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Arvi Krishnaswamy

Entrepreneur and Tech Executive

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If you are considering trekking from McLeod Ganj up to [Triund], this travelogue should serve as a quick and dirty rough guide.

TLDR? Read this first

The trek from McLeod Ganj up to Triund (2875m/9432ft), base camp of Mt Dhauladhar is a popular trek in the Himalayas. Trekkers are rewarded with stunning views of snow capped mountains.

If you are a rookie trekker, take a guide along for the 18 km roundtrip journey. They don’t cost much, and may just save your life. If you’re used to trekking, here’s the gist of your pit stops:

  1. McLeod Ganj (Start)
  2. Galu Devi Temple (3 km)
  3. Magic View Chai Shop ()
  4. Chai Shop
  5. Chai Shop
  6. Basecamp - Top of Triund (9 km)

If a trail of expedition mules come down your path, quickly find a safe spot and let them pass. If startled or nervous, they’ve sometimes pushed unsuspecting tourists over the cliff.

Why is this so amazing?

Well, the highest peak of Mt Dhauladhar is 5,639m (18,500ft). From Triund, these are clearly visible just a few kilometers across the valley. That’s higher that Mont Blanc (4,807m) and Mt Whitney (4,418m) and nearly as high as Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m). In other words, this is possibly the shortest day trek you’ll take to catch a close glimpse of one of the worlds tallest peaks.

Preparation for the Trek

I’d recommend ensuring you’ve got these checked off.

  • Good walking shoes
  • A bottle of water or gatorade (Don’t carry more - filtered water is available at the half way point for a refill)
  • Warm clothes (even on a sunny day - weather patterns higher up are unpredictable)
  • Energy bars or fruits (Apples and Persimmons from the markets at McLeod Ganj are delicious)
  • A good nights sleep, and a moderate breakfast
  • Hiking stick (optional, but your knees may appreciate it on the descent - available for rent for Rs 50 from shops by the Galu Devi temple)

Starting Point

Start off from the basketball court sized “Main Square” of McLeod Ganj and take the road up towards Dharamkot. Your first stop will be at the Galu Devi temple.

Galu Devi

The Galu Devi temple in Dharamkot is around 3km from McLeod Ganj. There’s two ways of getting here.

The first option is to take a local taxi cab from McLeod Ganj up to Dharamkot. Do not attempt driving yourself or heading up with a chauffer from the plains. The narrow gravel and pebbled road is just about wide enough for one car, and requires careful handling of drift around the bends. Also, the seasoned locals seem to have a system in place when two drivers end up in a narrow stretch. The guy heading downhill (yes, you got that right!) backed up (yes, upwards!) until he found a place that was just about wide enough for the two to squeeze past. The newer Maruti 800s that these guys drive must have good reverse gear mechanics. Once you get past the fact that this can be a precarious ride, the taxi ride up is worth it since it’ll save you a good hour of climbing. In addition to the energy which you’ll save up for the rest of the climb, this will also give you more time to enjoy the sights on top of Triund before you have to head back down. Taxis cost about INR 300-400 each way, but the price may be higher during the tourist season.

The second option is just walk up the gravel path taken by the taxis. It’s broad and a bit long winded and will take you a bit of time, but the ascent is gradual.

The third option is to take the steep but short path up. There are steps, but the climb is moderately steep, and should be a good warm up for serious trekkers.

Now that you are at Galu Devi, consider picking up a hiking stick from the shop there. They rent wooden sticks out for Rs 50 (return them on the descent). If you’ve already brought your stick along, you are all set.

Head on and follow the trail upwards past the village huts.

Magic View Point

The pathway during this stretch is mostly sheltered, and you are surrounded by thick foliage. The path is broad enough for a few people to walk alongside and the ascent is gradual. Along the way, you’ll see a variety of ferns and flowers. You can also hear the sound of water rushing through the different spouts in the mountain and converging at the Bhagsu waterfall downhill. It’s a beautiful, energizing, fresh sound that spurs you on.

From a few spots, you are greeted with lovely views of the Dalai Lama’s headquarters and the large cricket stadium in Dharamsala where the IPL matches are hosted. It’s nice to look back along the way and see how you’ve come. It makes everything worth it.

Chai Shop 1

There are no Cafe Days, Baristas or Starbucks along the way. Even better, there’s lovely little chai shops with incredible views of the plains. The first stop along the way, the Magic View Cafe is arguably the best perch you’ll find. In addition to bottled water, they also offer filtered water at a reasonable price. You can use the filtrs to refill bottles you may carry. There’s also a number of snacks available at the shop. If you have garbage to dispose, this would be a good spot. The shop has well segregated dry and plastic waste, which are safely transported back down to the plains. Bio waste is left on the cliff.

Once you’ve caught your breath here, begin the next stage of the climb up. If it’s a clear day, you should soon start to see beautiful glimpses of the snow capped mountain peaks.

There’s a few points along the pathway that start get a little narrow. Take your time and watch your step, especially in places where the rocks and pebbles are slippery.

Chai Shop 2

By the time you reach the second chai chop, you would have covered over 80% of the distance to the top. In case you have made it this far without a break, you may want to take one here. The sights are lovely. But importantly, the last stretch to the top is slightly steep and you may benefit from the pit stop. If you are lucky (we were), the shopkeeper may get his flute out and play some lilting mountain melodies. Ok well, he also started playing Titanic, and that’s when we knew it was time to leave.

From here onwards, the path gets steadily steeper as you near the 9000ft mark. As you follow the trail, you’ll get to a bald stretch without any trees. The stretch would appear to lead up to a flat horizon beyond. You’re there.

Chai Shop on Top

The flat horizon is the little tableau of Triund. Covered by gorgeous lush green meadows through most of the year, and snow in winter, it’s a stunning sight. The tableau itself is about the size of 4 football fields. At one end, it tapers away upwards into the mountain trail headed up towards the snowline. Right in the middle of the tableau is the final chai shop of the journey. It’s covered by a blue tarpaluin sheet, and is well stocked with snacks, water, and even tents and sleeping bags. The chai shop with the best view.

It’s a view that’s so stunning, you wouldnt even have noticed the green meadows and the chai shop when you arrived. The mighty mountains of the Dhauladhar range seem so close to you, you almost feel like you could reach out and touch them. And they all have lovely names.

The hard part about a day trek is that it’s hard to predict when there’s cloud cover. So most day trekkers end up seeing only a partial view of the mountains, since clouds keep passing through. If you ask me, I’d say that’s part of the charm of the place itself - a clear day would be lovely, but atypical.

There are no toilets on top, but that shouldn’t surprise you. What might surprise you, is that there arent any bushes nearby on the lovely green tableau either. The sides facing the plains are a steep precipice. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. There’s secluded spots slightly further uphill or on the side of the tableau overlooking the peaks.

Heading down

You’d want to start to head down no later than 3PM. Ensure you ask locals if its safe to leave at that time, and if they suggest you stay the night over instead on top instead due to inclement weather, they will help you find tents and sleeping bags.

You’ll likely make your way downhill much faster than you did on the ardous trek up. Be kind to your knees, and watch your step. Ironically, the downhill journey is often more dangerous than the uphill trek. It may be the speed of the descent, or just fatigue.

Travels & Guides

If you are looking for a guide, I’ll highly recommend Babu. He was super helpful, resourceful, and fit as a fiddle (or a mountain goat!).

| Babu | | Galaxy Line Tour & Travels Main Square | | (www.galaxylinetravels.com) | | +91-9882291379 |

I hope this helps, and you have a safe trek to Triund. Be responsible, collect your trash with you, and have fun!

Been to Triund, have experiences to share? Planning a trip, and need tips? Let me know @twitortat.