Bhagwabasa is the last camping site, where trekkers stay in the night before commencing their final climb to Roopkund Lake. At the height of 14,029 feet and 3 kms prior to the lake, this is a completely isolated place in the middle of the scattered stone blocks. It is situated on the edge of a mountain and from here, one can have the panoramic view of high altitude Himalayan Peaks.
Bhagwabasa is situated in the heaven in fact. Above is the white Himalayan Peaks and below is the vast valley filled with white clouds. In between, there exist the camping ground. Above the white clouds and so close to the snow peaks, there could not be any camping experience as rewarding as at Bhagwabasa.
We started trekking from Bedini Bugyal in the morning to reach Bhagwabasa in the afternoon. Our guide was hesitant to stop here for the night. He tried to convince us to trek from Bedini or from Pathar Nachni to Roopkund and then back to Bedini in a single day without stopping at Bhagwabasa. In the month of October, the temperature drops very significantly in the night, so he was worried about his mule, that might be unable to survive the extreme cold there. But later, he made some arrangements and agreed for the night stay at Bhagwabasa with his mule.
We reached Bhagwabasa at 03.00 PM. It was a big struggle between the legs and the heart, while trekking between Pathar Nachni and Kalu Vinayak on a steep trail from 12,770 feet to 14,186 feet in just 2 kms trek. I also had a continuous headache, might be the lack of sufficient Oxygen at that altitude affected me. Others were also struggling after a rigorous trek. However, we didn’t have any serious health issue till Bhagwabasa, so we never thought to descend down or to stop for the day for more acclimatization. Tired of walking and with uncontrolled breath, we managed to reach Bhagwabasa safely.
There is no good camping ground at Bhagwabasa. Stones are scattered all around, so you are supposed to set up your tents on those stones only. The whole area is uneven, no arrangements of the fire, water is nowhere in the vicinity and then, you have to survive a chilly night. Camping at Bhagwabasa is not a fun, but that’s the thrill at such a high altitude. When we arrived there, no other trekking group was present. Fiber Huts of the Forest Deptt. was also vacant, so we decided to stay in those huts, because they could be useful in case of extreme cold in the night.
Some local people were already there to make the arrangements for a trekking group, that is expected to reach there on the next day. They arranged drinking water for us. Availability of drinking water is a big problem there and you have to walk for at least 1 km to get any water source.
We set up our sleeping mats and sleeping bags in the hut. Tired of a strenuous trek, I slept very early. When I woke up after 2 hours, outside weather was very nice. The high clouds covering the peaks were already gone and all the peaks from Trishul, Nanda Ghunti to Chaukhambha and beyond was clearly visible. Our guide pointed the location of Roopkund Lake, Junargali Pass and the trail going towards the lake from Bhagwabasa. Crater of the Roopkund Lake looks very small, and you can’t get any idea about the lake from there.
Fascinated by the beauty of nature, I walked around my campsite. Everybody was busy looking at the white peaks, mountain trail, clear sky and beautiful clouds in the valley. We were just on the top of the world above the clouds. The whole scene was breathtaking.
The sun was setting down under the clusters of the clouds in a remote corner of the valley. I guessed that nature had again designed the set for another spectacular sunset. I found a rock on the edge of the mountain, away from the hut. I picked my camera bag and walked towards that rock. The valley below me was full of the clouds and nothing was visible beyond a point. But at our altitude and higher, there was no sign of clouds. I could see the sun hiding under the clouds in a distant corner of the valley. The peaks and clouds were slowly turning in to the golden colour.
Sitting on a rock at the mountain edge,in a remote corner of the Himalayas, about 20 kms away from the human settlement and at the height of 14029 feet, I was watching one of the most beautiful sunset in my life.
20 minutes later, before the sun could hide completely, clouds started moving upwards from the valley and slowly they covered all the peaks as well as our camping site. I returned back to the hut, but I surely wanted to spend more time at the rock. Wished those clouds could remain in the lower valley for some more time.
Our guide told us to eat early and sleep early, so that we could start our final climb to Roopkund at 03.00 AM in the morning. It seemed too early to me for that 3 kms trek. He said that early start is very necessary, because one needs to climb on the trail while snow is still hard. After 09.00 AM, the snow becomes softer and feet start to sink in. In that case, walking without a technical gear could be difficult. Finally, we agreed to start at 04.00 AM. However later, we found snow for only 50 meters before Roopkund Lake, but further trail to Junargali was completely covered by the snow.
When I woke up in the early morning and looked outside, it was completely dark with freezing cold. Nobody wanted to step out from the hut. I looked above the peaks and it was an amazing moment. In the complete dark hours, those high Himalayan Peaks was shining like silver in the moonlight. I had to come out to capture those amazing moments despite of the freezing temperature.
In the later part of the next day, while returning back from Roopkund, we again stayed at Bhagwabasa for 2 hours before moving down to Pathar Nachni. It was a nice sunny day and weather was very clear. I look back at the shining peaks and Roopkund Lake. Never in my life, I felt so close to those mountains, neither in Spiti Valley, nor in Valley of Flowers. The white peaks was looking very beautiful in the clear weather. Clouds were still there in the lower valley. At some distance, Chaukhambha and its neighbouring peak were calling us for another trek in their vicinity. I took out a zoom lens to click some close pictures of each peak.
At last, we were supposed to move out from Bhagwabasa. Very few times in the life, we have the chances to spend a night in such wilderness and at such altitude. Night stay at Bhagwabasa made us enable to witness the best views of the mountains and valleys. Those were the amazing moments, the moments of life-time.
In the next part of this Roopkund Journey, I will write about our final trek to Roopkund and Junargali and then descend to Pathar Nachni for the night stay.