At 3342 metres, Shikari Mata is a roofless temple, dedicated to a hunting goddess. Legend has it, hunters used to worship the Goddess on the mountain for success in their hunt.
The temple is connected to Janjehli town in Himachal Pradesh with an 18-kilometre fair weather road. In winters, this fair-weather road is closed just after Janjehli due to heavy snow drifts. The trek from Janjehli to Shikari Mata along this closed road is a difficult yet exhilarating trek. The trek is difficult because of the large distance to be covered in one day and some avalanche-prone sections. Yet for its difficulty this trek offers beautiful views, the lack of need for navigation, solitude and an unparalleled sense of accomplishment. If you are contemplating a challenging winter trek, we recommend you try this trek to get your snow-craft and winter gear sorted.
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You do realise, you have just one day to complete this trek.
warned my resident weather expert over the telephone. I had reached Janjehli late this evening and I was contemplating camping at Shikari Mata temple the next day. But the weather, had other plans. This year’s winter has been severe in Himachal Pradesh and the Himachal Meteorological Department has set a dire heavy snowfall warning for Janjehli starting the day after tomorrow. This weather forecast means that I have to complete a 28-kilometre trek, that the villagers assured me cannot not be walked, in one day. In the evening I sit pondering over this dilemma as I compulsively recheck my gear. I decide to throw out the heavy camping gear and to use only my daypack for a quick almost alpine-style ascent. As an added security measure, I’ve set an alarm on my watch for 2 pm, the turnaround time. It doesn’t matter whether I am a few feet or a few kilometres away from the temple; at 2 pm I will turn around and start walking back.
It’s 5 AM and I wake up in the back of my Maruti Gypsy. The first crank fails me as it has been a cold night. The old girl starts up at the second crank and I start driving up from Janjehli. Soon despite its low-range gearbox and a four-wheel-drive the Gypsy is struggling for traction through a foot high snowdrift. At this point, I decide to climb into my rubber shod snowshoes and start walking the snow-covered track that once was Janjehli–Shikari Mata road. Through forest and ridge, over fresh and untracked snow I make slow yet steady progress. Trail snacks and warm tea fuel this steady ascent and I reach the temple at 1 PM, an hour before my scheduled turnaround time.
For the next hour I enjoy the panoramic view from a roofless temple situated on a snow-covered ridge. A quick lunch, a pair of fresh socks and some photographs later I am descending as fast as I can, chased by some ominous looking clouds in the horizon. I had hoped to meet some locals along the way but incredulously there’s not one person to be seen, to or fro from the temple. At 5:30 PM as the sun sinks behind cloud-covered mountains, I am back at my Gypsy. It is only then it sinks in, that I have covered 28 kilometres in just under 11 hours. A self-congratulatory cheer and a short drive later, I am back in Janjehli resting at the only open dhaba in town. At the dhaba, I am mobbed by villagers who refuse to believe that I had made it to the temple. I am forced to hand over my phone so they can gaze at the photographs while I finish my rajmah-chawal in peace. At this point, their incredulity turns into admiration and the dhaba owner declares that my sumptuous dinner is on the house. The next morning when I wake up the Gypsy is under a couple of inches of snow and fresh snow flakes are still falling. It turns out the Himachal Meteorological Department was right after all.
Shikari Mata temple situated at an elevation of 3342 meters is 18 kilometres from Janjehli (2093 metres). Janjehli is a small town and the last point on the Shikari Mata trail that offers boarding and lodging in winters. A fair-weather road, connects Shikari Mata temple with Janjehli. In winters, this fair-weather road is closed four or five kilometres from Janjehli due to heavy snow drifts. If you intend to complete this trek in one day, rent a jeep or a four-wheel drive to get you as farther along the road as possible. However, If you choose to camp overnight at the temple, do remember it gets pretty darn cold in winters. Pick the right clothes and sleeping gear rated for minus 10 or below.
The road to Shikari Mata temple starts from the “Y” junction just after Janjehli market. It is an easy walk for the first few kilometres. The climb is gradual and a few hamlets dot the roadside. The snow and ice starts to build up as you travel farther along this road. A serene mountain stream flows next to a snow-covered meadow, dubbed as Janjehli Camping Ground. This serene spot along the stream is an excellent place to take a break and refill water for the rest of the journey. This is the last potable water point on this trek, after this you shall have to melt snow to get drinking water.
After crossing the stream you shall be trekking through shin-deep snow at least, therefore a good pair of snow boots and extra socks are essential. The next waypoint along this route is a bifurcation, two kilometres from the mountain stream, with a signpost that says “Shikari Matta 6 Km” (sic).
Follow the trail to your right, from the bifurcation. This trail ascends through a dense forest. Some gaps between these snow-covered trees offer beautiful views over the snow-clad northern mountain ranges. The road hugs the ridge on the windward side of the mountain. In these last 6 kilometres, there are three sections where precarious snow drifts hang over the road. These sections may be avalanche prone and thus it is important to assess the snow before plunging ahead.
After you have navigated the third avalanche-prone section, you will come across a signpost and a staircase. A few hundred concrete stairs climb up the ridge, to the temple. However, these stairs are covered with knee-deep snow and treacherous ice. Be careful, as this is the most gruelling ascent and the most precarious descent for this trek.
The elevation of Shikari Mata temple is not 2850 metres, as claimed by several websites. The correct elevation is 3342 meters, measured with a Garmin Etrex 20 GPS and an iPhone.
- Type - Day Trek. Difficult (in winter snow).
- Difficulty - Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) Scale - T3
- DURATION - 7 hour ascent and 5 hour descent from Janjehli.
- Trekking Duration - 18 kilometres one way from Janjehli
- Maximum Elevation - 3342 metres
- Start & Finish - Janjehli (H.P.).
- Getting to Janjehli - Janjehli is well connected with Mandi (H.P.) by bus and taxi. Taxis can be hired from Mandi / Ner Chowk and Thunag for Janjehli. A daily bus also connects Janjehli with Delhi.
- Hotel and Stay at Janjehli - Budget hotels, trekking lodge and guest houses are available in Janjehli. There are two rest houses, one maintained by the PWD and the other by the local village panchayat (see GPS logs for location). At Shikari Mata temple there are prefabricated sheds. They are left open in winters and can be used for shelter. However, do carry your sleeping bags and mattress.
- Weather - Days are pleasant, however nights are very cold with temperature dipping below -10 degrees Celsius at the temple.
- Caution – This is not a trek for beginners, especially after a heavy snowfall. The route contains some sections that are avalanche prone. The nearest water point is 8 kilometres from the destination i.e. Shikari Mata temple.