Bhrigu Lake Trek, A Solo Survival.
Situated amidst the high Rocky Mountains where plants and flowery meadows can’t dare to make their habitat at 14,000 (4,267m) feet Bhrigu lake freezes during winters making it very difficult to climb and cast a beautiful shadow of small snow patches during the summer and monsoon. It is a popular moderate trek in Himachal Pradesh near Manali.
Being in Mountain Sports division of Decathlon Sports India and guiding people for their hikes and treks and their essential products I saw that Bhrigu lake was frequently asked for and the trekking companies were charging way too much for the trek i.e. 7-8 k per person which covered MANALI TO MANALI.
I had Bhrigu lake on my bucket list for a long time and now I got a reason to plan it as soon as possible. And within 3 days I had an itinerary in my favourite leather coated book I got from leh.
I grabbed the essentials and headed for the solo survival.
I will soon write about trekking essentials in my blog to make your trek safe and extraordinary, that’s how they are meant to be.
And I did Bhrigu lake trek (MANALI TO MANALI) IN 800 BUCKS. (know how? In the story)
Delhi-Chandigarh-Manali-Gulaba-Rauli khol (Base Camp)-Bhrigu lake
According to my itinerary, I was not destined proper food the following night hence when the Himachal Roadways bus stopped for dinner I made sure I had proper dinner whether I was hungry or not.
On 17 July around 10:45 in the morning I reached Manali. It was one of the rare bright sunny days of monsoon.
Now I had to catch a bus to Gulaba to start the trek and a bus for Keylong left at 1:00 PM and that bus will drop me to Gulaba and I had 2 hours in Manali which I spent checking out some trek shops and mountain gear shops in Manali mall road.
Met trek mates
After around 40 minutes of standing in the bus leaning against the pole, I reached Gulaba and the visibility was fucked up. The bus conductor asked the driver to stop the bus and told me here you go bhrigu dude. I said ..what?? he replies yes you need to enter the jungle from here, I hopped out of the bus, I was standing in one of the many turns of Manali-Rohtang pass road all by my own and had no idea the trek started from a place like this.
I came back to Gulaba check post 1km down from where I was standing as I was not aware that the trek started from such place where no one lived or there were no shops. I had to fill water and be ready for the coming 3 days.
While I was in water hunt I met Neeraj and his friends who were also there for Bhrigu lake trek, Actually they were not, they came for a road trip and decided to do Bhrigu just like that which explained his friend’s Nikes, jeans, and jumpers, Oh boy they’re not gonna make it to the top, I told myself.
(Note: Never ever compromise on your mountain gear, don’t start off just like that.)
We started off together from the trail that bus conductor told me to begin from.
It was almost 3 hours of continuous walking and we were not sure of the route.
Arjun seemed to be an experienced hiker among his friends and his friends thought that he
is taking them for a road trip but they ended up meeting up a crazy dude like me in a monsoon trek.
So none of us knew the trails, we just enquired about the start point and we were guided to a wrong one in that.
A monsoon trek without knowing the trails is a difficult one I tell you.
Especially when there are no signs and no cafes on the way and you are on your own.
We were not sure of the route from the beginning of this trek and as it was getting dark we were just in search of a meadow or a camping ground to camp. We almost camped in the jungle but we kept patience and after 15 minutes climb in chest high bushes we found a beautiful divine meadow perfect to camp for the night.
In my head, I thought we’ll wake up tomorrow morning and this meadow will turn out to be Rauli kholi and behind the hill, there will be a hut or some camps that I knew there are in the base camp. But it was the optimism in me talking to my head and I was nowhere near base camp and I was inside my tent and it was raining cats and dogs outside and I was nowhere. The feeling just made a hole in my expectations but I must admit the thrill that I felt and the chill through the spine because of being lost in the woods made me feel good in the adventurous part of my heart.
BULLS, The king in the Meadows
Mountains are awesome, they’re not a flat you own or your backyard where you can play beer pong.
When we finally found the meadow to camp that was an incomparable joyous moment. But nature owned the nature and not us. There were around sixty grazing bulls in the meadow and we thought yayyy we’re gonna camp with them bulls. And believe me they are not our homies.
As soon as we begin to setup our all blue Quechua tents a couple of bulls came sniffing around and we were excited and started making videos and it was the moment of ultimate joy and freedom. Slowly the number of sniffing bulls increased and all three tents of ours were pitched up and when we tried to frighten those bulls away we forgot that we were five humans and the bulls were sixty. The sniffing suddenly turned to “Screw them intruders” from the bull’s side and we were running away holding the already setup tents in our hands and we were running for life as we had sixty bulls behind us chasing us.
Then we had to pitch our tents again in a not so good camping area and the idea of bulls running over us in our sleep kept us awake.
Trek mates left halfway
So it was the rainy morning in that meadow nowhere, I heard Arjun calling me from the other tent and he said “Bro, we think we’ll head back, following the trails we got here through, We can’t risk it trekking through unknown and you should head back with us.”
Going back was not an option and a solution I could opt. They gave me their food supply some water and headed back in the rain and walked up the mountain in search of the right trail for I knew I will make it.
More than the destination but the beautiful landscapes and the flowery meadow was making me go further and further.
CHAND JI’S Hut
I followed the Stone signals and finally I saw smoke coming out of a hut. A hut with a wall of big rocks and a huge plastic sheet in the top to protect from rain and the hut was so tiny it was almost like a little cave, I had to crawl into it and Inside there was a man who held my rucksack and gave me a blanket and started a fire to keep me warm.
The old man was “Chand Ji” who was from Mandi district and he had a wife and two kids back home. He built his hut to graze and train his young horses to transport goods to treks like these.
When I asked, “Does your family approves you living here like this,?” Stay in a hut like this which can fall apart any moment and you lived in here for the whole year.
He replies, “My son used to disapprove but I got him a wife” Chand Ji is a hilarious man in the hills.
After 3 cups of soothing black tea he served me rice and I was back in the trail after thanking this generous old man and followed the trail he directed me to and I finally made it to Rauli Kholi.
RAULI KHOLI (Base Camp)
While approaching Rauli kholi we have to walk through two streams flowing on the trail and it has the most beautiful sound and view ever. I took a halt for some tracks of Coldplay and kygo and started the journey again. After walking for few more minutes.
Here I saw camps spread in the green grassland and a small beautiful stream flowing alongside. The base camp was nested in the lap of huge mountains and it was so perfect that it looked like it was engineered to be the base camp.
Chand ji suggested me to meet Sanju in the base camp and as soon as I reached base camp I asked for Sanju.
I met sanju bhaiya.
He was known as “battery” around the base camp, maybe because of his thick glasses.
Because of the bad weather, Chand Ji suggested me not to attempt Bhrigu lake alone as there is zero visibility and I may have to make way through snow patches. He told me to go find Sanju “chasme wala” at the campsite.
Sanju bhaiya works at a camp kitchen in Rauli kholi base camp who is owned by an old man from Manali.
Sanju bhaiya was welcoming and humble and soon became my mountain brother.
He was a father of a teen girl who always awaits his return at Dharamshala.
People like sanju bhaiya and chand ji keep me motivated in life and people like these make me come back to the Himalayas again and again. “People with golden hearts”.
So, I sat with sanju bhaiya and we discussed Bhirgu lake with teacups in our hands. And he was ready to take me to bhrigu lake if the weather turns out to be the next day.
We talked about his family and my travel stories sipping tea gazing at the fiercely flowing stream alongside the camp.
After certain intervals I would borrow slippers from sanju bhaiya and walk around the campsite clicking pictures and the good man would shout from behind “The slippers are not good enough, don’t slip”.
I walked through the flowers in the meadow and the time stopped I forgot my life back in Delhi.
I have this habit of walking barefoot around the campsite wherever I go and I couldn’t resist this time also (you must try it once). I also tried to go to the stream as well but the water was deadly freezing and I had to jump out and shout ahhhhhh.!!! But that was the moment of ultimate happiness and being into the wild.
The Curious girls
When I was buried in my diary writing about my experiences a group of Gujarati boys and girls entered the camp kitchen and we shared our stories few minutes after or half an hour later the group left and the two shy girls came back again, they were just out of high school, they were trekking with a group from Gujrat and it was their first trek.
After a minute they entered the kitchen one girl couldn’t hold it more and askes.
“How it is like to come to nowhere all alone.?” she got my attention because of her bright eyes filled with questions and excitement. They were two curious faces who were just about to get into college and get out of their conservative households.
The conversation lasted about an hour and I could tell the number of things they both wanted to do and achieve in their life but there were a lot of “What if’s” and “But’s” stopping them to do what they always wanted to do.
I got to know a lot of their world and they dig most of mine. I felt like a sage, the one that travels, telling them to follow their dreams and never look back.
THE SUN WAS UP.!!!!
I told sanju bhaiya that see how all my prayers have been answered by mountain gods. The evening sun was so soothing and beautiful there I cannot put it into words.
Sanju bhaiya, I and Vinod were now ready to summit Bhrigu lake the next morning.
As the people in camp site told me it was the seventh day that they actually saw the sun.
Vinod is a camp manager in a popular trekking company and he was not always the camp manager.
He started as a potter and turned his life around by his hard work and intelligence and became a camp manager.
He belonged to Rudraprayag “Uttrakhand”.
We three enjoyed the sunset sitting on a cliff, the sky changed colour from blue to orange to dark and we settled back in our camps.
I told sanju bhaiya that my tent is all wet and I don’t feel like pitching it up again and is it possible that I take my sleeping bag and sleep in the camp kitchen.?
Two minutes after my request a bed was ready for me with double layered mattresses which included torn trekking mats and homemade cushions. It was a perfect bed.
It was a cold windy night and I was thinking I should have brought that silk liner to put inside my sleeping bag cope with the temperature.
All night I was praying for the weather to stay like this and not rain again.
Early morning at 4 Sanju bhaiya comes out when I was still in my sleeping bag and he says oohh its all packed the weather is not good. And I refused to hear it and I came out and checked for myself and it was good as it never was and sanju bhaiya was just pulling my leg as he knew there was no going back for me without doing it and what it meant to me.
THE SUMMIT, Bhrigu Lake
It took us 3 hours 30 minutes up and down the summit which is a great time as they said. Perks of trekking with the locals I guess.
So, earlier this morning we left at 7. Sanju bhaiya had joined me just not to break my heart as he was not sure of the weather. We started the summit where there were no concrete trails, the two dudes were running like it was a trail run and they would let me take halts. But yes this climb with them is not less than a mountaineering course.
It was a bright day but we were not sure of the weather the fog in next mountain could hit us anytime and ruin our summit. Sanju bhaiya in his sports shoes was leading the trail and motivated me and slow his pace to match mine and we move further together, the green meadow ended and we were now climbing on big rocks with the help of our hands and legs we could have used more hands if humans had more.
Soon we were digging snow patches with our shoes to make a way up the hill.
This monsoon 70% of trekkers couldn’t reach the lake because of bad weather and turn back.
Bhrigu lake has recently started as a trek but people have been visiting this lake from ages. Bhrigu lake is a holy place and the locals have been taking holy dips in this lake a lot earlier than the trekkers discovered this place. And the locals still take holy dips in it in the holy month of “Bhadra” of Indian calendar.
People carry statue of vashisth nath to bhrigu lake and it is believed that the statue pulls its carriers to the lake first and then starts the holy dip and it is believed that this is the way Vasistha nath gives approval and then only the pilgrims start their rituals.
Sitting besides the lake and glaring at the snowcapped mountains I kept listening to sanju bhaiya about the lake, the unsuccessful climbs and the micrales of mountain god.
Sanju bhaiya would sing himachali folk songs and describe the meanings to me.
Finally this Solo survival came to an end but I made two mountain brothers for forever and we still call up each other and share stories of our lives in mountain and city.