Am I a "Lake Person" or not?

Updated: May 25

Let me start by explaining what "Alpine Lakes" means. The lakes or reservoirs found at high altitudes usually around 5000ft (1524 m) above the sea line are considered as Alpine Lakes. Here in this blog, I will be taking you to all the Alpine Lakes in the Uttarakhand and Himachal region, I have been to during my treks so far.

1. Roopkund


RoopKund (Roop means a form or looks and Kund means lake or a reservoir in Hindi ) was my first ever experience of an Alpine Lake. At 16480 ft (5023 m) above the sea level, this lake is mostly frozen throughout the year. This lake is in the Gharwal region of Uttarakhand. It lies next to the Trishul Massif. Apart from its beauty, this lake is famous for the human skeletons that seem to guard this lake. There are a lot of tales about this lake. Local folklore describes a pilgrimage to the nearby shrine of the mountain goddess, Nanda Devi, undertaken by a king and queen, and their many attendants, who due to their inappropriate and celebratory behavior were struck down by the wrath of Nanda Devi. It has also been suggested that these are the remains of an army or group of merchants who were caught in a storm. Finally, it has been suggested that they were the victims of an epidemic. I heard these stories from my guide the first time I had been there. For more about my first experience in this place, click here.

Human skeletons piled up at Roopkund

When I saw the lake, it was a shock for me to see the skeletons piled up for the trekkers to view. We were not allowed to go to the lake. The locals still consider it a bad omen to pollute the lake which makes sense. We were allowed to go a bit closer to get the view.


Unfortunately, the Roopkund trek has been closed due to the Uttarakhand Govt's ban on Bhugyal camping. Otherwise, there are two seasons to trek to this lake. October (post-monsoon) and May - June (Pre-monsoon). Since we had been here for the first time in October, most of the snow had melted down and we were able to go till the lake and see the skeletons. But if you go in the earlier season during May, it can be quite hard due to the snowfall that you won't be able to reach the lake.

Roopkund at 16500 ft

Quick View


Location - Chamoli District, Uttarakhand

Altitude - 16480ft

Time to reach - Trek for 5 days

Difficulty - Moderate-Difficult

Time to visit - May-June or October

Base Camp - Lohajung

2. Chandratal


Many of my trekkers have asked me which is my favorite of all lakes that I have been to. To be frank, every time I see a new alpine lake, I feel that this is the best of all. But after a month, another one just amazes me the same way. I felt this way with Chandratal. It was breathtaking the first time I reached there. It was just beyond description. I couldn't take it all in at once.


Chandra Taal or Chandra Tal is a crescent-shaped lake in the Spiti part of the Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. It is located at an altitude of 14000ft (4250 m) approx.


Chandra means moon and Taal means lake in Hindi. Because of its crescent shape, it had been named so. We can reach this lake by vehicles. While doing the Hampta Pass trek which starts from Manali (Jobra) and ends in Spiti (Chatru), the trekkers can take a cab to Chandratal which is a 3-hour drive provided the route is clear. These barren roads are generally interrupted by streams on the way and the cars or bikes have to go through the streams.

Road blocks enroute Chandratal after Batal

After the drive, you can park the vehicle and take a walk for 5 minutes to reach this huge lake. You find a lot of Ladakhi flags on the entrance of the lake as there are a lot of bikers traveling from Manali to Kaza taking a detour to this lake. After every batch, I reached here mostly by sunsets and it was just an amazing time to be there.

Chandratal

I have been to this lake 4 times and never got tired of it. Like I had mentioned, you never get bored of it because every time there is a story of how we made it there. Of all the time I had been to Chandrataal, I never came there without a story.


Surreal view in the evenings

Quick View


Location - Spiti, Himachal Pradesh

Altitude - 14000ft

Time to reach - 5 hours drive from Rohtang pass

Time to visit - June - September

Difficulty - Altitude sickness can happen if not taken proper care

3. Hemkund Sahib


Located in the Gharwal region in Chamoli district, Hemkund Sahib is the highest located Gurudwara in the world. We went here because it comes along with the Valley of Flowers trek. We had to hike for 2 days to reach Hemkund from Govidnghat. At the Gurudwara, there is a pristine lake situated at 15000 ft (4600m). The devotees who visit the gurudwara take a dip in this lake as an act of cleansing themselves before entering the shrine. We as an organization were against polluting the lake as part of the Green Trails mission. However, taking a dip at that altitude in freezing water is no heroic scene.

Hemkund Lake

The best time to go to this lake would be in the monsoon, during July-September if you want to visit the Valley of Flowers along too. Be sure to carry waterproof jackets and poncho since it rains through the entire flowering season in the valley almost. I had four batches to Hemkund and I can pretty much guarantee that we had the rains almost every day.

Enroute Valley of Flowers

Quick View

Location - Chamoli District, Uttarakhand

Altitude - 15000ft

Time to reach - Trek for 2 days

Time to visit - July to September (the first two weeks)

Difficulty - Easy-Moderate

Base Camp - Govindghat

4. Bhrigu Lake


Back to Manali, during the July season, I had come to lead a single batch to the Bhrigu Lake. Situated in the Kullu district, the lake is at an altitude of 14000 ft approx. It was the first time I was leading a batch to Bhrigu. We had an internal company training at Bhrigu before this, but I hadn't been to the lake.

It's rather a smaller trek for an altitude of 14000ft. We have an elevation gain of almost 2000ft every day of the trek. In 3 days, reaching from Gulaba (8000ft approx) to Bhrigu Lake (14000ft) is not an easy task. This trek involves a lot of uphill climbing till the summit. Also during the monsoon, it gets even more hard to climb on the "scree" face of the summit.

Bhrigu Lake

During the early monsoon season (June first week), we can find the lake to be frozen. It depends on the snowfall during that year of course. But looking at the lake frozen is a sight to be seen. Unfortunately, I myself haven't seen the lake frozen. In the picture, you can still see fragments of snow in the mountains. This picture was taken in the midweek of July.

At the summit with my trekkers

Quick View

Location - Kullu District, Himachal Pradesh

Altitude - 14009ft

Time to reach - Trek for 3 days

Time to visit - June mid-week to September first week

Difficulty - Moderate-Difficult

Base Camp - Gulaba, Manali

5. Juda Ka Talab


The lakes that I had mentioned above were either part of the trek or were the main summit of the trek. Unlike them, this particular lake has always astonished me. Situated at 9100ft, this lake comes in the trail to the Kedarkantha summit. There are 3 different routes to the Kedarkantha summit from 3 different villages of the Uttarkashi district. When we trek from Sankri village, we go via Juda Ka Talab. There is no restriction of time to visit this lake. It's accessible throughout 12 months. Again, given the altitude, during the winters this lake is frozen as a rock. If the snowfall is high, it is unlikely that anyone can reach the lake as the trail is totally covered with snow.


In spite of having three different routes, I have always lead batches through this route with JKT. It has never left my side to say so. I have been to Juda Ka Talab 5 times during my batches to Kedarkantha. This is the highest number of times I have been to a lake and I guess it makes it more special.

I took this picture in November, before the winter began

The most famous trail in the winters in Uttarakhand is, Kedarkantha. You can see the campsite flooded with people from all over to enjoy the freezing cold weather, to get a glimpse of their first snowfall. This trek can provide you with all the adventures you can want for. Spooky trail stories to the heavenly 360-degree sunrise view from the summit. This trek has amazed me big time.

This was taken in March during my last batch

Quick View


Location - Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand

Altitude - 9000ft

Time to reach - Trek for 1 day

Time to visit - Across all months

Difficulty - Moderate

Base Camp - Sankri, Uttarakhand

6. Ruinsara Tal


Located in the base of Mt Kaalanag, Ruisnara Tal is rather a very less popular lake in the Uttarkashi region. Trekkers heading to Bali Pass trek and mountaineers headed for climbing Mt Kaalanag, cross this lake. It is situated at 11480ft. It looks as if it is right behind the gigantic Mt Swargarohini.


Due to an extended snowfall in May, instead of Rupin pass trek, I was leading the trekkers to Ruinsara Tal. It lies in the parallel valley of Har Ki Dun.

Ruinsara Tal

The whole trek is fairly in the dense forests of Rhododendrons, until the summit day where the valley opens up wide to give us a view of the Mt Kaalanag peak. This trail is parallel to the trail of Har ki Dun trek. After Kalktidhar, the trail for these two treks gets diverted. During this trek, we had an issue. After the summit, while returning back we had to make a zip line to cross the Tons river.

Bags being zip lined near Devsu thatch

I have been here to Ruinsara two times. It still strikes me as one of the less popular trails in this Sankri region. However its better if fewer people come and instead the valley retains its charm as it is.

At Ruinsara Tal - Picture by Shlok

Quick View


Location - Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand

Altitude - 11800ft

Time to reach - Trek for 4 days

Time to visit - May - July

Difficulty - Easy-Moderate

Base Camp - Sankri, Uttarakhand

Honestly, before all this, I had never been a "Lake" person. Above said the number of times these beautiful lakes have always made me realize that mountains have a very special power. They take the picture of what you like the most and show it in a much beautiful way. Guess deep down, I was a "Lake" person because after all this, now I just feel like sitting next to any of these lakes and just seeing the sunset. I will consider myself fortunate if this happens. Someday!!


These were the lakes from Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh. In my next blog, I will be covering up the Alpine Lakes of Kashmir. Stay tuned folks...!

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