A green lake of divinity – 22 km from Badrinath
Close to the hustle-bustle of the holy town of Badrinath lies an secluded, untouched glacial lake called Satopanth. Hidden amidst the most impressive ranges of the Garhwal region, this bright green lake exudes grace and serenity. It makes for a perfect detour from a pilgrimage to Badrinath.
Although located just 22 km from the popular Badrinath, the trail has several hidden treasures. The short distance of Satopanth Lake Trek is well-compensated with a frequent change in sceneries.
On Day 1, one passes the last Indian village, Mana, and enters the green valley of Vasundhara. This is essentially where the trek starts. On this day, trekkers can feast their eyes on the 400-feet waterfall of Vasundhara, the beautiful birch forests of Laxmiban and the view of Balakun, where two massive glaciers converge.
On Day 2, the green forested surroundings transform into formidable ridge walks over glacial moraines of Dhano Glacier. The landscape is a beautiful mash-up of glacial ice and green patches of grassland. Some of the best varieties of alpine flowers can be seen here. The campsite of Chakratirtha has a beautiful view of the upper Satopanth glacier, with the Swaragrohini and Chaukhamba ranges towering in the background.
On Day 3, the walk to Satopanth Lake is a charming ridge walk. The lake remains hidden till the very last moment of contact. This triangular lake has a perimeter of over 1 km and is of a soothing evergreen colour. A trek a few kilometres above the lake is suggested to get a better perspective of the Satopanth Glacier.
Before you start the trek, obtain inner line permits from the Forest Department in Joshimath. It is wise to hire a local guide for this trek. Guides are available in Joshimath, Badrinath and Mana. The trek is 40 km (approximately) long. The weather conditions and the gradient make the trek more difficult than it may appear. Food provisions and sleeping arrangements need to be taken along.
An Alternative Indiahikes trek you can try:
If you are not too sure of doing a trek on your own, we have alternatives you can try. Here is what our co-founder Sandhya Uc thinks would be a good alternative.
“Gaumukh Tapovan trek would provide you the mountain views, the terrain you are looking for on the Satopanth trek. It is also done in similar season. The only thing Gaumukh Tapovan would fall short of is the altitude and difficulty level of this trek. ”
Day 1: Mana – Laxmiban
Reach Mana early in the day. This is the last village within the Indian border. After having your permits checked, proceed with the trek and head in the direction of Vasundhara Falls.
In a short while from Mana, you’ll pass Saraswati temple. From here, the gradient of the trail becomes increasingly steep. Continue to walk with the Alaknanda River flowing below you. The valley is incredibly green during monsoon. Around 2-3 hours later, you’ll begin to hear the sound of water plunging down from 400 ft. Soon, Vasundhara Falls will come into sight. This waterfall is known for its scientifically-proven medicinal value.
As you leave the falls behind, tread through the rich birch forests of Laxmiban. The valley opens up into two as you confront an impressive wall of Balakun in front of you. After around 4 km of moraine walk, you’ll come across the campsite of Laxmiban on your left.
Day 2: Laxmiban – Chakratirtha
Today’s trek is short, but scenic, as you enter the Satopanth Valley. The trail is dotted with green patches in the middle of vast terminal moraine of the Dhano Glacier. Keep your eyes open for few of the most beautiful high altitude alpine flowers here.
Catch the first view of the famous three peaks of Bhagirathi from the Satopanth Valley. The weather here can change drastically post noon. Climb up the steep ridge of Sahashradhara to Chakratirtha camping grounds, which is only a kilometre away. From the campsite, bask in the beautiful view of the west face of Mt. Neelkanth.
Day 3: Chakratirtha – Satopanth – Chakratirtha
If you thought the previous evening’s views were great, then ready yourself for a jaw-dropping view early in the morning. With the Neelkanth, Satopanth and Parvati peaks on your left, the Chaukhamba peak in the center and the Balakun range on your right, it’s not a sight you’re going to forget soon.
Keeping that picture in mind, prepare yourself for a difficult day of trekking. Take the trail that meanders through a maze of boulders and moraine. The sound of avalanches perpetually rumbles throughout the valley. The route is tricky. An able guide can help you find the most suitable route ahead. The last 2 km of the trail have loose soil over glacial moraine. This stretch is also deceptive with a couple of steep inclines. As you reach the top of the ridge, catch your first view of the triangular lake. There is a small room constructed as a temporary shelter here. A local sage, Mauni Baba, is known to live near the lake.
From the lake, the views are spectacular. Towards the left side of Chaukhamba is Satopanth Col. Cross this and one can connect with the icefield of Panpatia and trek all the way till Kedarnath.
The five km return trek to Chakratirtha can be done swiftly in a couple of hours. One can also trek down to Laximban if time permits.
Day 4: Chakratirtha – Mana – Badrinath
Take the same trail taken to reach Chakratirtha from Mana Village. The descent is a 15 km trek, which can be done in 5-6 hours. Once at Mana, take a jeep ride to Badrinath and stay there for the night. If transport is available, you can opt for a ride to Joshimath town.
Picture Inputs by Binayak Mitra, Ex. Trek Leader, Indiahikes
Get trek fit!
This trek requires a good amount of endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. Make sure you are able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too.
This is another area you should work on. There is a lot of trekking distance that you will cover carrying your backpacks and trekking along with your backpack is not a very easy task. You have to walk on uneven terrain during the trek. It could be taxing for your legs. For this, strengthening your legs will help. You can do some squats to strengthen them. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set.
Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. On your trek, it is important that you arrive on the slopes with your muscles relaxed. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek.
Working out indoors
If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints, here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.
What to pack?
- Trekking shoes: The trek distance is long and you will have to walk for long distances which need you to have comfortable trekking shoes. You can watch this video to learn to choose the right trekking shoes.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
- Three (Five in Winter) Warm Layers: You will be trekking and camping at high altitudes. So make sure you have the apt clothes for the climatic conditions. It will be cold at the higher altitudes so make sure you have at least three layers of warm clothes to protect yourself.
- Two trek pants: One pair of pants should suffice for this trek. But you can carry one spare pair in case the first one gets wet. Wear one pair and carry one pair.
- Two collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Again, wear one and carry one.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness.
- Suncap: The sun is more harsh at high altitudes so wear a suncap to protect your face and neck.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof/resistant, wind proof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Daypack (20 litres): If you are offloading your backpack, you will need a smaller backpack to carry water, medical kit and some light snacks.
- Toiletries (Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste)
- Cutlery: Carry a spoon, coffee mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
- Two water bottles: 1 litre each
- Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
- Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
- Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
- Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
- Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
- Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
- Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
- Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
- Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
- Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
- Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
- Gauze – 1 small roll
- Band aid – 10 strips
- Cotton – 1 small roll
- ORS – 10 packets
- Betadine or any antiseptic cream
- Moov spray (aches, & sprains)