A Photo Story: The Himalayan Highs - Tungnath and Chandrashila

"So, you are heading towards the Switzerland of India?" My friends asked me a while ago after I had posted a picture of a steaming plate of daal and parathas in a small region in Uttarakhand called Chopta on Facebook. I didn't know how to respond because every single place in the Himalayas that I had came across could possibly rival the destinations in Europe. 

It's more than just the picture-perfect landscapes. There were small unassuming villages with jaw-dropping backdrops and hours spent in the company of the locals. Something which, I have to admit, that luxury villas don't do it for me anymore. 

This was our starting point / base camp before we headed to see the summit of the world's highest Shiv temple, Tungnath, perched on top of the Chandrashila peak.

The imposing Himalayan range of the highest peaks - Nanda Devi and Chaukamba all viewed from this precious looking home stay at Chopta

The imposing Himalayan range of the highest peaks - Nanda Devi and Chaukamba all viewed from this precious looking home stay at Chopta

The parathas and hot steaming daal with the perfect view of the Himalayas. You can't replicate the same experience anywhere in the world except here.

The parathas and hot steaming daal with the perfect view of the Himalayas. You can't replicate the same experience anywhere in the world except here.

A game of cricket in the mountains. YASSSS!

A game of cricket in the mountains. YASSSS!

The next day we got up early and bright, hoping to catch my much-needed dose of parathas with my favourite mountain people, and off we went to climb the incredible Chandrashila.

A paved path lined with perfect green trees illuminated by the peaks in the horizon. 

A paved path lined with perfect green trees illuminated by the peaks in the horizon. 

And the landscape changed drastically from trees to just snow. It didn't matter that I was not wearing waterproof shoes, somehow my brave feet knew that the temple grounds would bless us.

And the landscape changed drastically from trees to just snow. It didn't matter that I was not wearing waterproof shoes, somehow my brave feet knew that the temple grounds would bless us.

The guide along with my friend thought it was a genius idea to bring just one bottle of water. Just ONE BOTTLE OF WATER. He said the snow would melt, and we could get even fresher water up there. He was right!

The guide along with my friend thought it was a genius idea to bring just one bottle of water. Just ONE BOTTLE OF WATER. He said the snow would melt, and we could get even fresher water up there. He was right!

The vibrations on top of Tungnath as I hit the bell were the closest thing to attaining enlightenment. The temple bells on the street were nowhere close to what I had experienced here.

The vibrations on top of Tungnath as I hit the bell were the closest thing to attaining enlightenment. The temple bells on the street were nowhere close to what I had experienced here.

The bells of life... a reminder that quiet places are the ones full of life if you pay more attention to the little details.

The bells of life... a reminder that quiet places are the ones full of life if you pay more attention to the little details.

The highest temple in the world, Tungnath at 3,680 metres. It is believed to be 1000 years old. Since it was winter, we couldn't really enter the temple grounds.  

The highest temple in the world, Tungnath at 3,680 metres. It is believed to be 1000 years old. Since it was winter, we couldn't really enter the temple grounds.  

There's that moment where you don't want to move because the air is so chill, and the mountains are so unapologetic about the views they cast in front of you.

There's that moment where you don't want to move because the air is so chill, and the mountains are so unapologetic about the views they cast in front of you.

"Isn't this beautiful?" Those three words were all they uttered and I turned around to join them in the silence as we just sat there. 

"Isn't this beautiful?" Those three words were all they uttered and I turned around to join them in the silence as we just sat there. 

And in moments, I turned around and gasped. That was me just moments ago climbing through the steepness of the mountains, and we still have more to climb. 

And in moments, I turned around and gasped. That was me just moments ago climbing through the steepness of the mountains, and we still have more to climb. 

The clouds moved away from the peak and here we are...almost there. There was hardly any soul in sight because it was 11.00 am already. Way passed mountain climbing time. 

The clouds moved away from the peak and here we are...almost there. There was hardly any soul in sight because it was 11.00 am already. Way passed mountain climbing time. 

Am I romanticising this view, or doesn't it look like the sky is giving birth to the universe? 

Am I romanticising this view, or doesn't it look like the sky is giving birth to the universe? 

After struggling to reach the top because he was so shit scared of the heights, my buddy 'Talking Helmet' did us proud. Just look at his face.

After struggling to reach the top because he was so shit scared of the heights, my buddy 'Talking Helmet' did us proud. Just look at his face.

I had imagined heaven to be just like this, endless blue skies and a little shrine in place to get your blessings.

I had imagined heaven to be just like this, endless blue skies and a little shrine in place to get your blessings.

The zen of life. Stones stacked harmoniously to claim the ordinary moments of life, and an enduring echo of the prayers and wishes of everyone who visit the mountains here. 

The zen of life. Stones stacked harmoniously to claim the ordinary moments of life, and an enduring echo of the prayers and wishes of everyone who visit the mountains here. 

I don't know if you can sense how calm I looked but I could easily fool myself into thinking that I was flying. 

I don't know if you can sense how calm I looked but I could easily fool myself into thinking that I was flying. 

The descent was so dangerously steep that it may have taken us 3 hours to get up, but it took us 1 hour to descend. Upon sliding through the snow, I slipped and was hanging off the mountain.  

The descent was so dangerously steep that it may have taken us 3 hours to get up, but it took us 1 hour to descend. Upon sliding through the snow, I slipped and was hanging off the mountain.  

And we turned our backs to sit at the edge of the mountains. To me, this had been the most real moment ever. How was sitting on a chair and looking at a desktop wallpaper more real than this?

And we turned our backs to sit at the edge of the mountains. To me, this had been the most real moment ever. How was sitting on a chair and looking at a desktop wallpaper more real than this?

We're told countless times we're lucky to have views like this. I think it has little to do with luck, but more with a decision of choosing the way you want your life to be and the moments you chose to experience. 

We're told countless times we're lucky to have views like this. I think it has little to do with luck, but more with a decision of choosing the way you want your life to be and the moments you chose to experience. 

After descending the Chandrashila trek, I was convinced that luck had nothing to do with this because we were foolish to not wear any shades and experienced being snow-blinded for the next 48 hours. Wearing your shades is so important, but with views like that, I guess we were just greedy to take it all in and not have to deal with a less than spectacular view with our non-existent polarised sunglasses. The patience and willingness of the locals who went out of their way to help us were nothing short of exemplary.

To those who would want to experience this trek, we went in the month of March 2016 and I think Chandrashila is far more beautiful in Winters. This climb was not difficult at all and I am so tempted to bring my mum here because it's the first best trek for people who want to fall in love with the majestic Himalayas. Lastly, we did not book at all and just landed in Ukimath and sorted our guide arrangements on the spot for approx Rs. 1,500 - 2,000 for two days  including a stay at the Deoria-Tal Lake before heading to Chopta, Tungnath and Chandrashila.