Trekking to the Pond of Stunning Beauty and Mystique – Roopkund Glacier

Trekking to Himalayas has always been a thing of great interest and is revelled in. After all, it is nature’s gift to the Indian mainland for protection from invasion since only this great mountain range knows when. One of the most fascinating spots to visit in the Himalayas is Roopkund Glacier.

Mountaineering expedition in India cannot get better than the Great Himalayas. They literally beckon you; draw them towards you, with those gleaming, golden, breathtaking snow capped peaks, glaciers and with their sheer magnanimity. You realise how inconsequential you are infront of these natural protectors of our mainland. Himalayas have a number of glaciers which have always caught the fancy of alpinists all over the globe. Roopkund Glacier is one name which ranks quite high on that list. Roopkund, is also known as Skeleton Lake and it is a shallow glacial lake located in state of Uttarakhand in India. It got known because more than 500 human skeletons were found here, at the edge of the lake. This area is uninhibited and rises upto an altitude of 5,029 metres (16,499 feet) and lies in Chamoli district, Garhwal.

 

Getting There

Kathgodam - Ranikhet - Garur - Gwaldam - Debal (1220 m) - Bagrigad (1890 m) - Mundoli village - Lohajung pass - Wan village (2590 m) - Bedni Bugyal (3660 m) - Baghubasa - Kalu Vinayak – Roopkund. The route passes through a number of quintessential Garhwali villages, engaged in their tough, yet amazing lifestyle and extensive meadows. From New Delhi there are a number of trains which take you to Kathgodam. The trekking route from Lohajang Pass to Roopkund is around 34 km. You can reach Roopkund from Delhi to Haridwar, Rishikesh and Karnaprayag. The distance from Roopkund to Bedni Bugyal is around 14 km drive via road. To elaborate on the route however, there are various routes for a trek to Roopkund. Usually this is what happens –

Trekkers and adventurers first reach Lohajung or Wan by road.
The next juncture involves climbing a hillock at Wan and reach Ran ki Dhar, where trekkers can camp for the night.
Bedni Bugyal and Trisul can be seen from this point, given the skies are clear.
The next spot is at Bedni Bugyal, 12–13 km from Wan. A number of Himalayan peaks can be seen from Bedni Bugyal bridge
Then comes Bhaguwabasa, is 10–11 km from Bedni Bugyal, which has a hostile climate
You can get a closer view of Trisul and other peaks higher than 5000 metres here. On extreme slopes of the surrounding mountains, cascading waterfalls and landslides are visible
From Bhaguwabasa, trekkers decide either to go to Roopkund or retreat.
From Bhaguwabasa they can also go Shila Samundra (Ocean of Stones) via Junargalli Col Pass, just above the lake, and then proceed to Homkund.

The Region

The mountaineering enthusiasts would swear by Roopkund Glacier Lake trekking, even though the climate and region is tough to acclimatize. All the same, Roopkund is located near the base of two Himalayan Peaks – Trisul and Nandghunti. A rock-strewn glacier and snow clad peaks surround this glacial lake. For most part of the year, this lake is covered with snow. But even though the climb is tough, the stunning views of Western Himalayas and the awe inspiring, beautiful alpine meadows of Bedni leave you simply mesmerized. Being very cold obviously, this area is uninhibited.

Best time to Go

The regular climbers and tourism setups opine that the best time to do the Roopkund Himalayan trek would be sometime between May- June and October. Ofcourse this is the Roopkund trek season and time. Those who want to go can go whenever they want to, but then be ready for the chill if you go after October!

History

So the story of Roopkund goes something like this. There were around 500 odd skeletons found at the edge of the glacial lake, which is why it is also called skeleton lake. It must have been centuries back, as in 1942 again these skeletons were discovered by a ranger. The reports say that the skeletons, were from 19th century. There were lot of tests – radio carbon dating of bones and DNA by experts from India and Europe. These tests are believed to have found the reason of those deaths as a hailstorm. The DNA test inferences said there were groups of people which included a group of short people and another taller one, closely related, perhaps Koknastha Brahmins, according to their DNA mutations. The period, apparently, according to Oxford University after the radio carbon dating of bones is believed to be AD 850 ±30 years. However, there are a lot of doubts and theories about these findings.

Culture and Festivities

In the alpine meadows of Bedni Bugyal, a religious festival is held annually in autumn. It also has the nearby villages participating in full glory. Additionally, NandaDevi Raj Jat, a bigger celebration is held every 12 years at Roopkund. So Roopkund makes for an important pilgrimage halt, enroute to Nanda Devi Raj Jat for the Nanda Devi Cult.

Risks and Precautions

Altitude- High altitude can create problems for first timers - mild headache, nausea, general uneasiness. These are signs of AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness. Updating yourself on this is good before the expedition.

Weather- At a high altitude, weather is unpredictable. The higher reaches on trek to Roopkund are permafrost, which is covered with snow permanently, irrespective of season.

Injuries - Sprains, bruises, and cuts are not every uncommon, and can be handled easily. Fractures and dislocations too cannot be ruled out. It can take a day or two till the injured gets medical help, as medical help is not easy to find here.

Evacuation and Communication in Contingency -A team of porters is needed to bring down a victim to the base camp and the evacuation process is slow. Communication too is very limited and it can be problematic in case of an emergency, so this has to be considered before you climb.

All the mystique, veil of inscrutability and risks notwithstanding, Roopkund Lake trekking is an extremely enriching experience, given the spectacular views of Himalayas from the spot as well as on the way.

Article By Medha Godbole

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