They say Himalayas are Heaven on Earth. To a reader that could merely be a statement. To a mountaineer, it is a moment that defines them: our trekking adventure at Roopkund will remain enshrined in our memories forever, the beauty of the Himalayas captured without a fleeting thought.
Day - 0
Having reached Lohajung after a long, grueling drive on a muddy road, the journey soothed only by view of beautiful pine trees that hugged the landscape, we were briefed about our trekking schedule and rules to be followed by our trekking organizers. They had promptly organized for both the accommodation and food on our arrival day. The rooms provided were really spacious and cozy. The food was delicious and it remained so throughout the trip. To ease our pain, the trekking organizers were gracious enough to arrange for a mule and trekking poles, both of which were had not explicitly requested when we had booked for the Himalayan adventure!!
Day - 1
The next day we started our journey at 8.00 AM from Lohajung. This was the easy part of the Roopkund trek up to the point where we reached the famous Neel Ganga River. After crossing the river, the climb to our first camping point at Didna (2600m) began. The might of the Himalayas stood glaring at our face as we were greeted with a steep ascent to Didna. We huffed and puffed and deliberated throughout this steep climb. Thankfully, the ascent was for only about two hours, after which we arrived at Didna. After pitching the tents and having lunch, we explored the places in and around the area, played with the guide’s kid (which was rather fun) and gathered some firewood for campfire later in the night. By nightfall, the trek organizers had started the campfire and we spent a good couple of hours singing songs into the night skies.
Day - 2
We formed our own small subgroups so that we could redistribute our entire luggage and unload unimportant materials on to the mule. As we began our trek at 8.00 AM the next day, we realized that Didna was our last brush with human-inhabited area for the days to come. It was a moderately difficult ascent this day, through a dense forest of oak trees for about five hours, and quite dramatically we ended up at the grasslands of Ali Bugyal (3300 m). A grand reception from nature awaited us here in the form of an unending green carpet studded with small yellow and purple flowers.
While having lunch at this place, the weather suddenly seemed pleasantly windy and changed for better as we continued onwards to Bedni Bugyal, which was our camping point for the second day. The trek to Bedni Bugyal from Ali Bugyal was an easy one as the path was almost flat throughout. The tents were already pitched by the organizers and we also found camps of other trekking groups pitched in the area.
We were forced to go into our tents due to a sudden downpour, despite which each of us were individually offered soup inside our tents by our trek organizers. It was evening by the time rain subsided and we were surprised to find a military camp in the area too.
It seems like the selfie addiction had caught up with us, as we spent the evening doing only that. The temperatures dropped by nightfall and we were forced to use sleeping bags for the first time during the trek. Nevertheless we had a comfortable sleep, thanks to the excellent sleeping bags provided by the trekking organizers.
Day - 3
We started at 8.00 AM again the next day. We were told the trekking would be easy as we would be trekking on a relatively flat terrain and also for only about 5 Km. What we weren’t told was, this would be the day we would be lifted off our feet as we come to see the uninhibited beauty of the Himalayas.
After trekking for about a couple of hours from Bedni Bugyal, we reached Ghora Lotani. This place will perhaps remain treasured as possibly the most scenic place in our entire lives. We could see the snow-clad peaks of Trishul, Nanda Gunti and Neelkant Parvath. We spent a good hour only taking photos of the area, not to mention all the silly photobombing and weird poses that all of us were involved in many of the photos. The entire “photosession” was so hilarious that even the guides joined in to pose for a couple of them.
We continued onwards and reached Pathar Nauchani by around 12.30 PM. Again we were greeted with already pitched tents and waiting-to-be-served lunch. We were instructed to sleep early as we would we starting a long and tough trek the next day to the top. We were told to leave to 3.00 AM the next day. We spent the rest of the day carefully checking if we have all the necessary items for the next day. It would be the first time in the trek that we would be trekking in the snow.
Day - 4
Everyone got ready the next day both apprehensive and determined at the same time. We started a steep ascent towards Bagubasa at 3.30 AM. It was pitch dark and the steep slopes made many of us really nervous. One wrong step and it would have been all over.
On route to Bagubasa, we reached Kalu Vinayak temple at around 6.00 AM. Trekking in the tough snow patches were about to begin now and our guide prayed for a safe ascent from here onwards to Roopkund. It is noteworthy to point out that it was here the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas, one that everyone would have seen in pictures and movies and what-not, was staring at our face in front of us.
It was a breathtaking sight: one that will probably be one of my fondest memories ever. It was luckily one of those rare days where the peaks of the nearby mountains were clearly visible in the evanescent rays of the dawn. The peaks of Neelkhanth Parvat, Nanda Gunti and Trishul were basked in the early morning sunshine.
When we started a slight descent toward Bagubasa, we could see footprints left by previous trekkers. It was a good sign that indicated the weather had been good in recent times. The descent was quite easy. Nevertheless it was thrilling as it was the first time trekking in snow for most of us. We reached Bagubasa at around 8.15 AM and found a campsite in the snow.
Pausing for just ten minutes, we were made to leave the campsite due to fears of melting snow later in the afternoon. The route onward was indiscernible. Our trek organizers made their own path to help us all!! Soon we saw a group making their way up in the snow towards the summit. They literally looked like a bunch of miniature stick figures, hardly visible with the big white snow background.
The path soon became steep and difficult. The twisting and climbing trail to the top had in many places almost disappeared, and was completely covered with snow. The sun shone brightly and the ankle-deep snow made our feet numb. We made our way up laboriously, halting every ten minutes to recompose ourselves. Many of us, bent nearly double, toiled along behind our trek organizers, but it was plain that we could go only a little further. We had trudged along this steep path for what seemed like eternity. After a while we saw a trekking group descending in the distance and we were very pleased to find out the top was nearby. This fact energized most of us. We battled our way to the top and finally we reached with a big sigh of relief.
They say any man’s finest hour is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the battlefield- victorious. Perhaps we understood a little of that statement as we reached the top, completely breathless and dizzy. What was waiting for us will be one of those moments we will never forget.
The pristine Roopkund lake was clearly visible, a small clear lake in the shallow ravine of Mount Trishul, the entire lake frozen and covered partially in the snow. We descended down the ravine and sought a resting-place to let the moment sink in. We had not come very far down from the top, and yet even the descent was very dangerous and many opted to stay at the top. Our trek organizers cautioned us not to go too far down and we sat at a distance quite unable to make out any form of broken bones and skulls that had made this place popular.
It was 9.30 AM when we reached the top, and it was of course time for another photosession. We took a group picture that included the trek organizers and after exploring the area for a while, we started our descent towards Bagubasa.
This was probably the most fun part of the trek. Unlike other trek groups, we were allowed to slide on the snow during our descent. Of course care was taken to see that it was done safely and we were allowed to slide a good 100 m about three times before reaching Bagubasa.
After a brief halt for about 10 minutes at Bagubasa we started our descent to Pathar Nauchani. This was a no-contest with nature, as all of us made our way back by 3.30 PM.
Day - 5
The descent back to Lohajung via Wan was an easy one as we finished it in about six hours after starting at 9.00 AM. After reaching Wan, we thanked the trek organizers for providing us a wonderful trekking experience, exchanged pleasantries and bid goodbye. There were two jeeps arranged for us from Wan to Lohajung and we reached our starting point at around 5.00 PM.
To summarize, the highlight of our trip was not the lake shrouded in mystery, but rather the journey we had to undertake to the top. From taking selfies to nearly collapsing in exhaustion, the ‘adventure’ trek we were promised lived up to our expectations. Full kudos to the Summiters Adventures group for the facilities and expertise provided. Especially commendable was the fact that they kept our safety as priority, while making it a fun trekking experience with delicious food. The trekking group had also organized rafting for us apart from sightseeing in Nainital. So it was not only fun, but we got a much better deal than any of other Himalayan trekking organizers in India for the same cost.
- Anoop Raghav