Sandeep 's World >> Trekkalogs >> Roopkund Roopkund Trek - Photo Album


Lohjang - Didna - Ali & Bedini Bugyal - Pathar Nachuni - Bhagwabasa - Roopkund - Wan Trek in May 2015

  • Location: Chamoli district, Uttarakhand
  • Highest altitude: 4828m near Roopkund lake
  • Starting point: Lohjang village is about 8 hrs journey from Kathgodam, Nainital district, Uttarakhand
  • End point: Wan village, about half an hour by jeep, from Lohjang
  • How to get there: Trains and buses are available from Delhi to Kathgodam, which is the nearest train station. At Kathgodam, a taxi / jeep can be hired to Lohjang / Wan. Alternately, there are bus services from Delhi to Nainital, which is about 30kms from Kathgodam
  • Distance to base: Lohjang is about 180kms from Nainital and 200kms from Kathgodam. Wan is about 20kms further from Lohjang. Delhi to Kathgodam is about 280kms
  • Campsites: We started the trek from Lohjang and camped at Didna, Bedini Bugyal and Pathar Nachuni. Pathar Nachuni - Roopkund - Pathar Nachuni can be a stretch and Bhagwabasa is an optional camp in between. For people starting from Wan side, Gairoli Patal is an alternate camp before Bedini Bugyal
  • Altitude change and acclimatization: Kathgodam is at about 450m altitude and there is good altitude gain by the time we reach Lohjang / Wan (at about 2350m amd 2450m). Didna to Bedini Bugyal is from 2500m to 3500m in a single day, while Pathar Nachuni to Roopkund is 3900m to 4800m and back. During return, we descended from Pathar Nachuni to Wan (via Bedini Bugyal) in a day and reached Lohjang, late evening by road
  • Trek distance: 43.6kms
  • Trek difficulty: Day 1 (Lohjang to Didna) and 3 (Bedini Bugyal to Pathar Nachuni) were relatively easy, day 2 (Didna to Bedini Bugyal) and 5 (Pathar Nachuni to Wan) were moderate and day 4 (Pathar Nachuni to Roopkund and back) is the toughest

Ever since the Saurkundi Trek, I had wanted to do atleast one Himalaya trek every year. But, we had badly fallen short of that goal by a long distance. Apart from a beautiful trip covering Srinagar, Leh, Pangong and Tso Moriri, we had not managed to go back to those snow capped peaks. After seeing a few trek reports and albums from Vishwa[1], I was pretty much desperate to go and we (Preethu and me) registered with him for Roopkund. I tried to get Amit and Priya to join, but they could not, leaving us with a totally new gang (except Vishwa). Little did I know then, that this was going to be one of my best trekking experiences till date.
We booked our flights to and from Delhi, but was a little confused about the train timings beyond Delhi. Eventually, we chose to take an overnight bus from Delhi to Kathgodam and back, so that there was no need to book any accomodation. Landing at Delhi by noon, we spent most of the time at a coffee day, before taking a light dinner and boarding the bus to Kathgodam. When we spotted Abhishek and Bindiya at Bangalore airport (with a backpack and luggage in tow), it was very possible that they were going for a trek too. But, it could not be confirmed until we were at Kathgodam. Infact, we had a chance meet with Vishwa and some more of the trek gang at Delhi, as they were rushing to catch the train.
We caught up again with Vishwa, at a restaurant near the Kathgodam railway station. After breakfast at the same hotel, we had to wait a while before everybody joined and we started to Lohjang. Darshan, Ramya, Madhu, Raghav and the two of us were in the same jeep, with the rest of the gang taking up two more jeeps. We took the NH109, passing very close to Nainital town, through a few ghat sections and Almora, before stopping for lunch near Matela village, at a restaurant called Green Valley.
Gang at Nand Keshari bridge across Pindari river
First group pic at the bridge
Post lunch, we moved out of NH109, to take the road towards Kausani and Gwaldam. We stopped at a tea shop near Gwaldam, before entering the winding roads towards Lohjang. As we descended down towards the Pindar river, the river looked quite beautiful with its bluish water and we had to take a few breaks, including one at a scenic bridge across the river, near Nand Keshari. All three jeeps stopped here for our first group snap and we actually met the whole gang here - most of them knew each other before and registered together, with only some of us being outsiders. It was dark by the time we started again towards Dewal and then on to the winding roads leading us to Lohjang. We were all tired by the time we reached Lohjang - after taking some time to settle down at the dormitory, we had dinner served at one of the restaurants, before getting a good night's sleep.
View from Lohjang
View from Lohjang
Next day morning, as soon as the sunlight came out, it was time to look around and marvel at the magnificient views all around. Vishwa showed us the views of Mt Trisul and Nanda Ghunti, along with the approximate location of Roopkund lake - good enough to get a basic sense of direction. By 9.30, we were out of the dormitory, all packed up and ready to explore the mountains! The initial part of the trail was through a mule track, blocked at a few places due to land slide. Soon, the trail became smaller and the vegetation around us thicker - we were walking along the Neelganga river valley and crossed a few of its tributaries, carrying crystal clear water to the river.
Waterfall at Neelganga
Waterfall near Neelganga
There were some settlements on this valley and we passed by a few houses en route. By 12, we could see the river flowing down, with one of the bigger tributaries forming a beautiful water fall ahead of us. Didna village was visible on the other side of the valley and it looked like a good climb from the river valley. We crossed Neelganga on a metal bridge, before starting the ascend towards Didna through the forest cover. Soon, we were passing by grasslands and paddy fields leading us to our camp house at Didna.
Ramya, Darshan at Didna
One couple pic - Ramya & Darshan
Jumpie at Didna
1 ... 2 ... 3 ... jump ...
Chetan, Deepak, Avinash, Harish
Lets take a selfie - Chetan, Deepak, Avinash & Harish
Gang at Didna
Time for another group pic
The stay in Didna was lovely and that was also the first time all of us were together. The house we were staying had a lovely blue painting for the doors and windows and I got a few pictures with people - Bindiya to start with, followed by Varsha, Radhika, Harish and Preethu - poping out from the window frame. There was another house - built with granite rocks - nearby, which looked quite lovely against the greenery around it. We walked around the paddy fields enjoying the village vistas and taking a few group pictures, including a few 'jumpies' together. Back at the camp house, Puneeth and I realized that both of us kept long moustaches with handles and showed off with a few twirls!
Forest trail from Didna
Wild trail from Didna ...
Entering Ali Bugyal
Entering Ali Bugyal
We had an early start, by 7, next day as there was some distance to cover. During the initial part of the trail, we passed by a few streams and Vishwa reminded us to fill the water bottles as there were no water sources ahead of us for some time. Soon, we entered in to some forest cover and started gaining altitude at a good rate. Most of the youngsters kept up in the front, while a few of us - myself, Preethu, Darshan, Ramya, Hemanth and Radhika - fell behind. By about 10.30, we came out of the forest cover and I fell further behind shooting tiny flowers - yellow and purple - in the grass. As we climbed up further, we found ourselves in rolling grasslands - the Ali Bugyal, with the Mt Trisul and Nanda Gunthi peeking out right ahead of us.
Rolling meadows at Ali Bugyal
Endless grasslands ...
Preethu at Ali Bugyal
Preethu amongst roaring cotton clouds
By noon, we were on top of Ali Bugyal and walking along the grasslands, with majestic views of snow capped mountain ranges to our right. Nanda Ghunti was not visible at this point, but the Trisul and Mrigthuni peaks were. It was a beautiful stretch on these grasslands, with only gradual altitude variations, clear skies strewn with cotton clouds and breathtaking views all around. Preethu and me slowed down here and again fell behind the rest of the gang. It took us a while, before we started descending down from Ali Bugyal and got in to a mule track going around another small green mountain. By about 3, we could see Vinayakam sitting in a rock, socking in the views. The campsite at Bedini Bugyal was visible just ahead and we had to get down from the mule track - which was going further ahead - towards the tents.
Gang at Bedini Bugyal
Ready to get in to the tents ...
Sun at Bedini Bugyal
... but sun came out just in time
At Bedini Bugyal lake
Reflections at the Bedini Kund
Even with some mist and low hanging clouds blocking our view, some snow-capped mountains were visible ahead of us, along with a snow-strewn path leading to them. Soon, the weather turned cold, with a bit of a drizzle and most of us pulled out our warm clothings. The tents were already setup and we gathered around them for more group pics. The mist and the drizzle cleared in a while and the sun peeked out from behind a cloud, casting a golden hue around us, with its last few rays for the day. We had just enough time to go for a walk and to explore the views around us. Just ahead of the campsite was a lake (the Bedini Kund), which gave clear reflections of the mountain ranges. I also found many tiny purple flowers in the slopes just above the lake and wandered around examining them until it was dark and cold.
Next day morning we were greeted by the sun's rays peeking out of the snow covered hill ranges. By, 8, we were packed up and ready to leave. We walked towards the lake first and went around it, before climbing a bit to reach back the mule track. We were almost at the end of the grasslands and the slopes had small patches of snow all around. The trail was steep here and it took us almost an hour to reach the mule track. After a short break, we moved along the track, watching the snow patches grow in size and frequency. At some points, patches of snow covered the whole track and we had to find a way around. By 11, we were at a saddle crossing over to the other side of the mountain, with snow covering most of the slopes.
Madhu, Hemanth, Harish, Chetan
More 'jumpies' - Madhu, Hemanth, Harish & Chetan
This was the first time in the trip that we encountered this much of snow and a few 'groupies' and 'jumpies' followed. Everybody was busy throwing the snow around and posing for 'jumpies'. We first got one with Madhu, Hemanth, Harish & Chetan, followed by another for Radhika and Varsha, after which Hemanth wanted a solo. In between Preethu and me got some pics of ours as well. It was a fun break till about 12, when we were again on the mule track, which was gradually going down towards Pathar Nachuni. I took a while packing up the camera and lenses, making us fall behind every body else once more. As we started moving, Preethu said that she was not feeling so well. Looked like the high altitude was getting to her and she threw up a few times. We took a few breaks and moved very slowly as I knew that the next camp site was around the corner. It was almost 1, by the time we could spot a few tents on the mountain slopes. In a few more minutes we reached another mountain ridge and then in to the Pathar Nachuni campsite.
Preethu was not keeping well and wanted to take some rest - barely ate some lunch before that. I wandered around for some time shooting ... what else? purple flowers! ... before sitting down to listen to Dev Singh - our guide - about some of the mysteries and legends surrounding Roopkund. He started with the stories about how Pathar Nachuni got its name - the name literally translates to "Dancing Stones" in a reference to dancers who turned in to stone due to the wrath of goddess Nanda. He shared a few more legends like this, involving lord Shiva, goddess Parvati & lord Vinayak, which covered most of the places in our trail. He also mentioned about the mysterious skeletons found near Roopkund lake[2], apparently of a group of people who died there in 9th century, due to sudden hailstorms. There was another chat about the famous 'Keeda Jadi'[3] in these slopes, which has high medicinal value.
Preethu, Bindiya, Abhishek at Pathar Nachuni
Pitter patter ... snow flakes ... Preethu, Bindiya & Abhishek
It got colder and colder as the shadows grew in size, culminating in a snow fall. Preethu also came out by now and we all watched the snow pitter pattering the entire valley turning it white - even our tents were covered in snow! Even at 7.30, it was quite bright and the snow covered the landscape all around us. Post dinner, Vishwa explained the plan for the next day - we had to leave as early as 3, since the distance to cover was considerable. It was lights off by 10 so that everybody can wake up by 2 and get ready as soon as possible.
We did manage to get ready and started the trek earlier than 3. After an initial walk on the grasslands, the trail suddenly became steep and we slowed down drastically. Preethu, who was not feeling well already, found it tough to move forward. We had to take frequent breaks and fell behind the rest of the group. It was not a good situation as it was totally dark and in Preethu's own words "the lights were going away from us". We discussed going back as it would be impossible to make it to the top at this speed. Eventually, Preethu urged me to go ahead and we had one of the guides coming with us who promised to take her along as much as she can.
I had to now catch up with the rest of the gang, which I managed in a while, as the trail was steep and narrow and there were a few traffic jams ahead. We had to pass-by a few hair pin bends going through a rocky stretch, with boulders all around. By 5, we were at the Kalu Vinayak temple, with snow capped peaks all around us. As per legends, this is where lord Vinayak was standing guard while goddess Parvati was taking a bath in the Roopkund lake. With the daybreak just around the corner and mighty mountains and snow all around us, it was an awesome moment. I also caught a glimpse of Preethu coming up with the guide and was hoping she will make it till Kalu Vinayak.
Chaukhamba and Nilkantha from Kalu Vinayak
Peak spotting ... Chaukhamba & Nilkantha
After a while of soaking in the beautiful vistas, it was time to move on. The path ahead was fully covered in fresh snow, which was soft and easy to walk on. We could see a bit of red tinge in the mountain ranges indicating that the sun is about to come out. The Junargali Col, which forms the backdrop for the Roopkund lake, was very prominently visible from here, apart from Nanda Ghunti and Trisul peak. We were also able to see many more majestic peaks at a distance, incuding the Chaukhamba and Nilkantha. With the rising sun adding a red glow to those peaks, the views were breathtaking. By 6, we were at Bhagwabasa, which had a tea shed and a few yellow tents adding some colour to the otherwise white surroundings. The name Bhagwabasa means tiger's lair and the legends say that this is the place where tigers of goddess Parvati rested on their way to Kailas. It is a convenient last campsite for a Roopkund trek, especially during early winter, when the place is more rocky and less snow.
Group walking from Bhagwabasa to Roopkund
Can you see the trail?
We took a short break at Bhagwabasa and Vishwa once again explained about the time pressure and the need to keep moving, prompting a few more people to drop off. Soon, we formed a line, with Dev Singh leading the way, Puneeth right behind him and Vishwa making sure that nobody is trailing behind. A gradual ascend in the beginning, it quickly turned steep. It is now that the hiking sticks I had got from Decathlon became useful. With the fresh snow, we needed better grip and support than our shoes can provide. In reality, fresh snow is easier to walk on and provides some friction, while the footmarks would make it a little hard, icy and slippery. There was hardly any trail as fresh snow had covered everything, but, we did have the footsteps from the previous group for reference. A little higher up in the mountain, we were able to spot the previous group moving in a line towards Roopkund - in the direction of Trisul and Junargali Col to be precise - just making us realize how tiny we really are, when compared to the vastness of the nature.
Ascend from Bhagwabasa
One step at a time ...
In an hour, we reached a rocky patch in the mountain slopes, which had a few gaps in the snow cover, as well as a few dangerous cracks. The trail was a bit level here, but it did not last for long. Another steep stretch followed and I was soon panting for breath. I had only one water bottle with me and it was empty by now. That left me with the tempting option of trying out the snow flakes - I resisted for a while, but then, I started feeling thirstier by the minute and it did not look fair to ask others for water as every body was carrying only minimal supplies. Eventually, I gave up and grabbed a handful of fresh snow - off the foot marks and only the top layer! It felt almost like ice cream and melted in my mouth!
Roopkund lake
Roopkund lake
By 8.30, we were at another rocky patch and decided to take a short break. GPS was showing above 4660m and it meant that we climbed about 350m in the last 2.5hrs. It also meant that, we had about 150m more to reach the mystery lake. One final burst is all we needed to make it to the top - a few bites of dry fruits and an apple gave us that bit of energy. There was just one more steep stretch left and we managed to do that in the next half an hour. The trail flattened a bit after that, only to give us a final stretch of steep climb, taking us to a table land, with the Junargali Col on one side and slopes on all other sides. The slope just ahead of us hosted a small depression in the snow, forming a lake - the Roopkund!
Gang at Roopkund
We did it!
As per legends, the lake itself was created by lord Shiva with his trishul, when goddess Parvati felt like taking a bath. After the bath, when the goddess came out, she could see her clear beautiful reflection, resulting in the lake being named Roopkund. The lake is also known as the 'mystery' or 'skeleton' lake due to the many human skeletons found here post summer[2]. As of now, it was mostly frozen and covered by snow all around it. I was exhausted by then and the immediate plan of action was to sit down and munch on an apple! We had our share of celebrations and photo sessions soon after that. GPS showed 4828m at the highest point, but the lake was slightly down hill from the place we were. The Junargali Col dominated our views on one side - at an altitude of about 4980m, the top is approachable from Roopkund. Vishwa mentioned that he wanted to try the climb, which requires ropes and climbing equipments, but, we were not prepared for it this time. We had about an hours time for selfies, groupies and jumpies and get some rest as well, before we start our descend down.
Descend from Roopkund
Snow, clouds and the sun ...
By 10.30, we were on our way back and the descend felt a little more tougher than the ascend. The trail was getting slippery as the sun was higher up now and the top layer of snow had started melting. The progress was slow especially after everybody saw Harish slipping - he had to wait for Dev Singh to come down and help him to stand up again. I was confident for a while, but, near the first rocky patch, I had my share of slipping too. I was in a bit of a precarious situation, but managed to use my hiking stick to hold on - breaking it in the process! Without the stick, it was a bit scary as I kept slipping every now and then!
Tents at Bhagwabasa
Adding color to the snow ... tents at Bhagwabasa
By 12, we were at the second rocky patch and heading towards Bhagwabasa. I was with Vinayakam, who kept at a good pace and urged me to keep moving, even though I was totally exhausted. Every step had to be taken cautiously and there was not much energy left in the legs. Somehow, we dragged ourselves to Bhagwabasa by 1.30 and had to take a break. There was a shed at Bhagwabasa and some guys making omlettes and maggie, which felt like a boon. It was tough to even boil water at this temperature, let alone making maggie. As more people came in, it was tough for them to keep up with the rate at which people were making orders. We gobbled up whatever was available, before starting towards Kalu Vinayak by about 2.15.
In an hour, we were at Kalu Vinayak and trudging along the hair-pin bends towards Pathar Nachuni. With hardly any energy left, it was a long descent. Infact, it felt longer than the morning ascend, especially that the fun part was over. At about 4, I was done with the rocky, hair-pin stretches and then the trail became a straight descend. Slowly and steadily, I made progress, before eventually landing at Pathar Nachuni by about 4.40.
Preethu was anxiously waiting all this while and shared her side of the story. She had found it difficult to move ahead in the morning, until one of the guides held her hand and practically dragged her along. He gave her a piece of camphor to smell on and that according to her had given her the additional strength to continue. She did come up all the way to Kalu Vinayak and wanted to go ahead, but was strongly adviced against it. Eventually, after day break, she got back to the camp site on her own. After lunch and some rest, she was feeling much better, even though, it was disappointing to have not gone all the way.
Milky way at Pathar Nachuni
Milky way ...
Most of the evening was spent resting and chatting up about the amazing experience. After an early dinner, we were all back to our tents for a good night's sleep. I had other ideas though - the night was bright and clear, thereby giving me an option of sneeking out by about 2 and taking a few star trail pictures. The moon had just set by then and thanks to the high altitude and cleaner air, a zillion stars were shining in the sky - way more than a cityscape. Even the milky way was clearly visible, which is barely seen in Bangalore. The star trails came out a little hazy as there were a few lights showing up here and there. But, I did manage to get a decent shot of the milky way - taken in higher ISO settings.
Tents near Pathar Nachuni
Stay with a view ... tents near Pathar Nachuni
Deepak, Radhika near Pathar Nachuni
Soaking in the views ... Radhika & Deepak
Next day, we started by about 8.30. It was going to be a long day, as the plan was to reach Bedini Bugyal by noon and continue towards Wan village via Gairoli Patal. The views around us were still breathtaking, especially when combined with the clear blue skies and some puffy white clouds. I got some pictures as we said good bye to Pathar Nachuni - a few colorful tents pitched in a green valley, set against huge mountains. Also, when Deepak and Radhika stopped to soak in the views around us, I got a picture of theirs against the mountaneous backdrop. By 9.15, we were at the mountain saddle, where the path crosses over to the other side. On our way up, this was our first major snow point, but now on our way back, it was nothing more than a short break.
Dev Singh near Bedini Bugyal
Are there more people to come?
Preethu was back to her full stamina and moving enthusiastically in the front. I was with Avinash during this stretch, chatting up about photography and his orange madness - biking expeditions on an orange KTM Duke, along with Chetan. By 10, we were able to see the Bedini Kund and soon started descending towards Bedini Bugyal. We had a short break near the Bedini Kund, looking around at the green mountains and herds of sheep grazing on those mountains. By about 11, we were ready to head towards Gairoli Patal and Wan village. Instead of getting back to the mule track leading to Ali Bugyal, we turned westwards and took a trail through the forest. As we were entering the forest trail, I noticed Dev Singh perched up on a grassy slope, with Mt Trisul showing up just behind him. He looked quite impatient waiting for everybody and asked us to stop at Gairoli Patal!
The forest trail was quite steep - with a descend of about 350m for a 2km distance. We spotted a few Rhododendron trees in full bloom, before coming out of the forest in to the Gairoli Patal camp site by 12. Behind us, Mt Trisul was still jutting out of the pine trees, but the rest of snow peaks disappeared and were replaced by green mountains and pine forests all around. As we were taking a break at Gairoli Patal, a group of soldiers came up - on their way towards Roopkund. They had started from the Wan village in the morning and looked like they were planning to go all the way to Bhagwabasa, the same day. With their permission, we checked out their rugged backpacks and realized that they were very heavy - atleast 40kgs! Harish, specifically wanted to lift the backpack and see if he can carry it, which he did with some difficulty and was seen limping as he tried to move forward! These soldiers must be insanely fit to carry this kind of a huge backpack and trek this long in a single day on this steep trail.
White flower near Neelganga
Spotting the tiniest beauties ...
We said goodbye to the army team by 12.30 and soon realized that the trail is steeper from here! It was winding with a few hairpin bends and we almost lost about 550m altitude in the next 2kms. I did find something interesting though - many tiny flowers on both side of the trail, which made for interesting pictures. We were descending towards the Neelganga river - the same river we had crossed on our first day, to reach Didna. By 2, we were near the pristine waters of the Neelganga river and took a concrete bridge to cross over. After a half an hour break, we were back on the trail - this time ascending from the Neelganga valley towards the village. After an initial stretch through the forest, we soon came out in to an open area. On one side of our trail, the slopes had been converted to steps for cultivation.
By 4, we reached near a settlement, with a few shops and started spotting more and more people, wheat fields and houses. It looked like we were almost there - but then, the road head was still far away. It took us almost an hour more of walking - mostly because we were bored and tired - before we reached the Wan village. A few hi-fis and a short break waiting for the jeeps to arrive later, we were on our way back to Lohjang. The ghat road from Wan to Lohjang is only 20kms, but the journey took us about 1.5 hrs and we reached the Lohjang dormitory by 7. Ramya offered to prepare 'Chitranna' for everybody and the group was delighted at the proposal. It was amazing to see her get to kitchen so fast after such a strenuous trek! Anyway, a good filling dinner later, we settled down for a good night's sleep.
Most of the gang had planned for a rafting trip, which left only three of us - Pinal, Preethu and myself - who had to get back to Kathgodam, the next day. A jeep was arranged for us, while the rest of the gang was headed for Rishikesh. After saying goodbyes and exchanging contacts, we were soon on our way to Kathgodam, reaching there by evening. We took a room at Kathgodam to freshen up and had dinner, before Preethu and myself headed to the bus station to catch our bus to Delhi.
Amazing would be an understatement for the last few days. Beautiful vistas - from rivers and water falls to forests to grasslands and snow capped mountains, experiences - from hot and sunny to rain and snow fall, altitude changing from ~2350m to ~4830m, legends, adventure - Roopkund had it all! Thanks to Vishwa for taking us there and the rest of the gang for the wonderful memories we shared together.
Notes:
  1. Vishwanath runs an adventure organization called Summiters and I regularly go with him for treks.
  2. See an article @India Today about the Roopkund skeletons.
  3. See the article @WiKi about the Keeda Jadi.


© 2017 Sandeep Unnimadhavan