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Photo Courtesy : Aman Mehta

Pandava Cave Trek

  • When you are driving on the NH 22, you will come across a small city called Solan, located 48 kms before Shimla. It is also called the Mushroom City of India because of the vast mushroom farming in the area. Once you reach Solan, a tall peak in the vicinity is hard to miss.
  • This is the mighty Karol Mountain, or Karol Tibba in the local language, nestled in the Shivalik ranges of the Great Himalayas and on this mountain, shrouded in mystery and hidden within the mists of a dense forest inhabited by mountain lions and deers, is a religious cave atop Mount Karol which is considered one the oldest and the longest cave in Himalayas.
  • The short 7 km trek to this cave provides a breath-taking view of Solan city and can easily be completed in a day’s time without camping up there.
DIFFICULTY:

EASY - MODERATE

TRAIL TYPE:

Easy trail in summers. Presence of snow can make trek in winters a bit challenging.Rail head: Solan is the nearest railway station.

DURATION:

2 days

ROAD HEAD:

Solan is on NH22 and is easily accessible via road. Direct buses from ISBT Kashmiri Gate.

BASE CAMP:

Chambaghat

BEST SEASON:

Avoid Monsoons and during snowfall.

The Mighty Karol Mountain

The Pandava Cave Trek lies in the vicinity of Solan, famously dubbed the Mushroom City of India because of the vast mushroom farming in the area. This small city is is located 48 kms from Shimla and you can get there via NH

This is the mighty Karol Mountain, or Karol Tibba in the local language, nestled in the Shivalik ranges of the Great Himalayas and on this mountain, shrouded in mystery and hidden within the mists of a dense forest inhabited by mountain lions and deers, is a religious cave atop Mount Karol which is considered one the oldest and the longest cave in Himalayas. The short 7 km trek to this cave provides a breath-taking view of Solan city and can easily be completed in a day’s time without camping up there.

I have been visiting Solan through out my childhood to visit my maternal aunt In the course of my childhood visits to Solan, I became enchanted by the mountain and the legends revolving around its cave. Sitting on the lawn of a hotel which is just opposite the Solan city, I used to look at this majestic mountain standing tall in the city’s background.which I found out was called Karol ka Tibba in the local language.I also learnt about the ancient cave which is on the mountain and began inquiring about how to reach that cave. After 4 failed attempts, I reached the cave on my fifth attempt. The last time was my sixth trek on that mountain and the second visit to the ancient cave, again solo.

On all earlier occasions when I had some company, our attempts were unsuccessful either because we were lost or everyone was too demotivated after getting lost to continue on the right trail and because of thick jungle. I believe that for me trekking with friends is jinxed, but I have no repentance regardless, for the beauty and charm in this trek overpowers any desire for company.

Author: Aman Mehta

Pandava Cave Trek Guide

When you are driving on the NH 22, you will come across a small city called Solan, located 48 kms before Shimla. It is also called the Mushroom City of India because of the vast mushroom farming in the area. Once you reach Solan, a tall peak in the vicinity is hard to miss. This is the mighty Karol Mountain, or Karol Tibba in the local language, nestled in the Shivalik ranges of the Great Himalayas and on this mountain, shrouded in mystery and hidden within the mists of a dense forest inhabited by mountain lions and deers, is a religious cave atop Mount Karol which is considered one the oldest and the longest cave in Himalayas. The short 7 km trek to this cave provides a breath-taking view of Solan city and can easily be completed in a day’s time without camping up there.

I think Karol Tibba holds many delights for trekkers besides the mystical cave, such as small ponds that freeze in winters, sprawling grass fields, splendid bird’s eye views of Jarash and Solan as well as a magnificent view of the Churdar Range.

History and Folklore

According to the legend, the Pandavas stayed at what is now called Solan during their exile where they made/found a cave to stay in and hide from the Kauravas. This cave is now known to be the longest and the oldest cave in the Himalayas. The cave’s other end is at Pinjore, located in Panchkula district and is 47 kms from Solan. Carrying out a simple experiment, some German scientists poured coloured water into the cave, which flowed out at Pinjore! Undoubtedly, this points to the cave’s existence from Karol to Pinjore. A pond fed from the water of the caves in Pinjore is blanketed by leaves of Oak trees in autumn. Although none of these trees exist in Pinjore, Karol Mountain has a dense forest full of oak trees.

Also, Karol Mountain is believed to be a fragment of the Dronagiri Mountain that fell onto the Earth when Lord Hanuman was flying with it in his hand to saveLordLakshman.Since Dronagiriwas said to have had healing herbs, specially the Sanjeevani, people say that some of those mystical and magical herbs still grow on Karol Mountain.

Pandava Cave Trek
Karol Tibba in the background

According to the caretakers of the cave and temple, this cave should not be disrespected,as there are unknown and mysterious powers present here . If you want to enter the cave, you should be bare feet, not wear any leather item at the time and should not have consumed alcohol or non-vegetarian food. The wife of the main priest of the temple told me that a group of British people once tried to cross this cave during the British Raj and were never seen again. According to her when one goes further down the cave, the passage bifurcates into 3-4 passages, which further branch into many other passages. So getting lost inside is really easy.

Pandava Cave Temple
Jarash Village from Above

About 16 kms from Solan towards Shimla on the NH 22, there is a small town called Dedgharat from where the trek to the cave can also begin.Although it is really steep, with only jungle and no scenic views, there is a small waterfall at this place called Abashar. No one knows the source of this waterfall. According to everyone, the source is somewhere on the Karol Mountain and no one knows where exactly. One person said that there is a lot of water in this mountain but no one knows where exactly it is.

I have been visiting Solan through out my childhood to visit my maternal aunt In the course of my childhood visits to Solan, I became enchanted by the mountain and the legends revolving around its cave. Sitting on the lawn of a hotel which is just opposite the Solan city, I used to look at this majestic mountain standing tall in the city’s background.which I found out was called Karol ka Tibba in the local language.I also learnt about the ancient cave which is on the mountain and began inquiring about how to reach that cave. After 4 failed attempts, I reached the cave on my fifth attempt. The last time was my sixth trek on that mountain and the second visit to the ancient cave, again solo.

On all earlier occasions when I had some company, our attempts were unsuccessful either because we were lost or everyone was too demotivated after getting lost to continue on the right trail and because of thick jungle. I believe that for me trekking with friends is jinxed, but I have no repentance regardless, for the beauty and charm in this trek overpowers any desire for company.

The Journey

I reached Solan city at 5 P.M.andhad returned from a trek to ShaliTibba in Khatnol and had stopped en route to meet a few acquaintances. I was also very excited to revisit the cave. My legs were aching and I had sprained my right knee in my last trek.After checking in at the hotel, I went to meet some people who I knew from my last trek to this cave. I was hoping they would accompany me to the cave. However they were unable to and asked me to wait for a couple of days. I was on a tight schedule however, anddecided to start the trek solo this time as well.

My plan was to climb up to the cave from Chambaghat, 6 kms from Solan city. Autos are easily available to Chambaghat from Solan. Although you can start the trek from Basal and Dedgharat as well, you get the best scenic views from Chambaghat and the trail is not too steep.

Pandava Cave Trek
Path to Pandava Cave & Jarash Village

The best thing to do, is to take an auto from Solan to Chambaghat which will save you time compared to taking the bus. Once you reachChambaghat, get off at the roundaboutwhere you will see a statue of Rani Lakshmi Bai. On the left hand side of the statue, there is a bus stand. Go straight from the bus stand to a couple of shops on the left hand side of the main road. Ask any shopkeeper or a local there, the way to Karol gufa(Karol Cave). A small road leads up the mountain from in front of the shops. The trek starts from here. Start heading up the road and at the very beginning, you will go through the backyards of some houses and reach a Gurudwara. From there, the path up the mountain is well-defined for a kilometre and the climb will be steep.

Pandava Cave Trek
Diversion sign leading to cave

 

 

Continue on this path and it will lead you straight to the first and only village during the trek. The name of the village is Jarash. The village has concrete houses with some vegetablefields. If you want, you can talk to someone over here and they might agree to accompany you to the cave. Before entering the village you may come across a signpost that directs a way to Karol. I advise you not take the path led by the signpost as the climb from here is very steep and you would miss the opportunity to interact with the villagers.

I befriended Ishwar, a villager in Jarash who added to the list of legends and myths about the cave. He told me of a great sage who lived in the cave and one day just vanished and was never seen again. I was also a little concerned about the wild animals inhabiting the region, like striped Hyenas and Mountain Lions. He assured me that no mountain lion has ever attacked a human and they never prowl around the human trails.

The only case it may be driven to attack humans, according to Ishwar, may be caused by any interference in the hunting and eating of his prey.

Continue your way up from the village. You will pass through the front yards of some houses. You would find some Bhotia dogs here that are known to be very loyal to their owners but have an aggressive temperament if they fear any threat. Ignore them and proceed through the village. In case you see someone inside or outside the houses, ask them the way to the cave, as a good advice will always come in handy during the trek.

pandava cave trek

In some time you will be able to see some nice scenic views. The Churdhar range will be clearly visible.

Pandava Cave Trek
The Jungle Starts

Very soon, the forest will welcome you and a path will lead straight into the forest. Make sure you do not divert from the path in the forest or else finding the correct way again might be a bit challenging as the forest is really thick. After about an hour after trekking in the jungle, a trail will suddenly take you down in a thicker forest and then will bring you right up in front of the temples built in the premises of the cave after 30-45 mins. You have reached your destination.

Pandava Cave Trek
Temple beside the cave

Right behind the temple is the ancient cave.

Exploring the cave was a spooky experience. It was pitch dark after a while and the cave seemed to end into a particular kind of fissure that may further lead you deeper inside. Anybody who wants to explore further must do so at their own risk.

Pandava Cave Trek
Inside Pandava Cave

Also, if you would like to visit the ponds on the mountain, ask someone from village to help you find the way or to accompany you.

Pandava Cave Trek
Inside Cave

These ponds freeze in the winter, but I must warn you that there are quicksands in/around them. Nevertheless they are worth paying a visit.

Pandava Cave Trek
Frozen Pond

Once you are done exploring the cave, you can either come down the same path to Chambaghat or you can come down to Dedgharat and take a bus from there to Solan. It will take less time coming down to Dedgharat and you can also see a small waterfall called Abashar there. The caretakers of the temple can guide you to Dedgharat.

Cardiovascular endurance

The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.

Flexibility

Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors


If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints,
here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.

backpack

No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.

What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.

How much should my bag weigh?

“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.

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Trekking hack

One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.

How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.

Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.

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Backpack essentials

Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.

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