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Uttarakhand: A Visit to Kagbhusandi Tal

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When dangerous paths lead to an emerald beauty

We had just arrived at the eerie village of Bhyundar after a week-long trek in the picturesque Valley of Flowers and Hemkund in Uttarakhand on a September evening. With a group of five intrepid trekkers, I was eager and looking forward to yet another adventurous trek–Kagbhusandi Tal–a less-trodden trail in the region.

The central Himalayan belt is known for exotic high altitude lakes. Some lesser known ones are tucked away in remote corners thus making it necessary for one to traverse great distances just to get a glimpse.

There were some risks involved but we decided to do the trek anyway. We were cautioned by locals about the terrain, streams, broken glaciers, crossing boulders and high passes in unfavourable weather conditions. But, our only concern was getting a guide who had a good sense of direction, someone who could steer us through a not-so-well marked topography devastated by the previous year’s flood. (Since then the Forest department was hesitant to grant a permit to the remote lake as the trail had been washed away)

We finally succeeded in finding our guide, Raman Singh Negi, and few porters from Joshimath, for the trek.

Hathi Parvat as seen from Bhyundar village

However, the weather reports cautioned of rainfall and dark clouds. A glimpse of the peak of Hathi Parbat (6727 m) in the morning over the tree line in the valley fired our spirits. Taking a diversion from Bhyundar, we crossed Laxman Ganga over a makeshift bridge. Then we took the trail going to the right, along Karnkul Ganga. As forewarned, the trail had been washed away.

After walking for six hours through the valley we reached our campsite, an undulating alpine meadow called Samartoli.

The next day the skies were clear displaying the mountains looming in the distance. A quick breakfast later, we began our journey. The valley after Samartoli widened and was rocky flat. From a distance we could see the denuded ridges of the Dang Kharak glacier. Crossing the stream below the snout of glacial moraine and after a steep climb over scree, we reached the vast slope of Dang Kharak.

By the time we reached it was late and was starting to snow. Next morning the whole chain of snow clad peaks encircling the valley was glowing in the sunrise. It was a tough day as we had to cross Kankul Khal to reach our destination. From the campsite, a little depression was visible due south over a bounding ridge-line. That was the first view of the khal.

Thankfully the skies remained clear. In high spirits, the team set out. The trail to Kankul khal was confusing. Unlike other high altitude passes that I had done, it was difficult to gauge the pass.

Kagbhusandi Tal, the emerald lake

To my dismay the descent was still not identifiable and boulders were slippery due to snowfall.  We were greeted by Phen Kamal flowers (Saussurea simpsoniana) on the slopes. After boulder-hopping we reached a point where one could see the hidden emerald jewel - Kagbhusandi Tal.

Brahma kamal flowers in bloom

The porters had gone ahead and soon the tents were visible from the distance, above the cliff overlooking lake. All we needed was water and the warmth of a sleeping bag. To make the lake more enchanting were Brahma Kamal flowers (Saussurea Obvallatta) in bloom.

There are mythological stories associated with the Tal. Above the lake, two huge irregular shaped rocks can be seen.  According to the local folklore, they are the Kaga (crow) and Garuda (eagle) and are in the midst of a heated discussion on the affairs of the universe. Another version states the crow is a learned Brahmin from Ayodhya. Having been unfortunate enough to incur the wrath of the sage Lomas who lived near the lake, he was cursed and turned into a crow.

Pushpavati River flowing through the valley

Usually, trekkers retrace the route back to Bhyundar from here, but we decided to trek to Vishnuprayag — the confluence of the Dhauliganga and Alaknanda rivers. The long trek back was long and arduous but when we finally reached, no one was complaining. There was only a sense of accomplishment. The thoughts of Kagbhusandi Tal will forever be etched in our memories.

The Information

Where: Uttarakhand

Altitude:  4730m

Trek grade: Moderate to hard

Nearest railway station: Dehradun

Guides and porters: From Joshimath or Govindghat

Permits: Permission to be taken from Forest Department in Joshimath

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