Following our 25-year tradition, I spent New Year’s day hiking with my Dartmouth friends David and Kathy. This year, we have our families along, including Benjamin (age 4). Read on and check out the photo gallery.
We gathered on December 30 in Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama, and the site of the government-in-exile of Tibet. It is as close to visiting Tibet you can get, short of actually going to Tibet. The village clings to the foothills of the Himalaya, in northwest India. Lots more to say about Dharamsala, but that’s another blog entry.
We rose at the crack of dawn on New Year’s morning to a beautiful sunrise. Our hotel, snuggled into the hillside, looks south over the plains of India. After a fine breakfast of the hotel’s fine apple pancakes, augmented with real Vermont Maple Syrup (thank you Kathy!), we finally hit the road at 8:30am. We bumped and jiggled uphill in two taxis (on a ‘road’ that seemed better fit for ponies than cars) further up into the foothills. The road ends, or rather, the taxis stopped, at a small temple (and tea stall) at about 7,500′. It was chilly, as evidenced by spots of ice on the trickling spring, but the sun was bright and warm. We were joined by David and Kathy’s old friend from the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) school, Kalsang Phunsok (KP) and his daughter Tenzin Chokey. “Tenchok” is about Mara’s age.
The trail is an ancient trading route, long used by pony caravans to carry goods over the pass into the Chamba valley. In a way, it was just an extension of the taxi road, and about as good. Lots of impressive rockwork, developed with centuries of hard work, helped the trail switchback up the steep mountainside and cling to some precipitous cliffsides. The hillsides were grassy, with scattered trees and scrubby brushes, so we had constant views of the hillsides and the plains to the south. We made slow but steady progress, passed occasionally by ponies going downhill empty and going uphill loaded with coca-cola, snickers bars, toothbrushes, and other essential sundries. Soon enough, we reached the first tea stall, stocked with all that and more. Now, this is the way to travel: we sat in the morning sunshine sipping hot milk tea and enjoying the view.
The trail gets a bit rougher, and a bit steeper. We can see the tea stalls high on the ridgeline – our destination for the day. Many switchbacks keep the going relatively easy but the progress slow. We begin to feel the effects of elevation. Plenty of time to watch the view, both far (hills and the hazy valley) and near (discarded plastic bottles and candy wrappers).
Suddenly, we reached the top of the trail and breached the ridgeline. WOW! Spread in front of us, filling our view, is the spectacularly rugged and snow-covered Dhauladhar range. We were at 9,300′ on Triund meadow, looking at 13,000′ peaks. Mere toenails in the foothills of the Himalaya, but impressive nonetheless!
After a fine lunch and some kite flying, we hiked back down the hill. A fine hike, perhaps 6 miles round trip. Highly recommended!
See the photos. Happy new year!
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