Roopkund Junargali Trek – 16200ft Adventure

This post was originally published on ‘Live the Present‘.

I was not yet over with the SAR Pass trek hangover and I planned for another Himalayan trek same year, an autumn high altitude trek into wilderness. I had heard and read about this place and couple of my trek-buddies had completed it same year in May-June and there was not much thinking over it, Dates decided- 28th Sept to 5th Oct batch. I, Aadi (Aditya) and Vinu (Vinayak) from Pune signed up for IndiaHikes trek event 3 months in advance.

Thanks for my previous trek, this time I didn’t have to prepare much on my backpacking except for getting a trekking pole (this was made mandatory by indiahikes. I hardly remember using it much on this trek also am not that comfortable using it) and helping my buddies complete their checklist since it was their first Himalayan trek and am glad my experience helped in making most of the things easy and there were no last minute panicking or worries.It is important to travel light, pack things in your bag in a way that makes it compact and easily accessible.

Research or talk to people and decide on the checklist. Google around, you will find help. Few listed below that I recommend;

  •  It is all about layers.  On summit days you’ll often need to pile on everything you have to get to the top and take them offlayer by layer as you descend.
  • Medicines for most of ailments. You cannot rely on others for the same, better to carry the ones you use in case you need them. I was never on Diamox and it was doable for me, but it’s a personal choice and I cant suggest on the same.
  • Hat and Sun protection – As you ascend higher, the sun is scorching bright and its reflection with the snow makes it deadly and you can’t afford it.
  • Snacks and munchies – Eating them at intervals helps boosting your strength.
  • Drink loads of water – I have been a follower of this and realized its importance more during treks. Keep your body hydrated always, a natural energy booster and also helps in keeping away AMS.
  • Camera
  • Fitness – High altitude trek requires you to be physically and mentally fit. Remember you need to ascend a minimum of 10kms per day with your 10-15kgs bagpack in weather conditions that change drastically without any warnings. Follow this link to achieve that level of fitness.I used to and still continue to run daily 5kms for 30-35 mins, do breathing exercises and have healthy food regularly which is not difficult I believe if you start doing it.

About Roopkund and Trek Itinerary :

Roopkund Junargali Trek
Roopkund Junargali Trek

Roopkund is a high altitude lake at 15600ft situated at the base of massive Trishul peak which is called as Skeleton lake as hundreds of human skeletons are found at the bottom of the lake. This lake has a history and interesting stories associated with it and it is believed that the skeletons are of a pilgrimage group which perished here centuries ago in a storm with large hailstones.On this trek one can experience the views of massive Trishul and Nanda Gunti peaks along with delight of walking on India’s highest and beautiful meadows of Ali Bugyal and Bedni Bugyal.

 Roopkund Trek Map
Roopkund Trek Map

Route Taken: Lohajung -> Didina village -> Bedni bugyal ->Patar Nachauni ->Baghwabasa -> Roopkund ->Junargali (optional and conditional)

Delhi to Kathgodam:This batch was a group of 29 members and we had a whatsapp group created for the same a week ahead by Chintan from Mumbai. Helped us co-ordinate with each other and know us better before the trek started.We reached Delhi on 27th Oct and we were all boarding the train to kathgodam at 10pm. Nupur (from Delhi) and Sanoj(from kerala) both had enrolled in individually and had no friends along coming for this trek. We met them in the train and got along well, so it was a group of 5 now. We spoke about ourselves, our trek experiences, places we been to and about roopkund and that got us bonded really well. Nupur was the only one who had never trekked before and dared to come for a Himalayan trek directly, kudos to the girl!

28th Oct – Day 1: Kathgodam to Lohajung Base Camp

Alarms rang and we all quickly freshened up and fianlly offloaded ourselves at Kathgodam by 5.30am and there we met the Jain-Gujarati group at the station. It was group of 6 –Kalyani, Chintan, Pratik, Bhavik, Harsh and Apurv from Mumbai. We introduced each other and had some beverages at the station.IndiaHikes (IH) had arranged for our transportation from Kathgodam to Lohajung. By 7am, we got our Jeep and our journey started on the zig-zag roads to lohajung. This was going to be 8-9hrs long journey with breakfast and lunch breaks on our way.

Pic: The jeep we boarded and on right is our driver
Pic: The jeep we boarded and on right is our driver

The curves are so steep that, one mistake can get you down in the valleys but they drive confidently which is admirable!Please be aware of your motion sickness and take medicines if it helps. I could feel my head spinning too due to the drive and also because I was seated at the back seat, but I have a way to avoid motion sickness -close my eyes and sleep off or start listening to music. It has worked every time for me.Lohajung is a small village situated on a hill and enroute we crossed many picturesque views of valleys and river streams where we took breaks to refresh and capture the views in our cameras.

Pic : Funtime on the way
Pic : Funtime on the way

It was around 6pm when we reached the base camp and reported ourselves. Day ended with good relishing dinner and it was time for group introduction and to know our trek leaders.Our batch was a group of 29 trekkers (10- Chennai group, 8-Morgan Stanley group, 6-Gujju group, and the remaining 5 of us) lead by Neeraj and Wasim as our Trek leaders accompanied by local guides Chandarji  and Veeruji

29th Oct- Day 2: Lohajung to Didina :

There are two approaches to Bedni bugyal. One from lohajung via Didina and other directly from Wan village. We ascended through the first and descended the other way.

Pic : Lohajung Base Camp
Pic : Lohajung Base Camp

We started our trek by 9am and it was an easy walk through the forests. We walked past numerous streams and bridges with beautiful cluster of flowers (I don’t remember the name :(, but they were in shades of pink) all along our way. In our struggle and difficulties we often forget to admire the beauty around us, so you got to take a moment every now and then to relax and admire it. Get connected to the serenity around you and feel the freeness.

Pic : Didina Campsite
Pic : Didina Campsite

We reached Didina campsite by 1pm exactly at lunchtime and satisfied our hungry stomachs. Here we stayed at a villager’s hut with beautiful open grassland in front of the hut. The rest of the day was with us to do whatever you wanted and a group of us decided to play “Mafia” and the rest went on to play cricket. It was here that I got introduced to this game(Thanks to Chintan) and was fun playing the role of mafia and not been caught most of the time ;). A game to play especially when you are around new people helps you know their names well and the person to some extend too.

At Didina - Roopkund Trek
PIC : At Didina

At Didina – Roopkund Trek

What a wonderful way to celebrate one’s birthday amidst the nature with bunch of unknown co-trekkers miles away from your home and loved ones. Nupur was the lucky girl. We all sang the birthday song for her, made her sing too and gulped the sweet desert made by our cooks….beautiful way to end the lovely day.

30th Oct – Day 3: Didina to Bedni Bugyal

It was a long day ahead with some steep climbs walk through the dense forests. After a tiring ascent of couple of hours we were into captivating beauty of vast green meadows. We had our packed lunch and continued our journey on the meadows. Post lunch, it started raining and the views got blocked by the misty clouds and drifting winds. 

PIC : Ali Bugyal and Bedni Bugya
PIC : Ali Bugyal and Bedni Bugya

The winds were blowing you off and the only way out is to keep walking with your rain ponchos covering you cameras and bagpack. We passed thru Ali bugyal but couldn’t get the view of the beautiful meadows :(. Ali bugyal and Bedni bugyal are the highest(11000 ft) and most beautiful meadows in India and one can get a clear view of the majestic Trishul peak from here. Heavy windy rain at such high altitude gets your hands and legs numb and all you wish is to reach the campsite and get dried. We reached Bedni around 4pm all drenched. There were tents put up (3 in each tent) and as soon as we reached the site, we got into the tents.

Way to Bedni Bugyal

Pic:At Bedni
Pic: At Bedni

Later in the evening the weather opened up and we got a breather out in the nature. We experienced the best view around, vast expanse of green meadows around and overwhelming glance of snow-capped ‘Trishul’ standing guard at a far off distance. All our DSLR’s and binoculars were out to capture the beauty at its best.

The remaining day was spent playing cricket and card games in the tent. Nights were freezing cold. Having dinner was also a big task inspite of wearing layers of clothes. We were so scared of the chilling water that we ended eating food in common plates with the least interest in what you ate, all that you worried is filling your stomach with food. These sweet fun experiences are hard to get in our sophisticated lives. One must try camping for days and the experiences it unfolds every time can only be lived, hard to explain in words. The pleasure in this entire wilderness is beyond words.

1st Oct- Day 4: Bedni Bugyal to Patar-Nachauni

The trek from Bedni to Patar is an easy trail. You have to follow a straight path ahead for few kms and with a gradual increase in the slope you are bought to the other side of the ridge. The view from this point is beautiful. Gora lotani offers great views around and good place to relax. From here Patar is a short climb away.

The time we reached the campsite had no traces of winter snow on the mountains around, but it rained heavily that entire evening and we could see snow settling on the mountains. Watching the mountains being covered with snow was breathtaking

Pic: View from our tent at Patar
Pic: View from our tent at Patar

We had ample of time to relax and acclimatize to the weather conditions, adapt to the altitude and atmosphere.  We spent time in the tents playing “Antakshari” and it was more fun when it was Chennai group singing tamil songs against the hindi singing group. You can’t beat the Tallaivas 🙂

Pic: Chennai Group
Pic: Chennai group

And yes, not to forget the card games (badam sath, buffmaster) we played in our tent with the worn out, almost into 2 pieces cards (courtesy ME) ;). When you have no choices, you got to live with what you have and make the best out of that and this was one such example :).

Pic: Tents at Patar
Pic: Tents at Patar

It was super fun relaxing day. Starry clear sky with the snow mountains view from your tent is absolutely marvelous. Can there be anything more joyful than getting an opportunity to sleep under the starry night and wake up with the snow-capped Mountain View from your tent. Feel sad for not being able to capture the night view with my DSLR due to lack of tripod.

2nd Oct- Day 5: Patar-nachauni to Baghwabasa

We left early on this day since it was a steep climb on the rocky paths and sudden altitude gain. This is where you will feel the thinning of air slowing you down and literally gasping for breath. It was a steep ascend till Kallu Vinayak temple and I wonder how the mules climbed up with all the luggage on those narrow paths. One of our trek-mate chose to take the mule ride on this path and I wondered what would be the experience like, looked really like an adventure for me which he did talk about on the concluding day enlightening the environment there :).

Kallu vinayak was covered under snow but was also covered with lot of garbage and plastics and it was a sad sight to see that. Few weeks ago, a pilgrimage group of “Nanda devi yatra” had littered the area and it was time to clean it. We spent an hour here removing the non bio-degradable waste in our garbage bags contributing to the Green trail initiative by IH.

The route from there to Bhagwabasa campsite was mostly plane with most of the regions covered in snow. As we reached the campsite around 3pm, it was cloudy turning the area magically white. All that we wished was for the skies to clear up and it did clear up around sunset time. We got a glimpse of golden snowcapped Trishul peaks along with other peaks. The marvelous view here was the highlight for the day and a treat for all our days of strenuous trek. It was almost like being in the clouds amidst the massive mountains, a breathtaking view.

Pic : Breathtaking views at Baghwabasa
Pic : Breathtaking views at Baghwabasa

Pic 2 : Breathtaking views at Baghwabasa
Pic 2 : Breathtaking views at Baghwabasa

We were now at 14,500ft altitude and you can feel the effects of thin air and high altitude. The nights get extremely cold and windy and its always recommended to be in your tents and get acclimatized to this altitude. We had our dinner early by 6pm that day as we had to start early by 4am the following summit day.

Pic: View of Nanda Gunti and Chowkomba peaks far off distance
Pic: View of Nanda Gunti and Chowkomba peaks far off distance

We got our crampons to walk on the snow that night and got our day pack ready for the summit.I could not get a sound peaceful sleep this day as the thoughts of summit and the anxiousness around it ran through endlessly.

3rd Oct- Day 6: Baghwabasa to Roopkund : Further up to Junargali and Back to Patar Nachauni

Finally the day arrived when we were going to summit to Roopkund and further up to Junargali if we reach early before snow starts melting. Woke up at 2.30am, got freshened up, had our liquid breakfast which was easier to digest and quick energy booster. The group was broken into parts with the female trekkers and the slow trekkers sent first with Chandarji followed by the rest with Neeraj and Veeruji.

Reason to start early is to get the hard ice which gives you good grip and makes a lot of difference.It was completely dark; we had no clue of the route not even the slightest trace of anyone ever having been there before. We only had our torches to follow the path and got much riskier to walk on the snow barely on shoes which slowed down our pace of ascent. It was time to put on our crampons which helped us ramp up our speed. There were a few who had to rest and so the rest of us continued with Chandarji ahead. Later as we ascended, I heard of few trekkers sent back due to AMS effects and IH could not risk taking them ahead. Sad, but life is more important than reaching the destination.

Pic: The Morgan Stanley group
Pic: The Morgan Stanley group

Later, I was ascending with Sanoj and the Morgan Stanley group ahead on the trail. The last stretch of 500ft climb is steep and exhilarating. You feel the thinness of air and a few steps takes your breath away. Sanoj kept me going and made me get thru this patch. We reached roopkund before 7am and we had planned to summit Junargali if the weather was favorable and we reached early by 7am.

Pic: Way to Junargali
Pic: Way to Junargali

I saw a few of our group member ascending to Junargali and I couldn’t stop myself. I asked Chandarji and he readily came along in support. Another 750ft steep ascend leads you to Junargali ridge which offers an unobstructed view of Trishul, how could one miss it. Every trekker must attempt for Junargali, its worth all the pain taken and truly rewarding. The snow was melting and was very risky to climb on the steep ridge, but if you are careful it shouldn’t take more you than 20-30mins to reach the top.

PIC : Junargali
PIC : Junargali

I was unaware of Junargali until Alok mentioned about it at the start of the trek and since then I had it on back of my mind to summit it :). Thanks to Alok who made it happen and Chandarji who supported us to achieve it. I, Sanoj along with the Morgan Stanley group- 10 of us who were able to summit Junargali and this was the highlight point for me in this entire trek.

Pic : Group at Junargali with Chandarji
Pic : Group at Junargali with Chandarji

On return to roopkund, we had our snacks and played in the frozen lake with few skeletons there. Spent some time in photo-shoots and around 9.30am started descending down. It is always sad to leave the place but I was taking back a lot of amazing memories along which made me joyful. 

Pic : Skeletons near the frozen roopkund lake
Pic : Skeletons near the frozen roopkund lake

While descending back we played in the snow, made snowballs and threw them on each other….it was time to enjoy your moment with nature, feel blessed for being able to summit your destination successfully and be happy :D.We had to get back to campsite, pack our bagpacks and return back to Patar nachauni where we spent our last night camping together and rejoice the moments lived together. There was little inconvenience caused in my body due to altitude gain which got cured on descending and drinking lots of water.

PIC : we reached Patar
PIC : we reached Patar

As we reached Patar, we went to the tea-stalls there and ate lots of maggi and omelets and returned back to our tents.This day, the rest of India was celebrating Dassera in their own way and we spent it trekking, camping and celebrating our success with campfire, garba dancing and singing songs. Our local guides also contributed by singing their local songs and calling it for the day.

Read More:-Trip to the Thrilling Trek! – Dharamshala

4th Oct- Day 7: Patar to Lohajung via Bedni and Wan

Patar to Bedni being a plane descent didn’t take much time and on reaching Bedni, we cleaned up the region for 1 hour, collected lots of garbage bags and later guys played a game of cricket.

I was wandering around the place having funtime with Gujju group doing photoshoots 🙂 .

 Pic : The fun loving gujju group
Pic : The fun loving gujju group

At 12 noon we left Bedni for Wan village. The descent is through the forest and I prefer taking shortcuts than walking more distance. Luckily Sanoj agreed to it too and we found our paths avoiding the zig-zag long path. Midway we encountered a tea-stall point and we all halted to have our lunch and continued with our descent back to Wan village.Way back you reach a bridge over the Neel ganga river. This was the place where most of us got into the water to wash the dirt of week long trek. It was refreshing and also an indication that we are approaching civilization. Getting back to routine wasn’t a good feeling except for the good bath you been graving for after days into wilderness. Walk back till Wan village was long and felt never-ending. Finally around 5pm, we hit the road where our jeep was waiting for us and the drive back to lohajung flashed back all those 7 days trek memories.

Pic : Entire group at Roopkund
Pic : Entire group at Roopkund

Last Group Meet :

We all met for one last time together to collect our certificates and to share our experiences about this trek. We all had praises for IH arrangements at all campsites, for our supportive local guides and our trek leaders. The atmosphere had become serious which was lightened by Bhavik’s jokes and talks. Most of our experiences were common except for our mule rider trek friend. He shared his experience on the mule which we all would remember him for :). He made it sound so funny and that was a great way to end our journey with a good note. It was late in the night when we called off for the night thanks to our fun talks about various funny experiences.

5th Oct- Day 8: Lohajung to Kathgodam Drive

It was time to leave back for our homes where we belonged. The drive too wasn’t that exciting as it was on Day 1, as we all were sad leaving this placeL, it is never easy to say Good-byes.Later that night, we took a train back to Delhi from Kathgodam and with final Good-byes in Delhi station, we all departed our ways back home. We reached Pune on 6th Oct with loads of enthralling memories of the trek with a promise to return back to the Himalayas very soon :).

My Overall Experience : Bhavana Siddappa

Bhavana Siddappa
Bhavana Siddappa
  • My best stretches in this trek are “Didina to Bedni”, Patar to Kallu Vinayak” and “Baghwabasa to Junargali” and highlight of the trek being summiting to Junargali (16200 ft) and be able to view the gigantic Trishul upright opposite you far off distance.
  • No matter how successful you are in your personal or professional life, mountains bring you down on your knees and make you a humble person.
  • Good part was, I was totally disconnected from my routine civilized life living a nomad’s life, having all the time in this world to do what I wanted to, like a free man, that’s the best state one can get into.
  • There is nothing more enriching than being disconnected from your routine life and to be at your social best. Helps you connect back with yourself, helps you realise that life is the most wonderful gift you have got and enjoy each moment as it comes.
  • I met some wonderful folks here who have taught me lots in this journey which I will treasure for years to come. I got a chance to interact with all personally and know them which is hard when you have your own groups.
  • As it is well said that “The journey matters more than the destination” I could understand it and relate to it well in this trek. The experiences and the people along the journey is what one must enjoy than the destination. You can come back anytime if you haven’t reached the destination, but don’t forget to enrich and enjoy the journey for it is the journey that matters more and leaves you with memorable moments and learning.
  • I am happy that I have exceeded my expectations of myself and my thirst for Himalayan treks has increased and looking forward for many such fascinating challenging treks.

The sherpas and localites take a lot of effort to make us healthy food and carrying food at such high altitudes is really difficult, kudos to them!

Thank you Indiahikes for the guidance and for letting me add another memorable journey into my dairy!

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