One evening, sitting in the balcony, memories from my last trek Hampta Pass were flashing in my mind. That’s when a prayer came to my mind and I said “Lord! Take me back to the place that looked like your abode!! Where the sun kissed the earth and it blushed with all the colors!!”
Till that evening it was just a wish, which by the next day turned into a full-on hunt for the next trek to do. After being confused for a long time, I finally booked my seat in the Roopkund Trek with Indiahikes. I had two months until the trek. Though I work out at the gym for an hour at least 5 days a week I still needed to prepare for the trek a little differently. So I started focusing on running and stair climbing along with my regular strength training.
Note – If you would like to watch the video on this trek then click here or watch the video attached at the bottom.
June 1st, 2018
Our pickup by Indiahikes cab was scheduled on 2nd June from Kathgodam Railway Station at 6:30 am. So I booked a ticket in Kathgodam Shatabdi for 1st June that leaves from New Delhi at 6 am. Basically, I reached a day before. I reached Kathgodam at around 11:30 am and took an auto to my hotel. As soon as I checked in to my room, there came a thunderstorm! It was a big one! I felt a little worried about the trek. It rained for about half an hour and then stopped. I was planning to sleep early and so I ordered my dinner early. As soon as I bent a little to pick up the food from the table, I suddenly got a terrible back sprain! Oh! It was such that I couldn’t move at all!! I was got hell worried about the trek now!! I didn’t want to offload my bag and yet there was a possibility that I would have to if this sprain doesn’t go away. It took me some time and a few careful stretches that it got slightly better and I was able to move and walk okay-ish. It rained at night and early morning as well.
June 2nd, 2018
The next morning I woke up and realized that my back sprain had gotten better. However, it still wasn’t in its perfect condition and offloading the backpack was still lurking around. I reached Kathgodam Railway Station at 6:30 am and found the other trekkers waiting for everyone. There were about 9 – 10 trekkers coming from Ranikhet Express that runs overnight and is scheduled to reach at 5 am in the morning, but it was delayed for 3 hours due to heavy rains last night. We had to wait for them and at around 9:30 we all left for Lohajung, our base camp (7,700 ft). It is a 10-11 hours journey and we reached the Indiahikes lodge in the evening, I guess around 7 pm. We met our trek leader Krupa and had a briefing for the next day. We were given our health cards and our blood pressure and oximeter readings were taken which was followed by dinner and we were off to sleep for an early start.
June 3rd, 2018
Full of excitement and with a hint of nervousness I woke up at 4:30 am, way before everyone did. It was “THE” day! Our trek would start today! My back was much much better and I was all set to carry my backpack! However, I was mentally ready that if my back gives me trouble due to the backpack, I would offload it the next day. After our 7 am breakfast we were briefed about the day’s trek, things to remember while trekking, explained about green trails and we were given bags to collect garbage from the trails. I loved this part, as I firmly believe in keeping the nature in its purest and cleanest form. Nobody likes to visit dirty places! So why not keep them clean! Anyway, we were given the linings for the sleeping bag and were asked to be ready to leave!
Our trek was supposed to start from a village named “Wan” or in Hindi ” वाण” (8,000 ft). It was a half an hour drive to the starting point and then we started our trek. We had walked only for a few minutes and we spotted the huge Cypress trees! I had read about them before the trek and I was really excited to see them! These cypress trees were at least a 100 years old and the trunk of some of these was so broad that it would take at least 4-5 people to hug around it! I was full of wonder! I had never seen such a huge tree!! It was something like from Alice in Wonderland and I was that Alice standing there and staring at those trees in wonder!
Anyone doing the Roopkund Trek should visit the Latu Devta Temple in Wan and take blessings. So, we took a little diversion to the temple, offered prayers and donation and started with the trek again. The initial climb till our first break point Rankadhar was very steep. We reached there and relaxed there for some time and started again. There is a whole story around how these places were named “Lohajung” or Rankadhar” etc till the Roopkund Lake which was told to us by our Trek lead guide Kundan Chacha. I have documented the entire story in this video here.
The trail from Rankadhar to Neelganga is an easy descent. We refilled our water bottles from Neelganga and relaxed there for some time. The water was so fresh and so good! It could say it tasted really good!! From Neelganga the trail is a steep climb and soon we all were found huffing and puffing! Finally, after a 3-hour grueling climb we reached our first campsite Ghairoli Patal (10,000 ft)! The campsite is located in a small clearing in the middle of the forest and looks really beautiful! We relaxed, had snacks, had our oximeter readings done and played games. Our Trek Leader Krupa had some really interesting ones! 🙂
That night I went to sleep early as I was really exhausted and had to be well rested for the next day.
June 4th, 2018
Next morning our usual 6-7-8 routine started. 6 am – Tea, 7 am – Breakfast and 8 am – Leave. Today we were going to Bedni Bugyal via Ali Bugyal! I was really excited for this one because I had seen lots of pictures of these meadows and I just wanted to see them in real! My back was doing fine and I decided to carry my backpack! I was taking one day at a time. Going with the flow 🙂 The initial trail towards Ali Bugyal was a gradual ascent but later it became pretty steep. I got really exhausted in this part because of the constant climb and then after a couple of hours we saw a clearing ahead and that was Ali Bugyal! However, we still had a steep climb ahead on the meadow to actually be able to see it!
Panting heavily I climbed up and when I saw what was in front of me, suddenly I wasn’t tired anymore!! 🙂 I was like an excited kid who was cheerful and so excited! I took dozens of pictures and the entire team had so much cheeky fun!! We also had some fitness challenges like Plank Hold and our 55-year-old Lead Trek Guide Kundan Chahcha surprised us by a solid and perfect Headstand!! There was Dhabha where we enjoyed some tea and snacks and after some time we moved towards Bedni Bugyal (11,500 ft).
There was again a short steep climb which then became a fairly easy trail with gradual ascents. I guess after an hour or a little more we reached a spot where we could spot the Bedni Bugyal campsite from above!! The tents looked so tiny and we had to descend all the way to the campsite. The whole view of the meadow and the campsite was really beautiful. However, this is the place where we started to see a big crowd as well. We reached the campsite dumped our bags, removed our shoes and socks and enjoyed walking barefoot on the meadow! It was a total bliss!!
We spent our rest of the day playing games, cards and walking on the beautiful meadow. I learned a new card game called “Mindi Court”! My trek mate Virat helped me a lot in learning the game. It became pretty cloudy and misty by late afternoon due to which we couldn’t see any of the peaks. The clouds were moving right through our campsite and they were moving fast! This added to another kind of beauty to the meadow.
June 5th, 2018
This was an acclimatization day and we had an excursion to Bedni Top (12,200 ft) planned. Bedni Top is the highest point in Bedni Bugyal at the altitude of around 12,000 ft and the view from there was said to be amazing. However, the mist and clouds had surrounded the entire meadow since morning. We left for Bedni Top in the morning after breakfast. It was a very steep climb all the way. It looked and felt like I was climbing the Chandrashilla peak! Very exhausting! During our breaks between the climb, our Lead Trek Guide Kundan Chacha told us the entire story about how Lohajung, Rankadhar, Bedni, Bhagwabasa, Chidhiyanag and Roopkund were named. I mean what was the story behind these places and how are they connected. It was really interesting to know!
As we were climbing to the top the clouds surrounded everything and the weather was turning. As soon as we reached to the Bedni Top it started raining. We just sat there in our ponchos waiting for the rain to stop and the clouds to clear out but to no avail. We couldn’t see anything! No view of the peaks, not even the meadow. It was really disappointing. The rain did slow down but it was already half an hour that we were on the top and we decided to head back to the camp. Around midway back, the clouds started to clear and we could see the campsite and the meadow around a little.
We came back to the camp and had lunch. We spotted two Himalayan Griffon at the campsite! Majestic birds! It started raining heavily post lunch and some of us were stuck in the activity tent and the rest were in their own tents. To spend the time we played Antakshari and it was so much fun! I saw the funny side of many of our teammates! 😀 When it stopped raining it was about sunset time and we spent all our time outdoors in anticipation for the clouds to clear up. Kalidhak was the first one that got clear off the clouds and soon we were fortunate enough that our patience paid off the clouds did clear up for enough time for us to get a clear view of Mt. Trishul! It was a lovely sight! Finally, we saw our first peak! Soon the sunset painted the sky in so many colors that one can only imagine! This was indeed the most beautiful and diverse sunset I ever saw!! Soon, it was dark and we were off to sleep after dinner.
June 6th, 2018
I woke at 6 am hearing the raindrops hitting our tent and that was yet another reason for me to shut my eyes again and get some more sleep. Finally, the rain stopped at around 7 and we hurried to get freshen up and for breakfast. However, immediately after breakfast at around 8 am, it started raining heavily again and we couldn’t leave until it slowed down and by that time it was already 9. It was late but we were told it was an easy day today and surely it was! Our next campsite was Pathar Nachauni (12,700 ft).
After an initial steep climb, the trail got easier with a lot of level walks and gradual ascents. I wasn’t even halfway and I started experiencing a very bad shoulder ache which started to get worse and worse. It was becoming very difficult for me carry my backpack. When it got really intolerable I immediately asked for help from my trek leader Krupa. She applied Moov on my shoulder and pointed on something that really was the cause of my shoulder pain! My backpack wasn’t snug close enough to my body. I had loose straps that had caused my shoulders to bear a lot of bag’s weight and so they were burned out. She fixed the mistakes I made and I instantly felt a lot better! The weight of the bag wasn’t that much anymore! That was a learning for me!
With a few water breaks and rest, we comfortably finished our day’s trek and soon reached Pathar Nachauni. The campsite was at a place where it seemed like the meadows came to an end we had mountains right in front. Though the peaks were all covered in clouds and mist we could still see the lower part of those. We had our lunch and got our oximeter readings taken. Post lunch we had a Green Trail Activity where we had to collect any kind of garbage we see all around the campsite. We were already collecting the plastic and metal waste on the trails while trekking but this one was especially to keep the campsite clean. It’s really important. Why? Well, Roopkund is one of the most used trails. Hundreds of trekkers flock and attempt Roopkund during the season. More people = Unfortunately, More trash. Cleaning up is our responsibility. People should not litter in the first place but since we can’t make behavioral changes so quickly, the least we can do is to try and keep the mountains as clean as possible.
After the activity was over it was time for evening snacks and tea and we had some really good gossip and debate sessions over it. Soon it was sunset and the clouds started to clear. Now, we could see the peak of Mount Mrigthuni right in front of us! The sunset created such a beautiful scene in a team with the clouds that everyone started to flock towards the best and highest point of visibility. We took a lot of pictures and with every passing minute, the scene seemed to change in another dramatic one. It was really beautiful!!
I wanted to go to bed early that day, especially because I was disappointed by the clouds covering up the entire sky again and we couldn’t even see a single star. I really wanted to see a starry night and especially the Milky Way but had no luck because of the weather. I was prepared to go to sleep after dinner when my trek mate Himanshi, literally dragged me to play Antakshari with the other group that had returned after summiting Roopkund. I was in absolutely no mood but seeing that there was no escape I decided to have fun and I really did!
At around 10 pm everyone was tired and stepped out of the tent and what do we see!! Milky Way!! Yes, the sky was crystal clear and this was the first time in my life that I saw the Milky Way!! I was full of joy!! Really very happy!! I always wanted to capture Milky Way but had little knowledge on how to do it. I had made peace with this fact that I won’t be able to capture the Milky Way in this trek at least not without any help. I spotted my trek mates Akhil and Rose who were clicking pictures. I went over to them and Akhil showed me the picture of the Milky Way he just captured! I was super amazed to see that!! I ran to my tent to grab my camera and requested him if he could help me get one. He did help me and I got a picture of the Milky Way!! I learned how to do it!! I was jumping with joy when I saw the picture!! Ohh I don’t remember how many hugs I gave to Akhil 😀
June 7th, 2018
It was morning! Bright and sunny and we were all set to leave for our next campsite Bhagwabasa (14,100 ft) after our everyday 6-7-8 routine! I slept feeling so happy that I woke up even happier! I was doubtful about my shoulder so I consulted Krupa (Trek Leader) if I should carry the backpack or offload it and what she said was perhaps what I wanted to hear! She said “Carry it! You are a tough girl, I know you can do it“! 😀 That made so happy and I was highly motivated! Now, I was really excited as I was going to see the very famous Kevalam Vinayaka (Kalu Vinayak) Temple and reach our highest campsite Bhagwabasa today! It was a steep ascent and the trail was really crowded! We saw nearly 100 trekkers who were either climbing up or descending down. Apart from adventure trekking, Roopkund attracts religious trekkers too, hence the crowd.
We reached a special point where Kundan Chacha, our lead trek guide, told us the story behind the mysterious skeletal remains in the lake! He had done Roopkund at least 300 times and he had seen the number of skeletal remains reducing and changing over the years. Listen to the entire story here. Then we started walking again until we reached the Kevalam Vinayaka Temple. Upon reaching, we first offered our prayers and then had water and snacks. The temple is a small but an ancient one! The temple is full of bells tied all around as offering I believe. I guess there about a 100 bells tied!
Soon, we started walking towards Bhagwabasa and the trail was pretty easy. It was mainly a slight descent but it was pretty rocky. It started drizzling soon. The entire trail was covered in mist and clouds. Soon, we reached a spot which Bhagwabasa is named after. It was a cave, where the Tiger of Goddess Parvati took shelter. In Hindi ” Baagh ka Basa” = Bhagwabasa. The campsite was not far from there. The drizzling turned into rain as we reached the campsite. The rain stopped after some time and we all assembled in the activity area for a technical briefing.
The technical briefing was about how are we going to walk and climb for the summit the next day and what to do and not do in certain situations. We had to start pretty early the next day. Our wake up call was at 2:00 am, 2:30 tea, 3 am breakfast and 3:30 we would leave. We had to make sure that we reach the summit by 6 am and be back by 8 am. We all were then given the micro-spikes and just about then it started raining again. But this was no regular rain, it was a massive Hailstorm!! 😀 This was the first time I witnessed such a big hailstorm!! It lasted for about half an hour or 45 minutes and left hail everywhere! Stacks of hail everywhere!!
It was snacks and tea time and we really couldn’t stop ourselves from playing with all that hail and just then the sun came out and with it out came a full, vibrant Rainbow!! We were completely spellbound!! Everyone was so cheerful and clicked a lot of pictures! It stayed for about half an hour or maybe less and soon it was cloudy again and after some time the sun started to set. Since we had an early start the next day, we had our dinner and retired to our tents. Before going to sleep, we packed our day bags which had some essential items such as micro-spikes, headlamps, sunglasses, poncho, woolen cap, gloves, etc.
We lied down to sleep at around 8:30 pm but it was too early for us to fall asleep and on top of that, there was a dog right in front of our tent barking continuously. I couldn’t sleep and after an hour or so my tent mate had an urge to go to the washroom, so I accompanied her and with us joined others from our neighboring tents. No one was able to sleep. When we returned, thankfully the dog was quiet and I had a good sleep but not for too long as he started to bark again incessantly after an hour or so and woke me up. The time flew and it was 2 am wake up call.
June 8th, 2018
I came out of the tent at 2:30 after a failed attempt to sleep for the last half an hour. It was really chilly outside so I really enjoyed the warm ginger tea (without milk). I couldn’t do the breakfast as both the options available were milk based and I am lactose intolerant. So I had a protein bar to fill myself up for some much-needed energy. At around 3:15 am we started to line up and at 3:25 am we started for the Roopkund Summit (15,750 ft). The technical team had been very strict with the timing but highly cooperative as well! They called themselves CCTV cameras and literally behaved like one! They were running up and down the trail to keep a check on each trekker where we merely walked! They were equipped with roped and ice ax and were clearing up the way or breaking the ice wherever it was too slippery.
The initial part of the trail was not difficult at all, just some gradual ascent. But since it was dark we had to be extra careful with our steps. Later, there was a steep ascent to Chidiyanag, which was our first break point and time testing point. If anyone took way more time to reach this first point, would be sent back. Thankfully, everyone made there well in time. We could see a trail of lights moving up the mountain, those were of the other trekkers climbing. It gave us the idea of how far and high we were about to go!! From thereon, the ascent started to increase. There was a continuous climb to the base of the summit. This place was flat land and everyone’s next rest point.
It was misty all throughout. Even when it wasn’t dark anymore, we still didn’t have a good visibility of the view around. Everything was covered in mist and clouds. It was kind of disappointing. Anyway, we started our last lap of the climb and were getting drained out even after 5 steps! The air was getting thinner and the climbing was getting tedious! We started to motivate each other, even our lead trek guide Kundan Chacha cracked some one-liner jokes to keep everyone’s spirit up! It was a great teamwork, cooperation, a great deal of hard work in climbing some really tricky parts of the summit climb that we all finally made it to the Roopkund Summit!!
There was a sense of great achievement and a slight sense of disbelief that we were actually there! At 15,750 ft! I was staring at a lake that I always thought that I would, one day! It was quite misty and we didn’t really have a clear view but still, we made it!! There was snow almost everywhere at the summit except for some bare spots. We had a little celebration there, enjoyed a stroll as far as we could and clicked a lot of pictures for our memories! We also saw the skeletal remains and was literally shocked that a lot of flesh was still attached to the bones! A full lower half of a body, a torso, hands and what not! We weren’t allowed to go down near the lake to maintain its sanctity.
We couldn’t attempt Junargali as it was not yet accessible, so we stayed there for half an hour and started descending. What was a steep ascent earlier, was a steep descent now. It was quite slippery and tricky, at times we had to sit and step down. Rest of the trail to Bhagwabasa was a fairly an easy descend. It started raining somewhere around half way and we reached the campsite at around 9 am. Upon reaching we went to our tents and took a nap for an hour and woke up for an early lunch at 11 am as we were already informed that we were to leave for Pathar Nachauni at 11:30 am and so we did.
A gradual ascent to Kevalam Vinayaka and then a steep descent to Pathar Nachauni. We reached a dhabha not far from the campsite and right at that moment it started raining heavily, so we took shelter inside. We enjoyed a hot cup of tea and waited for the rain to stop, in the meanwhile, half of the team that took shelter in a shed outside, left for the campsite amidst the rain. The rain stopped after about an hour and we left for the campsite. The heavy rain had turned the campsite into a swamp and there was a huge puddle all around the tent. We just dropped the bag inside and stayed outside for we didn’t want to dirty our tents from inside.
It was raining off and on that evening and we spent our time chatting and playing cards. We went to sleep early that night as we were really tired and the weather wasn’t good either. We could hear the rainfall on our tent all night.
June 9th, 2018
The next morning was still cloudy and after our 6-7-8 routine, we left for another long day. We had to reach Ghairoli Patal by 11:00 am and then proceed towards Wan after lunch. There was a gradual ascent until Bedni Bugyal and thereafter there was descent till Ghairoli Patal. It started raining right after crossing Bedni that grew stronger until we entered the forest.
We reached Ghairoli Patal around 11:30 am, had our lunch and after about half an hour we left for Wan. It was a steep descent and my toes were already hurting a lot. On top of that, the trail was super mushy and slippery, such that the stones laid to pave the way, had shifted. I had slipped slightly right after crossing Bedni that jerked my knee but it didn’t bother me until now. In my last descent, my right knee was hurting very badly, such that I could not walk even at a moderate pace. I fell 10 minutes behind everyone and felt terrible. At the Dhabha right before Neelganga, my trek leader Krupa and our tail guide Nari Bhai convinced me to give up my backpack. Krupa carried my backpack until Neelganga and thereafter a trek mate Durgesh carried it all the way till Wan and I am super thankful to both of them!
We reached Wan around 5 pm and we had the Indiahikes cabs waiting for us there. I was the last one to finish, thanks to my bad knee and there, everyone was clapping for me. My trek leader Krupa gave me a hug and I broke down. I was happy to complete the trek but never imagined it this way. I won’t deny I felt a little embarrassed and was also quite worried about the knee. I was hoping for it gets better soon. We reached LohajungBase Camp and after tea and snacks, we had the finishing ceremony. We all were given certificates for completing the trek. There were some awards for the Fittest Trekker, Spirit of Trekking and Green Getter awards. To my pleasant surprise, I was one of the Green Getter award receivers! 😀
We had a late night chat session and laughed at all kind of petty jokes and then it was around 1 am when we finally went off to sleep. The next day we bid an emotional goodbye to everyone including Krupa and our trek guides and left for Kathgodam and later to our destinations. The trek ended there but the memories were still so fresh and alive. It was in the hotel room sitting alone when I really realized what I had achieved! I congratulated myself for I had achieved what I wanted! Well, at least nearly. I wanted to do the trek with my backpack on all the way up and down and the unexpected back sprain before the trek started and shoulder pain during the trek due to incorrect way to wearing the bag made me doubt every day whether I will really be able to do what I had planned!
Life never goes accordingly to our plans! Expect the unexpected and be ready for it! That was my major learning from this trek. I can never forget the difficulty walking, in fact, especially descending down even without the backpack. That jerk in my knee proved to be really troublesome. The back sprain a day before our travel to Lohajung worried me a lot! I learned not to panic and try to be prepared for anything that may come. I doubted my ability every day asking myself every morning whether I should carry my backpack or offload it and I reminded myself of the very reason every day to carry it. It was a challenge to myself. Krupa, our trek leader motivated me even more! She said she believed in me that I am a tough girl! That very moment I became a tough girl! This trek taught me that it’s our mind that puts limitations, our body is much more capable than we think it is! As much as we need to push ourselves, it’s equally important to listen to your body as well! To stop when it needs to relax and recover. You don’t become a trekker by just successfully completing treks but it’s by the journey that you make and the unexpected obstacles that you overcome and keep the spirits and hopes high.