Raman Sharma ( founder TrailHikers ) explored the trail to the Nag Tibba peak on 28th-29th Dec 2014 from the Pantwari side alongwith adventure trek leaders Rakesh Danu, Bishal Tamling, Kiran Sigdel and a group of seven young hikers (cousins) from Mumbai.
Raman Sharma writes about his experience through this trek blog on his amazing trek to Nag Tibba near Mussoorie :
Day 1 – 28th Dec 2014
Dehradun – Mussoorie – Nag Tibba base
I and my three trek leaders Rakesh, Bishal & Kiran leave early in the morning at 7 am from Dehradun in a Tempo Traveller (with all our trek equipment) to Pantwari which is approx. 96km from Dun. We had to pick up a group of seven young trekkers who had arrived in Mussoorie a day earlier (from Mumbai). As we started from Dehradun, we told our driver Amit to drive very carefully in the hills, to which he smiled with an affirmation. As our ride started to climb the Mussoorie hills, we saw an amazing view of the mountains shining in the early morning sun. We reached the Library Chowk, Mussoorie at around 8:05 am where the group was already waiting for us. The driver parked the vehicle to a little side to pick them up.
I got out first to meet the group. After a formal handshake with Jikesh, the eldest in the group, I introduced my team of trek leaders and we all boarded the Traveller. The group consisted of Jikesh, his wife Archana, brother Rinkesh and cousins Kinjal, Aashna, Pakshal & Tanish. We left Mussoorie at around 8:15 am. As we crossed the Kempty Falls, our youngest trekkers Aashna, Pakshal & Tanish (all in early teens) started to feel the effects of the mountain travel. Obviously, the ride had to be stopped and parked to left side whenever one of them had a vomit feeling. Inspite of this, all our young hikers were happy that their favourite songs were played at full volume by the driver.
We reached Nainbagh at around 10:25 am, from there it took us 30 mins to reach Pantwari, our starting point for the Nag Tibba trek. After reaching Pantwari at 10:55 am, we all sat for breakfast in a tea cum fast food shop run by Hukam Singh ji, a nice & helpful man from the village. All the trekkers including us chose Maggi over the paranthas and a ginger tea after that. As the hikers were feasting on hot maggi, I met our local village team, who told me that the mule (khacchar) would take some time to arrive as the mule guy had taken it to nearby hills for some field work. We all finished our breakfast by 11:30 am. In the meantime we told Hukam Singh ji to pack freshly made samosas and also bought two dozen bananas for breaks on the trail !
As we were waiting for the mule guy to arrive, I and one of my trek leaders Rakesh decided to take a stroll down the Pantwari village. After walking for about five mins, we reached a hawaghar beside the road which gave magnificent views of the village fields. I must say this village has big agricultural fields. We both started taking pics of each other against the backdrop of the step fields below. As we were appreciating the scenic village, we saw a young man (aged 19-20) riding a mule and coming from the other side of the village. It was our mule guy who was rushing towards the fast food shop where all trekers were waiting.
So finally, our mule guy arrived at around 12:40 pm and started preparing his ropes to load our trek equipment. He introduced himself as Bipin and he also told us that he was pursuing B.A. Ist year from DAV college Dehradun. It took him about 20-25 mins to load the mule, so we started from the village at around 1:05pm. After walking about 100 metres on the main village road we turned right into an inclined path which went straight inside the village. Just 50 metres ahead there was a big cemented gate, which is the entrance to “Gramsabha Banasari”.
As we cross the cemented gate, we saw two small temples dedicated to “Maa Bhavani” & “Nag Devta”, on the left side and a big cemented platform on the right side, on which some village kids were enjoying their Sunday, playing with a pup . . naturally I stopped to click their playful mood “So energizing”. I always think about my childhood when I see kids playing with small animals. It gives me immense energy and gratification, when I watch kids and I sometimes do wish to return to my childhood.
As we ascended through the village, the path became a little more steeper and zig zag. After about 15 mins of walking, we came accross a “kuccha” motorable road which extends from Pantwari to further 2 kms to the mountains. Our mule guy Bipin was guiding us, so we knew that we had to take straight path up across the road. I stopped there for a moment to click Pantwari, which was now visible down below. The path straight up was almost flat for about 100 metres, which was a delight for our trekkers, who by now had started to feel the strain on their legs as most of them were not used to hiking in the mountains. An elder village woman who was carrying fodder for the cattle, drew my attention and I asked permission to click her “Amma ji aapka ek photo le sakta hoon ?”, to which she obliged “Haan le lo”.
After walking for twenty minutes, again there was a turn in the path, towards south. The trekkers ahead of me were already resting under a tree, when I reached that spot. Bipin was also there sitting on a big stone while his mule was grazing on some dried grass along the path. We resumed on the trail after 10 mins rest and walked past a cattle shed from where the path started to get steeper. We were now getting steep views of the valley on the right side. In half an hour at around 2:30pm, we all stopped and sat beneath a huge tree to have our packed samosas & bananas. There was also a cemented water storage tank just a little left to the tree which also had an iron pipe fetching water into it. We all gorged on the delicious samosas, ate bananas and rested for about 15 mins under the tree.
Our trail continued as we walked past some more cattle sheds and fodder houses. The mountains on our left had long yellow grasses dried by the winter winds and scorching sun but the views on the right side were mangificent. On the right side there was a steep fall of about 700 ft into the step fields and accross the valley were mountains with dense forests, totally in contrast with those on our left. After walking for about 45 mins the path again took a turn towards a little east and I saw a forested mountain with an almost flat plateau like top, with some village hutments on it. I stopped to capture it in my digicam and took shots in both normal & zoom mode !
A few metres of walk on this flat patch on the trail, we saw some village homes on the left and also the first glimpse of the forest ahead. All the trekkers took some rest at this point where the trail entered a forest. By the time I reached this spot they were all sitting on this grassy patch on the right side near a cemented ‘haudi’ for irrigation which is fetched water through an iron pipe. I was walking behind all the trekkers all through as it gave me enough time for clicking pics on the trail and also to make sure that nobody was behind me to ensure the safety of our young trekkers. It was already 4 pm before we started the forest trail, so I told the trekkers not to rest much and maintain a regular pace so that we cross the forest portion before it gets dark.
After a zig zag ascent for about 15 mins we reached the first big grassy clearing which gave amazing views of the valley to the south and dense forests to the north. Beyond this grassy patch there was a 20 mins of medium gradient ascent which brought us to an almost flat path along side dried grassy slopes, which opened into the second big grassy clearing on the trail. The trail from here entered again into a dense forest. It was already 5 pm and we had almost one hour of hike left to reach the Nag Tibba base. As I was busy taking pics from this patch, I could see the rest of the trekkers(including my team members), Bipin & his mule entering this dense trail and they seemed to have disappeared into the forest. Obviously, I put my camera back in its pouch and started to pace up to catch up with them.
After about 25-30 mins of walking on a medium gradient, we reached the third big grassy clearing on the trail which also had some small snow patches indicating that there would be more snow high up near Nag Tibba base. All the trekkers in our group were thrilled to see the snow patches as they again entered the dense trail beyond this clearing. The time now was about 5:40 pm and it was getting darker with every passing minute. We were now walking in two groups – first group had Kinjal, Aashna, Pakshal & Tanish who were guided by Bipin, our mule guy. I sent them a little ahead of the rest of us as I wanted them to reach Nag Tibba base before it got completely dark as they were the youngest in the group. The second group had Jikesh, his wife Archana, brother Rinkesh, me and my trek leaders Rakesh, Kiran & Bishal. We were about 15 mins behind the first group and could hear their voices echoing in the jungle. After about 45 mins of trailing zig zag through the forest, we came to a huge open grassy clearing which had many snow patches. As we walked about 100 metres more, we saw a big cemented hut like structure which was actually a village Dharamsala built for pilgrims who come to the Nag tibba temple. Just alongside the boundary of the structure, there was a bonfire which was lit up by Bipin who along with four trekkers, reached before us – Welcome to the Nag Tibba base. Yes, it is this clearing beside the cemented hut, which is called the Nag Tibba base. The GPS shows its altitude at approx. 2600 m. Even in the quarter lit moon, we could see the Nag Tibba massiff to the east. I excitingly told all the trekkers that we would all be climbing that mountain, the next morning.
As we started quite late from Pantwari (about 2 hrs late), we got to the base campsite in complete dark. So we decided to set up our camps quickly and set up the kitchen in the verandah of the cemented hut, as it was too late to set up the kitchen tent. Rakesh alongwith Bipin started to set up the cooking equipment first, as he wanted to serve a quick ginger tea followed by a hot tomato soup to our exhausted & shivering trekkers. I, Kiran and Bishal started pitching the dome tents, also sharing some basics of pitching tents with some trekkers. By the time we finished setting up the three tents, Rakesh had started serving the ginger tea to all the trekkers who were now sitting in a semi circle around the growing bonfire, as Bipin was feeding more firewood into it ! ( everybody loved the ginger tea !)
As we all finished our tea, our trek leaders alongwith Bipin went to fetch water for cooking from a waterbody near the Nag Devta temple. I alongwith Aashna and Kinjal started to prepare soup. While we had just boiled some water and poured the Knorr soup packets in hot water, Rakesh & team arrived with three buckets of water. Now, Rakesh took over the soup preparations. Rakesh being an HM graduate, knows exactly how to garnish any thing and I totally love his style of cooking. The soup was ready in 15-20 mins and was served vaporising hot to our young hikers. Just after sipping the soup once they all said “Awesome”, well . . thanks to Rakesh ! It was now almost 9 pm and our team started preparing dinner. We all decided on paneer butter masala and rice for dinner. Rakesh, supported by Bishal & Kiran, gave an ultra-delicious garnish to the paneer, the aroma of which was apetizing enough !
Our young hikers had bought some nice & compact speakers with them, which they connected to their phones to play their favourite numbers in full volume. So, while the food was cooking, we all were enjoying songs around the bonfire. Dinner was served at around 10:30 pm (quite late from our usual time of 8pm). It was a perfect dinner, hot food around a bonfire and beneath the stars ! We all sat and chatted around the bonfire till about 12:30 am when most of our trekkers started to feel sleepy and went inside their tents. I, Rakesh, Bishal & Bipin made a late night tea for ourselves and sat around the bonfire till 2:30 am. Rakesh and Bipin decided to sleep inside the cemented hut. Before going inside my tent, I again told the youngsters that if anyone needs anything or experiences any headache due to altitude then please inform us. Fortunately, everyone was fine, except that no one was able to sleep due to chilling cold inspite of the fact that everyone was packed into their sleeping bags. I sneaked into my tent where my fellow trek leader Kiran Sigdel (in Nepal even boys are named Kiran) was trying to sleep. I tried to make the least noise while entering the tent as I didn’t want to disturb him. After entering the tent, I closed the zip flaps smoothly and pushed myself into my sleeping bag, but was not able to sleep due to falling temperature, so I was just rolling from one side to other. Later, I found out that even Kiran and all other trekkers in their tents were just resting in their sleeping bags but almost no one had a sound sleep which is quite common after ascending to such an altitude in one day.
At around 4:30 am, I heard voices of Aashna & Kinjal who along with two others were in the middle tent, murmuring to each other. After a while I heard Aashna, who said ‘Somebody please lit up the bonfire, its too cold in the tents’, to which I replied ‘Ok, I’ll lit the bonfire shortly’. I lazily unzipped my sleeping bag and opened the flaps of my tents and put on my shoes. I immediately started to collect dry grass & leaves to work as tinder to start the fire. As I put the dry grass around the fireplace, I was happy to find some burning amber from the previous fire. It took me just five minutes to start a new fire and then I kept on adding more wood to it. By this time it was already 5:30 am and the trekkers started coming outside their tents one by one to get the much needed warmth around the fire !
Day 2 – 29th Dec 2014
Base – Nag Tibba peak – Pantwari – Dehradun
After 6:30 am, as the sun was about to rise, we got the first glimpse of the snow covered hills in front of us. The area had a good and early snowfall around 14th-15th Dec, so even after two weeks, there was quite a lot of snow up there.
I briefed all the trekkers about ascent of 2 km to the Nag Tibba peak and told them that we need to reach the summit by 11 am and then back to the campsite by 1 pm for lunch. After a breakfast of bread & butter with tea, we started ascending on a trail which was just behind our campsite. I again, deliberately chose to walk behind all of them as I wanted click photos for my blog and also made sure nobody is left behind. I had barely walked a few metres when I saw this amazing view of the Himalayan skyline amidst a gap among the trees. I took two shots, one normal and one zoom. The zoom one captured what I was looking for – the Himalayan peaks !
After about 5 mins of walking on a rocky and grassy path, the trail entered a forest, where after walking for 10 more mins we found the first patches of snow. A ten minute walk on the snow patches, and the trail opened into a big grassy clearing which was covered with snow. I could see from far that trekkers had already started playing in the snow by the time I reached the spot. Jikesh exclaimed with joy “Amazing, this is what we had come for – Snow !”. Our young hikers were busy throwing snow balls at each other and even involved my team members Rakesh and Bishal with them.
Beyond this clearing, the trail was moderate ascent through the forest with snow in many parts. We were all amazed to see the volume of snow on the slopes towards the right side of the trail which received less sunlight. As we entered the most snowy patch in the trail, my team mate Rakesh spotted fresh footprints of the black bear which indicated that it had gone into the forest. This region is a home to Himalayan Black Bear. Jikesh took some pics of Bear footprints. The trail was now a moderate but continuous ascent through the dense forest. By this time some of young trekkers got a little exhausted and repeatedly asked that how long would it take to reach the Nag tibba peak. As we were midway into the forest, I told my team mate Bishal Tamling to slow down and come with the slow climbers while I went forward,as only I knew the route to the summit from there.
After about an hour of ascending through the forest we reached a ridge with steep falls on the north and east at around 10:40 am. Just after ten mins of ascending on this ridge we reached an almost flat path which went east towards the Nag Tibba summit. After a 4-5 mins walk on this snow path, I exclaimed “Hey everyone ! This is the Nag Tibba summit or “Jhandi” (as it is locally called). Me, Aashna, Rakesh, Kinjal and Rinkesh were first to reach the summit at around 10:52 am. Among the trekkers, it was Aashna (aged 14) who reached the summit first. By 11 am, all the trekkers were at the summit. I congratulated everyone including my team members on successfully climbing the Nag Tibba Peak, which at 9,915 ft, is the highest peak in the lower Garhwal Himalayas !
The Nag Tibba summit is an elevated grassy platform on which locals have put up a permanent “Jhandi”, as a mark of respect for the mountain and the Nag Devta (the snake God). We got amazing views of the higher Himalayan peaks from the summit, especially from its northern side which gave a magnificent 180 degree view of the Bandarpoonchh, Swargarohini, Kalanag, Kedarnath and Gangotri group of peaks. We all did a lot of photography and fun on the peak for about 40 mins.
At around 11:40 pm, we all started to descend from the peak on the same trail. I must say descending down, especially on the snowy patches was quite tough for some of our trekkers as they were not used to hiking in the mountains. While descending down, I was leading all of them to make sure nobody ventured on wrong trails. I reached the campsite at 12:40 pm where my team mate Kiran told me that the lunch was ready for trekkers. Kiran and Bipin had stayed back to look after the campsite and to prepare lunch. By 1 pm, all the trekkers reached the campsite. Lunch was served at 1:30 pm. Our team was already busy in packing up our trek equipment & kitchen stuff which had to be loaded by Bipin on his mule.
As we were busy packing our stuff, I told Rakesh to start descending down with the trekkers. So they started at around 2:30 pm while I, Kiran & Bishal were helping out Bipin to load the mule. We also made sure that we left the campsite as clean as possible, so we did a last minute check around the campsite for any plastic wrappers or bags and put them in a garbage bag that we were carrying. At last all four of us with the mule, started to descend down at around 3:30 pm. All four of us were descending so fast that we got past the other trekkers in about 45 mins. We all reached Pantwari by 6 pm where our driver Amit was anxiously waiting for us beside Hukam Singh ji’s fast food shop. He told me that he didn’t liked driving in the mountains after dark. Bipin was busy unloading his mule and helping the driver to load our stuff on the tempo traveller. I thanked Hukam Singh ji for his hospitality and said goodbye to Bipin who took my visiting card for future contact. We left Pantwari at around 6:15 pm and reached Mussoorie at around 7:50 pm where we dropped all our trekkers near their hotel.
I and my team reached Dehradun at around 9 pm. It was a memorable experience for all of us. For me personally, it was my first trip to Nag Tibba from the Pantwari side. I had done Nag Tibba trek from Deolsari & Mangalori side a number of times but I always wanted to do it from Pantwari. When this group of trekkers from Mumbai told us that they wanted to go from an easy side as there were three school kids (aged 14) among the group, we planned the trek to Nag Tibba from Pantwari side for them.
The trail gave me an amazing opportunity to capture two contrast landscapes – dried & grassy slopes on one hand and a thickly forested landscape on the other. The fact that this trek can be completed within two days from Dehradun, makes it a perfect weekend trek near Mussoorie that can be done from Delhi !