well-deserved achievement one feels while standing atop a mountain peak, looking down at the world below. After a 10-hour drive from Dehradun to Kotgaon, said to be one of the prettiest villages in the Indian Himalayas, the trek begins as you head to Khujey and onward to Bhuja Dhadi the following day. On the final day of the ascent, you reach the Kedarkantha summit at 12,500 ft, where stands an arrangement of stones considered sacred. The descent to the base camp at Sankri takes you across ridges and offers breathtaking views of the Har ki Dun valley.
Arguably one of the most popular winter treks, the Brahmatal trail is centered around a glacier by the same name. The trek is an instant hit owing to the reality-defying views that surround you barely a couple of hours after the start of the trek. On just the second day of the trek, as you emerge out of a serene rhododendron and oak forest, you come face-to-face with the white wall of the Trishul massif, that only comes closer as you climb the ridge towards Jhandi top. The trek takes you through the upper reaches of Lohajung to the Bekaltal lake at 9,689 ft and the campsite near its calm waters. The setting of the trek is unique, like a stage with a grand view. In winter, as snow covers the trail, the experience becomes even better!