Jot - Dainkund Wiinter Trek - A walk on snowy ridge

Trail was wide enough to play football
How a year went by without a trek, is something I have no idea of. Doing any adventure activity won't serve the joy that a trek serves and that too when it is a snow trek. It had been more than a year that I was caught into work and I hadn't done enough of mountain walking except for a few short day hikes in Sahyadris and Leh. The snow was something my heart was craving for.

It was then on the eve of the new year, 2020 that I decided to do a day hike that had been on my mind since past few years. A trail that connects Jot in Chamba district with Dainkund peak near Dalhousie. The whole route is well laid on the top of the ridge.

This short yet adventurous trek had been in my bucket list from the past 3-4 years. Though I had been to Dainkund peak from Dalhousie before winter in 2015, experiencing those slopes laden with snow was what I had always yearned for.

Track covered in snow

Something about Dainkund:

It is the highest point in Dalhousie region of Dhauladhars. It is a point from where the great ridge of Dhauladhar range gains height which further continues to Manali to merge with the Pirpanjal range of mountains. This place gives breathtaking views of both, Chamba as well as the Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh. The plains of Punjab and the two rivers, (Ravi and Beas) stretch wide in the plains and reflecting the sunlight as the sun shines high. Dainkund is a small peak atop which there is a temple of Pholani Mata (a local deity) and is well connected with a motorable road diverging from Dalhousie-Khajjiar Highway.

Temple premises at Dainkund and few hills in the backdrop.

Something about Jot:

Jot is further 38 km from Dalhousie and serves as a mini pass to cross the Dhauladhar range for the people of Kangra valley to travel to Chamba valley and vice-versa. This is a small village with few dhabas and a Hotel. There are two ways to reach this place, one from Dalhousie and the other from Pathankot, via Nurpur and Chowari. Some scenes in the Bollywood Blockbuster ‘Gaddar: Ek Prem Katha” were also shot on this location.

Jot Village and some tourist huts to capturee the views

Jot-Dainkund link:

These two places are well connected through a trail atop the ridge. The ridge is wide enough for a village to set up. This 5 km trail provides breathtaking views of some of the prominent peaks in Chamba ( like Manimahesh Kailash) and distant views of Pangi Valley.

With an average height of around 8000 ft. the trail is well marked and frequently used by the villagers to procure necessary supplies from Jot since Jot has a bus stop and the ration can be sent at this place easily. While you can experience and enjoy on the grassy slopes in summer, in winters it serves a basic snow trek where one can even take their children along.

Mt. Manimahesh Kailash in the background
Snow covered valley.
I began my journey from Dinanagar at six in the morning, and driving all the way via Chowari I touched the hiking start point in Jot. I had booked a guide by requesting the hotel manager and he was ready to receive me by the time we reached there.

Lalu is a young man around 29 years of age and is a regular guide associated with many trekking agencies in Dalhousie. By 10 AM our footsteps were marching across the hills in Jot where few children were playing around, a group of boys had come to play in the snow. Soon we crossed the ecological park which the government is creating for tourists. They have plans to build cottages in this park. (Will the bricks and cement protect ecology?)

The snow was fresh and not many footsteps had marched on it. Though already cut path helped us and saved our time, else we had to make our own route in snow. Sun was shining bright and the snow crystals reflecting the light straight into our eyes. (Read about Snow blindness).

Sun wants me to go snowblind but my sunglasses wont let him do so.

Soft snow and footsteps
After an hour of trek, we met a few villagers carrying firewood on their backs. A bright sunny day is a perfect opportunity for every household to procure supplies before the storm again sets in and heavy snowfall was predicted in the next two days. Manimahesh Kailash was visible while the clouds tried to cover it. The pirpanjals and the peaks were not clearly visible as the dark clouds ruled in that region. However looking towards Kangra valley and Punjab, the mighty rivers of Beas and Ravi were flowing at their own pace while the sun rays spread across the valley. 

After a while, we came across a frozen pond which the shepherds had made for bathing their cattle. This pond was completely frozen to the core. There were few mud houses around. Sinve the shepherds cross the Dhauladhars in summers in search of grasslands so that they can graze their cattle. Further, before the winter sets in they are back to the Kangra valley. These are the temporary shelters they build which remain vacant during the winters.

Villagers enroute

Pirpanjal range hidden behind clouds

Frozen Pond
Walking in soft snow is an adventurous as well as challenging task at the same time. As the sun was shining bright, the snow was melting, unpacking the packed snow and it became difficult to walk. As a result, our speed decreased but the cool wind and splendid views kept me going.

Lalu was a great company to be with. He had interesting stories to share from his village, his past jobs at a hotel. He is ambitious and Wants to try new trails. He also mentioned about a trail from Jot to Dharamshala walking over the Dhauladhar ridge. This is a trail I always wanted to walk on. Hopefully, in future, I will tag him along for this trek.

It took 2.5 hours for us to finally reach the temple at Dain Kund and a sigh of relief kicked in me. By now it was almost one PM and my stomach was craving for a hot Maggie. There are few shops at Pholani Mata temple which serve some basic items and easy to cook food. Having maggie in cold weather sitting on a hill in the Himalayas is an integral part of any trek and I had to perform this ritual. 

Approaching the temple.

Pholani Mata Temple
We left the place in half an hour as I had to rush back early since I had to drive back home in the evening. The return journey was fairly easy as descending on a simple slope gets fairly easy. I could see the dark clouds rising above the ridges. It prompted me to skip my glissading plans over those smooth slopes and hurry back to the base. Taking a few water breaks, we finally made it up to the base in two hours. By this time the snow had become very soft and our speed is decreasing further down. The snow was melting and our knees digging down into some places.

There were some footsteps of black bear visible at some distance. These bears survive in this cold weather by eating the bark of trees that get damaged in the snow. The whole area has a dense population of black bear and very famous wildlife sanctuary nearby Kalatop inhibits most of them. 

We reached back by three pm and it was then I bid goodbye to Lalu. He had been a great companion throughout the journey.  I do plan to do this trek again in summers and if the trail (which was hidden under the snow) looks fairly smooth, there may be a possibility of an MTB ride on that ridge. MTB Downhill seems doable at least from Dainkund to Dalhousie which should be a thrilling story for the future.

Some other photos:

A slope worth glissading.

Huts of Shepherds.

Valley covered in snow.

Manimahesh peak viewpoint


Snow Accumulated

Dark Clouds Rising. Better be back to the base on time.


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