What was the inspiration behind your last trek? Was it something like – “reach the top, admire the serene beauty, camp under the star studded nights and pose like SRK with mountains behind for that photograph?”
Well! Let’s go beyond all of this, this time. Here is world, different from the world – when you are done admiring that beauty, camping and posing for photographs, take a trek to a summit of a mysterious lake that hid human and horse skeletons for centuries. A summit that holds together the mesmerising mountains, stunning serenity and some serious secrets. And for those who have not heard or, read about the challenging trek to Roopkund – the skeleton lake, here is…
….why Roopkund is known as the skeleton lake?
Back in 1942, the lake’s skeletons were discovered by a Nanda Devi ranger. 30 skeletons were retrieved by the Nat Geo’s team, along with spearheads, rings and slippers. The carbon dating suggests that these skeletons, at the bed of the lake, date back to 800 AD. One of the popular explanations through DNA matching suggests that a group of 200 pilgrims from Maharashtra to Nanda Devi Raj Jat(once every 12 years) became victim to an avalanche. Another popular history is about General Zorawar Singh of Kashmir, and his men — who are said to have lost their way and perished in the high Himalayas, on their return journey after the Battle of Tibet in 1841.
There are many stories, but in 2013 there was a buzz that the mystery of the human skeletons of Roopkund has been solved. We’ll come to that too, but coming back to the trek for now.
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Why should you do the Roopkund trek?
For the love of stunning Himalayas
A 360 degree view of the majestic snow clad peaks, unconditional serenity, and an infallible celebration of triumph – this climb up to the Roopkund lake is a journey of a lifetime. The entire experience will bring you back to yourself. The mountains will humble you down and the solitude will urge you to find inner peace.
For offline socialising and friends for real
Seldom do you find a free space – a space different from the world around you. At 16,ooo ft, in the lap of nature, you would find some fellow humans to socialise – not through Facebook. You will have lot of real life stories to exchange, experiences to share and talks to remember.
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…and those frames which will stay till immortality
These are some real vistas — some stunning frames to capture. Sky kissing peaks radiating bright whites of snow, sun peeping through the cloud kissing trees, stars dotting the sky to every centimeter and lush green meadows sprawling till the endless horizon – there is never enough of it. You will, we guarantee, come back with photos to boast and sell.
Let’s get you ready with some basics:
Where is Roopkund?
Roopkund is a glacial lake amidst the virgin forests of Nanda Devi National Park in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand. The lake sits at a height of 16, 500 ft. It is overlooked by the snow caped peaks of Nanda Ghunti and Trishul massif.
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How to reach Roopkund?
Kathgodam – Lohajung -Wan – Bedni Bugyal – Bhagwabusa – Roopkund
Kathgodam is the nearest railhead to the base camps for Roopkund trek. Lohajung, the last motorable place is 221 km from Kathgodam railway station. Buses ply from Kathgodam to Lohajung and take 14-15 hours. One can hire a private taxi at INR 4,500 from Kathgodam. If you are traveling by a car/taxi, you can also get to Wan Village – another base camp for Roopkund.
What is the difficulty level of the trek?
Moderate to High. However, it is certainly not among the ones which can be done without any prior trekking experience — probably why it is the third best trek into the Himalayas. It certainly needs an optimum physical fitness and stamina. Remember, we are talking about 16,500 feet above sea level — 3, 500 ft higher than the normal breathable air. Oxygen level depletes up to 50% of the normal and hence — altitude sickness is expected, prior acclimatization is required in addition to the zeal for scaling the highs.
What is the duration of the trek?
8 Days. The entire journey from and to Kathgodam Railway station takes eight days. Here is a tentative itinerary:
When is the best time go for Roopkund trekking?
Well there are two options – pre-monsoon and post monsoon.
The pre-monsoon months include the summers of May-June. The views, arguably, are better during this part of the year. The meadows of the valleys are greener, the famous lake is thawed enough for the skeletons to be seen. But you won’t spot much of snow, could be none actually.
The post monsoon months would be August-September. The meadows are on the browner side, the lake is frozen and there is snow –lot of it! If you are able to choose between the snow and the skeleton lake, you know your best time to do Roopkund.
And, before you start with the actual trekking, here are some important insights from someone who has already been to Roopkund.
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The two base camps, Lohajung and Wan Village
So, there are two possible base camps for Roopkund Trek — Lohajung Village and The Wan Village.
The trek from Lohajung is usually preferred because it goes through one of the most amazing visual retreats of the climb — Ali Bugyal. However, it adds up 14 km to the climb and hence more of exhaustion.
Wan Village is well connected by road from Lohajung and hence the last motorable point of the trek. Starting here reduces the trekking distance by 15 km and hence, saves a lot of energy.
Suggestion: Take the ascent from Wan Village and Lohajung trail for descent to have the best of both the worlds.
From the base Camp: Do you really need guides and porters for Roopkund Trek?
Porters – Mandatory. Guide — Hire one if you are not a pro in mountaineering.
Although, the trail has been marked for the convenience of any trekker, snow laden trails make it tough to locate and chose the path. In such a scenario, having a guide beside you comes in handy. With height, as the air gets thinner, even that ‘superlight’ rucksack on your back would pull you down. The porters not only help with the luggage but also with food supplies.
Both guides (at INR 500 per day)and porters (at INR 300 per day) can be found and hired from either of the base camps – Lohajung or Wan.
Night halts and sites for camping in Roopkund
Being a weeklong expedition full of natural marvels, Roopkund trek needs plenty of rest and admiration. The entire trail has a total of 5 camping sites. Bedni Bugyal, Didna Village, Bhagwabasa and Patthar Nachani are the famous camping sites.
Permits Required for Roopkund Trekking
So the entire trail is maintained and preserved by the forest department. You are required to present a permit for trekking and camping at several checkpoints along the trail. The permit can be obtained from the Office of Forest Officer at Lohajung. The process is very quick if you are carrying the required documents:
- a passport size photograph
- address proof
- fitness certificate, and
- a self assertion of voluntary participation in the trek
|Permit||Charge (per night, per camping site, amount in INR)|
|Tent pitching at the camp site||100|
|Trek permit(per person, full trek)||60|
|Permit for Guide entry||20|
|Permit for Mule entry||25|
|Waste recycling charges||10|
|Environment protection charge||20|
|Fiber Hut rent (up to 7-8 accommodations)||200|
Things you must pack
Take all the accessories that you need. Buy gumboots as the normal hiking shoes aren’t enough. They prevent the feet from frostbite, don’t get wet easily, and cost INR 400. Extra pair of socks, waterproof gloves, body warmers, flask bottles, exothermic pouches, trekking rods, and couple of sleeping bags are some of the most basic things.
Medical and Emergency Kits
Carry a first aid kit: Always remember, you are going to climb the half of Everest – good 4,000 metres. The conditions are exxtreme, always unpredictable and unbearable at times. Although the guides, usually, carry a full fledged first aid kit, do carry one with yourself.
Ensure medical fitness: Get acquainted with AMS – acute mountain sickness, and get yourself examined by your family doctor before you leave – remember the medical fitness certificate for permit?
Keep emergency contacts in a notepad: Apart from family and friends, keep the helpline numbers as they are useful in times of crisis.
|Uttarakhand Helpline||0135 – 2710335/2710334|
|Chamoli Control Room||01372-251437/251077, 09411352136|
|Army Control Room||0135 – 2716201/ 2710925|
|Army Medical Emergency||18001805558,18004190282|
|Flood Information||01372-251437, 09411352136|
Enough of preparation. Let’s take you through the beauties of the Roopkund Trek
Roopkund Lake – Riddle of the skeletons
So, the mystery lake — at the top. The lake, as is famous, contains remains and skeletons of humans and animals(horses) from the Palaeolithic years of human origin. In the lap of stunning Himalayas, this lake is overlooked by glaciers dotted by rocks, and bones.
Nanda Ghunti, Kali Dak and Trishul — these peaks start showing up in the solitude of abandoned stone huts at Bhagwabasa. The entire trail of Bhagwabasa is dotted by stones and blocks of stones. The huts, until very late, used to be rented to the trekkers. The place is astonishingly beautiful and splendidly serene with a blanket of clouds.
At 11,154 ft, Ali Bugyal is a luxury to any eye. Oaks, rhododendrons, birches and small shrubs cover the mountain floors and make it look like a cozy, comfortable, green bed of grass. With the Mrigthuni and Trishul peaks in the background, any frame of this highland meadow comes out as a perfect postcard photo from Arabian dreams. Cattles and horses grazing around are added elements.
The last bit of preparations before you drop at Kathgodam
- If you happen to be a photography enthusiast, carry extra batteries, enough of digital storage and a tripod to capture the long exposure shots of beautiful night skies.
- Do carry a wind cheater jacket, but do not use it while you are hiking. Use it only while you are camping.
- Walk at your natural pace. Do not overstress.
- While acclimatizing, drink enough water – almost four times the normal; keep yourself hydrated.
- Make sure your rucksack or any luggage bag is waterproof.
- Do not undermine anything that the guide suggests. Keep this in mind — he knows the region better than anyone of you.
- Carry comfortable shoes – a little loose than what you wear while running. Wear double layer socks.
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