Mysterious trek of Roopkund

You may already know that I love trekking, if you’re a regular reader of my blog. Since the birth of Atyudarini, I’ve been on just my first one recently, at Spa, Belgium. More about it is coming up soon. Stay tuned. That said, a Himalayan trek is very much in my wishlist and the place that tops it, is the Roopkund Trek
Pic Courtesy: Bikat Adventures

There is a fiction, a folklore among the women of Himalayas, that the Himalayan Goddess, got enraged that she was defiled by outsiders that she flung hailstones as hard as iron balls and killed them. Fact is stranger than fiction and there is no other place that defines this than Roopkund, because this story turns out to be a fact!!!
Pic Courtesy: Schwiki via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

In 1942, when India was a British Colony, a Forest Guard H K Madhawl, spotted some 200 skeletons in Roopkund, located 16000 feet above sea level. Being WWII period, he thought they were Japanese intruders. Much later in 2004, finally, with the advancement in DNA Technology, the mystery of who they were, was finally solved. They were a small group of similar people and a large group of assorted people, who are assumed to be pilgrims guided by locals. They seem to have been attacked by blunt force on the head which caused their death. Did you guess it? Yes, hailstones indeed, which were as big as cricket balls! This has happened in 9th C CE. 
Pic Courtesy: Bikat Adventures

Some of these skeletons even have their hair and flesh intact, thanks to the freezing temperatures and dry winds of the Himalayan region. Apart from these some of their belongings has also been preserved under layers of snow including rings, spears, leather shoes, and bamboo staves. This major section of unrelated people (i.e., the pilgrims), share most of their dna with Iran while the small group of related people share their dna with local people. Some of the skeletons are in display at the Anthropological Museum of India in Dehradun. 
Pic Courtesy: By Djds4rce via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

I was first intrigued by this. It is believed that they are pilgrims because there was no traditional commercial route in this region however it was used to reach the Nanda Devi Shrine. Personally I was also reminded of the Ancient Greeks who got lost in this region. Often they are referred to as the ‘Lost Children of Alexander the Great’. However the timeline contradicts as this happened in 850 CE while Alexander is from 350 BCE.
Pic Courtesy: Bikat Adventures

So yes, till date, many of those skeletons are there! However most are in the depths of a frozen lake, which are visible only for one month every year when the ice melts. But to reach the spot, it takes atleast a 5-6 days trek in a difficult terrain, which makes it one of the best treks in India. The trail is however an incredibly beautiful one with views of peaks of Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, Neelkantha, Trishul & Nanda Ghunti.  Today the situation isn’t that amazing. Sadly, the skeletons are being taken by trekkers and locals alike as a trophy, a souvenir. So currently it is being considered to bring this region under protection. 
Pic Courtesy: Bikat Adventures

The usual visit begins at Lohajung, which is the last electrified village before heading into Roopkund. The trek by any standard isn’t an easy one, not even a moderate one. Trekking organizers like Bikat Adventures, mention this as moderate to difficult. I’d say it is more towards difficult, esp if you aren’t a very experienced trekker. Physical fitness is extremely crucial and so are the trekking gear. Till date hail storms are common and many trekkers have faced atleast one in course of their trek.
Pic Courtesy: Bikat Adventures

If you know me, you’d know I’m rather fascinated by anything historical and with so much of mystery shrouded around it, this has to be my top priority when I plan a Himalayan trek. Since this trek reaches altitudes of more than 5000m climb, experience in terms of hiking for long hours, and not having altitude sickness etc are a must. This cannot be my first Himalayan trek for it is long, high, cold and difficult. This can only be done after doing a few lighter Himalayan treks. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do, but I really hope I do. Fingers crossed….. 

P.S: In collaboration with Bikat Adventures.


An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands