Roopkund Trek, though it doesn’t come anywhere near some of the tallest peaks in this region of Uttarakhand, gave us a glimpse of a fit the mountains can throw unsuspectingly on its hikers. From the 15th-21st of September, 2012, the journey to this infamous lake spread with the bones of 500 people, had begun.
Roopkund Trek Log Day 1 – 15th September: Enroute to base camp, Lohajung, Uttarakhand (2530m)
The day begins at 5 am. By the time we eat breakfast, it is 7 am and within the next half an hour, our trek to Roopkund begins.
People were told to leave all their necessary items from their backpack behind to avoid being weighed down. Some others chose to give away their bags to the mules (Mule charges are Rs.150/- a day for 2 bags). When we began, we could see the clouds up-close, in fact, we were literally walking through them. We took the road route to a certain point. This route was filled with stones and pebbles. The Himalayan mountain tops in the distance were a majestic sight.
We passed several streams, refilled our bottles until the point where we began ascending. The climb was so tedious that everyone of us were longing to set foot on straight land. Eventually, after a nearly 6 hour trek, covering a distance of 9 kms, we reached Didina where we were accommodated in one of the cottages. Since we reached by 1pm, we had the rest of the day to spare and decided to engage in a game of cricket. What a joy that was !
By 9 pm everyone ate dinner and went to bed.
Journal entry: The day was delightful.
Roopkund Trek Log Day 3 – 17th September: Enroute to Bedni Bugyal (3354m)
After waking up at 6 am, the routine of chai and breakfast followed.
We started by 8:15 am and it was only going to be a climb for the next 4-5 hours. We made our way through stoney terrain, through a beautiful forest patch, which was so gruesome a climb but ultimately, the point when we reached Ali Bugyal was all worthwhile.
Ali Bugyal was a magical sight of open green pastures, surrounding mountains and the clouds. After we were served a light nutritious snack at by 1pm, it started to rain.
Putting on our rain wear, we then proceeded to trek for the next 2-3 hours to reach Bedni Bugyal. When we reached Bedni Bugyal, there were several tents pitched for us, including one bunker like structure. The rainfall got heavier and our enjoyment of completing the trek for the day was dampened by the muck and wetness.
By 9 pm, we all snuggled into our sleeping bags, inside the tent; 3 in 1.
Journal entry: Witnessed the convergence of the dark clouds overhead when we reached a height of 10,000 feet at Bedni Bugyal, the largest meadow in Asia. Rain did start trickling down in the night, lowering temperatures to a bone chilling level.
Roopkund Trek Log Day 4 – 18th September: Bedni Bugyal to Bhagwabasa (4375m)
Today was the day we realize the wrath of fury of the mountains. Three participants returned back this day due to inability to cope with the physical strain of the trek.
Amidst slight rainfall we begin our trek by 8:30 am. We passed by a Hindu temple known as Bedni Kund which was believed to have been the place where Lord Shiva and Parvati married. Further down in the trek, when all was calm, the sky burst open. Rain and wind lashed our bodies. We were gripped with an intense chill. Temperatures dropped by 8-10 degrees within minutes. Caught in the middle, the only option was to move on with all the might everyone had.
We reached a shelter at a point called Pather Nachauni. Everybody, all wet and freezing began questioning their ability to go further with the relentless rain. After our trek leader reached, he informed us about the weather not improving and that those who could go on, could and those who couldn’t or didn’t want to, could return.
It was so cold even inside a small room filled with 27 people that smoking became a resort to keep our bodies warm. Our teeth were chattering. We couldn’t move because the chill had ruptured our strength. It suddenly became a matter of testing our fate or safely returning back. We were even warned of sudden breathlessness and strike by lightning at that height.
As much as everyone wanted to complete the trek, 9 from 20 participants decided to head back. Eleven moved on.
The two sets went their opposite ways by 3:30 pm. The group that returned had a fairly peaceful return back, which by when, the rainfall reduced in its intensity.
The other group reached Bhagwabasa by latest 7 pm. Still fighting the cold, the group had no choice but to take their clothes off inside the enclosed shelter and leave them for drying. After dinner sad news reached this lot that the sleeping bags carried for them had been all drenched. The group was helpless and had to snuck themselves into the wet bag and go off to sleep.
On top of that, it began to snow.
Journal entry: At 13,000 feet the sky burst open to a death-riddled extent. Walking became a test of life.
Roopkund Trek Log Day 5 – 19th September: The Return at Bedni Bugyal
The day when the sun hit our sore heads. It was a joyful sight to see a clear blue sky over head.
The nine who had returned back to Bedni the previous day enjoyed the day with a lot of games played out in the open over dry ground. Most of the day did go into drying off the wet clothes. It felt wonderful to see the water evaporate turning the colour of each one’s clothes brighter to its original ones. We even became friendly with a Spanish man and Austrian woman who had come trekking to Roopkund by themselves and pitched a tent right next to ours.
The other end, what was supposed to be a trek starting at 5 am, from Bhagwabasa to Roopkund, began at only 8 pm. Everyone was unable to wake up after the previous day’s chill of a thrill. This day was just what they had hoped for. A treacherous climb awaited them. A short distance of even barely 200 feet had taken over 45 minutes. The place near Skeleton Lake was laden with snow almost 2 feet deep. Everyone finally made it to Roopkund, the Skeleton Lake. This group then made their way back to Bedni Bugyal from here on at about 12.30 pm. They reached Bedni Bugyal at 7 pm.
Journal entry: To a phenomenal surprise, the sky bloomed in the sunlight. Yet, the safe arrival of the remaining 10 always lurked. It was in the evening at 7 pm, that the fanfare began when the rest of the 10 returned, safe and sound. A bonfire ensued and stories about their journey all the way was shared. Our last night at Bedni, the stars looked even more beautiful and majestic.
Roopkund Trek Log Day 6 – 20th September: The return back to Lohajung
Everyone was fine, the weather stayed as good as it did the previous day and by 9 am, everyone made their way downwards to Wan.
Wan was little village a 3-4 hour trek away through a dense forest and the very famous Neel Ganga river. From Wan, there was a pickup arranged for that helped us get to Lohajung within the next one hour. And finally we were all back.
On that day, the Nanda Devi Raj Jat festivals, one of the most well known festivals throughout the world, was being celebrated. It happens once every 12 years.
You can read more about his interest in treks at http://quirkyrebel.blogspot.in/ and on twitter @quirkyrebel