It was late evening. we had reached Lohjung ,the base point of Roopkund trek. With 8 hours of bus journey from Delhi to Haldwani & 12 hours of hopping one taxi after the other from Haldwani to Lohajung, It had been a long journey for us. Thankfully we had booked accommodation in advance . Mr. Dayal Singh Patwal , the owner of the lodge showed us our room . Mr. Patwal was a nice gentleman. Like the man himself Patwal lodge with clean & affordable rooms , is a nice place to stay. The lodge is located on a high ground overlooking the village . The sun had set & in the sky opposite to our balcony was a full moon. The sky was clear & dotted with stars. Seeing the perfect setting, we requested permission from our host to place two chairs & a table in the balcony . While we were sitting , Mr. Patwal joined us. He briefed us about the trek route and itinerary. The conversation moves to other topics . We came to know about how too much interference from outside world has resulted in overgrazing in the meadows of the region . Mr. Patwal is part of an organization which is fighting for the preservation of this region's environment. It was 8:30 PM & getting late by local standards. We were served dinner . After a fulfilling meal we are off to our room. Before sleeping we had a look at the map of Roopkund trek. Soon the tiredness from the day overcame & we fell asleep.
Day 1 ( Lohajung to Bedni Bugyal )
I woke up early . Ritvij was still sleeping . From the extent of light coming in from the window of our room i guessed it was about 6:00 AM . I pushed myself out of bed . I opened the door of the room. The sun was rising . I took a couple of shots with my camera.
Before starting the trek , we have to buy ration for our journey. As per information from the locals there are fibre huts on all the camping sites so we decide to not carry any tent. While sipping tea we planned our itinerary . Usually the trek is done in 6 days from Lohajung to Lohajung. Since we did not have the luxury of so many days at hand we crashed it to.
day 1 - Lohajung to Bedni Bugyal ( Trek )
day2 - Bedni Bugyal to Bhaguabasa ( Trek )
day3 - Bhaguabasa to roopkund & back to Wan ( Trek ) . Wan to Lohajung ( Drive )
By 8:30 AM. Mahavir (our guide) & Raghuveer ( our cook ) had arrived. We discussed the itinerary with them . Initially they were apprehensive about our capability of doing it in 3 days but finally they agree. From Patwal Lodge, Didina village can be seen towards north . Right behind Didina, a snow covered peak can be seen . Its name is Nanda Ghunti (6,309 M) .
in picture - Nanda Ghunti ( 6309 M ) . Small settlement seen right below it is Didina
There are two ways for Didina from Lohajung . One way is along the river. For this you have to descent to the river in Lohajung & then walk parallel to it. The other way which we took is via kuling . There is a road parallel to the river from Lohajung to Kuling . From kuling you have to decend to the river . Both of these routes merge in Akhodi which is 15 minutes walk away from kuling .
We started from Lohajung at 09:15 AM . We had walked only a few steps when a car stopped by. The driver was a teacher in the same school where Mahavir & Raghuveer studied. He offered us lift upto kuling .We fit our bags & ourselves in the small vehicle. Kuling is about 4 kms from Lohajung. The four of us started trekking from Kuling at 10:15 AM. As we were walking through the village, the village folks were asking Mahavir about where we were headed . He was telling them Bedni Bugyal . Without exception everyone was telling " Nahi Pahunchoge ! " . Real encouragement !
The trail is downhill upto Akhodi . Akhodi can be identified by a water crossing. From Akhodi the trail climbs for some distance & then plane walk till we cross the river "Neel Ganga " by a metal bridge . From this bridge the trail is uphill upto Didina. By 11 : 30 AM we had reached Didina . Didina is a beautiful village with very less population. For trekkers there are many homestay options in Didina .
in picture - Akhodi, where two routes meet
in picture - The metal bridge over river Neelganga
Mahavir invited us for tea in one of his friends house in Didina . We happily accepted the offer. After having tea we filled our water bottles & started trek from Didina at 12 :10 PM. A small tip of Ali Bugyal is visible from Didina if you look up north. From the look it seemed like there is a steep climb ahead. Without wasting any time we started walking . At 2:00 PM we had our first major halt for lunch. We reached ali by 4 : 30 PM.
in picture - Didina, the beautiful little village
At 5:00 PM we were walking through Ali Bugyal . As per our guide we were not too far from camps . As we walked further two structures become visible . Directly in our direction of walking was a small structure made from stones . It was a temple of some kind with size of about 6 X 6 X 2 Feet . Slightly to our right we could see a cluster of fibre huts green in colour . Initially i assumed that these were the camps. Ritvij was of the opinion that it was the campsite of Ali Bugyal & not Bedni bugyal where we have planned our stay. The trail further was uphill in zig zag shape . When we reached the stone structure we sat for a break . We must have been sitting for about 5 minutes & commenced walking again .
in picture - The green fiber huts
By 5:30 we had negotiated the first leg of ziz zag trail. We were expecting to see our guide from that point but after reaching there we could not spot them anywhere. The trail was going in four directions from this point . One was in the direction from where we came. Second trail was going downhill towards the jungle . Rest of the two trails are going uphill & merging up further . When we could not spot our guide , we decided to take one of the two trails going up. We went on this trail up to the point where it merged with the other trail going up . From this point, the trail was visible for about Half a km ahead but nobody was on it. We calculated that it was not possible for them to walk so fast . We would have seen them atleast once before they could cross the visible section of the trail. We decide to return to the point from where we have come & look for them on other possible trails. We went back to that point . It was 6 :15 PM by now .The sky had turned red & sun was ready to set . By this time we had started evaluating our options in case we are not able to find our camps. Thankfully there were those green fibre huts nearby we thought . We had about 15 mins of daylight left. so we took our last chance . We decide to look for our camps on the only remaining trail which we hadn't seen yet , the one going downhill towards the jungle . Since there was only about 15 mins of daylight left and we dint want to get lost inside the jungle ,we fixed a time for ourselves. As per plan we were to walk fast & go for about 7 minutes on this trail . If we dint find any clue we were to return back to the same point. We wanted to have enough time at hand to return to the green fibre huts before it went completely dark. As we walked on this trail we saw some fresh shoe marks. Seeing them we thought we are going in the right direction & we were almost sure that we were headed to our camps . We walked even faster only to see that the trail suddenly disappeared as the jungle started. This was the moment of truth . It was not possible for the campsite to be here firstly because this was not in the route to Roopkund & secondly why would a campsite having the name of a meadow "Bedni buyal " be inside the jungle. Our last chance was gone . We had to retrace our steps to the stone structure. It took us about 15 minutes to do so & by the time our torches were in our hands. After every few minutes we were calling the names of Mahavir & Raghubir in the hope that they will be looking for us like we were looking for them .
It was freezing cold. We had to make fire to survive the night . Thankfully there was lot of firewood lying around the stone structure . According to Ritvij it was a better idea to spend the night in green huts which were closed from all sides and offered better protection from weather as compared with the stone structure. But the firewood was here. After a little thought we decided to collect sufficient amount of firewood and carry it to the fibre huts . We made a bundle of the woods & rolled a mattress around the bundle. Idea was to carry the firewoods to the green huts & make fire there. We were walking to the green huts . Ritvij was carrying the firewood bundle while i was carrying the bags of both of us . He was walking about 30 meters behind me. After a while huts became visible through the dark in some distance . Then i stopped suddenly. I had seen something which is the last thing one wants to see in a situation like this. There were two eyes sparkling in the dark & a dark shape surrounding them . As i looked at it, it saw me in the eyes. It dint move from its place but i definitely did . I slowly retraced my steps with my eyes on it . Then with a sudden move i changed my direction & moved swiftly. When Ritvij saw me coming back he asked what happened ? I told him that i saw a wild animal there . He was not happy with the new development . What wild animal ! he said . I told him you want to go & check ? We stood there for a few seconds . We both knew that going back meant spending the night in the stone structure . Reluctantly Ritvij followed me to the stone structure .
It could have been anything. A cow, a dog , a beer or any other wild animal of that size and shape .If i had to guess , it was a cow as it had a very low temperament . It only saw me while i stood there & it dint look like in a mood to attack or anything . But as a matter of fact we dint see any cows since we started on this trek. We were not sure about what it was but one thing was sure that we were not going back to the green huts now . So we started making fire near the door of stone structure . Idea was to make fire at the door of stone structure & sit inside the structure for as long as the fire lasted. It will heat up the stones of this little room . After the fire is out we will move some of the charcoal inside the structure & try to get some sleep around it. This will also avert any wild animal if it comes nearby during the night. Surely it was going to be one hell of a night with freezing temperature at 3700 M altitude in the month of November but we knew we would survive it . As we were into making fire, i heard a faint voice. I knew what it meant . Mahavir was searching us . The voice kept becoming louder & clearer. I gave signal with my torch while i moved in the direction of voice. In mountains its difficult to figure the direction of sound but still i moved in the most likely direction . We were relieved that our hardship was over & soon we will be safe in our camps. But the voice stopped coming suddenly . We waited for about 10 minutes but nothing happened. So now we were back in the business of making fire. Meanwhile we were shouting Mahavir's name & signaling with torch as we were still hoping that he was nearby somewhere. After about 10 minutes the voice came again. This time much clearer & closer . We hurriedly gave signal with torch & shouted mahavir's name. Then we saw a shape of a man emerge on the small hill in front of us. It was Mahavir. He came running. His first question was what are you doing here ? He looked worried & angry . We could have told him our side of story & that we were angry too . But we dint do that . Rather we hugged him & thanked him. It was not anybody's fault that we were lost. Just some misunderstanding . Such things happen in the mountains. In the end what mattered was that Mahavir came back looking for us & we should be thankful for that.
We marched behind Mahavir . It took us 40 minutes to reach camps. Mahavir was in a hurry . The reason for this we came to know later. Apparently Raghuveer was afraid of ghosts & Mahavir had to leave his childhood buddy all alone. We joined Raghuveer in camps at 8 PM . As we entered the camps Raghuveer was worried too . Very soon we were back to normalcy & laughed the whole incident while we ate delicious dinner cooked by Raghuveer . Raghuveer's eyes were vide opened when we told him about the wild animal story . It was indeed a memorable story .
Before going to sleep we revisited our plan for the route ahead. Raghuveer told us that it wont be possible for to camp in Bhaguabasa tomorrow. He pointed two reasons for this. Firstly it will be too cold in Bhaguabasa & secondly there will be no source of water near bhaguabasa campsite. We could manage the cold but camping without water is not a wise idea . Raghuveer advice was that we should rather camp in Patar Nachauni . So we decided to camps in Patar Nachuni the next day & went to sleep.
Day 2 ( Bedni Bugyal - Patar Nachauni )
It was 11 :00 AM . We had left camps at 10 :00 AM & By 12:30 PM we had reached the our campsite.
When you go for a high altitude trek like Roopkund you would not expect a camping site which looks & stinks like a garbage disposal site at the outskirt of Delhi but thats exactly what we saw here. Unfortunately this could be attributed to thousands of trekkers who visit Roopkund trek every year and pilgrims of Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra 2014. Its my sincere appeal to anyone who go to the mountains that please do not do this. If you think that what difference does throwing just one wrapper makes to such huge area then just have look at the pictures below & you will know the answer.
With so much time at hand we could have easily reached Bhaguabasa but in mountains you have to follow certain rules. So overall today was relaxed . We had hardly walked for two and half hours . We were not very happy about it because what we had not done today will add to tomorrow's distance . For tomorrow it was going to be a mammoth task so we planned to start trek at 5:00 AM. We had kept two options for ourselves . If we are able to reach Roopkund in time and return to Patar Nachauni by 2 PM we will attempt to reach Lohajung via WAN on the same day. In case we are not able to return to Patar Nachauni by 2 PM , then we will camp in Ghairoli Patal ( a campsite midway Bedni Bugyal & Wan ) . In this case we will start trek at 4 AM on the next day and reach Lohajung by 7:30 AM and thereafter board vehicle for Kathgodam .
For today we dint have much to do so after lunch we took our sleeping bags and had a long afternoon nap.
Day 3 ( Patar Nachauni - Roopkund - Back to Lohajung )
It was 3:20 AM when Ritvij's phone alarm went off. I woke up but dint move. Its always difficult to get out from sleeping bags in mountains at such an early hour . I got descent sleep last night, except for some time in between when the sound of some mouse playing with polythene wrappers kept awakening me . I called Raghuveer's name and asked him to start preparing breakfast and lunch . He told me from inside his sleeping bag that its too cold outside & we should start the trek a little late . I asked him how much time you want. He told me 20 minutes. After 20 minutes i switched on my mobile phone and played bollywood number "Baby Doll" at full volume & thereafter the playlist continued while we ate breakfast and prepared for the journey ahead..
in picture - Chaukhamba & Neelkanth Peaks
We left camps at 5:15 AM. Its always easier to walk in the early hours and its better to cover maximum distance in this time. We walked for next 75 minutes without stopping . It was a gruelling climb and by far the most difficult on this trek. After negotiating this climb we had reached "Kalua Vinayak" (14000ft.) at 6:30 AM. By this time the first light of rising sun had already started falling on the peaks all around us. To name a prominent few there were Kedarnath ,Chaukhamba , Neelkantha to our left while facing in the direction of roopkund .. Directly in front of us were the peak of Trishul & Nanda Ghunti.
Bhaguabasa campsite can be seen from kalua Vinayak . After a short break in Kalua vinayak , we commenced walking towards roopkund . The snow was soft and easy to walk on in the early hours. We wanted to negotiate the snow sections as soon as possible because as the day progresses the snow starts melting & it becomes very slippery to walk.
It was 7:15 AM. we had crossed Bhagua basa and were walking towards Roopkund . The lake which is also known as mystery lake is famous because human skeletons were rediscovered here in 1942 by a Nanda Devi game reserve ranger, although there are reports about these bones from late 19th century. The skeletons are visible in the clear water of the shallow lake during a one-month period, when the ice melts. We had our first glimpse of Roopkund lake at 9:30 AM.
in picture - Glacier near roopkund
in picture - The roopkund lake
While coming back we retraced the same route. On the way we passed through Kalua Vinayak at 11:00 AM & reached Patar Nachauni camps at 12:00 AM. Since we were almost 2 hours ahead of our schedule, we took some rest in Patar Nachauni after having lunch. We starter at 01:00 PM from Patar Nachauni & reached van at 6:00 PM. From here we took a taxi for Lohajung . The evening was spent roaming in the small marketplace of Lohajung. Next day we took a cab for Haldwani & Boarded overnight Volvo from Haldwani to Delhi.