|Chaukhamba (right) from Bedni Bugyal. The peak next to it is Shivling (near Gangotri). |
Photo: Sahastrarashmi (2002)
We had spent an exhausting day riding a cramped made-for-the-mountains bus from Haridwar to Ukhimath via Rudraprayag, the confluence of the Mandakini and the Alaknanda rivers. At 4 pm the town, made respectively famous and notorious by by Jim Corbett and a man-eating leopard in the 1920s, was hot, muggy and swarming with flies. It didn't feel like we were in the Himalayas at all.
At Ukhimath we found some respite though it wasn't cold as we had expected (or hoped -- because the Himalayan cold is at once welcome and frightening). The peak of Kedarnath, lit by the embers of a long-gone sun, presided over a great part of the evening as we sat on the lawns of the GMVN guesthouse running over our plans for the next day.
|Chaukhamba from Deoria Tal|
|Kashmir Agamas basking in the sun|
Chaukhamba -- the name literally means four pillars -- is one of the highest peaks in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The spires range in elevation from 23,419 feet (Chaukhamba 1) to 22,487 feet (Chaukhamba 4). The highest peak was first summited in 1952 by Lucien George and Victor Russenberger, two Swiss members of a French expedition (source: Wikipedia).
|A Himalayan Woodpecker tries its luck on a slender tree|
Chaukhamba remained a persistent presence on our journey from Chopta to Tungnath and all the way up to Chandrashila, at 13,123 feet the highest peak on this trail.
|Chaukhamba from the trail to Tungnath|
Chaukhamba has since dominated my memory of the Himalayas. Up until I glimpsed the serene and stately form of Nanda Devi from Auli. But that is another story.
Text and photos by Beej
Main photo by Sahastrarashmi