It was a beautiful morning that made me want to hike to some place but not too far, as I had a bus to catch that would take me back to Dehradun that evening. I ate a good breakfast, packed a small, light, day bag and set off to visit Sir George Everest House.
I had arrived in Mussoorie the day before. The previous day, I had hiked to Landour and back, which was around 5 & ½ km (one way). As I strolled on a beautiful path, ate at a cosy café, sipped coffee looking over the expansive rows of hills packed with pine and oak trees, it felt good to walk around and be at these places, and so instead of taking a cab to Everest House this day, I was all set to hike.
Everest House is located at a distance of approximately 8 km from the famous tourist town of Mussoorie and is a short drive away. A cab can be hired from the Gandhi Chowk at the end of the Mall road in Mussoorie to reach a place called Hathipaon, which is at the foot of the hill on which the building stands. I keyed in the location in maps and started my hike from end of the Mall road.
It was a pretty straightforward map, for most of time, till I was following the motorable road. At one point, however, the map suggested a shortcut, which meant leaving the motorable road and walking through pathway from within the tree-covered areas. I lost my way once, but did not realise it until I came across a group of kids playing. They asked me where I was going, and then they explained me in great detail about the correct path. I had to walk back a few meters and take a different route from that point. I thanked them and started walking back to find the track which would take me to George Everest House.
It was Autumn, the weather was good and so was the place. This track I was walking on was running almost parallel to the motorable road that I had quit some kilometers ago, only it was far inside and I couldn’t really see the road. I know this because I could hear the occasional vehicles passing by, but never seeing them. After a while I reached a cemented walkway that had moss-like growth on it in a few stretches. I slipped and fell once quite bad, and had to be extra-careful while walking the rest of this stretch. One big final descend later, I was at Hathipaon.
Some boys were playing cricket on an open ground nearby. I continued to walk further up. The road beyond Hathipaon is a bumpy and narrow dirt road, and must be very slippery in monsoon. Many tourists hire a bike from the Mussoorie town and ride all the way up to the top. Mussoorie is at around 2000m above sea level, and Everest House must be at another 500m or so, so it’s a fairly easy hike. I, however, did not see anyone else take up a mini hike while I was there. It took me about 1 hour to reach but I think it can be easily done in 30-40 minutes.
Sir George Everest House is perched on an edge of a cliff overlooking the picturesque Doon Valley. It is also known as ‘The Park Estate’. Everest House was a former home, observatory and laboratory of the Surveyor General of India, Sir George Everest, but sadly is in a very poor condition now. The building used to be an observatory to observe the mountains demarcating the boundaries of British India and measure the height of world’s greatest peaks. As a tribute to his work and contribution to the Great Trigonometric Survey of India, the world’s highest mountain, then known as peak XV, was later named as Mount Everest after Sir George Everest, though George Everest had no direct connection with the mountain that was named after him.
I was sad to see the building with such an interesting history is now just an abandoned, poorly-maintained and crumbling house. But the location itself, still holds a charm and draws many history buff and adventurers. It offers spectacular views of the snow-clad Himalayan peaks and panoramic views of the valley. If the weather is favourable, you can easily spend about an hour or two at the summit enjoying the stunning views. There was a thick fog/mist covering the whole place that cleared up, only for a few minutes though, to open a stunning vista of the mountains and valley. It was truly a magnificent sight. I couldn’t capture that as it lasted just for a few minutes.
Mussoorie is known for its amazing weather. April to June is a peak season to visit Mussoorie and nearby places including Everest House. Winter is also an ideal time to visit Mussoorie, especially for those who want to experience snowfall. Rainy seasons are best avoided as the place receives heavy rainfall and traveling around can get tricky.
The temperature is cooler by a few degrees in the Hathipaon and adjoining areas. It is advisable to visit the Everest House during the daylight, ideally between 10 AM – 6 PM, as the place and its surrounding area tends to get deserted after sunset.