Tungnath, the name itself conjures up a place at a highest point. Thus the name itself attracted us to put it on our trekking itinerary.
We arrived Guptkashi on our way back from Gaurikund on 28th April, 2010 around 8.30 a.m. The only bus that goes to Chopta, the base for Tungnath trekking, we found, left Guptkashi at 6.30 a.m. In any case the possibility of getting some shared jeep would brighten if we could reach Ukhimath, we were told. We managed our breakfast with banana and oranges and boarded a shared jeep for Ukhimath. We told the driver that we intended to go to Chopta. At Ukhimath he located a jeep awaiting to go to Chopta. I was little scared to see the jeep being loaded with furniture on the top. The jeep too was not in good health. I wondered how this ramshackle jeep could trudge up to Chopta at a height of about 2700 meter above sea level. We found while traveling that the driver who was an expert hand and had been driving on this route for the last few years. So we had to surrender ourselves to his driving acumen and sit down in the middle row watching the greenery around. Frankly speaking, the moment the jeep took the road to Chopta the view became so green and full of vegetation that we forgot about the condition of the jeep. Instead we marveled at the nature’s craftsmanship on how it arranged the whole panorama in such a beautiful fashion.
The driving took about two hours before we reached Chopta. Here again Chopta a small hamlet with few thatched huts was not impressive at all. There were few cars parked here and there indicating some tourist presence. Immediately we took a room with three beds and it was settled at Rs. 250/- per night. We had good lunch at a Dhaba that provided us with lodging. While my friend kept on objecting to my ordering for a sumptuous lunch, I continued devouring the lunch to my heart’s content. His point was also valid because just after lunch we were scheduled to go for trekking. I consoled myself saying that as we did not have proper breakfast so we were entitled to a good lunch.
We went back to our room and picked up our woolen sweaters thinking it may be useful later on. My friend also carried a muffler. When we started it was a bright sunny day. We could not see even small patch of cloud on the horizon. So we stepped forward with a program to come back by evening. However the destiny willed otherwise. The trekking road to Tungnath is well paved with concrete, at times slowly ascending and at times there were stairs. It was going very well clicking photographs on the way. There was a big group who were enjoying on a meadow and their flash lights could be seen from far away. As we covered almost half the distance, the northern horizon was slowly being covered by black clouds and there was lightening now and then followed by thunder. Very soon it started drizzling but we did not mind it. We kept on trekking. As we moved up, the path became more and more steep and we had to stop at every turn.
There was a small Dhaba on the trekking route. We sat down to have a cup of tea. We met two young men who came down from the Tungnath and Chandrashila trek. As we were talking the rain became little strong. We waited till it almost stopped. We again started our trekking but the clouds changed its position and it concentrated on the North and Easter side. We thought there would not be any more rain. Again when we covered a little distance it started raining accompanied by hailstorm. There was no place where we could take shelter. My friend trekked fast and found a shelter. I could not walk fast as I could not breath fast possibly due to lack of oxygen at a height of 3000 meter. The rain and hailstorm kept on heating me accompanied by a cold wind. I took it sportingly but my only fear was of catching cold and consequent fever. By the time I reached the shelter I was drenched 50% and stopped for a while. Amidst strong wind, rain, lightning and thunder we too continued our trekking . It was a great risk but I thought even dying in such a heavenly place would be a reward.
On the way just before the temple we saw three young men doing some photography from a safe verandah of a Dhaba and there was some fire lit by one Mr. Bhagat Singh Negi, whom we came to know later on. Braving the rain we reached the temple gate. There is a big bell at the entrance of the gate. I used my full force to ring the bell letting the Himalayan range reverberate with the sound of this bell for a while. The temple was closed but we could feel the presence of the Lord of the Himalayas – Shiva. Tungnath is at a height of 3660 meters. We stood for a while under a shed and came down to the Dhaba that we saw earlier.
The Dhaba with its burning chula gave us much needed relief to both of us. Mr. Negi gave us hot tea and invited us to seat near the fire and dry ourselves. The strong chill wind continued to hammer unrelentingly with rain. We were shivering in our bones. Having been to the close proximity of the fire, it did relieve us from the cold but we could not move out to the open area as the strong cold wind continued blowing along with rain . So our plan of going back to Chopta that evening was out of question. I expected the full moon should be out and then perhaps we could trek down. I always enjoy trekking in forest in a moonlit night. The rain stopped around 8 p.m. but the sky remained cloudy and moon was not seen. After 3 rounds of tea my friend insisted that we should go down to Chopta. I just told him to forget about going back that evening in that inclement weather.
We were given a room for the night stay, dinner with Roti, Daal and potato at a cost of Rs. 450/- The food was fresh so we did not have any problem. The night we could not sleep much as it was intensely cold. The three young people from Bangalore shut their door just after the dinner so we did not have much opportunity to talk to them. We were told by the guide who arranged to take those three chaps to Chandrashila early morning. He also offered to take us. We agreed.
I got up at 3.15 a.m. and went out to see if the sky was clear. The view of the Himalayan range in the full moon night was breathtaking. There was no cloud and it was absolutely clear. I called my friend to watch this extraordinary view of the Himalayas. We soon got ready for the trek. The time was 3.45 a.m. The moonlight was very soothing and cold and we could see our path in that light. The weather was quite cold but our trekking kept our body warm. Slowly but steadily we all reached the summit. From the top, the wide view of the Himalayas was really beyond words. We could see, Chowkhamba and several other peaks. We kept on watching the beauty of the Himalayas in full moon night silently. There was only the strong wind blowing across with a whistling sound. Slowly the moon’s light was mellowing down with the coming of dawn and the Himalayas changing its hue into white crystal. The time stood still for a while because everyone was so spell bound that no one spoke. We almost became non-existent in the vastness of nature. The peak height of Chandrashila is about 4130 meters.
Slowly the sun with all its might rose on the east and its rays spread around lighting up all the peaks . The moment we were touched by the sun rays we felt the warmth that we needed very much at that height. A lot of pictures were taken of the Himalayas. The most precious thing was those moments when we stood face to face with the Himalayan peaks, silently. We paid the guide a small token for his services and bid good bye to the three young men who continued to do their photography.
Trekking down was not difficult and it was sunny and clear . On the way we saw about 300 hundred Langoors with their young ones. While the Himalayas continued to shine in the sun we slowly trekked and arrived at Chopta around 8. a.m. After our breakfast we got a bus to Gopeshwar and from Gopeshwar to Karnaprayag and then to Gowaldam where we stayed for a night.
How to reach Chopta, the base of Tungnath: One can go from Rishikesh to Karnaprayag and then to Gopeswar. From Gopeswar you get a connecting bus to Chopta. Start trekking from Chopta to Tungnath and Chandrashila. Alternatively, you can go from Rishikesh to Ukhimath and from Ukhimath to Chopta.