Roopkund - Journey to the Skeleton Lake

India's flag
Asia » India » Uttarakhand » Chamoli
October 24th 2014
Published: October 24th 2014
Edit Blog Post

Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0

Kolkata to Roopkund

Introduction :

To me trek to Roopkund was nothing less than any Bollywood flick. It has got everything in it from action to drama to romance to emotions to comedy ( of errors - of course created by us ). You take a hike you reach bugiyal ( meadows ), take a left turn you can see Mt. Neelkanta, Mt. Chaukhamba, Hati-Ghori Peak, Bandarpunch and Kedardome. Look straight vast lush green field lies ahead of you. Move your chin bit up massive Nandaghunti is looming over your head. Turn right you can see the mighty Mt. Trishul, Roopkund is at the foothills of Trishul. Zillions and zillions of scintillating stars illuminating the night sky. There was rain, snow, blizzard, wind everything in a single trek. Strangled just 400-500 mts away from Roopkund and not a single living being by your side, only a gust of chilling wind blowing from your left to right…sudden clouds engulfs you and you cannot see beyond few inches and then starts snowfall…..snow was knee deep and on left there was sheer 3000 ft fall and right 2000 ft high snow clad wall….feeling was awesomely eerie and nerve wracking….Humongous steep hike to plain walk at the meandering road to steep down…dense Himalayan rain forest both while going up and coming down acted like cherry over the cake…wide variety of Himalayan fauna and flora…rhododendrons once or twice and wolves at Ali bugiyal….it has got everything in it… or two sleepy Himalayan village at the start and at the fag end….some very good and honest men to guide and accompany us for successful completion of the trek…..last but not the least we 8 musketeers Rupam Ghosh, Sanjib Ghosh, Debasish Mahato, Soumitra Basu, Sarad Ghosh,Gopal Das, Monotosh Mukherjee and myself.... who are in truly deeply and madly in love with nature and Himalaya….gulping mutton like we are hungry since decade…Ending the journey at one of most beautiful railway station I have ever seen with a hope….hope that we will come back to the Himalayas again….we cherish the virgin beauty of Himalaya once again…we will enjoy the silence at nnight and vast starry night sky once again….we will set out for another journey once again…till then we will eagerly wait for seeing you, to be with you, the mighty Himalaya, up close and personal…till then good buy Himalaya….hope to see you soon.....

Any trek requires lot of research and preparation. We had finalized upon our destination in the month of November 2013. After a thorough research over internet we finalized upon our guide and essentials needed to be carried. We finalized our date of journey on 23rd May 2014.

23rd May (Day : 0) : We boarded Sealdah – New Delhi Duranto Express. Night at train.

24th May (Day : 1) : Arrived New Delhi in the morning, shifted to hotel. We took Ranikhet Express from Old Delhi at night for Kathgodam.

25th May – Gwaldam 1708 mts – 5604 ft (Day : 2) : Arrived Kathgodam at early morning. We headed towards Gwaldam approx 200kms and 8hrs journey considering traffic, road condition and stop overs for breakfast, lunch and fag breaks. Arrived Gwaldam at 4pm, had a experience of heavy Himalayan torrential rain at the later stages which prolonged our journey by couple of more hours. We boarded at GMVN resort arranged by our guide Navin (Mobile: 09456057247), who also happens to be the caretaker of the resort. After checking in and refreshing ourselves with hot cup of tea, we wandered around the small and beautiful town. We went to bed early as the next day would be our first day of trekking and is tiresome.

26th May – Gwaldam to Ram ki Dhar via Debal, Lohajung(8300 ft), Lower Wan : After yesterday’s heavy torrential rain the sky was crystal clear, blue sky with white cumulonimbus clouds. Today we got up early as we need to reach Lower Wan, which is approx 120kms from Gwaldam, 4-5hrs journey. We started from Gwaldam at 9.30 am. On our way to first halt at Debal we came across the wrath nature, the marks left behind due to last year’s cloud break at Uttarakhand. At Debal we stopped for an hour, we took laddus and incense stick to offer prayer at Kaluvinayak. We stopped over at Lohajung for lunch and left for lower wan village, last point of motorable road, starting point of our trek. We reached lower wan village at around 2pm. We filled our water bottles, posed for pictures and in the mean time support team got the utensils, tents and our rucksack on the mule. With full of enthusiasm we started our long 63Kms walk (both ways) towards Roopkund at 3pm. The trail starts from the village backyard just off the main road. Initially it is slow and undulating walk till a small stream. Once we crossed the stream there is small hike of 10-15 minutes which will again lead you to flat, walking track. After walking for another 30 - 45 mins we reached the village of upper wan, last village at the route. After crossing the upper wan village the same flat road will lead you to point from where a 10 – 15 mins hike will take you to Ram ki Dhar ( Dhar – Hill Top ), we got the first view of Mt. Trishul far away, we camped for the night.

27th May – Ram ki Dhar to Bedni Bugiyal (3354mts – 11004ft) : Today we were bit apprehensive as today is supposed to be one of the toughest day of the trek. After helping ourselves with paratha, aachar and omelette for breakfast we started our day long walk. Approx distance from Ram ki Dhar to Bedni Bugiyal (Bugiyal means Meadows) is approx 12-15kms approx 6 hrs walk. Initially there was downhill for about 15 – 20 mins, after that there was steep down for another 15 mins till you reach Neel Ganga. We replenished our water bottles, this is the last water site before Ghairoli Patal. Once crossing Neel Ganga starts steep climb, average angle of about 45-50 degree, till Dauli ki dhar. The climb till Dauli ki dhar is through deep pine and rhododendron forest. Sun rays seldom reaches in most part of the trail. We took around 4 hours time to reach Ghairoli Patal, where there is a trekkers’ hut (occupied by India Hikes). At Ghairoli Patal we took a much needed break and savoured ourselves with hot cup of tea. After taking a break for about 30 mins we started towards Dauli ki Dhar. The hike from Ghairoli Patal to Dauli Ki Dhar is bone cracking. We took 2 hours to reach Dauli ki Dhar approx 3kms from Ghairoli Patal. During Jat Yatra, the shrine of Nanda Devi is kept here for the first time since the start of the journey (trek) at Wan village. We offered our prayers at the spot where the deity is kept had a raising break and started our walk towards Bedni Bugiyal. Just after crossing Dauli ki Dhar the route becomes flat. Meandering between the hills till Bedni Kund. The first impression Bedni Bugiyal is “ WOW”. There is a saying the all the four Vedas was written beside Bedni Bugiyal. We camped for the day and just infront of us we saw a huge cloud gathering and it rained heavily all night.

28th May – Rest Day @ Bedni Bugiyal : Every time when we plan our trek we always keep a rest day keeping in mind the altitude acclimatization and/or someone or anyone from our group might fall sick. This time one of our member felt very weak as back in Kolkata he was suffering from viral fever and was on medication. Today we loitered around the Bedni Bugiyal and Bedni Kund and took numerous photographs. This is the best place to click pictures, straight ahead looming over your head Mt. Trishul and Mt. Nandaghunti. Turn right there are Mt. Neelkanth, Mt. Chowkhamba, Hati-Ghori peak, Kedardome, Mt. Bandarpunch lies there to soothe your eyes. We were also able to see our next day trek route till Ghoralotani and the steep climb we need to take to reach the main trail. We went to our sleeping bag, taking DIAMOX, contemplating and apprehensive and strategising how to reach the main trail.

29th May – Bedni Bugiyal to Patharnachuni (12500 ft approx) : For the last 2 days we were watching and strategising the steep ascent that we need to negotiate to reach the main trail. Now it is the time to face it. It is steep ascent of some 500ft at an almost 60 degree gradient. We started early and took around an hour time to reach the main trail. From here it is slow and plain walks till Patharnachuni. From the main the trail the view of Mt. Trishul and Mt. Nandaghunti becomes more clear. The Chowkhamba, Neelkanth and other peaks on the right also opens up. In the right there is a sheer fall of 500-600 ft. After walking for 15-20 mins at the main trail we encountered snow patches for the first time in our trek. We were so much excited that we spend around 10 mins time to click pictures. We slowly started walking towards our first destination for the day Ghoralotani. We were also meeting the trekkers coming down successfully or unsuccessfully and was getting fascinated by their description of what lies ahead. All in all we were quite excited about it and told ourselves we will take things as they come as we were hearing that there is knee deep snow after crossing Kalu Vinayak and the weather was also changing every hour. Some were also telling us that the weather is not at all conducive to go beyond Patharnachuni but we did not pay a heed to them and moved ahead. We reached Ghoralotani top (12000-12200 ft approx) sometimes after 2hrs when we started our journey. We rested at Ghoralotani for 15-20 mins had raising and biscuit and hurriedly started towards Patharnachuni, weather was deteriorating. We took another 45 mins to reach Patharnachuni. Luckily we got the trekker hut Patharnachuni as this again would be a 2 nights stay and in a freezing cold. You can get IDEA and sometimes Vodafone connectivity at Patharnachuni just outside trekker hut, some 50 mts ahead of trekker hut there is a small opening covered with stones. You also get some stunning view of Neelkantha, Chowkhamba, Kedardome from here if you can brave the chilling wind which blows from that particular direction. We had word with our family after 2 days and relieved them from the anxiety they were suffering from. From Patharnachuni one can see the humongous ascent that one need to undertake to reach Kaluvinayak. There will be a altitude gain of approx 2000ft in 2.5kms distance. There is a mythology attached to the name Patharnachuni, a local king came to offer prayers at Nada Devi shrine at Homkund (another trekking route 3 days ahead of Roopkund). He also bought dancers (nachuni) in his entourage. While returning the king had a gala entertainment at this region which annoyed Lord Shiva to such an extent that he converts the dancers in stone and banishes them in hell for life, hence came the Patharnachuni. We decided that the 3 members, Soumitra, Debasish and Sanjib will not attempt the Roopkund as they were not keeping that well. Debasish was suffering from viral fever back in Kolkata, Sanjib has problem with his left knee and it was first trek for Soumitra. We had a very early dinner and went to sleeping bag as tomorrow is the D-day and we have to trek for more than 10hrs.

30th May – Patharnachuni to Roopkund (5029 mts – 16499 ft) and back : Today’s trek we divided into 6 parts, Patharnachuni to Kaluvinayak – Kaluvinayak to Bhaguawasa/Hunia Thal – Bhaguawasa/Hunia Thal to Roopkund – Roopkund to Bhaguawasa/Hunia Thal – Bhaguawasa/Hunia Thal to Klauvinayak – Kaluvinayak to Patharnachuni.

Patharnachuni to Kaluvinayak(15000ft approx)

We (Sudipta, Rupam, Monotosh, Sharad and Gopal), supported by our guide Navin and 2 porters, started our trek at 7 am, late by an hour from our schedule time. From Patharnachuni to Kaluvinayak it is grueling 2.5kms climb where we gained altitude of approx 2000ft. We took around 2hrs to reach Kaluvinayak. On the way we saw the three holes created by Lord Shiva to bury the dancers in hell. To reach Kaluvinayak, other steep slope one also needs to negotiate with strong chilling wind blowing from left to right. The wind blows so strong that some it take a toll on your balance and push you in right direction where there is fall of approx 3000ft. Walking sticks will come very handy in this situation. Mythology with Kaluvinayak is Lord Shiva ordered Ganesh to look after and prevent intruders to spoil Goddess Parvati’s bathing at Roopkund. Roopkund was created by Lord Shiva as Goddess Parvati was completely covered with dust and she wanted to bathe to clean herself. Kaluvinayak temple is just 10-15 ft below the Kaluvinayak top, we offered our prayers at Kaluvinayak temple with the incense and laddu that we bought from Debal. On reaching the Kaluvinayak top view of Mt. Nandaghunti opens up and for the first time one can get to see the Roopkund crater some 6-8kms away. From here till the time we reach back at Kaluvinayak the walk is on snow, sometimes hard and sometimes knee deep.

Kaluvinayak to Bhaguawasa/Hunia Thal (14000ft approx)

After getting awestruck by the view of Nandaghunti, Trishul and the snow covered valley we started moving towards Bhaguawas/Hunia Thal. After crossing Kaluvinayak top the walk is more or less over a plain track till Hunia Thal, but the problem we faced is that the entire route is covered with snow and prior to this we did not had any experience over snow trek. In some places there was hard snow which we felt was tougher to negotiate. One or two points are really tricky to cross as the track was really narrow and there was sudden ascent of 10-20ft. We took around 1hr 30mins to reach Hunia Thal. Normally trekkers camp at Hunia Thal camp site from Bedni, but thanks to India Hikes and Trek the Himalaya they have pre booked all the camp site of the entire trek for the season. We stopped at Hunia Thal for a little rest and refreshment with raisins, cheese and biscuits. We stayed there for 30 mins took some photograph, we were engulfed by snow all around. Nandaghutni was so near it seems that we could have touched it. After enough rest we started for final assault.

Bhaguawasa/Hunia Thal to Roopkund (15500ft )

Now we came at the toughest part of the entire trek Hunia Thal to Roopkund. 2000ft climb in knee deep snow. As we proceeded further and as the day progressed the snow starts melting and it was becoming difficult for us to move ahead. We were moving ahead by 5 steps and slipping down by 2 steps. The last 3 kms took us nearly 3 hrs to reach. The entire stretch was on soft ice, at some places it was ankle deep and at some places it was knee deep. There was a small gully which we crossed over hard ice; the gully was very narrow and steep. On the right hand side there was a sheer fall of couple of thousand feet. After crossing the gully and 20-30 mins from Hunia Thal Gopal decided not to continue further, as his shoe was not supporting him, and he rested himself over a small rock. We moved further, on right there was steep mountain of couple of thousand feet and on the right sheer fall of 3000 ft. We were getting exhausted very often as walking on the soft ice was taking a toll on our stamina. Monotosh decided to stop and one of the porter took him down where Gopal was sitting. Hats off to these porters the way they were walking on the snow as if they are walking on the lawn at their home. Myself, Rupam and Sharad were the last of the 3 mohicans who continued. Allegorically our trek from Hunai Thal to Roopkund was like the last chapter of Mahabharat, where Pandavas started towards heaven and on the way one by one the Pandavas were falling down to death. Here we were getting so exhausted that Gopal and Monotosh decided to stop moving further. Rupam and Sharad surged ahead with two porters to support them and I was lagging behind by 200 mts as my Woodland shoe was not at all supporting me. It was becoming very tough for me to grip and I was slipping a lot. I was getting exhausted pretty fast. Our guide Navin was with me to support me. We were about 400-500 ft away from Roopkund and weather was deteriorating fast and I was moving slow, Navin suggested me not go further because the last 400-500 ft would take me around 45mins to an hour time and we do not have that much time left before the weather turns worst. Navin went couple of hundred feet ahead to see whether Rupam and Sharad can be seen and started shouting calling their and porters name to come back. At the height of 15100ft I was stranded all alone a little slip would mean a fall of 3000-4000 ft. Somehow I managed to retrace my route and went back few steps so I can stand with my two feet. But the snow over there was knee deep so I moved ahead to my original position and stood there waiting for Navin, porters and my friends return. I started clicking pictures of the surrounding; its white everywhere. To my left there was a fall of 3000-4000ft and my right there was a steep climb at almost 80 degrees gradient of 2000-3000ft. I was enjoying the loneliness, the serene beauty of the mighty Himalayas. I was trying to empty myself just to get filled by the vastness of the Himalayas. The clouds engulfed me in all direction and it was so thick that I was unable to see even a few feet from me. Suddenly it stared. For the first time in my life I was witnessing a snowfall, stranded all alone mostly standing over one leg at 15100 ft; the feeling was awesomely eerie. Somehow I managed to tuck in my camera at the knapsack I was carrying and managed to rest my back on the soft snow. Snowfall continued for another 10-15 mins and to me it was like more than couple of hours. Finally I saw silhouette of Navin, behind him was Rupam and Sharad and behind them were the porters. Rupam and Sharad confirmed that they have made it to Roopkund, which was totally covered with snow and didn’t even bothered to try Junargali Col. / Jorawargali Col. (16200ft) which will lead you to Shilasamudra, Homkund and Trishul base camp but that is another trek for another time which we plan to do.

Now it is the time to climb down, which seems much more tough and arduous than the ascent. But the climbing down was fast the only thing to be taken care is that we should not step at the edge of the road because slip would mean a fall of 2000-3000ft. We retrace our route back to Huna Thal; we were out of water. We filled up our water bottles and had biscuits and raisins and chocolate and cheese for lunch rested for 30 mins and continued our descent. After crossing Bhaguawasa, descending become much more tough aswe were racing against deteriorating weather. We heaved a sigh of relief once we reached Kaluvinayak, we do not need to negotiate with snow anymore. We once again offered our prayer to Kaluvinayak for helping us to successfully completing the day. We continued our descent. From Kaluvinayak we were able to see the trek house of Patharnachuni and got our almost lost confidence back. We came back to our camp at Patharnachuni at 4pm after a long 9 hours walk. The pleasure and sense of completion amongst us was unparallel. Though I missed the Roopkund by 400ft but the jubilation and self contentment was tremendous. Neither Gopal nor Monotosh was complaining for not making it till Roopkund. They were satisfied for making that far. As far as I am concerned there was small heartbreak as I could not make it till Roopkund. I am determined enough that I will come down to this heavenly place once again and not only complete it but will continue till Trishul Base Camp. We went to bed early as we were drop dead exhausted. Our descent starts tomorrow.

31st May Patharnachuni to Ali Bugiyal(4060mts – 13320 ft) : We started our day bit late around 10am, firstly because we were very tired of our last day tedious trek and secondly today’s trek was only of 2-3 hrs from Patharnachuni. Today was the easiest day of the entire trek. Entire walk till Ali Bugiyal was on flat road. We bid adieu for the last time to Mt. Nandaghunti from Ghoralotani. We also had bird’s eye view of Bedni Bugiyal, where we camp couple of days back. We reached Ali Bugiyal, largest bugiyal in the world, at 1pm. On the way we had decided that at Ali Bugiyal we will set a bonfire with lamb / goat. So the first thing we did after setting our tent was to negotiate with the shepherd for a lamb, but somehow it did not fructify. Just beside our tents there was a big flat stone we sat there had tea and pakoras, we sang our heart out and clicked for our profile pictures. We played cards and enjoyed the surroundings. Slowly we were also becoming home sick, home was calling. After dinner we went out for a fag and found the shepherd, with whom we had negotiated for lamb, was coming out from the forest nearby. Enquiring from him found that there were wolves in the vicinity and he drove them out just with a stick. We dropped our half finished cigarettes and went inside out tent. Tomorrow is the last day, we need to walk for nearly 6-8 hours to reach Kuling, where a car will be waiting for us to take us back to Gwaldam.

1st June Ali Bugiyal to Gwaldam via Didna (8000ft) and Kuling : We got up early and watched one of the most spectacular sunrise from our camp. The sun was rising from behind the Thoor pick and on its right Mt. Trishul. We had an early breakfast bode adieu to Mt. Trishul for one last time and started our journey at around 7 am. Initially we walked through the Ali Bugiyal, though we did not had much to view as there was cloud all around. We started walking through the right slope of Ali Bugiyal suddenly we entered into the Himalayan rain forest. From here it is steep descent till Neel Ganga after crossing Didna village. The forest was dense and sometimes it was so steep down that we were facing problem to make strong foothold. An hour into the forest it started raining, it was a heavy torrential downpour. Luckily as per Navin’s suggestion we were carrying our waterproofs outside our rucksack. It took us 4hrs to reach Didna. Upon reaching Didna we sipped tea and took rest for around 30 mins and continued with our downward journey. At Didna you can almost all mobile networks available. It took us another 1hour to reach Neelganga. The descent from Didna to Neelganga was more steep. The iron bridge over Neelganga is a perfect place for clicking pictures and to rest your leg. We carried on with our descent for another half an hour to reach the base of Neelganga. For reaching Kuling from Ali Bugiyal can be divided into 2 parts steep descent from Ali to the base of Neelganga and then ascent from the base of Neelganga to the Kuling village. After heavy descent to Neelganga, our legs were totally tired, but somehow we managed to reach Kuling in 3 hours time. Kuling is a small village of 25 families, from the main road top of Ali Bugiyal is seen and we were amazed by the amount of descent and then ascent we did.

Reaching Kuling was the culmination of our trek. It was end of our 6 months planning, strategy, our apprehension whether we will be getting the leave from our office or not, apprehension on whether we all can successfully make it till the end. We all will agree with an unison that this trek was by far the most enjoyable trek we ever did, though walking in the Himalayas is always a pleasure for us. But this would always be on top of our mind as for the first time we did snow trekking without any preparation. Two of our group members Soumitra and Monotosh was the first time trekker and we all trekked on snow for the first time. In one word to describe this trek it was AWSOME.

But hold it does not end here. Upon reaching Gwaldam after another 3 – 4 hours we had a sumptuous dinner with 3kgs of mutton, thanks to Sanjib and Gopal for showing their culinary skills and bringing out the best of those 3kgs of mutton.

1st ,2nd & 3rd June Gwaldam to Kolkata via Kathgodam and New Delhi :

Next day we departed for Kathgodam to take Ranikhet Express to Delhi, next day afternoon we boarded Howrah – New Delhi Duranto and reached Howrah next day morning.

While going to office that very day, I was wondering just 100 hours back we were in the middle of nature walking through it, enjoying every bit of it. We took some very good memory and experience that would help us to boost ourselves when we are pensive. We can recap those moments in our sojourn or every time we meet.

We ended this trek with a single conviction that next year we will again set out for unknown. We will again come back to the Himalayas and will get awed by its vastness. Till then team STEPS signing off till next time.


It is always better to book your guide before you start. Our guide Navin can be reached at 09456057247, he is a passed out from mountaineering institute at Uttarkashi.

It is advisable to carry DIAMOX and having it after dinner while ascent (physician guidance is advisable).

Book the ticket of Ranikhet Express to and fro well in advance.

Do not plan to camp at Bhaguawas / Hunia Thal during peak season, thanks to India Hikes and Trek the Himalayas. Mentally prepare yourself to trek Roopkund from Patharnachuni. Infact India Hikes and Trek the Himalayas pre books all the important camping location for the entire season.


Additional photos below
Photos: 42, Displayed: 40


Tot: 2.475s; Tpl: 0.095s; cc: 9; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0431s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.5mb