Trek to the Lake of Truth : Satopanth

This is the concluding part of a two trek combined sojourn, wherein the first segment dealt with the trek to Mandini Valley and beyond in order to see the flowering of the alpine flowering plants which are rare and not seen outside the Himalayan Region in the Garhwal segment during peak monsoon. The concluding segment deals with a trek to the Lake of Truth: Satopanth, deep in the Trans Himalayan Region of Uttarakhand.

I pick up from the last post where I and my team had arrived safely post completing the Mandini Sojourn at Rudraprayag; confluence town of two of India’s holy rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini  and were now focused on the next part of the trek which would begin ahead of Badrinath Ji .

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The next day was spent in travelling as we boarded the state transport bus and finally reached Joshimath at 1400 hrs crossing significant towns like Karnaprayag , Nandaprayag , Pipal koti . At Joshimath we boarded a local max trekker for the holy town of Badrinath which we would be reaching by 1630 hrs. The route of Joshimath to Badrinath is all unstable with heavy landslide activity at Lambagad followed by few more locations and two very significant water crossings. The max trekker, an old horse on this route managed all these quite dexterously with the driver knowing fully the tricks of the trade. He had been waiting for his turn to take on passengers since three days now as per the roster that is maintained at Joshimath, however with poor influx of tourists it had been a long wait and in this particular case it was of three days. The capacity of passengers was 14 and he charged 160/- from each for the trip.

satopanth 2016 175 towards joshimath -1
satopanth 2016 174 rudraprayag -1

So my second visit to Badridhaam and what a change from the previous occasion, no rush of people or vehicles. Hotels were empty, shopkeepers idle. I checked in to the same place where had stayed last time and after an hour or so spent sitting on the hotel parapet wall watching grown up guys playing cricket i decided to walk down to the temple. There was no rush at Badrinathji, I moved inside the main temple and sat for some time right out there. After paying my respects to badrinath ji wandered outside and sat down at an enclosure where there was a discourse on Gita happening. The entire atmosphere was serene and unhurried unlike last time where you just had moments in front of the main shrine before being told to move out. I realised that peak monsoon time is one of the best time to visit these places if one wishes to see the main shrine and feel the occasion in a correct manner.

At around 6 in evening Umeid and me went for a walk till Mana village which was 4 kms away and it was a good exercise to loosen the stiff muscles. By the time we returned it was night and i bade good night to my team as i walked back to my hotel.

The next day morning by around 0830 hrs we were off, we chose to skirt the temple and travel on opposite side of mana village and our first checkpoint was Mata Moorti temple , who was the mother of lord Nar & Narayan. The weather was simply great with sun shining blue sky and the path was definitely much simpler compared to what we had come through the last few days and hence we made good progress walking alongside the raging Alaknanda . We reached Laxmi ban without much fuss by 1130 hrs thus covering a distance of 11 kms. The fog bank was soon visible on the horizon and the tents were rigged up especially the kitchen tent and the team set about preparing lunch. Laxmiban is right opposite the Banglung Glacier which emerges from the opposite Himalayan peaks. This place has spiritual significance owing to the departure of Lady Draupadi from her mortal body. Also one finds bhoj bhasa tress whose leaves were uses by sage Vyasa to pen down the Ramayana.

By late afternoon it started drizzling with heavy fog banks all around. We were hemmed on all sides by towering mountains hence maybe the high density of fog. Dinner was served by 2030 hrs and thereafter we went to sleep.

The next day woke up to misty skies and fog, readied myself for the day ahead, the target was Sahasradhara. By 0800 hrs we were off and our first way point was Bhandar around two km away  opposite to which lay the Bhagirathi kharak glacier. It is said that the Bhagirathi peaks are visible from here but all was seen were swirling fog banks and the Alaknanda flowing nearby. The sun did make a brief appearance at around 0930 hrs but there was hardly any impact, meanwhile we kept climbing for today we would be gaining heights. By 1020 hrs we reached the start of Sahasradhara as well as the originating visual point of Alaknanda river from the Satopanth glacier which was massive and lay to my right. We could hear the thunderous noise of various falls to the left for the meaning of Sahasradhara means a thousand falls but everything was covered in deep fog. We picked our way kept moving ahead and by 1130 hrs reached our campsite covering a distance of 06 kms since morning. It is said that Lord Nakul and Sahdev left their mortal bodies out here and departed earth for ever. The decision was made to push on for there was fog all around and we were not comfortable to stay in a low lying area.

So we continued and by now the rains had come but still we moved on crossing various streams as we made our way to Chakratheerth situated three kms ahead. We reached campsite at Chakratheerth by 1300 hrs and made a halt for the day. The rains had stopped and that helped in rigging up our tents and settling for the day. The weather was definitely cold as we were at 3600 mts above sea level; in the late afternoon Umeid and i went back a km to do some photography thus passing the early evening hours. Nothing much was planned for the day. My take on the trek on the basis of the two days is to do this trek in September for the viewer will be treated to all the great Himalayan peaks in all their glory and will be able to appreciate the surrounding places in a much better manner. August is a definite damper view the trek is strenuous with the monsoons beating down and the fog banks swirling all around.

The next day morning the rains had stopped and we were ready to proceed ahead with the destination being Satopanth Lake. The route involved primarily walking on boulder ridden glacial terrain. Anyways as we trekked i could gear the various glaciers that surrounded us breaking intermittently or maybe it was the part of the mountains that was breaking off, i am not sure for all i could hear was the sound but the fog covered all visuals. Slowly by 1100 hrs i had my glimpse of the acclaimed Satopanth, the lake of truth. The campsite was rigged up and there were few mendicants who were staying there till winter, having built small caves using the big boulders as support.

The lake was truly magnificent even in the mist and i could see that the water level had reduced, Umeid and i did an entire circumference of the lake while the weather held and after that we just sat near the lake looking at the green waters. Post lunch the rains started and i could discern that they were not going to stop till the night. Had a few polite conversations with few of the mendicants over a cup of tea. Overall it was a soothing time spent out here. Tomorrow i was terminating my onward journey to Swaragarohini and rather starting the return leg. The weather was just not conducive and i had no hopes of seeing the elusive glacier with its steps up close among the mist, hence the decision to return back.

The next morning was cloudy and the fog bank had partially covered the lake but the stillness of the water was so loud , sometimes i feel that the proverb “ silence speaks loudest” is actually understood in places like these . It was a Monday morning and the Ekadashi of Saavan was as per my team most auspicious hence after a quick dip in the lake , we were off by 0700 hrs on the return leg. The distance we covered very well indeed and at the ridge of Chakratheerth we did see the sun break the fog cover to offer us a glimpse of the mighty mountain ranges otherwise the mist swirled all around all the time. Sahasradhara was reached by 1100 hrs and after a quick tea break we were off with a target to reach vasudhara ahead of even laxminban and set up camp out there, the same was reached by 1600 hrs with the last km in pouring rain. However, the team set up the tent quickly and we finished for the day.

The entire day and night it rained and the following morning too the drizzle continued but we were determined to reach Joshimath today and for that we had to reach Badrinath first. The same was accomplished by 1000 hrs and we got a shared Tata Spacio Cab to Joshimath by 1300 hrs. However, it looked like there were other plans set in store for us for as we neared Lambhagad, a location notorious for streams running on the road as well as rock fall immediately after the stream. We could see a car stuck right in the rock fall area. It seemed that the rock fall had boxed the car and hence it was now stuck, the occupants had abandoned the vehicle and rushed to safety as the rock fall continued while the rains opened up . After waiting for 30 min the decision was made to hike into the adjoining mountain slope and circumvent the rock fall area arriving on the other side. So once again the equipment was unloaded and loaded onto the shoulders and we set off in the pouring rain for what i hoped was the final part of the trek. It took us an hour but finally we circumvented the rock fall area and arrived on the other side where we picked up a taxi again which dropped us at joshimath. The evening was spent rearranging the backpack and drying some clothes, just relaxing by walking on paved paths for a change, the magnitude of what I had seen and accomplished in the two treks back to back was yet to sink in but the experience had definitely given me something more that had been added to the core of what I am . The next day morning boarded the early morning bus for Haridwar which saw the culmination of a magnificent trek and experience.


Difficulty Level  Moderate
Elevation Range 3300 – 4000 mts
Duration 07 days
Avg Temp 12 – 16 deg in monsoons
Water sources numerous streams during monsoons
Network Connectivity Non existent
Reality Check Strenous trekking over boulders , glacial terrain . Recommended to trek post monsoons. Physical fitness is mandatory

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11 Replies to “Trek to the Lake of Truth : Satopanth”

  1. Nice One, Sumit. It’s great to read the story of this awesome journey. Pls notify when u plan for such adventourous journey again. I also want to join you for such journeys.

  2. Very informative and descriptive post.
    Only 1 minus point….Vyas didn’t write Ramayna but Mahabharta. Valdivia wrote Ramayna.
    Plz be careful.

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