February end 2019, me and my team of trekkers ventured back into Uttarakhand for a trek to Dayara Bugyal. But the trek was not in our cards, and we had to change the location to Brahmatal. The day we reached the base camp at Raithal, there was heavy snowfall followed by an avalanche in the upper Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh thereby cancelling all treks to Dayara Bugyal.
We were not in a mood to go back without a trek. Hence, we changed our location to Brahmatal starting from a different base camp at Lohajung, around 330 Km from Raithal. We travelled alongside the beautiful Alakananda, Bhagirathi, Mandakini and the river Ganges. The journey took complete 12 hours by road and we had to cut off one trekking day from our itinerary.
It was freezing cold in Lohajung during this time of the year with temperature approx. negative 5 degree Centigrade at an altitude of approx. 7500 feet. We had to cut short our route to Brahmatal mainly because of the huge amount of snow accumulation on the trail and loss of a day’s trek.
The normal trek route to Brahmatal is – Lohajung to Bekaltal to Brahmatal to Daldum and then back to Lohajung. But after considering the duration of the trek and specially the weather, we customized our trek route to make our base at Daldum skipping Bekaltal. Bekaltal was having around 5 feet of snow accumulation and it was impossible to camp there.
The 3 days itinerary to Brahmatal
Day-1: Lohajung to Daldum. Camp at Daldum at an elevation of approx. 9400 feet. Camp site in the mid of Oak forest.
Day-2: Daldum to Brahmatal at an elevation of approx. 12200 feet. No camping at the peak.
Day-2: Brahmatal to Daldum
Day-3: Daldum to Lohajung
The trek to Brahmatal, Day-1
It was a bright sunny morning with temperature close to 10 degree centigrade. Our destination was Daldum which was 4 hours hike from our base camp. On the way, we came across beautiful Himalayan villages full of greenery and moved through the gorgeous rhododendron forest. Within an hour, we found snow on our trail. The snow was fresh although snowfall happened around 7 days back.
Camping at Daldum
We reached Daldum around 2:00 pm. The campsite was looking colourful with camps set up amid the green forest and snow all around. Post lunch, when we were out for an acclimatization walk, the climate deteriorated. Normally in the plains, we expect rain from the black clouds. But there, that was an indication of snowfall. Before we could return to our camps, snowfall started, and we had to rush to our camps. The snowfall did not last for long but gave us the indication that this trek will be full of surprises.
Soon the temperature dropped to negative and we packed ourselves in the sleeping bags around 8:00 pm after an early dinner.
Day-2 on Brahmatal trek
From Daldum, we were climbing to Brahmatal. Reaching Brahmatal will be difficult due to heavy snow accumulation on the trail and we might have to stop before our final destination and come back, if situation does not favor.
The climb to Brahmatal was not that difficult as we had already completed several high-altitude treks including some snow treks too. Daldum to Brahmatal was approx. 4 hours hike and we were ascending through a dense oak forest finding our way and many times breaking the huge amount of snow accumulated on the trail.
Although we started on a clear weather, when we reached the peak above the lake/tal around 12:30 pm, weather deteriorated, and black clouds had already started to cover Mt. Trishul, Mt. Chaukhamba and Nanda Ghunti peaks. We missed a noticeably clear view of the peaks.
Normally, early morning summits are preferred by all trekkers as the weather in the mountains remain crystal clear. After 12 pm, weather may worsen any time. The climb should always start midnight depending on the duration. But, we were excessively tired with long road journeys and decided to start the climb in the morning.
We could not move ahead from Brahmatal peak. The trek routes normally from Brahmatal peak via Brahmatal pass to Brahmatal lake. From Brahmatal lake, one can trek to Tilbudi and camp. But the fluctuating weather with occasional snowfalls forced us to descend to Daldum around 4:30 pm.
The unconventional snowfall
Nature was giving us a strong signal to get prepared for a bigger challenge to summit. At 5:30 pm, it started snowing. The snowflakes were looking amazing as they were falling on the tree leaves, on our colorful camps and on our jackets. Soon we had to rush inside the dinning tent being unable to bear the cold.
With the passage of time, the intensity of snowfall increased. Colorful nature changed to black and white within no time.
After dinner around 8:30 pm, when the intensity of the snowfall showed no sign of slowdown, we became mentally prepared to come across the worst that night. The first thing we did was to pack our backpacks so that if required, we can leave the campsite midnight and descend to a lower altitude. Secondly, we had to sleep in turns as we had two people accompanying a tent. When one of us slept, the other had to shake the tent in short intervals to remove snow from the roof of the tent. Even we had to keep an eye outside the tent to understand the level of snow accumulated on the ground.
Day-3 on Brahmatal trek
At 3:15 am, I could still hear snow falling on the tent. Both me and my tentmate could not sleep well and I believe none of the other trekkers too. Both of us were busy shaking the tent in intervals of 5-10 minutes. Many times, we thought that our tent may collapse on the pressure of the snow accumulation.
At 5:10 am, it was still dark with a reduced intensity of the snowfall. With all gears on, I had to kick the snow at the tent entrance to move out. Wherever my headlamp focused, it was only snow. There was around 1.5 feet snow accumulation on the ground. We were lucky enough that we could stay in the camp site the previous night without having to descend to a lower altitude.
We were cautious but not scared. The morning was looking awesome with a different beauty all around. Black and white has its own attractiveness which can be perceived only by the people who practically experienced that. Freshening up became a nightmare and we had to use mouth freshening solutions and gels. Nevertheless, we were enjoying the situation and the environment each moment.
Descending to Lohajung
Later in the day, we were to descend to Lohajung base camp. After breakfast around 8:30 am we started our final hike. It was still snowing. The trail was completely covered by a thick layer of snow and it was hard to find the right way down. Although we were extremely careful while coming down, we slipped, fell, and again stood up multiple times.
Around 1:00 pm we finally reached our base camp at Lohajung. By that time, the snowfall had stopped, and the weather was gradually becoming clear. After sunset, temperature was well below zero degree centigrade.
Day-4 on Brahmatal trek
It was a bright sunny morning and time to bid goodbye to the trek guides and trek leader. We started at 8:00 am and reached Dehradun by 5:30 pm.
Basic information about Brahmatal trek
- Anybody above the age of 10 years and physically fit can attempt Brahmatal
- Beyond Lohajung, all accommodation is in tents.
- Sleeping bags that can resist temperature up to minimum -15 degree Celsius is a must
- Head lamps are preferred to torch lights
- Proper snow trekking gears are mandatory
- Smoking and drinking strictly prohibited on the trail
- Average day temperature in February end ranges between -5 degree to 2 degree Celsius
- Average night temperature in February end ranges between – 5 degree to -15 degree Celsius
- Brahmatal is rated an easy to moderate trek.
N.B: Please check with the covid guidelines 2022 of UK govt. before planning for the trek.