The Nanda Devi range at sunset, as seen from Mukteshwar
Mukteshwar, a forest ensconced hilltop hamlet named after a Shiva temple, offers some of the most exhilarating mountain views in India. All eyes here invariably veer towards a crest of seven thousanders, with the Trisul and Nanda Devi massiffs taking centre-stage. Both are venerated locally – the former (main peak is 2nd from left) is a triple peaked massiff that takes its name from Shiva’s trident, while the latter (3rd from right) is worshipped as the ‘bliss giving’ patron goddess of the region. Both also hold a special place in the history of mountaineering. Trisul, the tenth highest peak in India, was the first seven thousander to be climbed, back in 1907. Nanda Devi, 2nd highest in India and 23rd highest on the planet, was believed to be the tallest mountain on earth till 1808, and remained the highest climbed mountain in the world till 1950. Today, both form part of the fragile and UNESCO listed Nanda Devi Sanctuary, a reserve that has been closed to general climbers and trekkers for over thirty years. Locals continue to venerate these mountains from a distance, while visitors remain awed by their mystical magnificence.