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Manimahesh Lake Trek
02 Nights 03 Days, Himachal Pradesh, India
The sacred lake of Manimahesh (4,115m), reflecting the image of the Manimahesh Kailash towering above, draws the faithfuls by the tens of thousands at the time of the annual pilgrimage. My first trip in September 1997 was two days after 80,000 people had thronged the area _leaving the route strewn with disposable cups and plates, fruit peel and soft drink bottles, while the northern end of the lake was choked with polythene bags and plastic waste. But volunteers were already at work to clear the rubbish and I was told that they always do a satisfactory job. Since then, I have been to the lake 21 times and experienced its magic in different seasons. Early in summer, snow still blankets the paths above Dhancho. But the clear blue sparkling water of the half-frozen lake is a special sight, and worth the weary trudge through the snow. There is the additional possibility of sighting the monal pheasant at this time.
Manimahesh Lake, at the base of Mount Chamba Kailash (5,775m), is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva. Traditionally, pilgrims used to start from the Lakshminarayan Temple at Chamba (996m) and covered the 87-km route in seven stages, on foot. Now, most take a bus or taxi ride up to Hadsar. You can stay overnight at Bharmour (65 km from Chamba) and taxi up to Hadsar the next morning to start your trek. Ideally, the trek
should be done in three days. At the time of Manimahesh Yatra (August/September, stretching over two weeks from Janamashtmi) many people do the entire stretch of 26 km in a single day, but this is extremely taxing, and we don’t suggest you try it.
The easiest time to trek is a couple of weeks before the yatra. During the yatra, the 7th century Chaurasi Temple complex in Bharmour offers the opportunity of witnessing gaddi rituals, but the crowds can be overpowering. During the yatra, tented accommodation is available at Dhancho, Jumaru, Sundrasi, Gauri Kund, Goth and the lake. Several dhabas and free langars also come up at these places. Rates are reasonable with food priced at Rs 25 per meal and a night stay at Rs 50 per person. The Mountaineering Institute Sub Centre, Bharmour (Tel: 01895-225036), also provides tented accommodation at Rs 50 per person (with sleeping bags and ground sheets).
Manimahesh Trek Highlights
Village Hadsar (30 mins drive from Bharmour)
Chandigarh Railway Station
Bhuntar airport near Mandi
Drive to Hadsar (13 km 30 mins) from Bharmour, the town nearest to it. Bharmour itself is a picturesque town, with snowcapped Himalayas and alpine meadows around it. Hadsar is a very small village on the banks of the river Budhil, surrounded by high Himalayan mountains. A well-marked track starts from the eastern end of Hadsar Bazaar (2,100m). The concrete path turns right (south), just short of the tourist sarai managed by the PWD, and continues south along Gauri (Manimahesh) Nallah flowing down from Manimahesh. After about a kilometre (at Goi Nallah), it turns westwards and climbs sharply to Dibri, a water point. It gains height thereafter and reaches Tos ka Goth, a small resting place under fir (tos) trees.
A couple of small ascents and descents follow before reaching Dunali. Here, the path turns left to cross the Gauri Nallah over temporary wooden bridges, after which a steep climb to the right leads to Dhancho (2,900m). Where the tree line ends at Dhancho, there is a sloping pasture marked by rocks and big boulders at the lower end. Check out the huge Dhancho Waterfalls at the Gauri Nallah. Camp at the tented sarai or pitch your own tents.
There are three options to reach Gauri Kund (3,600m) from Dhancho I recommend Option 1, as this is the most frequented route, and better maintained than others.
The main path to the lake goes past a pre-fabricated structure and dhabas that spring up at Dhancho in summer, before it turns right to cross Gauri Nallah over a wooden bridge, and then climbs steeply on the left bank of Gauri Nallah. Going past the top of the waterfall, the path turns left (north) after about a kilometre and crosses another wooden bridge over the Gauri Nallah. Thereafter, it ascends gradually along the right bank of the nallah. En route, two spots with some open space named Jamaru and Sundrasi, acquire temporary dhabas during the yatra. Sundrasi also has a medical post.
A kilometre after the dhabas at Sundrasi, the track forks. The route on the left moves west and follows a long switchback east before crossing two avalanche cones to reach Gauri Kund. This is the most taxing and tiring stretch of the day’s walk as the barren, tree-less landscape and thin air makes the climb difficult. A water bottle is a prized possession.
TIP Warning ! Watch out for loose stones falling from above at a couple of places on this stretch.
Gauri Kund, a pond in a glacial depression, is the place where women are expected to take a dip on their way to Manimahesh. After Gauri Kund, the track crosses Gauri Nallah to the left bank over a narrow wooden bridge turns right and climbs up through an open pasture called Goth (3,700m) to Manimahesh Lake (45-60 mins). Manimahesh Peak is visible on the left (see page 170). The lake has a small roofless temple on its southern side.
One can camp by the side of the lake, or at the sarais and prefabricated structures that are set up at Goth and Gauri Kund. The structure at Goth is dismantled by the end of the month of October. There is sufficient space to pitch tents on both sides of Gauri Nallah.
A new track was laid from Dhancho to Gauri Kund in 2002. It takes off from the main path described above, before Gauri Nallah is crossed below Jamaru. It goes straight to Gauri Kund, climbing up on the left side of Gauri Nallah. The ascent on this path is gradual but there is no drinking water available. So do not forget to include sufficient amount of water in your backpack.
This is the oldest route (through Bandar Ghati) that climbs on the right bank of Gauri Nallah. Earlier it was so tough that, at certain points, it required crawling on all fours. But now the trekking route has been improved considerably. It turns left (north) from the sadhu-sarai at Dhancho, climbs at a very steep grade in a series of short switchbacks before taking a right turn (east) to traverse a rock face. It goes on to meet the main trek (Option 1) below Jamaru.
The return journey of 13 km can be done in a day within four to six hours on the same route. Try to reach Hadsar Village by late afternoon as taxis or buses do not ply in the evening. Or stay overnight at Dhancho and head to Hadsar Village the following day.
GETTING THERE AND OUT
FROM BHARMOUR to Hadsar (13 km/ 30 mins) charges Rs 250, shared taxi and Rs 15. Bus service is frequent Chamba to Bharmour (65 km/ 4 1/2 hrs) Taxi costs Rs 1,500 and bus Rs 50. Buses run regularly 8 am to 5 pm
RETURN Take the same route back Hadsar to Chamba via Bharmour. The last bus leaves Hadsar at 5 pm
Yes, it is absolutely essential to take a guide for this trek whether you are trekking solo or in a group.
The best season for Manimahesh Lake trek is from Oct to Dec and March to June.
It is ideally recommended for 10+ age kids.
Yes, in fact all the Himalayan trails quite safe for women & solo travelers. People of the region are very warm, caring & hospitable in nature.
Camping tent accommodation (2-3 per tent).
Guides & porters in the region will never demand any tip money from you. They just need their daily wages paid by the trek operator. However, it is always encouraging if one can give a little tip to them if they provide good services.
Indian currency is accepted