Brahmatal is a peak winter trek. What sets it apart from other winter treks is that you can actually do this in the months of January and February, when the snow is deep. There are stretches where you walk in knee-deep snow. What is more, frequent snow fall means that most of this is fresh, soft and ideal to have the snow fight that you always dreamt of.
The icing on the cake, literally, is the two frozen lakes of Brahmatal and Bekaltal. Just when you think it can’t get any better than this, you get the closest views of Mt Trishul, Mt Nanda Ghunti and Garhwal Himalayas, that such a short trek can get you.
To show you what I mean, here is a photo story.
Day 1: Drive through winding roads for your first view of the Himalayas
The trek begins at Lohajung, situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The drive from Kathgodam to Lohajung takes you through the mountain towns of Almora, Ranikhet and Kausani in Kumaon. Chamoli, however, falls in the Garhwal region.
The drive to Lohajung gives you a quick glimpse into the way of life in Kumaon villages. You go past forests, orchards and terraced fields. Potatoes, rice, local millets and rajma are the most commonly grown crops here.
The stacks of hay being collected in these fields will later be thrown high up into trees, where they will be protected from the snow and serve as fodder for cattle in winter. It is usually women and children who take on this task.
Wide vistas of Himalayan ranges open up before you once you gain altitude. Around Kausani, you get a taste of the views awaiting you on the trek. Mt Trishul, Mt Nanda Devi and Panchachuli are the prominent mountains that you see from here.
The base camp, Lohajung, is a small market area that started off with catering to basic shopping requirements of people from the nearby villages of Culing, Mundoli and Bank. This is also where the very popular Roopkund trek begins. If you now walk down the main street, you will find quite a few shops stocked with gear required by trekkers. At 7,600 ft, Lohajung receives a fair amount of snow fall in winter.
Day 2: Leave the last villages behind to enter dense forests
The trail begins in the market at Lohajung. It quickly climbs past Mundoli village and Budla, a cluster of houses further up. As you move higher, you can spot Kali valley in the distance, to the left. This is the location of the confluence of Kali and Pindar rivers.
You soon leave the villages behind to enter a thick oak and rhododendron forest. This is where your real experience of the snow begins.
If you are here between February and April, the bright red rhododendron flowers fill up the forest. Further up, you get views of the high altitude meadows of Bagdi and Navali Bugyals.
The first campsite is located at Khopdaliya, a few minutes’ walk from the Bekaltal lake. This a clearing at the edge of the forest. You can see the villages of Solepatti and Ratgaon in valley below you.
You will never run out of things to do at the campsite, especially when there are layers of fresh snow. Apart from snuggling up in the dining tent to share a few jokes or play a game, trekkers delight in building a snow man or just having snow fights.
Bekaltal is situated in the middle of an oak forest. This is the of the two lakes on this trek. It is a short walk from the campsite. Bekaltal is frozen in winter. A thin sheet of ice forms on the top, tempting you to step on it.
Day 3: Trek through vast, snow filled meadows
The trail today initially climbs steeply through oak and rhododendron forests. This is followed by an easy walk through snow filled meadows till you reach the Brahmatal campsite.
You see distant valleys all through the day’s trek. The well known ones are Almora and Nainital. The big mountains in the vicinity, such as Trishul and Nanda Ghunti, are right there, but still hidden from view.
Every where you turn, you see miles and miles of undulating snow. Hidden beneath this soft, white, powdery cover are vast, high altitude meadows. It is difficult to believe that this place is lush green at a different time of the year.
At 10,351 ft, the Brahmatal campsite experiences frequent snow fall in this season.
Day 4: Get bowled over by the panoramic view at Brahmatal Top and the second frozen lake
Today is the most visually delightful day of the trek. You trek to Brahmatal top from where you can see Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Ghunti almost in their entirety.
As you inch closer to the Brahmatal peak, the entire panorama of Garhwal Himalayas opens up before you. Chaukhambha, Mandir, Mana, Nilgiri, Neelkanth, Trishul, Nanda Ghunti, Maitoli and mountains stretching all the way to the Panchachuli range become visible.
This is almost as close as you can get to Mt.Trishul on a winter trek. The views are crystal clear in this season.
One of the valleys that you see while descending from the summit is Wan. This is a village on the way to Roopkund.
Brahmatal gets its name from Lord Brahma, who is believed to have meditated here. In winter, this lake is completely frozen. Though fed by mountain streams, the water in this lake is not potable since it has no outlet for the water to flow.
Day 5: Relive the trek as you leave the meadows, enter forests and walk fast fields
The descent to Lohajung is down the same trail up to Khabekhal. After this, it deviates to go down straight to Lohajung instead of returning via Bekaltal.
Once you leave the snow filled meadows behind and approach the tree line, the Kali valley comes back into view.
The trek ends in Lohajung. However, views of the Himalayan ranges stay with you all the way past Almora on the drive back to Kathgodam.