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Dodital Yamunotri

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Dodi Tal-Yamunotri (22nd to 29th May 2004)

A team from the JNU Mountaineering Club went on the annual Summer Trek to the Dodi Tal-Yamunotri in the Garwahl Himalayas in May. The team set out on the 22nd from the campus and reached Uttarkashi on the following afternoon, then moved on to Sangamchatti, the road head, and then onwards to Agoda, on foot, making first camp. This route is a very popular one with easily negotiable ascents. Guides and porters as well as mules, can be had for hire either from Uttarkashi or Sangamchatti. Agoda is a village 4kms from Sangamchatti on the way to Dodi-Tal, where guest houses, chai shops and other items of daily use are available.

On the morning of the 24th the group woke to little signs of any exertion in spite of long tiring bus journey and short trek, the previous day. The team was in good spirits as it headed for Dodi-Tal. A well-marked route much frequented by the locals and commercial camp organizers from plains especially from Delhi. Walking through a jungle of mainly oak, with pine and rhododendron adding to the variety gives the city-dweller immense pleasure. Along the way we saw some more tea shops and summer dwellings of the villagers who had constructed these temporary houses to cultivate their lands and for the fodder for their cattle during the summer. In winter, the whole area remains inaccessible because of snow. The group reached Dodi Tal around 3 in the afternoon. There were some more camps nearby, mainly of school kids with their instructors.

Dodi Tal as the name suggests is a lake and a beautiful one at that set in the midst of deodar, and cheer (pine) forests. The lake is circumscribed by a 4-5 feet wide path (parikrama marg). There is a temple of Lord Ganesha here and a few huts including one in which a sage lives. There are good camping grounds, and cozy rooms in the rest house owned by Forest Department are also available. There is a charge for camping near the lake. It started raining in the afternoon despite which the group went for an acclimatization walk.

Waking up to a clear sky, on the 25th, the group took on the Dharwa Top. The route from Dodi Tal to the pass is well marked with a few steep ascents. We crossed along the way some streams with not much water. As soon as the final steep ascent ends there are three trails leading to three different directions. Our guide told us to follow the one on the left leading to Kansar, a picturesque meadow, far above tree line. The greenery was supplemented by flowers of different hues. On the left hand is the Top and on the right hand is a colossal snow-covered peak, Bandarpoonch adjacent to which is the Bain Kulu peak. We came across some patches of snow. We took the left trail from meadow passing through small shrubs of juniper. On a narrow trail, of 30degree steep slopes with the added weight of the rucksack, one feels a real spirit of adventure and the adrenaline flowing.

The pass is attractive enough for no one to want to leave immediately. All the pain and exertion are rewarded by the glorious sights. The trail on the right leads to Gujjar huts and for mules is a comparatively easier route. As soon as the team started descending, the weather began to pack up but did not go beyond a few flakes of snow and a little hail on the way down to Sima, the campsite. The winds blew away the clouds, though it was snowing on the opposite peaks.

The first sight of snow for many of the trekkers drove everybody berserk. On the way down from the pass, the group found a gully full of snow deposited by an avalanche during the winter. The group had great fun sliding over the slope in every possible way. From the pass to Sima is a gradual descent except at one or two places. Sima is more beautiful than Dodi Tal, situated at a place where the tree line starts. Water is available and a dismantled shed can be used as a kitchen. Wood can be collected for bonfire. The group was able to enjoy more here since it was the only group in the whole area. Everyone had dinner and a round of hot chocolate after a tiring days trek.

With its lush green and vast pastures, Sima looks an ideal site for a golf course. The whole place is surrounded by rhododendron and deodar tress. The group was looking more energetic and happy after the previous night’s rest. Exertion brings with it sound sleep, no doubt. On the 26th, the group trekked from Sima to Hanumanchatti which is a three to four hour descent and mainly through the jungle and a hamlet called Nichinia. The route is like the average hilly village track.

In Hanumanchatti, the trekkers stayed in a Dharamshala-Baba Kamri Wala - because of the non-availability of camping sites near the right bank of the Hanuman Ganga, a tributary of the river Yamuna. Construction work of a hydro-power project and peak summer season had made the place more populous. In the flow of traffic due to pilgrims visiting Yamunotri (one of char dhams), the team were forced to hire taxis from Hanumanchatti to Janakichatti. The next morning we trekked the remaining six kms to Yamunotri. The entire route was crowded and on top of it all, it was raining, while the mules and palanquin-wallahs added insult to injury. We could not go above the Yamunotri temples because of the rain. It was also quite cold at the temple site, the only relief being the vapours coming out of hot water springs where some devotees were taking dip. After coming back to Hanumanchatti we stayed at the same Dharmashala where we had booked three rooms. After sleeping out in tents even small unfurnished Dharmashala rooms appeared luxurious. After hours of laughter, sharing jokes, antakshri, singing and dancing, one develops an affinity with such places where in normal time it is impossible to think of staying.

People had fun during the trek, made new friends, strengthened already existing bonds and felt and realized the need for interdependence. The trekkers also learned about themselves and life itself the hard way – testing their patience, capabilities, adaptability and team spirit. The success of a trek lies not merely in the completion of the conceived plan but in realizing the power of nature, knowing one’s own weaknesses and strengths, in learning about the environment, and to appreciate and understand human frailties.

From Hanumanchatti to Barkot, buses are available, but traffic jam are frequent due to the narrow road and movement of heavy vehicles. Barkot to Mussorrie took four hours owing to the rush of peak season. After some sightseeing in Mussorrie the group took a night bus to Delhi at 8 on 28th May and reached Delhi at 5, the following morning. (Contributed by: Rajesh Kapoor)

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