The next thing was getting a decent contact in Chopta area of Garhwal who could tell us about the options we had as well as the weather conditions. We did lot of research and got a contact in Rudraprayag called Mr Rawat. Mr Rawat runs guest house in Duggalbitta which is around 7km before Chopta and about 20km from Ukimath on the Kedarnath-Gopeshwar-Badrinath route. We made all the necessary talks with Mr Rawat and decided to stay at his Duggalbitta guest house called “Maaya Deep”. Actually we had no other choice as well. Chopta is all closed in winters. We were not planning to carry any tents so had to resort to making arrangements at Duggalbitta.
Tragedy struck on the day before we were planning to leave to Delhi. Both Sandeep and I had to stay back due to some emergency in the office. It was quite disappointing, but then I consoled myself by thinking that the mountains probably didn't want us to travel yet. We hadn't canceled our trip, we merely postponed it by around three weeks. Finally we planned on going sometime in mid February. Harsh, one of our friends also decided to join us this time.
We all again called up Mr Rawat for reservations at his Duggalbitta guest house, but he informed us that it was snowing heavily in the higher reaches of Uttaranchal and it was not possible to reach Duggalbitta itself, forget Tunganath. His vehicle would be able to drop us some 3km before Duggalbitta. After talking amongst ourselves and then to Mr. Rawat, we all took a call and decided that we would in any case give this trip a shot. We would try going till a point where we could manage to in all that snow and cold.
Finally we started on the evening of 19th February. We met Harsh on the Bangalore airport, we had to catch the evening flight to Delhi and as usual the flight was late. We didn't mind it though, because we spent the time watching a nail biting match between India/Australia. India finally won that match so I thought it was good omen for our trek too.
We reached Rudraprayag at around 11 in the morning. Mr Rawat's vehicle (a Mahindra Bolero) was ready for us. Sandeep and Harsh went to Mr. Rawat's office, thanked him and also discussed the program for the next couple of days.
The drive from Rudraprayag to Mukku bend [3km before Duggalbitta] was just excellent. Just after sometime of starting from Rudraprayag, we got the first glimpse of Mt. Choukhamba (23418 feet). The Mandakini river, which originates from somewhere near Kedarnath and meets the Alaknanda at Rudraprayag, was on our left throughout.
We had our lunch at Ukkimath. The town of Ukkimath is famous as the winter resting place for Kedarnathji. During the winters when the temple at Kedarnath is closed due to heavy snow, the God is worshiped at Ukimath. We decided to visit the temple on our way back.
At around 2PM, driver dropped us the Mukku Bend. After this, there was lot of snow on the road which precluded any further driving. We had to walk from here to our guest house in Duggalbitta.
It took us about 30 more minutes to cover the 3 km and by the time we reached the guest house it was around half past three in the evening.
The place was simply heaven and that is because of the winter snows. I do not have enough words to explain my feeling as I beheld the surroundings. The guest house was perched a little down the road, by a small rivulet. There weren't any people there except the three of us, the care taker of the guest house and a guide. It felt as if the whole village belonged to us.
At Duggalbitta (~8900 feet), there were couple of tea shops, shacks actually but they all remain closed in winters . One of the shack owners, Dinesh had join us from village of Tala, on the way to Mukku bend. We had some hot ginger tea at Dinesh's dhaba and spent some time talking to the care taker and Khadak Singhji, who was to be our guide.
The rest of the evening was spent in exploring the surroundings. The place was really awesome. The guest house was surrounded by snow and all around us we could hear the chirping of different birds. When we tried to follow them or tried to click some photos, they disappeared very quickly into the bushes. On one of the snow patches, we saw some pug marks of an animal. Khadak Singhji later told us that they were the marks of the small black bear.
As the evening gave way to the night, it started to get cold and so we decided go inside the guest house and take some rest. The next days was going to be very long day for us again. The plan for the next day was to start not later than7 in the morning, try to reach Chopta in about 3 hours and then try to attempt Tunganath from there. In the evening Harsh, Sandeep and I talked about settling down in the Himalayas, and then around 8 we had food and slept.
In the night, the temperature inside the room was around -3 degree C. But unlike any of our treks, this time we had got a proper bed and quilt we beat the cold.