At the end of July I went on a four-day trek to Bhrigu Lake, an alpine lake at an elevation of 14000 feet above sea level. Since my last trek to Nag Tibba in March 2019 I had been wanting to do a slightly longer trek (Nag Tibba is a two-day trek). I also wanted to touch a higher altitude (Nag Tibba goes to ~10k feet).
Bhrigu lake sits at about 6000 feet above Manali and the starting point for the trek, Gulaba — an hour or so away from Manali — is the checkpoint for vehicles going to Rohtang Pass. Bhrigu lake is the perfect high-altitude trek for a long weekend and offers something unique. It’s a meadow trek that goes well above the tree-line on Day 2 itself. Meadows in general usually take days to get to because of their high altitudes. This also means that there is a higher-than-usual chance of getting altitude sickness on this trek since you’re forcing your ascent fast. I went with a friend and we were lucky that our overall group was only 10 people. Because of the small size of the group and everyone’s varied background we all ended up forming a close bond over the course of the trek. I’ve realized through this experience what people mean when they say small groups are much better for trekking. There’s a lot more interpersonal interaction between people.
I didn’t feel this trek was hard in terms of getting tired. The second day is the longest and hardest with a straight 5 km. ascent with little relief. Somehow, though, I did not feel that drained by the end of it. Maybe because I was consciously hydrating myself (my blood-oxygen levels were running slightly low the previous night) or because we took ample small breaks as a group. Maybe it was the beautiful view of Mt. Hanuman Tibba and Mt. Ladakhi towering over us in the background. We were able to cover the longest day in good time regardless and Rola Kholi, the second campsite, was a serene sight with a river stream and snow-capped mountains.
We were incredibly lucky to have clear, sunny weather on both the long days of our trek and the summit climb in the warm glow of the sun was something else altogether. It was still a bit challenging in some places – at one point we were toe-climbing on a 70 degree incline of snow (wish the picture would do it justice). But these things sometimes seem more daunting than they usually are and this is still considered a moderate level trek.
When we got to the lake there was just a calm and overriding feeling of peace. You sit there in awe that such a thing exists in the most remote corners of the world and that you’ve been lucky enough to make it there to witness it. The lake is considered sacred by the locals and legend has it that Maharishi Bhrigu meditated there and with his energy created the lake.
Occasionally, I think about why I go on these treks. A lot of trekking, I’ve realized, comes down to the psychological aspect more than the physical aspect. Of course, you should be fit enough to make it all the way but often the fight against the mind is much larger than the fight against the body. Maybe this is why people climb mountains. It’s not so much enjoyment or leisure but the constant test of your own limitations — physical and mental. At every step you literally have to will yourself into not listening to your mind, which is by then giving you a thousand-and-one reasons to quit. It’s a test of what you believe to be your limits and then going and stretching them anyway. The whole way through you push yourself against your boundaries and with every step you think of a thousand ways to quit and a thousand ways your body aches and yet you carry on. Why? In each step, there is a victory against one’s own limitations and doubts. You question your own capabilities constantly but with each breath you take you get ever so close to the top. You end up convincing yourself that there is no path but upwards.
There’s a feeling I’ve noticed a lot in myself and also others who climb mountains. You think you’ll get to the top and proclaim it to the world that you’ve made it or do something dramatic or flamboyant but it’s almost never like that. You think you’ll get to the top and you’ll have conquered the mountain and you feel it deserving of a shout from the rooftop of the world. Though this tends to drive people all the way to the top this is almost never the case when they reach there. I’ve noticed that at the summit most people just quiet down. There’s no shouting, no extraordinary celebrations, no exhilarated running or exclamation. Instead there’s just calm and peace. There is pride in yourself. There is happiness. There are often tears. Deep breaths. Deep gratitude. There is always gratitude. Gratitude to the mountains and gratitude for a tired but healthy body that got you here. You realize at the summit that you never conquer the mountains, you just briefly conquer yourself.
Until, of course, you must do it once again.