Let’s be honest- Roop Kund trek is definitely doable on your own.
There are lots of trekkers so you won’t be isolated, dhabas along the way if your food supply runs low and rentable semi-permanent sheds that can be used for a night’s shelter on this trail. It’s one of the many perks of trekking a more popular (in this case, India’s most highly-trekked route).
But just because you can do something, does not mean you should.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Our suggestion if you’re wanting a more solo experience? Ditch the crew-version of trekking.
This means the classic porters-cooks-trek leader-participants-local guide combos that we so often see journeying the mighty Himalayan treks.
Of course, many people specifically choose this trekking style for the many perks it offers. Hot, nutritious food is carried for you and prepared, gear is provided and carried for you, saving you the large expense of time and money it takes to acquire your own and of course, the camaraderie with your fellow crew members.
For me personally, the new friends that turn into a family by the end of each trek are worth more to me than any view or selfie I will ever experience.
But we are not all built the same, and for those wishing to try a more independent version of Roop Kund, you happen to be in luck. Because Roop Kund is a suitable trek to take on without a full crew.
Why, you ask?
Here are the top three reasons:
1. High Traffic
Roop Kund is India’s trekking superstar, drawing more explorers to her trails than any other trek in the country. Apart from an excellent sense of community this creates along the path, this also gives the added advantage of very navigable trails.
While you should never rely on simply watching other trekkers to determine your route (make sure you do your research), this high foot traffic does two things for you: one, makes the trail much more well-worn, maintained and visible, and two, the constant flow of people makes it pretty difficult to get lost.
2. The Dhaba Scene
With so many hungry and thirsty trekkers passing through, the locals have done a marvelous job of making a career on the trails of Roop Kund trek. With dhabas at all but one (Tolpani) of the major campsites along the trail serving up omelettes, maggi, chai and other tasty treats, it reduces the burden on a non-crew hiker to carry a complete week’s supply of food.
Keep in mind, you should always hike with sufficient rations in the case of an emergency, but if strategically planned, stopping at these dhabas and tea stalls for the majority of your meals can be a very handy tool in reducing food-related pack weight.
3. Temporary Rentable Shelters
One last thing. If you don’t have your own tent and will also not be using one provided to you through a crew-based trek, Roop Kund gives you one more option: homestays and temporary rentable shelters.
Traveling from Lohajung, the small village of Didina provides the option of a homestay for your first night on the trail. Leaving there the next day, your next four consecutive nights’ stays (Bedni Bugyal, Patar Nachauni, Bhagwabasa, and then back to Bedni Bugyal) will have space to pitch a tent, but also feature reasonably-priced metal half-dome shelters that can be rented for the night.
Just make sure you confirm space there before your arrival- the last thing you want is to be without shelter.
SO, we’ve established why you don’t need the full crew, but why do we stand by the fact that you still need a guide?
The answer is plain and simple: you are in the mountains, and in the mountains, anything goes.
Sure, an ideal trek will be health issue-free, clear sunny skies and straightforwardly navigated- but these treks are the stuff of folklore. A real trek is going to throw you some curveballs, no matter how well you think you’ve planned, that’s just the way the mountains work.
There’s a saying among trekkers that goes, “The Himalayas will inspire you, but they will not forgive.”
What your guides will offer is invaluable - their knowledge gained through experience. They know these mountains like the back of their hand, and they’re trained to handle whatever unexpected hurdles arise along the way.
What training do they have that is so crucial, you ask?
A good guide will be...
- Qualified in mountaineering techniques
- Certified in First Aid & CPR
- Trained in Rescue operations
- Able & experienced enough to plan efficiently
Let’s look at why these are just as important items to have “packed” as your sleeping bag and tent.
1. Qualified in mountaineering techniques
I feel this one first hand every time I trek. While you have to depend on your own body’s strength and spirit’s determination to get you successfully to the end of your trek, sometimes a certain science is required on the trail.
There is a way to ascend on the ice or snow. There is definitely a right way to descend in a snow bank. There are breathing techniques that can be used to pace yourself. What do I do with this ice axe? How do I put on these crampons, and when do I actually need these things?
Your guide knows this stuff in their sleep.
It may sound simple, but these things can make or break how safely you get from one end of trek to the other. Just last week on the summit trail to Roop Kund, a trekker tragically lost their life after losing their footing on some hidden ice. We never think these small things can affect us so monumentally, but a trekking guide always keeps this in mind, and is there to make sure you return home safely to tell everyone about your newest adventure. Make every step a confident one with the knowledge you gain from these people.
2. Certified in First Aid & CPR
The merits of this one are fairly obvious. A professional guide like the ones at Bikat have gone through rigorous training and certification courses on how to effectively treat anything and everything that may become a medical issue.
Trust me, I’ve seen the inside of their rucksacks, it’s a pharmacy in there- and they know exactly what you need when you need it. On our most recent trek to Roop Kund, one of our trekkers suffered from symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness, something that can become life-threatening if not properly addressed. While she was uncomfortable as she battled the symptoms, our crew member found comfort under the constant watch and care of our trek leader, who knew exactly how to effectively combat these symptoms and keep her healthy and safe.
Again, the knowledge they carry takes the responsibility away from you to guess whether something is okay or not. They have the answers, and the confidence to act in times of crucial health decisions- an invaluable asset at 15,000 feet.
3. Trained in Rescue
More times than I can count, I’ve witnessed a guide dive for a participant that has lost their footing, slipped on the ice or otherwise found themselves in a precarious situation just in time to extend a very crucial hand.
Minor protective reflexes aside, these guides are also trained in how to quickly and efficiently evacuate an injured trekker down the mountain- from how to fashion a harness out of rope to carry them down on their back, to knowing the best route and access point of further medical help, they (literally) have your back.
4. Able & experienced enough to plan efficiently
This one is so underrated. With their experience and training comes the invaluable addition of keen foresight. Evaluating actions, routes and trails for their possible danger points, timings, weather patterns etc., the entire day is anything but arbitrarily planned.
There’s a reason we start our trekking at dawn each morning- it’s because the leaders build in those extra daylight hours as a buffer against any potential issues. It’s because they know the mountains oftentimes like to send trekkers a mid-afternoon storm that you’d better not still be on the trail for.
While your thoughts are on how beautiful the scenery is- their’s are 100 meters ahead on what looks like could be a potential landslide area and possible alternative routes.
Why are these four things so good for us trekkers (besides the overwhelmingly obvious safety benefits)?
Because they think about this stuff so you don’t have to.
Don’t get me wrong, you still need to be an aware and conscientious trekker, but with them carrying the majority of the mental weight of caring for everyone else and planning ahead, you are granted a little extra mental room to purely enjoy the gorgeous scene in front of you.
So go for it- forge your own path and take on the beautiful power that is the Himalayas and Roop Kund Trek, but do yourself a favor: don’t take away your opportunity to ever experience the joy of another trek in the future just because you felt invincible.
Be safe & self-sustainable at the same time. Bring a guide, get your camera and climb that mountain independently.