There is no scarcity of surprises to welcome you when you step into an amazing world of Himachal, which has all the major Himalayan ranges represented in it, from which it takes its name. The Dhauladhar range (The White Range) is a southern branch of the main Outer Himalayan chain of mountains. It rises from the Indian plains to the north of Kangra and Mandi. Dharamsala, the headquarters of Kangra district, lies on its southern spur above the Kangra Valley, which divides it from Chamba. The range has a huge variety of flora and fauna. One of the major draws of Palampur, Dhauladhar Nature Park, also known as Gopalpur Zoo, draws the attention of wildlife and nature enthusiasts.
Himachal is a trekker’s paradise. You can also enjoy the magic of the monsoons here because there are dense pine and deodar forests so the mountains have not been heavily logged. There are stunning glacial lakes in the Dhauladhars. Conspicuous among them is the Lam Dal, which is the greatest, with a circumference of about 2.5 km. It is a very divine lake and considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Every year pilgrims take a holy dip here in the month of August and September just when the Manimahesh yatra starts.
There are other sacred lakes like the Nag Dal or Nag Chattri Dal. One of the major passes athwart this range is the Indrahar Pass. Located at an altitude of 4,342 metres (14,245 ft) above sea level, near the tourist town of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, Indrahar pass forms the border between Kangra and Chamba districts. It is part of a popular trekking route from Dharamshala. It attracts substantial tourist traffic during the trekking season between April-October. Himachal Pradesh is basically identified as dev bhumi, the mountains punctuated with stone as well as wood temples, culminating in crests of snow and ice at the top of their peaks. This special profile is best seen from the Kangra Valley from where they appear to shoot up almost vertically. You will find beautiful alpine grasslands carpeted with blossoms and medicinal plants, pasturelands, herds of goats, sheep and untamed birds and superb views from the passes, which makes this a trekker’s dream, through a landscape dotted with many small towns or villages.
From Mcleodganj, a Tibetan enclave near Dharamshala, known as “Little Lhasa” or “Dhasa”, there is a wonderful trek to Triund Hill. Triund ridge is located at a height of 2,827 metres above sea level. Here you get a face-to-face view of the towering snow-clad Dhauladhar range, whose highest peak, “Hanuman Ka Tibba”, at about 5,639 metres (18,500 feet), lies just behind it. On a clear day you can also have a spell-bounding view of the hills and valleys below. For weary travelers, there is a forest rest house at Triund to stay overnight. Five kilometres above Triund, the snowline starts at a place called Laka, presenting a breath-taking view of the snow above and the Kangra valley below. One can easily complete the trek and return in one day in about 10 hours. But to go beyond Laka, you will need more than a day’s time. time. During my recent visit (early March) to McLeodganj and Dharamshala, I decided to trek to Triund ridge. Initially, many people were trying to dissuade me from trekking by saying the climate is bad and it may not be advisable to go for trekking alone.
Looking back, I must say that it was a foolhardy decision to go trekking alone in Trimund hills. The climb is a bit tough (so not advisable for weak/ elderly people and children), but every bit of the path is really worth the pain you take. Make sure that you have waterproof spiked shoes for mountain climbing. If stay overnight, carry a tent and sleeping bags with basic food, water, medicine, etc.
The Dhauladhars have a peculiar topography. Although mostly composed of granite, the flanks of the range exhibit frequent formations of slate (often used for the roofs of houses in the region), limestone and sandstone. Ascending from any side is a difficult, given the near vertical incline. This calls for highly technical trekking and mountaineering. There is very little habitation on the range given the harsh conditions. But meadows abound near the crest providing rich pastures for grazing where large numbers of Gaddi shepherds take their flocks. The top of the crest is buried under vast expanses of thick snow. As a matter of fact, Triund-Ilaqua Ghot, approached from the hill station of McLeod Ganj, is the nearest and most accessible snow line in the Indian Himalayas. The range has rich flora and fauna. It is a one-day trek of 10 kilometres (one way) from McLeod Ganj bus stand and under six km (one way) from Galu temple near Dharamkot.
There are occasional leopard sightings on the trek to Galu, so carry a stick with you. It is good to spend one night at Dharamkot village or at Galu (over Dharamkot with view of the village and surrounding mountains). There is a yoga teacher in Dharamkot, who owns a small guest house. There are great views so I would recommend staying there. You can walk to Galu in around three to four hours time via the Bagsu nag Falls and Dharamkot village. The trail is rocky and cut in steps at some places. From Galu temple the trail starts as a gentle ascend till Magic View café. After the café, the ascent is a tad steeper, finally cumulating in a steep final one kilometre stretch through a forest of Deodars and Rhododendron. This final stretch through the woods is known as 22-curves, because of the 22 switchbacks that one has to walk through to get to Triund.
I had checked out early from my hostel in Mcleod Ganj, hoping for an early start. You can do Triund up to the Glacier alone, accompanied by Himalayan huskies (they are big stray dogs and they don’t bark but do follow people) but experience taught me it is much wiser to tag along with a group. It is advised to carry your own potable water as bottled water costs Rs 50 at tea shops in the area. My breakfast after I left McLeod Ganj was hot aloo parothas with butter and pickle, with steaming milky chai. I followed the directions from road signs and it was a difficult prospect to get lost. Stepping off the beaten path was inconceivable since it would entail broken bones, to say the least, if one did survive the steep but picturesque fall. The scenery is spectacular. It is the best place to be one with nature. The hike up takes you West from an initial point to the North of McLeod Ganj over dense pine, beech and oak. I had my heavy backpack, water, cigarettes, a few biscuits and no plans but to reach the snowline. I did not know how long the journey would take though some locals told me that they could make it back by evening. I knew it was tough and had no idea about where I would spend the night. The trek was laborious since the only direction it went was up. The view was breathtaking! From Triund you can have a comprehensive view of the Kangra valley.
There was a well cut path all the way up to a stop near the base of the mighty Dhauladhar. The path was littered with boulders and except for the occasional tourist and lone teashop. Triund has a very scenic mountain lodge with a majestic view of Dhauladhar ranges. This lodge is solitary, away from all other dwellings of Triund. The base camp, aptly called Elaka, is a flat hilltop directly facing the Dhauladhar with a great view of the mountain range in front and the equally breathtaking view of the route you had just trekked behind you. It was littered with cabins of a government resthouse and a few sheds serving coffee.