Lohajung is a small market area catering to the villages of Baank, Didna, Wan, Kuling etc in this remote part of the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Dewal is the closest town to Lohajung at about 32km.
I was on a 3-month break, walking the Himalaya on foot and wanted to hike to BrahmaTal which is a beautiful hike starting from Lohajung as well.
BrahmaTal is generally projected as a 5/6 day hike by many commercial hiking companies (Like Indiahikes, TrekTheHimalayas etc) trying to mint money and in the process deeply affecting the eco-system of this fragile area.
Unlike, Roopkund which is part of the Nanda Devi Biosphere (Conservation area), there is no such protection for BrahmaTal and therefore it’s extremely important to be more aware and responsible when hiking in this region.
I had decided to finish the trek in a day and a half. So early morning around 8 a.m on the 2nd of October, a National holiday in India due to the birth anniversary of Peace-Messiah and Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, I set on the BrahmaTal Trail. Shanti (peace) on my mind…
The Brahma Tal trek starts from a small trail which goes uphill from Bisht/Danu General Store in the market area of Lohajung.
It was an exceptionally cloudy day and I had a poncho handy just incase it poured. A couple of days ago it had rained incessantly. Of course the next day was clear and visibility high… but getting caught in a heavy downpour in the Himalaya with no cover to run to can be exhausting. Soon, one passes over the village of Mundoli.
As the day progressed, the weather cleared slightly, and I progressed into the forest area.
After a brisk walk, one reaches a small pond, called Khoptalyein. I took a small break here to catch on some energy food and water. The weather was still bad with clouds hovering around and reducing the visibility greatly.
Mid-September is generally a month when the monsoons in India recedes and by October the weather is generally conducive for hiking in the Himalaya due to excellent visibility. But this time, monsoons were lingering around for much longer. There is a saying the mountains
Pahadon ka Mausam aur Bombay ka fashion, kab badal jaaye pata nahin
Loosely translated means “ Climate in Himalaya and the fashion trend in India’s fashion capital Mumbai can change anytime! “
After another 30 minute walk, one reaches BekalTal, a small lake surrounded by Oak and Rhododendron Trees. BekalTal is almost at an altitude of 3010m above sea-level
After appreciating the lake in nature’s lap and clicking a few pictures, I started the hike to BrahmaTal. It was about 12 pm by then, and I had covered the good distance in short time.
From BekalTal, one has to traverse a steep climb through Oak and Rhododendron forest to Telandi (A high-altitude meadow).
After about 30 minutes of brisk climb, one reaches the meadows at Telandi. There weren’t many thoughts in my head and I was racing against time to reach BrahmaTal in time to setup my camp. It was still overcast and misty and didn’t want to be caught in the rainfall with no cover.
I met some really nice guys camping at Telandi, leading a German group. They prepared some Noodle soup for me in their kitchen tent to satiate my hungry stomach. Post which, I thanked them for the kindness and bid them goodbye.
Telandi to BrahmaTal is a steady walk with not much climb, a post which one has to descend a hundred meters. I met few Villagers on the way who were returning to their temporary camps (called Chaani in local language Garhwali). Every year the villagers in Uttarakhand wander with their cattle, goats, sheep’s etc for a few months in the wilderness, letting their cattle graze in the vast & peaceful meadows of the various national parks. It’s difficult for them to maintain a large number of livestock in their villages, as it would require them to fetch cut grass from far-off.
After a few kilometers of brisk and steady walking, one reaches a point where a small temple is visible on 45 degrees to left.
After another 15–20 minutes of brisk walk, one reaches the temple at BrahmaTal, the lake still elusive but not very far-off
After about 5 minutes of a walk further down the temple, I reached BrahmaTal at about 2 pm. I was relieved to have made it in time to setup camp, prepare some food and go around for a walk.
I quickly setup camp and went to fetch water from a nearby water stream. The water from BrahmaTal was not potable as it’s not a fresh water lake though it’s fed by streams from the mountains, It didn’t have an outlet.
I went for a quick walk after having some food and was greeted by about 600–700 sheep & goats grazing in the meadows.
While walking around, I met the shepherd who was the care-taker of the sheep. He told me the Sheep belonged to 3 different families and he had come from a village about 15–20kms downhill. He was here for about 3 months already and would be back in a couple of weeks as winter had already arrived. Each family whose sheep was there would send a couple of members and they would relinquish duties every few weeks to go back to the village and take rest while others took over from them meanwhile.
After having a hearty conversation with the shepherd and learning more about the place and their culture I returned to my camp.
I was startled though to understand that there was a possibility that a leopard or tiger might linger in that area. It was a bit discomforting but by now locals had reiterated enough that these wild cats were scared of humans in this area.
But you never know, after all!
By evening, I prepared some noodle soup and ate some dry fruits for dinner before retreating for the night in my sleeping bag with sub zero temperature outside.
Woke up next day by 630am, the sun was out but the clouds still lingered around. The plan for today was to reach BrahmaTal top, get views of Nanda Ghunti and Trisul and then descend to Lohajung via Daldum village. But would the clouds allow for it was the question?
After about 45 minutes of high-intensity climb, one reaches the BrahmaTal top at an altitude of 3846 meters.
Unfortunately, the weather gods were not kind and views of Mount Nanda Ghunti and Mount Trisul was blocked by thick black clouds. I was not so disappointed since I had got good views of both mountains from Junargali Pass on the Roopkund Trail. however, It would have been nice to catch a different perspective and view of the mighty mountains from BrahmaTal top.
Since the weather was hostile, I followed the ridge in the direction from where I had approached BrahmaTal. The next stop would be the village of Daldum. It would be about 2/3 hours of brisk walk from BrahmaTal top.
I stopped by at Daldum for a cup of tea on a local farm. The villagers were kind to offer a cup of tea which I ate with some biscuits I was carrying. Lohajung was another 1.5 hours of brisk walk from Daldum.
After a super brisk walk of 1.5 hours, I was back in Lohajung, almost 28 hours after I had left the previous day. I had a quick lunch and then decided to head to Arjan Top which is a short hike 45-minute hike from Lohajung.
While I was descending Arjan top, it started raining heavily. Finally, the 2 days of cloud build up was finally released. It poured heavily for 3 straight hours and had to take shelter under one of the thick trees to protect myself from getting drenched!
Back to Lohajung, I knew the treks was over and so my extended stay in this nondescript village.
BrahmaTal is a beautiful trek and is even possible to hike here in the winter months of November to March when most of the trek routes in Indian Himalaya especially Garhwal are closed.
A Short itinerary of my hike to Brahmatal Here
Here is a short Video story of BrahmaTal