There is a similarity between Goechala and Deoriatal to Chandrashila trek. Goechala has always enamoured trekkers with its unforgettable canopy of red rhododendrons. The same can be said about Deoriatal to Chandrashila trek. The forests of Chopta Valley en-route this Deoriatal trek are known for their fiery red and pink rhododendrons that set the trail blazing. Vaibhav Chauhan led an exploratory team on this rare trail in the heart of the Chopta forest in April 2014. Here is an excerpt from the e-mail he wrote to Indiahikes immediately after his return from the trek.
I am back with my team from a quiet and romantic trek to the inner realms of the beautiful Chopta forests of Garhwal. Most trekkers know about the route from Chopta to Chandrashila or the one from Sari to Deoria Tal. Both of these are half a day treks. It has been done by many people, pilgrims, tourists and trekkers. But then, the approach from Chopta to Tungnath is completely cemented. Where is the charm in that?
To avoid this route, we thought of finding a true trekking trail in the forest of Chopta that connects this mystical green lake with one of the higher regions of Chopta. Our approach was to explore this 14 km new stretch from Deoriatal to Chopta and to explore the inner forests of the Chopta valley.
1. The forests of Deoriatal to Chopta are stunning. Something we never usually get to see in Uttrakhand. The red rhododendrons are spread out right from Sari village all the way to Deoriatal. In the last week of April, we still saw decent number of red flowers. As you leave Deoriatal from the backside of forest guest huts, a thick rhodo, maple and oak forest greets you. An 8 km trek from here to the grassland of Rohini Bughyal is a refreshing ridge walk, over neatly laid forests and small meadows. At any point you never get bored, there is so much to fathom.
If the flowers don’t charm you, the birds here will. Absolutely stunning varieties of birds. As you exit the forest, you get a bird’s eye view of the valley, the villages below and the peaks of Chandrashila, Ravanshila, Kedarnath and Madhmahedwar. The trails are well-laid. There are a few vantage points on the day, like Jhandi-Dhar at 2,600 m, from where you get great views of Sari village and neighbouring villages.
Once again in the forest, the descent is refreshing with views of the route to Bishuri-tal and Nandikund, two high altitude glacial lakes. The forest towards the left side of the ridge is grand! For me, this is how a Himalayan forest should be. Dense, tall trees, with the distinct smell of rhododendrons and maple – quite different from the smell of pine and deodar one finds in Himachal. Soon, we leave the red rhododendrons and find pink ones blooming everywhere. Could this be Goechala of the western Himalayas?
There are a couple of nice green meadows on the way, where we found small alpine flowers filled with curious butterflies. At the back we could see a peak that is lesser heard of – Kala Parvat. Thirty minutes ahead is a bigger bughyal, partly surrounded by a rhododendron forest. The slopes reminded me of Ali Bughyal. But this bughyal was special; it was quiet and peaceful. The view of the sunset behind the peaks was spectacular.
2. Day 3 of the trek from Rohini Bughyal to a campsite below Tungnath is also a refreshing one. If Day 2 was all about the forest, today was a trek with the thrill of a beautiful glacial stream-crossing – Aakash Kamini – and the vast meadows below Bhrujgali. The meadows are completely raw and untouched. We felt like camping here, it was such nice camping spot.
3. The best part of going to Tungnath and Chandrashila is to marvel the sunrise and sunset views. We started at 5 am in the morning, getting up at 3:30 am. However, we could only reach Tungnath at sunrise and made most of what we could. The snow was laid on the trail half a kilometre before we reached Tungnath. The temple area was completely buried in snow. This year, the snow has over-whelmed the region like many others.
The sighting of monals and griffin vultures was consistent and spectacular. We also were able to see a lone musk deer on the Chandrashila ridge from Tungnath. We also spotted a curious Himalayan Fox, with whom we played a game of hide and seek. We ended up finding her hiding place in a nearby cave.
The climb to the top of Chandrashila peak is a 200 meter, one kilometre slog on snow. Route finding was interesting and Madhur and I made two different routes. It was exhilarating. The feeling of breathlessness and a heightened sense of purpose kept us going. You can never understand and appreciate why anyone would climb a mountain, till you climb one yourself.
Once at the summit, the 360 degree view was outstanding. Some of the team members like Richa, for whom this was a first high-altitude trek, was completely taken with emotions. Reaching the summit was a huge deal for her. It feels good to see such real emotions among people.
Having completed this route, I am totally in awe. This definitely has to be the Goechala of Western Himalayas, simply for its marvellous rhododendron and maple forests.
To know more about the Deoriatal trek please refer the Deoriatal to Chandrashila trek post.