Every year I make a list of probable treks to be done and then I patiently wait to strike off some names from my list. In the process I become so so patient that sometimes I wait for years but the names on my list just don’t budge. Of late I have grown fond of lakes but at the same time I have developed an uncanny habit of chickening out at the very last moment. So none of my lake plans have materialized for quite some time. This situation has been aptly described by John Lennon in his song Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”
I traveled to the mountains only thrice in 2017 (though I did manage to strike off names from the list that were pending since 2011) and despite having ample time and opportunities at my disposal, I just couldn’t leave. I believe that’s age catching up real fast with me. My friend Rohit Bhat, member of the Himalayan Club (not the silly Facebook page), called me to inquire about my plans. He also inquired about people who were doing real good explorations but weren’t documenting what they were doing.
Now these days even if someone is going to Triund they straightaway call it an unexplored heaven and write a detailed blog post about it (which is a good thing actually and I support documentation of any sorts, even better if it is factually correct). So to find someone who is really exploring Hiamalaya and not writing about it was a tough task. Though I managed to collect tidbits from here and there and by adding my own inputs gathered from leisurely hours spent on Google Earth, I am writing this blog post.
This is not a BuzzFeed inspired listicle. Most of these lakes have been visited by people (marginal footfall) but not much information is available about the route or gradient or terrain etc. And even if you don’t see these lakes before you turn 21 or 30 or for that matter even if you die and not see these lakes, that wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
But it would be nice to gather information and open the world of Himalaya for explorers. So here I present to you the story of 5 hidden lakes of Himalaya.
1. Dham Ghori Lake, Dhauladhar Himalaya
Approachable from Chatrari in Chamba, this is a high altitude lake that can be approached from both the sides but Dhauladhar expert Rijul Gill says that it is best suited to start the expedition from Chamba side. The trail is probably unmarked and riddled with thick labyrinthine deodar forests. Unlike Lam Dal or Nag Dal (two of the most popular lakes of Dhauladhars’) this lake doesn’t attract any pilgrims on the annual Bhadon 20 high altitude congregation.
The lank stands at an approximate height of 13500 ft/ 4100 meters which is as high as the Manimahesh Lake. The highest point of the trek, if one intends to return via the same route is 14000 ft/4210 meters. However one intends to cross over to the Kangra side, the highest point could be as high as 4400 meters.
2. Kailash Kund Glacial Lakes, Bhaderwah
I met a local shepherd during our visit to Kailash Kund Lake in Bhaderwah two years ago. He walked barefoot with his nephew all the way from Udhampur which must’ve been more than 20-25km one side. While we slept cozily in our sleeping bags, he kept talking whole night long about a lake that was even bigger and hidden somewhere up in the mountains. Prima facie that looked like a case of High Altitude Sickness but it was not. He was actually telling us the truth but we only realized that after we started exploring the area on Google Earth back home.
So once you have landed at the pristine shores of Kailash Kund Lake, it may take another 3-4 hours to visit the lakes above and come back. The farthest lake is approximately 4km from Kailash Kund Lake and the maximum altitude one will gain is not more than 14000 ft/ 4210 meters.
3. Chamunda Lake, Churah Valley
This caught me off guard. We were camping right beneath this lake on our way to Chehni Pass two years ago. I was told about a mysterious lake in Churah Valley by a close friend but none of us could locate where exactly this lake was. My friend Nandi Thakur from Churah Valley made a video and uploaded that on YouTube. The lake is oval shaped and is in close proximity of another lake which is mysteriously perched atop a mountain ridge.
This lake is approximately 5 kilometers from the Chehni Pass campsite and is a near vertical hike as one gains almost 4000 ft/ 1200 meters within a short distance of 5km. A slightly easier route is via Hail Village. The maximum altitude one reaches is at the lake: 14300 ft / 4300 meters.
4. Mahakali Lake, Churah Valley
This lake is adjacent to the famous Gadasaru Mahadev Lake in Churah Valley. On Bhadon 20 i.e in the month of August-September people gather here to take a holy dip in the lake. Mahakali Lake is a few hundred meters away from Gadasaru Lake. Earlier I was able to locate the lake on Google Earth but somehow can’t find it now on the map. However, my friend Hitesh Naryal from Chamba has visited this lake and he was kind enough to share his photograph with us.
5. Tem Tso Lake, Ribba-Ropa Valley, Kinnaur
I read about this lake in 2016 when I was reading everything available on the Internet written by Commander Satyabrata Dam(R). So he had written this guest post about his accidental visit to Temcho/Tem Tso Lake. He intended to climb Manirang Peak but instead landed at the shores of this high altitude lake at 4800m.
Then a few weeks ago, another Sathya (the one who is always on the trail) sent a detailed trip report of his expedition in Kinnaur. His documentation revealed that Tem Tso, despite being at an unusual height of 4800m, is visited by pilgrims on Bhadon 20. Pilgrims venturing this high is certainly an unusual event for me.
Technically, not much has been written about this lake or this region in general but Sathya and Satya’s blogs will provide you with all the information that you need.
6. Kutla Saur, Parbati Valley
This is a beautiful lake tucked somewhere in the mountains of Tosh-Parbati Valley. I believe this lake is somewhere around the trail leading to Sara Umga Pass. There’s a video on YouTube but I couldn’t find any coordinates. I tried to look up on Google Earth and there was one tarn that looked almost like Kutla Lake. Apparently the uploader wants to keep it a secret but then what remains a secret in the age of Internet 😀
I have been told that this lake is also known as Rumni Saur in local dialect. I also tried to look this up on Google Earth and this is what I have found.
Sach Pass Lake: N 32°59.274´ and E 076°14.042. Apparently this lake is adjacent to the Chamunda Lake (lake No. 3 above)
Mehla Nag Lake: This is a small lake located somewhere on the Chamba-Doda Border.