Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek

Tripoto
27th May 2015
Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

Touchdown, Uttarkashi

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

Waking up to this view at Agora Village

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

En route

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

"Miles to go before we sleep"

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

A reward for an eight hour trek

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

Last few steps to Darwa Pass

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

Darwa Pass

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

Topping the Pass

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

On the way to Camp Site

Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

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Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore
Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore
Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore
Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore
Photo of Of pine cones, snow sliding and sweaters in May: Dodital – Darwa Pass – Hanuman Chetti trek by Vaishnavi Rathore

There is a guilty pleasure in knowing that there are places to whose names half of the population cannot put a picture to; the Dodital Trek consists of many such places—untrodden paths punctuated with tiny, villages, hints of snow on ridges of the Dhauladhar range and meadows that remind you of a beautiful memory. The trek definitely comes at a price; it is challenging, with two days of intense uphill walking, and two of tough downhill walking. But at the end of it, you will look back at the five days that you have spent and think about all the different type of terrain you walked on and you'll realize this is possibly the best summer trek one could have been on.

May-June are the best months to venture on for this trek. One thing that you must keep in mind is that while summer in the plains means AC, shorts and ice-cream, summer for the Dodital trek means snow, so do pack accordingly.

Reading and learning about the Himalayas is an incomplete process, you need to touch the snow, hail and rain that belongs to it, the flora and fauna that only survives here, and you have to trip and slip and fall to the land that makes these Himalayas. The Dodital-Darwa pass-Hanuman Chetti Trek is a trek that would instill in you this sense of belonging and would enable you to see how different the Garhwal Himalayas are from its other counterparts. You will get to see an array of landscapes in a span of five days and when you return, you'll return with more than sun and snow burn, scratches and scars; you will return with a memory card full of photographs, and a rucksack full of memories.

Commuting from Delhi is easy—you can always rely on the semi-deluxe Air Conditioned buses to Rishikesh under ₹400 Rupees from Kashmere Gate ISBT. It is advisable to leave at night so that you reach Rishikesh between 5 am-6am, leaving the rest of the day to travel beyond. The journey is about 6 hours (unless your bus decides to take a detour into a very narrow lane near Haridwar and has to drive in reverse for about a kilometer, in which case add another two hours). Once you reach Rishikesh, a quick wash-up can be done at the Rishikesh bus station which has surprisingly clean washrooms. From there, a quick ride to the taxi stand will put forth you an array of Sumos, Boleros and Scorpios— your next ride to Uttarkashi which will cost around ₹3000 per taxi and a journey that will take another 4.5-5 hours. There are a lot of dhaabas along the way to catch a good breakfast of aloo parathas. Once at Uttarkashi, you can hire for yourself a guide and porters and the rations you would need during the trek. We hired 6 porters and a guide, costing us ₹625 per porter per day, and ₹1200 per day for the guide. The same market places is punctuated with small hotels, if one feels the need for lunch. From here, you can load your now-heavy-with-rations-rucksacks into another taxi that cost us ₹1000 each and be dropped at Sangam Chetti after a 45 minute bumpy ride, which is the starting point of the trek.
From Sangam Chetti, your next destination would be Agor Village, a 6 km trek that would be completed within three hours. It's a perfect beginning trek, it's like a warm up for the rest of the four days. The trail is laid in front, and you can walk the sometime-uphill-sometime-downhill stretch in comfort, looking around at the Himalayas which you will learn to love in the coming days. The village Agor announces its arrival with an arched gate, barking puppies and singing women. The best bet is to stay at a guesthouse for the night simply because it is available. This way you save time the next morning not having tents to pack and sleeping bags to roll. We had a comfortable night at the Bharat Resort nestled with enormous rose bushes and a garden to share ghost stories over dinner. Renting out 4 rooms for a night cost us ₹1800.
Start the morning early with a good breakfast (available at the guesthouse) for this is going to be a long day. 8 am is a good time to leave. The 16km trek to Dodital is spotted with waterfalls, villages, streams and loads of uphill walking, but you will find that the trek constantly rewards you with Oak, Fir and Rhododendron trees. Carry packed lunch when you leave from Agor, and you can choose your lunch spot from Berwa, Dharkot or Manjhi, spotted villages en-route to Dodital. We chose Manjhi, a village at over 9000 feet which also happened to be a good spot for cricket with the locals or a power nap. Continuing from here, the rest of the trek is a fun, low gradient one. Your tiring and exhausting day would come to a rewarding end at around 4 pm when you reach Dodital and are welcomed by the beautiful lake with its trout inhabitants and the mountains that envelope it. You have a choice to camp or stay at the guesthouse there; we chose to camp and it turned out to be a good decision for the night did not see a lot of dip in temperature. There is a minimal fee that needs to be paid to the authorities there for camping though, but it is definitely worth it. The area also has a small dhaaba where you can expect tea, coffee, eggs and maggie, and an open kitchen (perfect if both your burners decide to stop working.)
The next morning should be an early start too, and this will probably be one of the most challenging days of the trek. The trek to Darwa Pass is everything that the word 'trek' would encompass—walking, climbing, the need for a pair of strong lungs and a strong will. This 12 km trek dedicated to only uphill climbing requires you to walk upstream on the dry riverbed which means a lot of climbing over boulders and subsequently walking further uphill on paths that have to be created. By midday, you would be at Darwa Pass. Windy and with patches of snow, the pass will leave you awe-struck. Though it is not advisable to stay at the chilly pass for so long, we decided to have lunch there, bundled with caps, mufflers and gloves at over 14,000 feet (and lived to tell the tale). A perfect lunch spot and a camping ground is around half an hour downhill trekking from the Pass. Having reached your camping spot by afternoon, you have the rest of the day to take in the beauty of the Himalayas, breathe in the view of peaks including Bandarpooch, snow slide and put on more layers. Since it is quite close to the pass, expect a cold, windy night and cover yourself well while you sleep. Amidst the hail, rain and two seconds of snowfall, one can definitely forget it’s the month of May.
The next day two days are downhill, good news for the lungs, but bad news for the knees, ankles and toes. The trek to the next camping ground is of a distance of about 6-7km which passes through Sanasar Top. You can expect fallen snow in this area—a little uphill walking can be very challenging and you will reach the top falling and slipping in the snow. In some cases while coming downhill, it might be quicker and more convenient (and a thousand times more fun) to snow slide down the mountain slope. Once you have crossed the magnificent mountains, you will start to notice a change in the flora, from no trees to coniferous trees to bushy trees and meadows. It is one of these meadows that will be home for the night, but you reach here only after five to six hours of snow sliding and intense downhill walking. But a warm dinner and a game of antakshari around a bonfire later, all your exhaustion would fade. It would be a cold night too, but not as cold as Darwa Pass. It is still advisable to layer up and stay layered up, and because of the wonderful thing called body warmth, have 8 people in a 4 man tent.
The next morning give your feet a good massage, because it is another 6 hour trek downhill to Hanuman Chetti. It will take you through dense forests with snake plants and blue pines, uprooted trees that make for bridges, it will make you cross paths with the migrating herders and villages with breath taking beautiful views. Crossing the forest is the tricky part, where you can (and we did) get lost. But once you reach the villages, the stone paths are laid down in front of you right down to Hanuman Chetti. You would reach Hanuman Chetti by evening between 4 to 5 pm, and you must treat yourself to aloo parathas at one of the lodges or dhabas, for having completed the trek. From Hanuman Chetti, taxis and bus services are available to Dehradun from where a connecting bus can be taken to New Delhi, but these start only in the morning. So the best way to end the trek is to let yourself stay in the majestic Himalayas for one more night; Hanuman Chetti has a few lodges that will give you rooms for the night at ₹400 per room for a night. After 4 nights of sleeping on slopes and rocks, you will find the beds too comfortable to wake up early to catch the 6am bus to Dehradun. The journey will take around 6 hours, and the leaves on the trees will get thicker, while the layers of clothes on yourself, thinner. From Dehradun, comfortable air conditioned buses are available at around ₹700 per ticket (or we were just lucky; be mentally prepared to travel in semi deluxe or non- AC too, if you plan to reach Delhi the same day). The journey to Delhi will be completed in a span of 6-8 hours, depending upon the traffic once you enter Delhi.
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