“Sari Village” to “Deoriatal or Devariatal” is a pleasant short weekend trek which lately has become very popular with trekkers looking for the most bang out of a trek done in a slight longer weekend time. Deoriatal , is a beautiful lake with its pristine waters captivating the eternal beauty of Chaukamba 4-3-2, Kedar and Neelkanth peaks. The area is surrounded by forests and green-lands and is one of the most scenic spots to catch breathtaking views of majestic peaks of Garhwal.
This trek is normally combined along with a trek to Tungnath and Chandrashilla from Chopta. For me, the prime interest was to cover Tungnath and Chandrashilla in winter season. This area receives heavy snowfall during December last week till February months and may become inaccessible by road.
My intent to cover both, Deoriatal and Tungnath-Chandrashilla peak drove me here to Garhwal district of Uttrakhand in the last week of January. Only a fool will want to venture here in the month when the region is closed due to heavy snowfall and has freezing temperature.
In consultation with Arjun Majumdar, this thought was given a sound direction when it was proposed that an exploratory trek would be undertaken here in the winter and the summer season. However my uncertainty over getting leaves from work, made the prospect of leading a team for Indiahikes over to this part an impossible proposition. But then hope prevailed and on 21st Jan. 2012, I was able to arrange for leave from work and conceived a plan of heading towards Ukhimath and Chopta. Many of my trek friends advised me not to head for Tungnath as it is buried in 3-4 foot snow and the prospect of trekking in such conditions will be precarious. Respecting their suggestions I made my mind to head to Ukhimath anyways and face the conditions head on.
Deepak Gahlot, my trek pal from my recent trek to Khuliya top in Munsiyari was ever ready to partner along. We headed from Delhi on 25th Jan. night and reached Haridwar at 3 am. Placing our prayers over the empty banks of river Ganga we headed to Ukhimath and reached Mukku bend, 9 kms before Chopta. The road from here was closed due to heavy snow and we had to trek all the way to Duggalbitta where we stayed for the night. Next morning we made our way to Chopta which became a 6-7 km hike for us now that the road ahead was buried in snow. There were talks that Chandrashilla trek with our limited gear is not possible and even reaching Tungnath would be a miracle. We took our chances and trekked towards Chopta with an intention of returning to Duggalbitta by the afternoon since no accommodation was available at Chopta for a night stay.
4 kms on to the trek and the level of snow was increasing step by step. By now we were buried in close to waist deep snow making our movement very difficult. My gaiters were doing their job, unfortunately Deepak was not so lucky with his lack of gear and found his shoes wet from the inside, which was a matter of grave concern. Seeing the conditions and the prospect of trekking on such snow after 12 noon (when the Sun would play its part in making the snow soft and prone to falls in areas where snow is deep) made us to take a hard decision to head back to Duggalbitta. However the view of the Chandrashilla peak and Kedar peaks was a sight to marvel and trekking in such lush snow was a delight even if it was a struggle.
We headed back to Duggalbitta and partnered along two like-minded travellers, Nishant and Ashish, to camp at Deoriatal for the night. We trekked back to Mukku Bend and got a glimpse of Chaukhamba peaks for the first time. Witnessing Chaukhamba for the first time so up close was a treat and added to my impatience to head for Deoriatal as soon as possible.
We drove from Mukku bend back to Sari village and parked our car at the village. We spoke with Negi-ji for arrangement of camping at Deoriatal and dinner and breakfast. The cost of renting of tents and sleeping bags was coming to Rs. 500 per tent. The cost of cooking was additional. The total cost for 6 people for camping and food and refreshments came out to be Rs. 1300. It was a good decision to partner with some new made friends on route, the cost was shared and was light on the pocket.
We started on our trek in the afternoon through the gate from where the trek commences from Deoriatal from Sari village. It begins with a 10 minute hike going inside of Sari Village, passing an ancient local temple. The trek is only 2.5 kms and was done with minimum of fuss. I do not understand why some people need ponies to go to Deoriatal, the distance is not that much. The climb up the mountain is steep incline and all the trees are cleared here.
This gives a great opportunity to marvel the beauty of Chandrashilla peak buried in snow. I was able to see Tungnath temple for the first time. The look of it made me determined that I will soon be returning here to trek to Tungnath and Chandrashilla for sure. Thirty minutes into our hike and we witnessed patch of snowfall on the trail. As we climbed higher, the presence of snowfall was more visible. We were informed that the snow was hardly a week old. We reached closer to a bend in the mountain and now were on the other side. Sari village was no longer visible to us and for the first time on our trek trails we went inside the forest cover. This change in environment was much appreciated, for there is nothing like being in the vicinity of a beautiful forest, an essential ingredient for a beautiful trek. We reached a point where there was a dhabba and a group of trekkers were relaxing. We were informed that Deoriatal is only a 2 minute walk downhill.
The trail now was buried in knee deep snow and as the forest opened up, we were rewarded with a breathtaking view of Deoriatal in the right with Chaukhamba 4-3-2 peaks looming in the background making it a picture perfect moment. The first half of the lake side was completely buried in snow and added to the appeal of the place. At the left side, two dhabas were operational run by Shri. Negi. Ji, an old chap here who we have heard a lot from many trekkers before. Forest department have a 24 hour patrolling parties in Deoriatal and adjoining forest area. It was heartening to see they even fine tourists who are found littering at the lake side, something which should be practiced religiously everywhere.
We went straight to the dhaba and relished a cup of hot ginger tea. Negi-ji is one talkative character and has loads of stories to tell. It was getting a bid annoying to hear him ramble on and on, so we decided to sight see the lake-side instead.
I am a sucker for a good old white peak and witnessing Chaukhamba so close, on face was a complete “paisa vasul”. In fact the view of Chaukhamba 4-3-2 massifs was so over-whelming that I forgot the disappointment of not reaching Tungnath and Chandrashilla peak. The peaks here are a testament to the fact that some godly activity has happened which cannot be substantiated with our modern science and way of living. For me the sight of Chaukhamba and my pursuit of witnessing it was something I could relate to the Pandava brothers who were searching for Lord Shiva here to attain salvation. Come to think of it, my pursuit towards these select mountains has something to do with my search for something pure, something like SHIVA. And then it occurred to me, I am “chasing Shiva” in my own way.
A lot of time was spent taking pictures of the lake and the peaks. The view provides some amazing view of Bandarpoonch peak starting from extreme left, Khatling peaks, Mt. Thalaysagars backside (which is next to Joggin peaks near Kedartal), Kedar peaks, Mt. Janhukut, Chaukhamba 4-3-2 and Mt. Neelkanth to name few.
A debate started regarding a mysterious peak at the left, backside of Mt. Chaukhamba-4. We assumed it to be Mt. Thalaysagar when Negi-ji told us it to be Mt. Shivling. Later when we checked on Google earth with coordinates it turned out to be Mt. Janhukut.
We camped at other side of the lake where we could see nothing but the mighty Chaukhamba peaks. The intent was to have a clear view of the said peak from inside of the tent. We enjoyed the sunset view on the peaks and had an early dinner along a bon-fire which was memorable.
Next day, I woke up early morning and was rewarded with a clear view of the peaks. The effect of first rays of sun on the peaks is always magical and I did not wanted to miss it. My camera was low on its battery so I made the most of it.
After that I trekked to the other side of the lake where there was a pile of snow collected. I climbed up on the pile of snow to get a better view of the reflection of Chaukbhamba on the lake at the cost of being buried in snow till waist deep. Satisfied with whatever I could conjure, it was time to head back to Sari Village and to Delhi via Ukhimath where I offered my prayers at Omkareshwar temple where deities from Kedarnath and Madhmaheshwar resides for 6 months in winters.