(Moderate – Shimla Region)
I am laughing while looking for an apt description for this walk and as I type ‘Instant Gratification’ I am reminded of how to reach here. Not far from Shimla (roughly a 3 hour drive to its start – Sungri), we drive through mostly apple country, first up is Narkanda and we all should seek blessings here by hiking up to Hateshwari Peak (named after the Goddess who adorns this mountain top), to which you can also drive through a very narrow climb of 6kms. Getting out of Narkanda towards Kotgarh/Thanedar and you catch up with what once used to be the Hindustan Tibet road, we reach Baghi. Driving through the ridgeline, affording views of the Uttarakhand Himalayas to the east and the Srikhand range to the west; we make a brief stopover at Khadrala and finally reach Sungri our base for the climb to the ‘Mural Danda’. All these destinations have well-kept Dak Bungalows (rest houses) dating back to the pre independence era (after every 12 kms), and a stay is recommended; if only for the novelty of the heritage. Narkanda is a winter skiing destination and it has above average hotels and Baghi (including nearby villages of Ratnari and Kalbog) have very charming bed and breakfast options in the apple orchards. From Sungri you can also drive down (40kms) to Rohru on the banks of the river Pabbar, and further to Chanshal pass, which is fast becoming a tourist spot.
Plan your hike in advance with your outfitter (for equipment, route expert, and logistics and safety team) and ideally reach a night before you intend to start your hike. The altitude is moderate at 2800mts, however a little acclimatization is always considered a good practice, before embarking on any trek or a climb. Liken it to any practice before a game of cricket, football or hockey. And once you are on the hike, do not rush. Just be aware of the existence of time. It’s a short trip/trek/hike; make the most of the opportunity you have given yourself. Here is the most common and do able itinerary.
Drive to Sungri (via Shimla, Narkanda, Baghi, Khadrala). Overnight stay at the Rest house or camp.
So you have a mountain to climb. The vistas at Sungri are alluring enough to make you take that most important first step and it’s a promise, you will fall in love. The spectrum of Himalayan peaks includes Hansbeshan from the Kinner Kailash range in the Baspa which is merging into another range here, Katrech gali to the south east and magnificent views as far as Kashapath near Daranghati (road distance of 70 kms). The trail is a gentle uphill to start with through a forest of typical Himalayan flora (oak, cedar, Rhododendron) and then levels out as we are walking through Rolling Meadows. Though distances are important to give one an idea of how far in units we have to go, however I tend to rely more on the path of the sun, so it usually takes about half a circle of the day, when we approach a steady climb. Kandas are open grasslands, as they call them in Himachal, the same is coined ‘Bugyal’ in Uttarakhand. This is an open grassland often used by the shepherds for their cattle and nearby is Ropra, an ideal camping spot for the evening. Settle down to the sound of the forest, gazing into Himalayan infinity. Ideal start is at roughly 7:00 AM in the morning, so one should reach Ropra camping ground at a relaxed pace by late afternoon (2:00 – 3:00 PM)
Wake up to your beautiful surroundings, and for once beating the city rush; soak in the essence of this beauty. Our hike today is steep, to Mural Danda (Kanda) 3200mts, roughly about two hours, and the views are rewarding from the top. Allow yourself enough time at the top and descend back down towards Ropra. This should take you about 4-5 hours (up and down). Depending upon your schedule, one can either camp at Ropra for one more day or descend further down (another 3 hours) to Sungri.