Dinnala Bugiyal Jindi (My First Winter Trek)

Yesterday, while I was busy crafting chapter 2 of my episodic story ‘The Woman in My House,’ memory of my first winter trek suddenly popped into my head. I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. So, here it goes!

Picture this: December 2022. Karthik and I, armed with a friend’s recommendation, embarked on an adventure to explore the charming Pahari village of Ranachatti in Uttarakashi district, Uttarakhand. Our trek to the Dinnala Bugiyal base and then to Jindi summit was about to commence from this very village.

Now, I must admit, I had some initial reservations about living with complete strangers in an isolated, unknown village. But all my fears melted away like the snow when we were warmly greeted by Sakshi, the woman of the house. Her children kindly presented us with piping hot cups of tea, while her husband built a fire outdoors to keep us warm. It was well past sunset, and the temperature had plummeted to a single digit.

Our friend and guide, Aditya, an accomplished trekker, had been living with this family for over six months and had become a bona fide village member. The house was not unlike the other houses in the village, built of wood and stones with a little vegetable garden that was barren at the moment, an apple tree stood naked in front of the house and two mules peeped from their home on the roof.

For dinner, Sakshi made Rotis and Rajma curry cooked on a good old firewood stove that hugged us like a warm blanket in the chilling cold. We slept covered in blankets as thick as the mattresses back home.

On the second day, as the sun peeked over the horizon, we embarked on our trek and reached the base camp by nightfall. The path was rugged and untamed. Surrounded by walnut and pine trees, we crossed frozen streams and slippery rocks and stopped to drink chilling water from little waterfalls. Accompanying us were Aditya, Santosh (Sakshi’s husband), and Santosh’s friend Gattu. Gattu, a strapping young farmer, carried all our tents and sleeping bags effortlessly, covering the distance to the base in half the time.

Once we set up our tents, a light snowfall began to grace the landscape. From our vantage point, we could admire the majestic Saptarishi mountain range and the frozen streams of the Yamuna River. While Santosh and Gattu busied themselves with dinner preparations (having brought along utensils and groceries), Aditya ventured into the forest to gather firewood. Meanwhile, Karthik and I explored the surroundings and stumbled upon the scattered remains of a cow!

Curiosity got the better of us, and we turned to Gattu for an explanation. With nonchalant ease, he replied, “Oh, it must be the bears. They have a liking for cows and mules.”

Naturally, we couldn’t help but ask, “What about humans?”

Gattu reassured us, “Nah, they’re not interested in humans. Besides, they hibernate during winter.”

Well, I must admit, his words didn’t entirely convince me. Having never slept in sub-zero temperatures, even within the comfort of civilization, let alone in a forest nestled in the secluded Himalayas, I experienced a fitful sleep filled with dreams of bears and snow leopards.

But as the early morning sun graced us with its presence, the breathtaking view made the sleepless night worth it. Glistening in the early morning light were the peaks of Swargarohini, Bandarpunch, Bali Pass and Saptharishi mountain ranges.

We were also lucky to experience a mild snowfall as we continued day 2 of the trek.

Dinnala is a well-kept secret which until recently was known only to the locals. It was our guide, Aditya, who took it upon himself to add this hidden gem to Google Maps with the intention of bringing some income to the mountain dwellers who rely solely on the income that comes their way during the Yamunotri yatra season.

But even today, unlike the popular and overcrowded Kedarkantha and other well-known trekking spots in the region, Dinnala Jindi remains blissfully unspoiled and… well, free of selfie sticks and queueing tourists.

That is all for today. Have a great weekend!

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