“Which is a better trek? Roopkund or Rupin?”
I find it very difficult to answer this question. It is so hard to choose between the two great treks, that I have always stuck to a middle path. I have pointed out the pros and cons of both Roopkund and Rupin Pass, but consciously never taken a stance on either of them.
So finally, for the first time, I am going to choose one of them as a better trek. My choice may come as a surprise to many.
First, some background on why both are great treks.
Roopkund – What makes it a great trek?
To me, Roopkund is priceless for two reasons. I have never seen high altitude meadows as beautiful as Ali and Bedni Bughyal. Yes, there are other great high altitude meadows in our country, but the way Ali and Bedni Bugyal reveal themselves, a layer at a time, makes them unique.
When you crest Ali Bugyal, more meadows reveal themselves, stretching in a giant arc ahead of you. White mountain peaks jut out from the green edges of the meadows. By the time you reach Bedni Bugyal and camp beside the still waters of the Bedni Kund, even the die hard trekker, who has seen it all, accepts that this is as good as it gets.
The oak forest of the Roopkund trek is the second best thing about the trek. There are oak forests on other treks too, but the way they are laid out on the western slope of the mountain on the Roopkund trail is perfect. They light up in the morning sun, unlike any other forest. Such is the wonderful play of light through the dense trees that just a trek through the oak forest is worth doing the entire trek for.
Finally, the moment when you reach Roopkund is a high. Surrounded by cliffs on three sides, with Roopkund in a snowy cauldron, it feels like you are in the midst of something majestic. The thrill of getting there after an exciting climb is compounded with the tranquillity of the place. It is a sight so unique that you are unlikely to find anything similar on any other trek. It is no surprise I have found many breaking down into tears when they reach Roopkund; such is the sense of accomplishment.
The Rupin Pass trek on the other hand has three great things going for me.
The first is the surprises on the trek. Every day, every hour the scenery changes to reveal a new sight. I have documented a few here (12 Surprising twists on the Rupin pass trek), but I assure you that this is not a complete list.
The second delectable thing about the Rupin Pass trek is the Dhanderas Thatch campsite. It is probably one of the most exquisite Himalayas has to offer. Snuggled at the bottom of a perfect “U” shaped glacial valley – it lies on the bed of a lush green meadow. From your view at the bottom of the meadow, snow patched cliffs tower on all three sides. In front, the Rupin cascades down from the snowy Dhauladar range for over two thousand feet to form the famous Rupin water fall.
The third thing that I love about the Rupin Pass trek is the pass-crossing day. The alpine setting is so stunning that it takes time to absorb the vision of snow in all directions. As the trail goes around bends of the mountain side, over snow fields and snow ridges, it is difficult not to feel overpowered by the occasion. The climb through the gully to the narrow Rupin pass and the glissading descent on the other side to the Sangla valley are moments that freeze in time.
So which of the two – Roopkund or Rupin Pass do I choose as the better trek?
Well, it is tough one, but I finally choose the Rupin Pass.
It is like this: Roopkund is like an art house movie. Everything is classy about it. It is perfect in every way – perfect oak forests, perfect meadows and perfect alpine settings. The Rupin Pass trek on the other hand is like a Bollywood blockbuster with its masala. There are long stretches and there are short walks. There are dense forests and there are open tracts. There are hanging villages and there are quaint towns. There is a lot going on all the time with its sudden scenery changes. And like a blockbuster it ends in a flourish with a thrilling pass climb. While class has its place, the commoner always loves a masala trek. That’s why, I prefer Rupin Pass over Roopkund.
Don’t get me wrong. I love both treks dearly. And it is hard to choose between the two. But if you push me hard, I’ll go with the Rupin.
If you’ve done both the treks, let me know what your thoughts are. I’ll be glad to debate you!