Brahmatal (or Brahma Tal) is gradually going to be a popular winter trek for the people who love to explore and admire the beauty of Himalaya. Located in Chamoli District of Uttarakhand, Brahmatal can be reached by trekking from Lohajung, a famous village of eastern Garhwal Himalaya.
I visited Brahmatal in January, 2018 but could not reach to Brahmatal as I encountered a snow storm. Though all of my teammates were safe but some other group got rescued somehow as their tents got crashed. Today I will share you my experience.
Planning and Preparation:
“Amra Brahmatal trek e jacchi, tui jabi?” (We are planning to trek Brahmatal, are you interested?) said by my friend Dipanwita. She knew my answer very well. They had already planned for everything. Even she spoke to Mr. Neeraj Joshi (The top boss of Himalayan Climber) and settled the cost. We discussed among us and decided to gather at Delhi and then to take a night train to Kathgodam – the gateway of Kumayun followed by a car (arranged by Neeraj) to Lohajung.
As planned, we gathered in Old Delhi. Here I would like to introduce our team. Apart from me we had five other members. Dipanwita, Nasmin, Indira, Sudarshan and Tanmoy. All of them knew each other. We all were in service industry except Sudarshan, who was in his family business of musical instruments.
Having a good lunch Al Jawahiri, the famous Mughlai Restaurant at Chandni Chowk, we strolled in the lanes of Old Delhi and finally reach at Delhi rail station at Chandni Chowk. It was Ranikhet Express that took us to Kathgodam. The train was as usual late due to fog but anyway the driver managed to reduce the late hour and we reach at Kathgodam at 5.30 AM.
It was about to dawn. A sweet node of Azaan (It was the time of Fazr Namaz) from a nearby mosque was declaring the happy beginning of a new day on earth. To me, it sounded like a wishful blessing for us.
We started our journey for Lohajung. “Amlan, are we at Kumayun or Garhwal Himalaya?” Asked by Dipanwita.
“Our car journey will be through Kumayun Himalaya till Lohajung but our trek route is locate inside Garhwal Himalaya.” I replied. I was a bit scare of the traffic jam of the route but our driver assured me to take the car bypassing Nainital and Ranikhet. After two tea breaks, one lunch break and several vomit break we reached at Lohajung in the afternoon.
We boarded at a hotel, freshened up and had a good tea with pakora. By that time Neeraj called Dipanwita and introduced Mr. Chandan Negi who would guide us and manage everything. Around 7PM Chandan, a well-behaved guy came and greeted us. Chandan’s appearance echoed his personality, confidence, positivity and awareness. He met us personally and briefed us the route.
After a good session with him, we had a wonderful dinner and called it a day.
Day 1: Lohajung to Bekal Taal
The day started with a glorious view of Mount Nanda Ghunti. We had a small team meeting where Chandan checked everybody’s gear. Chandan was accompanied by a cook KK and two mule carriers Ganga and Khilaf. By 9 AM we started our long-awaited trek. Chandan started with us and KK, Ganga and Khilaf started Like other Garhwali and Kumayuni trails the trail was through the alpine forest of pine, far, oak. Gentle hike through the forest was supposed to make the trail refreshing and energetic but actually it was very dusty. Deforestation was the main culprit for it.
The route overcrowded as some other organisations took teams with more than ten, fifteen even thirty people. Somehow, I dislike these overcrowded team. I thanked Chandan for taking us in a separate team.
We reached Begam at 11 AM and decid to have some snacks with Maggie and Tea. We were not that much hungry but intend to spend some time so that other teams go and we get some fresh air. Chandan agreed. He was also a bit irritat like me as one of the groups of other organisers consisted of 30 members and the team was out of their manager’s control. “I can’t understand why people don’t enjoy the silence and like to speak so loudly”, I murmured. “Right Sir, people should understand that nature has a lot to say” Chandan Replied. I said, “You know, there is always a ‘Sound of Silence’”, he liked the phrase and I pulled out my headphone from pocket, applied to his ears and played the famous song of Bob Dylan. Chandan liked the song very much.
By that time other team went off and Chandan asked us to start. That time it was a better experience as the trail was a bit empty. Fresh air started purifying our soul. Chandan was leading from the front and as usual I became the tail – the most comfortable position of mine.
We reached at an unnamed waterfall and crossed a bridge in front of the falls. From the bridge, there was a steeper trail that leads to the top of a ridge, we crossed it and found a meadow with at least 40 tents.
I was a bit unhappy to share a meadow with the crowd mentioned earlier. “Don’t worry Sir, I have asked my boys to pitch our tent to the extreme corner so that there will be ample space between the others’ tent”, Chandan guaranteed me. He might read my mind. I thanked him and reached where our tents were supposed to get settled.
Dipanwita, Sudarshan and myself requested them to pitch the tent after we arrive. I had previous experience in pitching a tent but the others were new. All of the teammates were very excited. Chandan and his team arranged kitchen tent and KK, the cook of our team prepared Khichri and Papad for us – the menu that we asked in the morning. We had a good lunch and arranged all the tents. After lunch we planned to go to Bekal Tal but Sudarshan decided to stay at the tent as he was not feeling well. He got a bit nervous. There was nothing wrong. It was his first trek and he carried his entire luggage. It was better for him to take rest while we headed up for Bekal Tal.
Located at an altitude of 3733 meters Bekal Tal surrounded by lush greenery of the alpine forest. Since it was January, the lake was partially frozen. People were walking and dancing on the ice layer. There was a couple in some other group who kept themselves busy in love making. Tanmoy started jumping. Even he pulled his t-shirt off!!!
The light was not favourable for photography. I just walked around the lake. In the evening, we came back to tent. After having some liquor (taken by us) accompanied by pakora (snacks) we started chitchatting. At 8 PM KK served diner. It was Jeera Rice and vegetable curry. KK was great cook. He knew how to titillate the taste buds.
Day 2: Bekal Taal to Brahma Taal Camping Ground
Even it happened to me earlier. In the morning, my intuition knocked me for something dangerous but enjoyable incidents. Sometimes I follow and sometimes ignored. That day I ignored the call initially.
As usual we started sharp at 8 AM. A considerable inclination led us to the ridge next to the meadow. We continued our walk through a scenic green trail. The lights coming through pine and oak trees caused a dramatic shadow. Walking uphill we found Mount Trishul on the right-hand side.
With gradual ascend we reached to a big meadow and found KK is settling his kitchen tent there. I was aware of the distance between Bekal Tal and Brahmatal. I shared the same with Chandan. Very logically he replied, “Brahmatal is just 2 killometers from here. We can go but since there are many trekkers on that point, I think you will be happy to stay here. Tomorrow, we will first go to Brahmatal and continue to Bramhatal peak.” I thanked him.
The camping ground was simply awesome. Mount Trishul was on one side. We spent a nice time with delicious food cooked by KK.
In the early afternoon, I observed a small patch of cloud. I recalled my intuition. From my early experience, I knew how a small cloud can cover the entire sky and cause rain. I had a similar experience in Har Ki Dun Trek. I was sure about the probability of snow fall if it would rain in January at an altitude of 4000 meter.
The cloud start covering the sky and around 4PM the sky got overcasted. Our team went inside one tent and Chandan and his boys stayed in the kitchen tent. As predicted by my intuition and experience, snowfall finally started after 6PM. Though I had experienced snowfall in Hampta Circuit Trek but it was mild. It continued till 8PM and Chandan came to clear the hood of the tent to avoid crashing.
We all got very happy. Experiencing snowfall was beyond our expectation. We took some selfies with mobile flash. Meanwhile KK called us for diner. Jeera Rice and Egg Curry was on the menu – my favourite combination for dinner.
After having dinner, we came back to tent. Probably I felt asleep suddenly I felt somebody shaking our tent. I opened the air window and ask for the person who was doing this. “Donot worry sir, it’s me” Chandan replied, “Your tent was about to crash as there are heavy snow. I am shaking it to avoid crash”. I thanked him. Snowfall continued till 3AM.
Day 3: Bramha Taal Camping Ground to Lohajung
Next morning, we all get up late and found ourselves in a dream land. The entire meadow was under one-foot snow. Our tents were somehow showing their identities but their roofs were still showing the symbols of last night.
“Are we in Antarctica” said by Tanmoy. We all laughed on him.
“Please don’t dare dream to see penguins in Himalaya”, I replied, “This place is even more beautiful than Antarctica. See how Mount Trishul is smiling.”
“Wow” was the expression of everybody. Meanwhile KK and his team have prepared morning tea for all of us. We thanked them and to be very honest, hot tea and biscuits gave us fresh energy.
“What do you decide Chandan?” I asked, “Do you think that it will be a good idea to go to Brahmatal or we need to go back to Lohajung.”
“Sir, there is absolutely no chance to go to Brahmatal. One of my fellow colleagues went to see the condition of the snow in the morning and he has seen the broken camps in the camping ground. It will be not only risky but also vulnerable.” Chandan replied.
He decided to start for Lohajung after the breakfast. We all were on the same page so we start for Lohajung at 10.30 PM.
As we started lazily, we found that the people for other groups coming back. They set their tents beside to Brahma Taal and experienced a deadly situation. Some of the tents get crash and thus two of the fellow trekkers had to come out without any jacket. They were feeling sick. Our team was safe just because of Chandan’s decision to pitch camp in that meadow instead of going to Brahma Taal.
We were trekking down cautiously as the entire trail got cover by snow. Most of us got disbalance for a number of times. While crossing Bekal Taal we found the green camping ground was under snow and tents were somehow standing.
By 5.30 PM finally we reached at Lohajung. Dipanwita decided to offer the dinner for that day. I had already tested her cooking. She has a great ability to cook.
As planned, Chandan and his team brought chicken. Dipanwita, even after trekking 10 kilometres marinated the chicken and kept for one hour. She got freshen up and then cooked the chicken. It was delicious. We all thanked her and called it a day at 10PM.
Next day we decided to stay at Lohajung. We went out with camera and scattered. Loitering in the village Lohajung I went to a school and spent a long day with the school childrens. I shaed lunch with them, attended the class. It recalled my school days. My experience with the school children will said in a different story.
The entire trip was awesome. Except me, it was first time snow experience for the other team mates. But for all of us it was the first encounter with snow storm. We blessed. While coming back to Kathgodam I kissed Himalaya and promised to come back soon.