Roopkund Lake is a glacial lake nestled in the Garhwal Himalayas, at an altitude of 16,500 feet. It’s a challenging trek with some steep inclines and long days of trekking, but the reward is well worth the effort.

By Neha iitb [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

About Roopkund Lake

In 1942, a ranger made the stunning discovery of human skeletons in and around the lake. For decades, the origin of these skeletons remained a mystery, until 2004, when DNA tests revealed that is was a group of travellers from Maharashtra, travelling with their porters. All members were killed by blows to to the back of the head, and it was concluded that they were caught in a hailstorm without shelter, and perished here. Even today, the lake is completely uninhabited, surrounded by snow-clad mountains, and guarded by the silent skeletons.

By Schwiki [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

About the Roopkund trek

The Roopkund trek usually starts in Kathgodam or Lohajung, and winds upward from here through the mountains of Uttarkhand. If you start from Kathgodam and have paid for the transport, you’ll be driven to Lohajung. From here onwards, you’ll be trekking for about 7-10 kms each day. You’ll see the landscape change from green meadows and lush pine forests, to the snowy upper reaches in Bhagwabasa, which is the base camp for Roopkund lake. The trek takes about 8-9 days, and you’ll return to Kathgodam or Lohajung when it’s over.

By Palljo [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Can I do the Roopkund trek?

The Roopkund trek is a challenging trek, both because of the landscape (steep climbs, boulder-strewn trails) and the altitude and weather. It is not recommended that first-timers attempt this trek. If you have done a few Himalayan treks before and are in good health, you’ll be able to do this trek. Those suffering from high blood pressure, active asthma, cardiac conditions, or any spine or knee problems should not attempt this trek.

By Djds4rce [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

What is the best time for the Roopkund trek?

There are two seasons for the Roopkund trek: May-June, and Sept-October, and both offer you a different experience.

In May-June, it is not as cold, but it can be windy. The weather is always unpredictable here, and there is snow on the trail from Bhagwabasa onwards. The lake will be frozen over, so you won’t be able to see the submerged skeletons. If there’s a lot of snow at the lake, the skeletons on the banks will be covered too. The temperatures will range from 10-20 C in the day, and can go as cold as -2 C at the coldest campsites in the night.

In Sept-Oct, you’ll enjoy clearer skies, less wind, and better views. However, it can be very cold out here. The meadows will be green, and Roopkund lake will be thawed, so you should be able to see the skeletons. There’s usually no snow here, but closer to the end of Sept, you can expect some snowfall. Temperatures range from 10-16 C in the day, and could drop to -5 C at the coldest campsites in the night.

In both seasons, you can expect sudden showers, stormy skies, and unpredictable weather.

Packing list for your Roopkund trek

GEAR:

  • 1 backpack (50-60 litres) with raincover, sturdy frame, and strong padded shoulder straps
  • 1 day pack (10-20 litres) with raincover
  • Waterproof trekking shoes with ankle support and treaded soles
  • Floaters or slippers, with straps to go around your feet
  • 1 or 2 trekking poles (Recommended)
  • 2 water bottles (1 litre each) or insulated thermos flasks

CLOTHING:

  • 2 pairs of dry fit trekking pants
  • 3-4 dry fit tees with long sleeves
  • 2 fleece shirts with long sleeves
  • 1 fleece jacket (Avoid woollen sweaters)
  • 1 waterproof, wind-proof jacket (Please make sure this is a warm jacket and not just a windcheater.)
  • 2 pairs thermals (uppers and lowers)
  • 3 pairs trekking/sports socks
  • 2 pairs woollen socks (Only for sleeping in)
  • Woollen hat (Should cover your ears and fit snugly on head)
  • Woollen gloves
  • 1 woollen scarf

ESSENTIALS:

  • Poncho
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Sun cap
  • Sunglasses with 100% UV protection
  • Photo-chromatic glasses (if you wear spectacles)
  • Cold cream
  • Sunscreen lotion (SPF 30+)
  • Lip balm
  • Personal toiletries
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Headlamp/flashlight with extra batteries
  • Extra batteries for camera, etc
  • Thin quick-drying towel
  • Dry fruit
  • Snack bars/granola bars
  • Chocolate
  • Energy powder
  • Extra plastic bags

MEDICAL KIT

  • Allergies: Avil 25 mg (4 tabs)
  • Mild painkillers: Crocin (8 tabs)
  • Altitude sickness: Diamox (15 tabs) (optional)
  • Body aches: Combiflam (6 tabs)
  • Upset stomach: Immodium, Digene/Pudin-hara (10 tabs)
  • Crepe bandage (5 metres)
  • Band-Aid (waterproof) (10 strips)
  • Gauze (1 roll)
  • Leukoplast (1 roll)
  • Cotton wool (1 roll)
  • ORS (5 packets)
  • Betadine cream
  • Moov/Relispray spray
  • Dettol/Savlon antiseptic
  • Neosporin powder
  • Any personal or prescribed medicines
  • Warmeez or heating pads

DOCUMENTS:

  • 2-4 passport-sized photos
  • ID card with photo (Driving license, Voter’s ID) with photocopy
  • Medical disclaimer certificate (signed by your doctor if needed)

BEFORE YOU GO:

  • Before you pack your backpack, go over it carefully. Look for missing buckles, zips that are stuck or broken, or rips and tears that need mending.
  • It’s very important that your shoes are broken in and comfortable. Make sure the soles are intact, the laces are strong, and the seams are in place.
  • Get new batteries for your camera, flashlight, etc.
  • Check that all your clothing has zips, buttons, velcro in place and functioning properly.
  • Pack your clothing and gear in separate waterproof/plastic bags to keep everything dry.
  • Pack your bag and weigh it. You shouldn’t have more than 7-10 kgs in your large backpack.
  • Hoist your backpack onto your shoulders and check that the larger, heavier items are not shifting around inside the pack.
  • If you have a medical kit that you carry for all your treks, go through it once to make sure all the essential items are still inside and have not crossed the expiry date.

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