There are numerous hiking trails to discover in Garhwal, and it’s no surprise that the Brahmatal trip is on your bucket list. The magnificent walk to Lord Brahma’s sacred lake serves largely as a classic winter trek. The entire trek offers some of the best views of the snow-capped peaks of Nanda Devi Sanctuary’s outer wall.
This little track appears to be a beginner’s joy, lying almost entirely within a forest line. According to folklore, Lord Brahma allegedly meditated on the beaches of this lake, thus the name. Lohajung (7500 ft) serves as the trek’s starting point, a collection of stores and guest accommodations similar to a Bazar in hilly locations.
Our intention was to journey through the mountains and celebrate a possible “White Christmas.” Our hike guide informed us of a significant snowfall in the area in the middle of December. It was so severe that snow fell as low as 4000 feet. Even though Brahmatal Trek appeared to be tough to access, our guide told us that he would do his best. He also stated that he will change the plan so that we can spend as much time as possible in the highlands. So we started from Kolkata, knowing that Lohajung currently has more than a foot of snow. Yes, it’s been more than a week since the snowstorm!
So, anticipating a difficult journey, we boarded the Lalkuan Express from Kolkata. Despite the fog, it arrived in Lalkuan the next day in about 24 hours. Soumik, Abhirup, Saptarshi, and I, Sourav, were the four of us. To keep things simple, we checked into a modest hotel near the railway station. The cold of late December had cast a veil of fog over all of northern India, including Lal Kuan. We reserved seats in a shared car through a local transporter that was scheduled to drive us to Deval the following day. We should take another shared vehicle from Deval or get a car to Lohajung, which is around 25 kilometres away. At Lalkuan, there isn’t much to do. We went for a brief walk in the afternoon. The room featured a television, and we watched ATK win the ISL that evening.
Day 1: Lalkuan to Lohajung via Deval
We awoke about 5:30 a.m. and checked out of the resort by 7:00 a.m. We hurriedly finished our breakfast of puri and subzi before embarking on our journey. However, reports of severe snowfall began to arrive, and we learned that the road to Lohajung was only cleared for traffic last evening. Snow had brought down several electric poles, leaving our hike base without power.
We travelled through Kathgodam in half an hour and discovered that the dark mist had lifted. The deep blue sky of December hung above us, with never-ending ridge lines ahead. Our route would now take us across the Kumaon Himalaya up to Gwaldam, passing through the beautiful hill stations of Almora and Kausani. Forests of Pine trees stretched for kilometres on both sides of the road, their needle-shaped dry leaves lending a shade of brown to the woodland floor. We stopped for tea and lunch a couple of times. We encountered considerable snow on the road at Gwalam. The road had been ploughed, but there was still a lot of snow on both sides. Every house was surrounded by knee-high snow.
We entered the Garhwal Administrative Division from here. Our trek from Tharali proceeded along Pindar, one of Alakananda’s most beautiful tributaries. We arrived at Deval around 5 p.m. and transferred to another jeep bound for Lohajung. When we arrived at Lohajung around 7:00 p.m. in the winter, it was dark. The final section from Deval to Lohajung is an uphill climb with significant elevation increase.
Mr. Dev Singh Ji, our guide in Lohajung, greeted us and we settled into the lodge. Soon after, Dev Ji convened a meeting to discuss the next five days’ preparations. Garhwal received the most snow in the last 40 years this year. The trails through the woodlands and across the peaks were covered in knee-high snow, and there was even more at Bramha Tal. We had to deviate from our planned route due to the weather.
Our initial goal was a 5-day round-way hike to Brahma Tal from Lohajung, followed by a return trip through Wan village. The team agreed to go to Azan peak the next day and return to Lohajung in the afternoon. This is the top of the ridge where Lohajung appears to be a pass. This will provide members with firsthand experience trudging through knee-deep new snow. The following day, we will travel as far as we can to Bramha Tal. If we return to Lohajung in a few days, we can also trek to Didna village and stay in a native home.
Day 2: Lohajung to Bramhatal Base
We awake early and quickly began to prepare. We had already packed our rucksacks the night before, making sure to carry only the essentials and leaving any extra gear at our base. then, We left after finishing our meal of roti and sabzi and a cup of tea.
The trail was snow-free for the first several kilometres, and Dev urged us not to fasten our gaiters. We passed a few village huts as the trail gradually began to climb up the slope above the village. A pipe line runs down the path, carrying water to Lohajung.
Mundoli, a lovely town on the lower hills, sat on our right. The hillside that led to Azan Top ended in a few cabins that led to Lohajung. Looking south, one could see infinite ridgelines gradually rising above one another and fading away in the midday haze near the horizon. We came here to refresh our batteries. The mountain ahead of us was densely forested, and Dev pointed to a depression between two spurs on the ridge top that would serve as the day’s final destination.
As we approached the Oak and Deodar forests, the sunshine was block by the trees, and the snow on the trail began to accumulate. We crossed a tiny stream of running water on occasion, taking care not to get our shoes wet. Dev instructed us to fix our gaiters after another hour of walking. We moved to the right and began climbing the snow-covered trail. We hiked for another 45 minutes or so to the front, where we spotted deep fog accumulating slightly below the ridge.
This section of the trail was hidden beneath a dense forest canopy, and as we approached another fifty yards, we discovered the ridge covered in a heavy coating of snow. We could tell this place didn’t get much sunshine because of the temperature differential. Even at noon, it felt like evening here, and the snow was soft and powdery. We paused, and the entire squad took photos before moving on.
The trail took a right turn and began to ascend, traversing the crest. This bleak and dismal zone lasted about 800 metres until we eventually saw sunlight, much to our relief. We reach the ridge top and saw the small lake of Khopdaliya, which was inundated in the afternoon heat.
We picked up the pace on the snow and, after a while, took a right turn and began descending the slope to our camp. This final stretch over the steep snow-covered slope was difficult, requiring careful manoeuvring through the rhododendron bushes in low light. When we arrived at camp, it was dark and bitterly cold.
Our tents were already pitched on the snow, and I ran to the lifeline – fire set up by our support personnel. The next two hours were spent sipping hot coffee, relishing the warmth, and drying our wringing wet shoes and socks. For dinner, we were offered hot Khichdi, scrambled eggs, and pickles before falling asleep in the comfort of sleeping bags. A long and eventful day has come to an end.
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