Important: The Roopkund trek is not allowed anymore. Here are good alternatives. Click on the trek names for details.
Har Ki Dun – An easier trek, best done in October and November
Rupin Pass – A tougher trek, go for it in October if you’re fit
Roopkund – The most popular of them all!
If you’re trekking in India, the Roopkund trek is a must-do! It’s got everything going for it. Deep virgin forests, gurgling brooks, breath-taking campsites, miles of undulating meadows, snow and ice and the taste of a great adventure as you climb from 8,000 ft to 16,000 ft in six days.
Roopkund, perhaps the most popular trek in India, is almost picture perfect. The Roopkund trail climbs out of splendid dark forests suddenly bursting into Ali and Bedni Bugyal, arguably India’s most beautiful high altitude meadows. Out of the meadows the trail quickly gets into terrific alpine stretches. Climbing on snow to the Roopkund lake is a heart-pounding thrill. The beautiful Mt Trishul looms over the setting getting closer as you climb higher, when at a ridge above Roopkund, only air separates the trekker from them and Trishul.
The dense oak forests of Ghairoli
On the very first day, the trail enters deep oak forests of Ghairoli Patal. On a quiet day, all you’ll hear in the rustling of dry leaves, wind whistling through the branches and birds cooing amongst the foliage. The climb lasts just around 3-4 hours before you reach your campsite. You camp right in the middle of the forest, in a clearing, surrounded by ancient oak trees. The evening light on these trees and Mt Trishul that peeks at you from the horizon is picture-perfect.
The meadows make the trek unbeatable
The two gigantic alpine meadows of Ali Bugyal and Bedni Bugyal will blow your mind away. It almost feels like walking into the famous Windows XP wallpaper. Throughout the trek you’re fed with magnificent views of Mt Trishul and Mt Nanda Ghunti. Apart from these two, you see the imposing Chaukhamba range, Neelkanth peak, Kedarnath, Kedar Dome and several other high risers on the Roopkund trek.
A great dose of adventure
The Roopkund trek offers the right dose of adventure with a bunch of steep climbs and slippery but fun descents. No roller coaster can give you the adrenaline rush you get as you walk along a sharp, exposed ridge towards Junargali, while holding onto a rope. Although this part of the climb depends on a lot of factors such as weather and time of the day, if you want to be within the breathing space of Mount Trishul and Nanda Ghunti, this is the place to be.
Apart from all this, the Roopkund Lake also carries an element of mystery with it. The 300 human skeletons at 15,750 feet have intrigued anthropologists, scientists and historians alike. Trek this trail and let our local guides (who happen to be great storytellers) narrate to you the suspense filled stories about the lake and the trail itself.
Day 1: Reach the base camp, Lohajung
It is a 10-11 hour journey from Kathgodam to Lohajung. Read in detail about getting to Lohajung here. After a glimpse at Tharali, the sight of Mt Nanda Ghunti welcomes you to Lohajung. A village with wonderful views of Didina valley, Lohajung is a nerve centre of 12-15 villages.
The name, as the locals say, comes from the myth that Goddess Parvati had a war (jung) with a demon Lohasur here. There is one local store where you can buy jackets, hand gloves, caps, shoes etc. if need be. However, it is advised that you carry all required things for trek beforehand and not rely on this shop. You will have mobile network in most parts of this village. If you have a day to spare, you can go on a trek to Ajan Top. A sweeping bugyal with a temple perched on it’s top, Ajan Top makes for a perfect excursion. You get wonderful views of Maiktoli from here.
- Altitude: 7,700 ft (2,347 m)
- Time taken: 10-11 hours. Pick up from Kathgodam Railway Station at 6.30 am
Day 2: Drive from Lohajung to Wan. Trek to Ghairoli Patal
- Altitude: Drive from 7,700 ft (2,347 m). Start trek from 8,000 ft (2,438 m) to 10,000 ft (3,048 m).
- Time taken: 1 hour drive to Wan + 4 hour trek from Wan to Ghairoli Patal
- Trail type : Initial 30-45 minutes ascent to Ran Ka Dhar followed by a 20 minute descent to the river Neel Ganga. A stiff climb of 3 hours from Neel Ganga to Ghairoli Patal.
- Water sources: Carry sufficient water from Lohajung. You can refill your water bottles at Neel Ganga.
Start from Wan, a village situated at an hour’s drive from Lohajung. The initial trail is cemented and through a cluster of houses. 15 minutes into your trek, you will find a cluster of centuries old Cypress trees. It would take four people to circumvent the tree! Try hugging it.
From here, there are two trails you can spot. One goes straight ahead to ridge. The second one acts as deviation to Latu Devta temple. Latu Devta is a local deity, who is believed to protect the area. The mountain folk pay obeisance to him before ascending higher on the Nanda Devi Jat Yatra. Ring the temple bell here for a safe trek before going back to the ascending trail to ridge – Ranaka Dhar. It takes 30-45 minutes to ascend from Wan to Ranaka Dhar. At Ranaka Dhar, take in the view of Lohajung, Wan and the valley below! The name Ranaka Dhar comes from the battle Parvati had with the demon Lohasur. Their battle, which started in Lohajung, culminated here. The name Ranaka Dhar means “flowing blood”.
From here, it is a short descent to the gurgling Neel Ganga. The bridge on Neel Ganga is an idyllic location to take a breather. Trees overhang the river and the water trips and falls over boulders in the shade. The water here is cool and refreshing. From here begins the beautiful ascent to the first camp site, Ghairoli Patal. The trail now winds through Oak and Rhododendron forests and the path is strewn with dry leaves that crunch and crackle beneath your trekking shoes. There are walnut, pear, Himalayan roses and other flora you can find on this climb. You may even spot birds like a flycatcher, and magpies. Keep a look out.
This is a trek of about 3 hours that brings you to a clearing with a green trekker’s hut and a welcome sight of Trishul. This is Ghairoli Patal.
Day 3: Ghairoli Patal to Bedni Bugyal
- Altitude: 10,000 ft (3,048 m) to 11,500 ft (3,505 m)
- Time taken: 2 hours
- Trail type: Stiff climb for about 2 hours to Ali Bugyal followed by a gentle trail to Bedni Bugyal.
- Water sources: None. Carry 2 litres of water from the camp site.
The trail begins to climb steeply into an oak and rhododendron forest. And after half an hour of ascending stoned steps, the trail opens up to a huge meadow. Take the trail to right that will take you to Ali Bugyal.
The forest starts to thin after about 1½ hrs of climb (make it 2 if you are slow). Suddenly, abruptly, the oak and Rhododendeons fall behind you and stretched in front of you is a largest, greenest rolling carpet ever laid out for you. You’ve arrived at Ali Bugyal.
All tiredness forgotten, soak in the mesmerising sight of the undulating meadows of Ali Bugyal. You are on the top of a ridge that spreads in every direction – acres and acres of green meadow scooped out of the mountainside.
Clouds drift in from below, glide over the ridge and slide down the either side, all in a slow swift motion. You watch countless horses grazing on the bounty of nature. Foals tear themselves across the turf in an uninhibited abandon.
Leisurely make your way to Bedni Bugyal, 5 km away and a mildly descending trail initially. If you are tempted to take off your shoes and allow the feel of the carpet on your toes, just go ahead and do it! Towards the end of Ali Bugyal there’s a short switchback climb of 20 minutes before the trail levels out to a gentle trail to Bedni Bugyal. It takes about an hour to get to Bedni Bugyal from this point.
Day 4: Excursion to Bedni Top
- Altitude: 11,500 ft (3,505 m) to 12,200 ft (3,719 m)
- Time taken: 1 hour
- Trail type: Steep climb to the Bedni top.
- Water sources: None. Carry 2 litres of water from the camp site.
Acclimatization day at Bedni Bugyal includes a leisurely stroll to Bedni top. From here you get a bird’s eye view of the Bedni Bugyal campsite as well as Maiktoli, Neelkanth, Chaukhambha and Mrigathuni.
Day 5: Bedni Bugyal to Patar Nachauni
- Altitude: 11,500 ft (3,505 m) to 12,700 ft (3,871 m)
- Time taken: 4 hours
- Trail type: Easy climb at the beginning to a saddle followed by gradual descent to Patar Nachauni
- Water sources: None. Carry 2 litres of water from the camp site.
The trail to Patar Nachauni climbs out of the Bedni campsite in a gradual, easy meander. From your Bedni campsite you can follow it with your eye for 3 kms before it disappears into a saddle in the mountain.When you cross the saddle, the trek exposes you to the other side of the ridge. The scenery is differently mesmerizing. For the first time you also see remnants of the winter snow on the mountain flanks (on the other side).
It is still meadow country and below you are the meadows of Ghora Lotani, the last stop for the horses. Beyond Ghora Lotani the meadows merge into the mountain side.
There are two ways to catch the trail to Patar Nachauni and Bhagwabhasa beyond. The easier option is to retrace your steps of yesterday to the point where you left the main trail to get into the Bedni campsite enclave (5-7 mins walk backwards). Get on the Roopkund trail and carry on your hike up and above the Bedni campsite. Another option is to start from your campsite, skirt the Bedni Kund from the right, climb up the slope behind the Kund, and climb further up to the trail from any direction you deem fit. This will save you half an hour to 45 mins of trekking time, but can leave you breathless.
Ghora Lotani makes an excellent campsite. In fact an additional day spent at Ghora Lotani will help to acclimatise to the altitude, plus offer you great views. It offers as good views as Bedni and has the added bonus of a strange sense of isolation. You can just about camp anywhere at Ghora Lotani, but ideally look to camp near the end of the meadows. A clear stream spews out of the side of slope and makes for a very good water source. Another place to camp is Patar Nachauni, where you head up a bit to the saddle and stay in the ecoshelters. The view here is beautiful though a bit exposed to the winds. Here, on your left you can see a trail that heads down to Bhuna and further on to Sitel and Suthol. There is a trail from here to Kuari Pass. Upwards is your climb to Kalu Vinayak. The saddle signals the end of the meadows.
Day 6: Patar Nachauni to Bhagwabhasa
- Altitude: 12,700 ft (3,871 m) to 14,100 ft (4,298 m)
- Time taken: 5 hours
- Trail type: A 3 hour steep ascent to Kalu Vinayak followed by a gradually descending trail to Bhagwabhasa
- Water sources: None. Carry 2 litres of water from the camp site.
The climb to Kalu Vinayak is a steep zig-zag up the mountain side and will take you to 14,500 ft. The distance isn’t much, and the zig-zag trails makes you gain height very rapidly. Climb this section very slowly. There really is no hurry and even if you are the slowest on the team you can reach Bhagwabasa in comfortable time. Take 10 minute breaks every 15 minutes. This is a crucial height where most trekkers feel the thinness in the air. You get breathless very soon and sometimes even feel dizzy. This would be okay if you did not have to do the Roopkund climb the next day. Most folks climb this section like any other climb and find it difficult to acclimatise to the Roopkund altitude later on.
Treat this section as the most crucial bit of your trek. In climbing time it takes around 1½ hrs to climb to Kalu Vinayak. Stretch it to 2½ hrs, even if you can climb quicker. By doing this, you’ll find your body adjusting to the increased height and the lack of oxygen. Climbing to Kalu Vinayak is a thrill and every time you look up and take a bend on the trail, the ridge line gets closer, drawing you, inspiring you. Around you are the green, sheer mountainside. Below, you can follow the trail that you took from the first saddle over Ghora Lotani and finally to Kalu Vinayak.
Kalu Vinayak gets its name from the black Ganesh idol enclosed in a stone shrine just as you finish the climb from Ghora Lotani. Lots of temple bells and a large plate for you to make a donation. Everyone offers a prayer here for a safe pilgrimage to Roopkund. A donation of Rs 10/- is standard. Some offer biscuits instead. Choose! Beside the Kalu Vinayak shrine and right next to it you hit your first patch of snow.
The trail from Kalu Vinayak to Bhagwabasa is easy and gently sloping downwards. Bhagwabasa is 2 kms away and you can see the Bhagwabasa huts if you follow the trail with your eye. The trail meanders through snow patches. Be careful on these snow patches. In June, by mid-day, they get soft and you can find yourself sinking to your knees in them. Step gingerly, quickly and skip your way across them. Better still, skirt around them.
Bhagwabasa is a cluster of stone huts put up by enterprising locals. The charge is on a bed basis. It could be Rs 150 to Rs 200 per bed depending on the season. On lean seasons the rates could go down to Rs 50. If you are staying at Bhagwabasa the locals will also cook for you at an additional cost. Carry your own sleeping bag – the nights are extremely cold.
If you are carrying tents, then don’t pitch camp at Bhagwabasa. Move ahead for another 5 minutes and you get a campsite on your left. This is Hunia Thal, a small clearing. There’s space enough for 4 tents and no more. The place is rocky, but you don’t have much of an option. If the sky is clear and the team is fit, it is a good idea to attempt Roopkund in the afternoon. The next day serves as an additional buffer.
At Bhagwabasa, nights turn extremely cold. Inside tent temperatures dip to 1°C. Outside measured at -2°C at 2.30 in the night. These are mid summer temperatures. In September-October temperature will dip further to -5°C or -6°C. Bhagwabasa is windy too. In the wind chill the -2°C feels like -6°C. You need to put on all your warm clothing and then get inside your sleeping bag to brave the night.
Day 7: Bhagwabasa to Roopkund to Junargali. Return to Patar Nachauni via Bhagwabasa
- Altitude: 14,100 ft (4,298 m) to 15,750 ft (4,800 m) to 16,000 ft/4,877 m (at Junargali) and down to 12,200 ft (3,719 m)
- Time taken: 3 hours to Roopkund + 2.5 hours return to Bhagwabasa + 3.5 hours return to Patar Nachauni
- Trail type: Gradual ascent to Roopkund with the last 20 minutes consisting of steep switch backs. 20-25 minutes steep climb to Junargali. Tricky descent on the switchbacks from Roopkund. Descending trail to Patar Nachuani.
- Water sources: None. Carry 2 litres of water from the camp site before you set off for Roopkund and refill your water bottles before starting for Patar Nachauni.
You need to start your push to Roopkund at 4:00 am. The sooner the better. You need to climb up to Roopkund while the snow is still hard. In the mid morning the snow becomes soft and your feet start sinking in. You want to avoid this. There’s plenty of snow even in the middle of summer.
From Bhagwabasa it is a 5 kms gradually ascending walk to Roopkund. Towards the end the trail climbs sharply through a series of switchbacks and a steep climb over a snowy flank to reach Roopkund. The stretch isn’t long, but the entire stretch is on snow patches. At some parts the slope is steep but most parts are easily trekkable. Those trekking alone need to carry ice-axes to cut steps on the snow. It takes about 2½ hrs to climb up to Roopkund. Ideally, if you have started at 5.00 am then you are going to get to Roopkund by 7.30 or 8.00 am. The climb is deliriously exhilarating. The last stretch of climbing over the snowy flank on the left requires support of all four limbs, but is over in 10 mins. Roopkund is right over the edge, two minutes away and yet you can’t see it unless you get there.
Roopkund is a crater on the mountain face, a dip at the cusp of the mountain. It is much bigger than what most internet pictures suggest. All around are snowy flanks of the mountain. You have to actually climb down 50 ft to reach the edge of the lake. GPS readings suggest that Roopkund is not more than 15,750 feet. Whatever the altitude, you will feel the thinness of the air. Climbing a few steps takes your breath away.
The Roopkund Mystery: The “Skeleton Lake” has intrigued anthropologists, scientists, historians and the local people ever since. Who were these people? What were they doing in the inhospitable regions of the Garhwal Himalayas? Local folklore has it that in medieval times, King Jasdhawal of Kanauj wanted to celebrate the birth of an heir by undertaking a pilgrimage to the Nanda Devi mountains in the Garhwal Himalaya. However, he disregarded the rules of pilgrimage by boisterous singing and dancing. The entourage earned the wrath of the local deity, Latu. They were caught in a terrible hailstorm and were thrown into the Roopkund lake!
Trekkers must attempt Junargali unless the weather does not permit it. From Roopkund, the sharp ridge line that towers above you is Junargali. It doesn’t take much time to get to Junargali. The route is over snow that gently inclines upwards until it reaches the face of the mountain. After which it is a steep clamber on the mountain face to reach Junargali. The climb isn’t for long; perhaps 250 ft. It gets over in perhaps 15-20 minutes. Care must be taken while you are climbing to Junargali. A rope with you is very handy.
The Return from Roopkund: Start your return by 9.30 am from Junargali, timing yourself such that you are back at Roopkund by 10.00 am and after a brief rest, you are on your way down. Trekkers often find getting down from Roopkund difficult. The snowy slope looks tricky and dangerously sloping. You may need to squat on all fours to negotiate the immediate flank of snow as you get off Roopkund. This is the difficult part but the lower you get, it gets easier progressively. Once out of the switchback descent, it is a easy walk back to Bhagwabasa. However, step carefully on the snow patches. By mid morning they are soft and slippery. Always trek down in small groups. You should reach Bhagwabasa within 2½ hours. There is a 5km descend from Bhagwabhasa to Patha Nachauni which you will cover in 3 hours. You can camp at Pathar Nachauni for the night.
Day 8: Patar Nachauni to Lohajung via Bedni and Wan
- Altitude: 12,200 ft (3,719 m) to 7,700 ft (2,347 m) via 11,500 ft and 8000 ft
- Time taken: 6½ hrs to Wan plus 1 hr drive back to Lohajung
- Trail type: Descending trail right through, gets steep from Gaehroli Patal to Neel Ganga; short ascending stretch from Neel Ganga to Ranka Dhar.
- Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water from the camp site. You can refill your water bottles at Neel Ganga.
There is a sense of elation as you return through Bedni. And the oak forest over Wan is just the icing on the cake that you want. Retrace your path to Bedni Bugyal. Pass the Bedni campsite and take the trail heading to the right and below. 20 minutes later, you get to the tree line and sharp descent that signals the end of the meadows. Watch for the descending trail on your right. The main trail moves ahead to Ali Bugyal.
Run down into the oak and Rhododendron forest. Half an hour into your decent, you get to a clearing. The green trekker’s huts signals Ghairoli Patal. On a clear day, you get astounding views of Mt Trishul commandeering over the area. Rest here and if your team is not in a hurry, step into the flat oak forest on your right. The setting is straight out of a movie set with beams of light streaming in from above and a crunchy cover of brown leaves below. Spend sometime here at the wonder of nature and rejoin the trail.
It is a steep ridge descent to the Neel Ganga. Quicker trekkers reach the river in one and a half hours. The slower ones take two. Take your time because you will rarely see a more wondrous stretch of forest cover. The bridge on the Neel Ganga is an idyllic location to wash the dirt and grime of the week long trek. Trees overhang the river and the water trips and falls over boulders in the shade. The water is cool and refreshing. From the river it is a short half hour climb to the ridge above Wan village.
After spending days in the wilderness, you finally come to a busy civilization. Some welcome it and some hate it. There are many routes to the bottom of the Wan village, and all roads eventually lead down to the road junction (Kasar Bagad) near the hydel project. It takes about an hour and half to get down to Kasar Bagad. It is a steep descent. There is an alternative longer route to get down to Wan. From the ridge top of Wan, take the main trail that runs to the right. Follow the trail until it reaches the Cyprus trees at the lower Wan village. Spend time looking at the Cyprus trees because they are centuries old.
A short descent later you touch the road. You can ask your vehicle to meet you at this junction. From Kasar Bagad regular vehicles ply to Lohajung and you get a welcome cup of tea at Hari Singh Bugyali’s shop. By Jeep, it is an hours drive to Lohajung over a road that bumps and rattles all the way. The thrill of the ride stays for many days to come.
Day 9: Drive to Kathgodam from Lohajung
Depart for Kathgodam. Expected to reach Kathgodam by 7.00 pm.
If you have an additional day in Lohajung before or after your trek, visit Ajan Top, an easy trek that you can do on your own.
Day 1: Drive to base camp – Lohajung (7,700 ft); 10-11 hours. Transport will be organised from Kathgodam Railway station at 6.30 AM. Cost of cab will be Rs. 5,500/- per vehicle (5-6 seater)
Day 2: Drive from Lohajung to Wan. Trek to Ghairoli Patal (10,000 ft); 1 hour drive + 4 hour trek
Day 3: Ghairoli Patal (10,000 ft) to Bedni Bugyal (11,500 ft); 2 hours
Day 4: Excursion to Bedni Top (12,200 ft)
Day 5: Bedni Bugyal (11,500 ft) to Patar Nachauni (12,700 ft); 4 hours
Day 6: Patar Nachauni (12,700 ft) to Bhagwabhasa (14,100 ft); 5 hours; 3 hours steep ascent to Kalu Vinayak
Day 7: Bhagwabasa (14,100 ft) to Roopkund (15,750), and further up to Junargali (16,000 ft). Return to Patar Nachauni (12,700 ft) via Bhagwabasa; 9 hours
Day 8: Patar Nachauni (12,700 ft) to Lohajung (7,700 ft) via Bedni and Wan; 6.5 hours to Wan plus 1 hr drive back to Lohajung
Day 9: Drive to Kathgodam from Lohajung
You will be staying in a lodge at Lohjung. Accommodation on all other days will be in tents (3 per tent).
You can leave behind extra luggage in a cloak room at the Lohajung lodge and collect it after the trek.
How to get to the basecamp – Lohajung
Delhi → Kathgodam → Lohajung
The Roopkund trek begins from Lohajung (7,700 ft), 230 km from Kathdodam. It is a tiny pass, that slips in through the Gwaldam face of the mountain and into the Wan valley. The route to Lohajung is via Almora — Gwaldam — Tharali — Debal — Mundoli — Lohajung
Indiahikes arranges transport from Kathgodam Railway station at 6.00 am on Day 1. The cab fare is Rs.5,500 per vehicle. This will have to be shared by trekkers. You can pay the driver directly.
Take the Ranikhet Express from Delhi. It leaves at 10.40 pm from Old Delhi Railway Station and reaches Kathgodam at 5.05 am.
What happens if you don’t get tickets on the Ranikhet Express? Ranikhet express is a crowded train and often gets booked many days in advance. Firstly, don’t look for an AC ticket. It is an overnight journey and even sleeper berths are comfortable. Book a Tatkal ticket. Your chance of getting a sleeper ticket in Tatkal is very high. If, for some reason, you still don’t get a ticket on the Ranikhet express, there are two options for you. Option 1 Take the earlier day’s Sampark Kranti from Old Delhi, which leaves at 4.00 pm. Tickets on the Sampark Kranti are usually easy to get as it is a day seating train. Stay overnight in a hotel at Kathgodam and join the team vehicle the next morning. KMVN Tourist Guest Home at Kathgodam is a good place to halt for the night. KMVN is Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, a government tourist guest home, 500 metres from the railway station. The place is decent and clean. You can contact them on 05942-231436, +91 7055715251 or book online at http://www.kmvn.gov.in/ Option 2 Take an overnight bus from Delhi’s Anand Vihar ISBT to Kathgodam. Volvo buses leave Anand Vihar around 9.00 pm. It is usually an 8 hour journey. There is no online booking, so arrive a couple of hours early at Anand Vihar to book your tickets. No advanced reservation is required. Try to get to Kathgodam early (by 6 am) to catch the Indiahikes pickup at the station.
Lohajung → Kathgodam → Delhi
The Roopkund trek ends at Lohajung. We arrange transport from Lohajung to Kathgodam Railway Station. This cost is not included in the trek fee and it costs Rs.5,500 per cab (Tata Sumo), which is shared by trekkers. You will reach Kathgodam at around 6 pm. If you are travelling further from Kathgodam, you can book your transport post 8 pm, keeping two hours as buffer time in case of road blocks in the mountain roads.
What you see on the Kathgodam to Lohajung drive
The drive is a nice prelude to the trek and has number of things to watch our for. 20 minutes after you leave the plains of Kathgodam, you hit the largest lake in the Kumaon region! The drive takes you around the Bhimtal lake. There is a lovely water spot halfway around the lake. Good place to fill your bottles with cool mountain waters and take a good view of the lake. The shade is very inviting too.
At Bhowali, you see the diversion to Nainital, a hill town saturated with tourists. Pick up fresh apricots, and mangoes (if they are in season!) from here.
The modest Kainchi Dham ashram falls on the way to Almora. It is difficult to fathom that this nondescript ashram by the riverside attracted the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg! Steve Jobs visited the ashram in 1970s to understand his own vision for the future. If you use an Apple product at least you know where the inspiration is coming from! Right before the bend to Kainchi Dham is a dhaba with the most delicious aloo paranthas. Try these!
Four hours from Kathgodam, perched on a ridge, is the massive hill town of Almora. It is so massive– it is almost a city! This is a transit point for trekkers and pilgrims alike. If you have time on your way back, make your way to Tagore Bhavan. It is said that Rabindranath Tagore wrote his collection for children (Shishu) here.
About an hour from here is the idyllic village of Kausani. This is where you get your first glimpse of the mountains you are going to see up close: Trishul and Nanda Ghunti. You can see Chaukhambha, Neelkanth, Mrigathuni, Nanda Devi and Panchachuli. It is an excellent place to take a break if you want to break your road journey over two days. If you have a day to spare, explore the tea gardens of Kausani and don’t forget to pick some of this exquisite tea. In any case your car drives through these tea gardens.
A little ahead of Kausani, are the temple ruins of Baijanth. These shrines were built during the time Katyuri kings ruled the area: 7th to 11th century. One of the shrines lean like the Leaning Tower of Pisa!
An hour later, you are in Gwaldam where you get your first view of Lohajung. Gwaldam exists on the border of Kumaon and Garhwal region. This makes it culturally unique among the villages of Uttarakhand. Gwaldam is at a height and can get cold!
At Tharali, you get a glimpse of Nanda Ghunti and meet the Pindar river. The narrow road climbs rapidly, passing through Debal to get to Lohajung in about an hour and a half. Keep your woollens handy. Lohajung is already around 8,000 ft and in the evenings are cold.
If you want to reach the basecamp by yourself
Bus: There is one government bus that starts from Haldwani at 4.00 am. This goes either to Gwaldam or Deval depending on the number of passengers. We do not recommend this as this service is unreliable.
Shared taxi: Private, shared cabs drop passengers from Haldwani to Deval. These start from Haldwani between 7.00 and 9.00 am, depending on how quickly they’re able to fill seats. They charge Rs.500 per passenger. The Indiahikes transporter can arrange for transport from Deval to Lohajung on request and prior intimation.
Bus: There is a direct, private bus from Rishikesh to Lohajung at 4.00 am everyday. The charge is Rs.400 per passenger.
Shared taxi: Private, shared cabs drop passengers from Rishikesh to Debal. These start from Rishikesh between 7.00 and 8.00 am, depending on how quickly they’re able to fill seats. They charge Rs.500 per passenger. The Indiahikes transporter can arrange for transport from Debal to Lohajung on request and prior intimation.
Combination of bus and shared jeeps: Take the first early morning bus out of Rishikesh that is heading to Badrinath. By mid-afternoon you should be at Karanprayag. Get down here and take any bus to Tharali. Any bus/jeep to Gwaldam will go via Tharali. If bus is hard to come by, take a shared jeep available near the Karanprayag bus stand. Tharali is by the Pindar river and is about 44 kms from Karanprayag (2 hrs). From Tharali you won’t get much of bus options, but you can get plenty of shared jeeps that can take you to Debal. From Debal, take another jeep to Lohajung. At Debal (Debal to Lohajung: 24 kms) Contact our transporter, Raju Shah Ji on +91 8979 321 600. He will help you with an onward transport to Lohajung
What you see on the Rishikesh to Lohajung drive
This journey, while not as scenic as Kathgodam to Lohajung route, has a unique experience to offer. To watch the meeting of two rivers in prayags. All of these confluences are steeped in myths of the region. In the beginning of your journey, you will see the holiest of the prayags: Devprayag. Alakananda and Bhagirathi meet to give birth to Ganga.
The next prayag you will see is when the emerald green Mandakini meets the Alakananda. The difference in colours of the rivers is stark! A dip at Rudraprayag is supposed to clear pilgrim of their hurdles. The famous man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag was shot by Jim Corbett here. It is marked by a signboard!
By mid-afternoon you should be at Karnaprayag. Karnaprayag sees the feisty Pindar river meet its match with Alakananda. It is said that Karna got his invincibility (his armour) after meditation at this confluence. Another story says Krishna cremated Karna’s ashes at this confluence after the war. The route to Tharali goes through quaint villages alongside Pindar river and climbs to Debal. You will reach Lohajung in half an hour.
How to get fit for the Roopkund trek
Roopkund is a moderate trek in terms of difficulty level. You cannot think of stepping on the Roopkund trek without preparation. Too many trekkers get on the Roopkund trek with fifteen days of walking practice. That’s dangerous.
Roopkund is not a difficult trek but it is not a cakewalk either. Those who come under prepared are almost always counting the pebbles on the trek rather than appreciating the scenery around them. Our trek leaders are compelled to return some of them to the base camp after a few days trek.
This trek requires a good amount of cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Start jogging at a slow pace and then keep increasing your pace day by day. In order to be prepared for high altitude trek, you should have a combination of distance and speed targets.
Here’s a fitness routine that works:
Here’s a guide to help you get fit for 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 take on the Roopkund trek
- Trekking shoes: You will need trekking shoes with good grip. Sports shoes will not be comfortable enough. You can learn how to select the right pair from this video.
- Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
If you are going for the Roopkund trek in May, be prepared to walk on snow. Here, micro-spikes come in handy and these will be provided by us.
On a trek, carry fewer clothes than you would normally need. Do not pack for ‘what if situations’. That will only add to the weight of your backpack and not be used on the trek. Once your clothes get warmed up on a trek, you will not feel like changing. Just maintain personal hygiene.
- Three warm layers: Starting from Pathar Nachauni campsite, you experience strong cold winds especially in the months of September and October. You will need at least three warm layers (two lights layers such as fleece and woollen and one padded jacket) for this trek. Here’s a video on how you can layer yourself.
- Three 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. Denim/jeans and shorts are not suitable for trekking.
- Three collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. Let one of these be a dri-fit t-shirt. It will dry quickly in case you are trekking on a rainy day. A common mistake that trekkers make is not changing their tshirts often enough. Regardless of how cold it is, the body tends to sweat a lot. Trekkers who don’t change to fresh clothes after reaching the campsite fall ill due to wet clothes and are often unable to complete their trek.
- Thermals (Optional): Those who are more susceptible to cold can carry thermals to wear at night.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. These are more important in May and early June. There might be snow at the upper campsites regardless of the season. So carry a pair of sunglasses.
- Suncap: The sun is intense at higher altitudes and a sun cap is absolutely essential to keep your face and neck safe from sun burns.
- Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of fleece or woolen hand gloves. One pair of water proof gloves.
- Balaclava: You may use woolen scarves instead as well.
- Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woolen socks for the night.
- Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
- Trekking pole: Watch this video to understand why you need a trekking pole.
- Ponchos: At high altitudes, snowfall and rain are quite common and hence it’s mandatory to carry a poncho so that you don’t get wet.
Indiahikes offers rentals on this trek. You can now rent trekking shoes, trekking pole, padded jacket and poncho instead of buying them. You can collect these directly at the base camp and return them there after the trek. Get the details here.
- 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, hand sanitiser. Do not carry wet wipes since these are not biodegradable. If you do happen to use wet wipes to clean up after a trek, make sure you bring them back with you. The same holds for used sanitary napkins. Carry a zip lock bag to put used wet tissues and napkins. Bring this ziplock bag back with you to the city and do not dispose wet tissues and sanitary napkins in the mountains.
- 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)
- Dexmathasone- one strip
- Nifedipine- 5 tablets
- Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
- Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
- Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
- Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
- 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)
- Knee cap, if you are prone to knee injury
- Anti fungal powder
- Original and photocopy of government photo identity card- (driving license, voters ID, etc.)
- Disclaimer (to be filled by the trekker) – Download PDF
- Medical certificate (to be filled by a doctor) – Download PDF
Here’s a guide to help you pack for the trek –
How safe is the Roopkund trek?
The altitude gain is a risk component in the Roopkund trek. As you go higher the availability of oxygen gets lower. With lower levels of oxygen, managing the climbs is not easy. You really need to climb slowly allowing your body to acclimatize to the lower oxygen levels.
There are three sections that will push you hard. The first is on day one of the trek. You set out from Wan village with a climb to the top of the ridge that hangs over the village. That’s an hours climb easily. Then there’s a lovely descent to the Neel Ganga river. From the river it is an outright climb of 3½ hrs to Ghairoli Patal campsite. Especially for a first day’s trek it leaves your heart pumping. The good news is, it is an excellent preparation for the rest of the days. Plus the Ghairoli Patal campsite makes it worth the climb.
On the fourth day, there is a stiff climb from Patar Nachauni to Kaluvinayak. It is a switch back climb (zig zag) gaining elevation quickly. It is over in two hours. But at that altitude your legs and lungs will scream.
On the fifth day, when you climb Roopkund from Bhagwabasa, it is another big climb. It takes about 3 hours to get to Roopkund, usually on snow. The excitement of the day, though, makes everyone forget the climb. There are moderate climbs in between, especially on day two and three, but not something that will stretch you.
If you have registered for this trek, then here is some information that you must know in order to have a safe trek. At Indiahikes, we believe that as long as you are well-informed and well-prepared, you can survive easily at high altitudes.
What Indiahikes does to ensure your safety
Our philosophy is simple. We ingrain safety aspects in the people we work with, in the processes that we follow, and in the equipment we carry. All our trek leaders are trained repeatedly on safety issues and protocols. Most issues are resolved with their intervention.
Right from the time you decide to register for the trek till the last day of the trek, these safety procedures will be running in the background. We have listed a few of them below:
1. Fitness criteria before registration
Over years of organising high altitude treks, we have found that safety issues thrive amongst those who are unfit and unprepared for the trek. So we have introduced an eligibility criteria for the Roopkund trek. Anyone who wants to register for the Roopkund trek has to meet the fitness requirements, with the ideal BMI. The BMI and fitness regime will require proof. A high altitude trek is not to be taken casually.
2. Acclimatisation day at Bedni Bugyal
Often ignored, rest is a very essential to avoid getting hit by altitude sickness. Bedni Bugyal at 11,700 ft is the perfect place to let your body adjust to the thin air. As you explore the vast meadows of Ali and Bedni your body gets ready for the higher altitudes of Bagwabasa and Roopkund.
3. Monitoring health on a trek
On the Roopkund trek, your Trek Leader will be monitoring two aspects thrice a day.
- Oxygen Level
- Pulse Rate
Your Blood Pressure levels will be checked once a day.
This will help us ensure that your body is acclimatising as required.
Every trekker will be given a Health Card at the beginning of the trek. The Health Card is issued to monitor the trekker’s daily health, wherein they will be entering details about their health everyday. It also contains details of what symptoms one should look out for and what action should be taken during emergencies. These Health Cards will be collected back at the end of the trek.
4. High Altitude Medical Kit
Your trek leader will be carrying a full-fledged high altitude medical kit. This will include basic medicines and specific medicines catering to altitude sickness – Diamox, Dexamethasone (tablets and injections) and Nifedipine. Your Trek Leader will also be carrying a portable oxygen cylinder throughout the trek. In addition to that, there are oxygen cylinders installed at all high altitude campsites for any emergency situations.
5. High Altitude Trek Equipment
To ensure safe trekking on snowy terrain, Indiahikes will provide you with micro-spikes to attach to your shoes. This will give you good traction on hard snow. To avoid snow from entering your shoes, Indiahikes will provide you with gaiters that you can put on over your shoes. You will have qualified technical guides with you, who will lead the way on difficult terrain.
All our sleeping bags and tents are custom-made for high altitude. If it is cold outside, it will be around 10 degrees warmer inside the tent. The sleeping bags can withstand temperatures up to -10 degree Celsius.
6. Being hydrated and well nourished on the trek
You need to drink a minimum of 4 litres of water every day during the trek to ensure that you’re well hydrated. De-hydration on a trek can make you lose energy very quickly and intensify the effects of AMS. Your trek leader will brief you about the amount of water that you need to carry with you at the start of each day as well as water sources on the trail.
We provide trekkers with nutritious meals to ensure that they are energized to complete the trail each day. Apart from this, snacks or packed lunch is provided wherever the trail before a meal break is likely to be long. Make sure that you do not skip any meal as this can lead to serious health emergencies on high altitudes.
With all these processes and equipment in place, you can be rest assured that you will have a safe trek with Indiahikes.
Nevertheless, you will need to be cautious and report the slightest of symptoms to your trek leader as soon as you feel them.
What you compulsorily need to know if you’re going on the Roopkund trek
Acute Mountain Sickness:
AMS is one of the biggest dangers on a high altitude trek like Roopkund. AMS occurs when your body isn’t acclimatising to its surroundings. It can accelerate very rapidly, so it is important to identify the symptoms as soon as you see them.
At any campsite, inform your trek leader about your condition immediately if you identify any symptom of AMS. If the symptoms don’t alleviate it is best to head down to a lower campsite.
Over years of conducting the Roopkund trek, we have noticed that there are some campsites where trekkers are most prone to be hit by AMS. Let’s take you through the trek so that you know where it is likely to occur and what precautions you can take. On the Roopkund trek, all campsites are prone to AMS. As you move up the dangers become more. It is because of this reason that we have a slow pace of ascent with a rest day at Bedni Bugyal followed by a camp at Pathar Nachauni before hitting Bhagwabasa. Though the risks are minimized with the slow ascent, AMS can strike at Bhagwabasa, or at Patarnachauni even on the way back. Most trekkers believe that the fear of AMS does not exist on the way down. The truth is that you may have missed noticing symptoms at high camp and it starts increasing on the way down
This risk can be avoided by going on a course of Diamox. Even while on Diamox, the risk of AMS still prevails. While AMS can be treated with rest and medicines for the most part, the symptoms must be recognised before it can go to advanced stages – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).
HAPE and HACE are critical conditions that can be fatal within hours.And they can occur without AMS preceding them. So it’s doubly important to recognise any symptoms and nip them in the bud.
Take this specific precaution – Go on a preventive course of Diamox
We strongly advise you to go on a preventive course of Diamox. Diamox is a blood thinner and helps you acclimatise much faster and reduces the chance of AMS by around 80%. Take half a tablet twice a day from one day before your trek.
What to do if you have symptoms of AMS?
If you feel any symptoms of AMS on the trek, you must report to the Trek Leader immediately. Do not wait till the end of the day’s trek. Do not try to handle it yourself either. Our Trek Leaders are well-trained and experienced to handle any cases and they will be the decision makers in any such cases.
As a first step, your trek leader will run you through the Triple One Test – One Disprin, One litre of water and One hour of rest. If you’re suffering from dehydration, this will solve the problem and you will be fine in one hour. If the symptoms don’t go away, then he’ll begin to treat you for AMS, perhaps with a course of Diamox. If you’re already on a course of Diamox, your trek leader is likely to increase the dosage.
The increased dosage of Diamox usually takes care of the Acute Mountain Sickness. In addition to that, the acclimatisation day at Bedni helps trekkers get enough rest before gaining more altitude. We have noticed that around 90% of the trekkers get acclimatised by the end of the acclimatisation day. If you’re not at your 100% at the end of Day 5, then again, report to your Trek Leader. He will make you descend to Wan, where you will be fine. If you face any of the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness, don’t take them lightly. Report them to your trek leader immediately.
Do NOT attribute your symptoms to anything other than AMS. If you have a bad stomach, suspect AMS. At high altitude, AMS is the first thing that should be suspected and treated.
If Diamox alone doesn’t work, he might administer Dex or Nifedipine, or perhaps oxygen, depending on the circumstances. Especially on the Roopkund trek, AMS is very common. While AMS can be treated with medicines for the most part, the symptoms must be recognised before it can go to advanced stages – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE). HAPE and HACE are critical conditions that can be fatal within hours. And they can occur without AMS preceding them. So it’s doubly important to recognise any symptoms and nip them in the bud.
Watch the below video to understand the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness. In this video, Arjun Majumdar, the founder of Indiahikes will also tell you the protocol to follow when you see someone showing symptoms of AMS.
Exit points on the Roopkund trek
The safest point on a trek where a trekker can descend to and rest is considered an Exit Point. On the Roopkund trek, there is only one exit point – Wan. The ideal campsite to descend to would be Wan/Lohajung(8000 ft), and if possible all the way down to Debal(5,700 ft). There are no exit points as all campsites fall under the danger altitude of 10,000 ft.
For any advanced treatment, Karanprayag is the closest well-equipped hospital in the area. It is a 4 hour drive from Lohajung. Vehicles will be available at Lohajung.
Why you should personally know about the risks and precautions of high altitude treks
If ever you find yourself alone at high altitude, either while trekking independently or with another organisation, there are some life -saving steps you can take. Firstly, you should be able to recognise symptoms of altitude sickness. So acquaint yourself with the symptoms.
Secondly, there might be instances when you have to administer medicines to yourself or to a fellow trekker. There are three life-saving medicines that we suggest you always carry on you – Diamox, Dexamethasone and Nifedipine.
If you are trekking with Indiahikes, do not administer these to anyone without consulting your Trek Leader. If you are trekking independently then you need to know when exactly to administer these medicines and in what dosage.
Also ensure that you are well hydrated throughout the trek and do not skip any meal.
You can watch the video below to learn about HAPE and HACE and how to tackle them. In the video, Sandhya UC, partner at Indiahikes, explains in detail about High Altitude Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema, what the symptoms are and how to tackle them.
We cannot stress enough on how important it is for you to communicate any symptom to your Trek Leader. Only then your trek leader will be able to take steps at the right time.
Acute Mountain Sickness
If you’re of the opinion that fit people don’t get AMS, please get rid of that notion right away. AMS can affect anyone without paying heed to their fitness and prior experience at high altitude! Altitude sickness does not distinguish between a first timer and an experienced trekker.
For more detailed information about Acute Mountain Sickness, you can download and study the manual below.
Video by Shresth Vardhan Gautam
Video by Shaily Singh
Video by Akash Gupta
Video by Shivan Gupta
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