India has been blessed with adventurous and blissful mountain ranges such as the mighty Himalayas, Vindhya range, lush-green Western and Eastern Ghats. People who explore these ranges come back with a backpack full of memories and experiences, sometimes, enough for a lifetime. One such experience of mine has been trekking all the way up to 16,000 feet above sea-level to see human skeletons! Yes, you read that right.
There is a place deep in the Garhwal Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state of India that is a host to more than 200 human skeletons. This place is none other than the Roopkund Lake in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India. And because of the presence of these skeletons, this lake is also widely known as the “Mysterious Lake”.
Roopkund lake is situated at a staggering height of 16,000 feet above sea level. This lake, which is far from any human habitat, has been surrounded in and out by hundreds of human skeletons, which was discovered for the first time by a forest ranger in 1942. Since then, a lot of experiments have been conducted by various institutions (including National Geographic) to find out the history and reason behind the existence of these skeletons. All these skeletons have a similar fatal blow to their heads, which was the cause for the mass deaths. Lots of theories were made, locals had their own folklore which tried to narrate the presence of these mysterious skeletons. For decades, these skeletons baffled scientists, explorers and everyone who came across it. Surprisingly, some of the skeletons still had the flesh and hair intact! Thanks to the brutal cold and weather of the Himalayas. After analyzing the DNA, artifacts, the fatal blows and wounds, finally in 2013, it was concluded that the skeletons belonged to the people of a 9th century Indian tribe who died due to a massive hail storm. These ruled out the earlier theories of landslides or a war that could have been the cause for the massacre of over 200 people.
As ironic as it may sound, Roopkund now is a trekker’s paradise. Since 2007, Roopkund has been a good host to an increasing number of trekkers who go through a 5-6 days of rigorous and demanding trek to the Roopkund lake to be blessed with the pristine beauty of Himalayas. The trek starts from the base camp at Lohajung, through the thick rhododendron forests of the village Wan, heading to what is probably the highest, widest green meadows in the world namely Ali Bugyal and Bedni Bugyal which are a pure heaven. “Bugyals” actually mean alpine pasture lands at a high altitude. The lush-green Bedni Bugyal spreads endlessly at a whopping altitude of over 11,000 feet. The journey next moves to a scenic location of the summit camp of Bhagwabhasa, which arguably has the most beautiful sunset. The horizons are something to die for. It literally takes us “on cloud nine” when we are above the clouds!
The summit day demands everything one has, to climb up till the Roopkund Lake and continuing up to the Junargali which is at its steepest best. Junargali is the highest point of the Roopkund trek at an approximate altitude of 16,200 feet. Where every person who has gone through this arduous journey is gifted with the breathtaking views of Himalayas. With the backdrop of Mt.Trishul and Mt.Nanda Ghunti, the panorama that unfolds in front of the eyes is truly phenomenal. Nature, however mysterious, only makes us wonder.
But what’s shocking is that some of the trekkers, who after celebrating the successful accomplishment of the trek have been stealing these bones as a souvenir! This is bizarre yet a mirror to the current society.
Yet, Roopkund remains one of the most beautiful and remote places in India, bringing us closer to the nature and ourselves with each passing step.
This article originally appeared here: Roopkund Trek.