Satopanth Tal Trek

Rishikesh | India
  From  INR 39,500  | From 8 Days

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All You Need to Know About the Satopanth Tal Trek

'If there is heaven on the earth, it is here.' We know that this saying is about Kashmir. Still, if we try to decipher the meaning literally in the context of ancient Hindu mythology, maybe the saying will triangulate us to Uttarakhand. Yes, the mountainous state of India, home to the Lesser and the Greater Himalayas, is rich in mythic tales and lores. From the Vedic divinities to the regional deities, almost every God finds mention in this region. 

It is said that the Swargrohini peaks were the stairs of heaven that the Pandavas climbed during their transcendence. The locals claim that you can even witness three steps out of those seven on the Swargrohini glacier on good days. While there is Juda ka Talab that was born out of the drops of water that were smeared from the man-bun of Lord Shiva, the Brahmatal was the meditation point of the Father of all Creations- Lord Brahma. The entire Uttarakhand is bespeckled with spots that have made their place in mythic tales and local legends. 

Satopanth Tal is one of those lakes that is considered one of the divine locations according to Hindu mythology. As a result, Satopanth Trek is not any other adventure for trekkers and adrenaline-junkies; it is also a sort of a religious and spiritual journey that you would want to embark on. 

Everything about the Satopanth Tal Trek is fascinating. Every little detail is worth noticing and should make its way to your notebook before you embark on this spectacular trail. 

Natural splendor:

The entire trail till the Satopanth Tal looks straight out of an artist's canvas. From the cascading Alaknanda river to the mighty Vasundhara Falls, nature has carved the entire trail out of its wondrous whims! The trail to Sahastradhara is adorned with a multitude of alpine flowers. The diversity of the topography is clear from the route you will follow. You will find boulder zones, glacial moraines, scree zones, and green meadows on the trek to Satopanth Tal

A vivid gallery of Himalayan peaks:

Not a moment will pass by from your commencement of the trek that you will not witness the great Himalayan wonders. Most of the lofty mountains of the Gangotri range of the Garhwal Himalayas are best visible while on the Satopanth Trek trail. The Satopanth Tal is itself situated at the base of the Chaukhamba Massif, home to the Chaukhamba I (7138 m), Chaukhamba II (7070 m), Chaukhamba III (6995 m) and the Chaukhamba IV (6854 m).

On the trail to Sahastradhara, you can spot the three peaks out of the four on the Bhagirathi Massif (6193 - 6856 m). Once you reach the monolithic Sahastradhara - the origin point of 100 waterfalls, you can spot Mt. Neelkanth (6596 m), standing as a guardian angel behind it. Once you reach your final destination of this trek, you can spot the Neelkanth mountain in all its glory. Along with it, you will get spectacular views of Mt. Balakun (6471 m) and the Swargarohini peaks. Unearthly photographic delight is a motivation for shutterbugs to venture on the Satopanth Trek solo. 

Scenic campsites:

Although the Satopanth Trek follows a maze of boulder zones and glacial moraines, the picturesque campsites of the Laxmivan forest and Chakrateerth meadows offer comfort beyond description. While your body and mind get habituated to dealing with steep ridges and challenging scree zones, these scenic grassy campsites punctuate your difficulties with a solace beyond comprehension. 

A melting pot of ancient Hindu religion and mythology:

Along with the beauty of the wilderness, the Satopanth Trek is steeped in legends and tales that have stayed hidden for millennia. The trek officially starts from Badrinath- one of the fabled 'Char Dhaam' yatras that religious-minded Hindus want to participate in their lifetime.

The unnatural triangular shape of the Satopanth Tal is said to have its own mythological significance. The three edges of its perimeter are said to be the meditation points of the supreme Vedic deities - the Holy Trinity of Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The locals believe that Lord Vishnu's almighty Sudarshan Chakra causes the dent in the meadows of Chakrateerth, hence the name.

But you can only uncover the emerald alpine lake when you venture beyond the steep ridge known as 'Satya ki Pantha' or the 'Road to the Truth.' Indeed, it is a road less taken, evident from the mythological details that narrate the Pandavas taking this challenging route during their heavenly ascent. The nomenclature of the lake is unique. Essentially, it is believed that the lake enables you to chart your path towards Greater Good and Enlightenment. 

It is also widely believed that during the monsoon, the waters of the Satopanth Tal are especially holy. The legends say that the Holy Trinity of Hindu mythology bathed in these waters during this season. Hence, hundreds of ascetics, devotees, and religious-minded people visited the Satopanth Tal during the monsoon. They take a dip on the Ekadashi of the lunar calendar to purify themselves. 

The vicinity of the lake also houses an ancient hermit by the name of Mauni Baba, who has never spoken to anyone and is believed to survive off sunlight and air. Although the residents of Mana village throw the ashes of their dead ancestors into the lake, the water quality is of the highest level. There are legends of mythic birds that fly close to the lake and keep its water quality excellent by purifying it. The locals believe that these birds are nothing but the Gandharvas in disguise who have been protecting the lake since time immemorial.

Overview of the Satopanth Trek:

Location of the Satopanth Tal:

The Satopanth Tal is a pristine glacial lake of Hindu divinities situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It is nestled within snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas and is close to the Badrinath shrine. This lake of religious significance is located at an elevation of 4600 meters above sea level. The highest point of the trek is 5029 meters. Hence, the trek to Satopanth Tal is considered a high-altitude trek. 

Cost of the Satopanth Trek:

The Satopanth trek cost is on the higher side. Depending on the trekking company or tour operator you are opting for, it might cost you around USD 240-270 (INR 18,000-20,000) per person. Generally, the trek package that you opt for includes the transportation costs from the hub to the basecamp, forest and permit fees for Indian nationals, meals during the trek, and the cost of the trek guide. 

ATM access and mobile phone connectivity:

Although Joshimath has a high ATM density and can be preferred for withdrawing cash before you start the trek, these days, you will find ATMs in the Mana village as well. Mobile phone connectivity exists till Badrinath before you set foot on the trail to Satopanth Tal. 

How difficult is the Satopanth Trek?

The Satopanth Trek is not suited for beginners or trekking amateurs. There are a range of challenges that make the trek moderately difficult. Hence, a prior experience of high-altitude treks and expeditions is required for venturing on this trek.

Steep altitude gain is one of the most challenging things on this trek. Especially, the trek from Laxmivan to Chakrateerth will entail the steepest altitude gain. Apart from the heavy legwork, the decrease of oxygen at such altitudes causes breathing troubles. However, it is best to descend to the camps if breathing trouble persists. 

The 4600 meters altitude of the trek creates a sudden drop in temperatures. Nighttime temperatures can drastically drop to -5 to -7 degrees Celsius. So, there is a dire need for acclimatization. Otherwise, your body might be unable to adjust to the extra cold. 

All of these might cause Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Although the primary conditions comprise just headache and nausea, they may become dangerous if neglected. It is advisable to descend immediately to a lower altitude once these symptoms start appearing and get medical help. 

The entire terrain up to the Satopanth Tal is dotted with boulders, moraines, loose rocks, etc., at different zones. These give rise to a lot of stress on your knees and ankles. Along with the rugged terrain, the stretch from Chakrateerth to Satopanth Tal is almost perennially covered in snow. You should take adequate care not to slip over the snow or get blinded by it. 

Best Time for the Satopanth Trek:

The Satopanth Trek is one of those high-altitude expeditions in the Himalayas that can be accessed throughout the year. Several pilgrims embark on the trek during the monsoons because the lake's waters are believed to be highly pious during this time. 

However, the Satopanth Trek best time can be zeroed down to late spring/summer and autumn (post-monsoon). The late spring to summer season stretches from the end of April to June and primarily boasts pleasant weather. The stretch to the meadows of Chakrateerth and the grasslands near the terminal moraines of the Dhano glacier is covered in greenery and alpine flora. However, the weather might change drastically, and there could be occasional downpours. 

In contrast to this, the post-monsoon/autumn season from September to October has appreciably clearer skies. The clouds and haze get cleared, and the chances of sudden showers decrease a lot. The weather is still pleasant, and you can get picturesque views of the lofty mountains of the Garhwal Himalayas, namely Mt. Neelkanth, Mt. Balakun, Chaukhamba, Bhagirathi, and the Swargarohini peaks. 

Gear Guide and Checklist for the Satopanth Trek:

The trek to Satopanth Tal is a moderately difficult one, with several details that the trekkers need to attend to. Having exhaustive trekking gear is one of them. 

Apparel and footwear:

Your apparel should be enough to prevent you from the drastic temperature drops and conserve body heat amidst the frigid environment. You should carry upper and lower thermal inners, full-sleeve t-shirts, woolen sweaters, fleece jackets, down feather jackets, and quick-dry and waterproof hiking pants made out of polyester. Carry a raincoat or a poncho to be on the safer side and prevent yourself from getting wet during sudden downpours.

Proper footwear is crucial for the Satopanth Trek. Carry high-quality hiking boots that minimize the stress on your feet since a significant part of the terrain consists of boulder zones, glacial moraine, and scree zones. You should select waterproof hiking boots with good ankle support, microspikes, and gaiters to prevent slippage on the snow and navigate the difficult terrain easily.

Headgear and other clothing essentials:

Carry a balaclava, suncap, woolen cap, woolen mufflers, neck gaiters, UV-protection sunglasses, etc., to protect your eyes, face, and head from the onslaught of the winds and cold and prevent snow-blindness. 

You should carry excess pairs of synthetic and woolen gloves, cotton and woolen socks, and innerwear to protect yourself from the cold and conserve body heat effectively. 

Baggage and essential accessories:

Carry a 45-50 liter backpack and a 20-liter daypack with comfortable shoulder straps and rain cover. The nights at the campsites will be immensely cold, and so you must carry a good-quality sleeping bag and insulated mat. 

Other essential accessories include a pair of sturdy, high-quality trekking poles, headlamp, torch with extra batteries, chargers, water bottles, and hydration packs. You can also carry basic reusable spoons, cups, and plates. 

You can also carry a ziplock pouch for bringing disposable items back with you while you return. Also, carry some old newspapers. Take waterproof covers for protecting your electronics, wallet, and important documents in case of rain.

First-aid kit and medicines:

Having a basic first-aid kit that is well-decked with essential items like crepe bandages, bandaids, gauze swabs, antiseptic liquid, ointments, pain-relieving spray, etc., is necessary to treat sprains, cuts, etc. during the trek. Carry insect repellent creams as well. 

You should also carry some basic medicines like antacids, antihistamines, painkillers, paracetamols, and anti-nausea medicines. Although it is said that the waters of the Vasundhara Falls and Alaknanda river have medicinal properties, and it is advised to fill your water bottles and hydration packs from these sources, you can never be too sure. Carry water purification tablets with you. 

Toiletries and hygiene essentials:

While trekking to the Satopanth Tal, carry essential toiletries, including a toothbrush, toothpaste, a quick-dry towel, biodegradable soap, moisturizer, lip balm, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, wet wipes, and tissues. Women should carry sufficient tampons, sanitary napkins, or menstrual cups for maximum menstrual hygiene and comfort. Carry a ziplock pouch for storing these disposable menstrual hygiene products and bringing them back with you after completing the trek.

Essential documents:

Always keep an original and multiple photocopies of a government-issued photo ID and address proof. Carry multiple passport-size photographs too. If you are an Indian national, your forest and trekking route permits will be ideally covered within the Satopanth Trek package offered by the tour operator or trekking agency. However, it is important to keep a few photocopies of the same with you always. If you are a foreign national, always keep your passports and visas handy.

Satopanth Trek Itinerary:

The Satopanth Trek itinerary ideally stretches across 7-8 days. However, you can throw in an extra day for acclimatization. Follow the itinerary and trail details we have recommended below. 

  • Day 1: The hub for the Satopanth Trek could be either of Rishikesh, Dehradun, or Haridwar. From either of these three cities, you can book a cab that takes you to Joshimath (1821 m). The duration of the journey is approximately 9 hours. 
  • Day 2: From Joshimath, you can board a private cab at dawn to reach Badrinath (3300 m). The distance is just 46 km and will take you a couple of hours. You can also board a morning bus from Joshimath to reach Badrinath. Rest for the day at Badrinath. You can also consider visiting the famous shrine since Badrinath is amongst the fabled 'Dhaam' of the 'Char Dhaam' yatras. 
  • Day 3: On this day, the trek to Satopanth Tal actually starts. You can start trekking from Badrinath itself or take a cab to Mana village at the Indo-Tibetan border. Mana is at a distance of 3 km from Badrinath. From Mana, follow the trail along the left bank of the Alaknanda River and walk for 3-4 km to reach the majestic Vasundhara Falls. It is said that the water of this fall is endowed with medicinal properties. You can fill up your bottles and hydration packs at this waterfall. Cross the cascading waterfall and follow the trail up to the Laxmivan (3628 m) forest campsite. Set up your tents at this beautiful campsite which is believed to be the favorite meditation spot of Goddess Laxmi - the supreme goddess of wealth and prosperity. 
  • Day 4: On this day, you will start your trek along with the green grasslands of the moraines of the Dhano glacier. If you embark on the Satopanth trek during spring or autumn, the trail will be adorned with colorful wildflowers. You may get a glimpse of the Bhagirathi Tridents on your way. Towards the end of the day's trek, you will reach Sahastradhara. It is a limestone stalactite monolith that births more than 100 waterfalls. The name Sahastradhara literally translates to 'thousand-fold spring.' You also catch a glimpse of the mighty Mt. Neelkanth behind the Sahastradhara if you're lucky. From this place, the trek to Chakrateerth (4267 m) will take you half an hour. The Chakrateerth campsite is basically a flatland with greenery. It is believed that this indented flatland was created by the impact of the Sudarshan Chakra of Lord Vishnu and hence the name. However, take adequate measures once you reach Chakrateerth campsite. The weather here changes drastically owing to the altitude. The drop in post-noon temperatures and dwindling oxygen levels might be enough to cause Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), which will force you to abandon the trek midway. Thus, prevention is always better. 
  • Day 5: From Chakrateerth campsite, you will start the ascent toward Satopanth Tal. Although the trek starts with a flat and easy gradient, it will guide you to steep ridges towards the end. You have to carefully navigate your way across boulder zones, screes, and moraines that dot your trail. Once you reach the top of a ridge, you will be able to view the emerald waters of the pristine Satopanth Tal at 4600 meters. You will witness the most scintillating views at this point, with the Chaukhamba Massif straight ahead, Mt. Neelkanth behind you, the Swargrohini peaks to your left, and Mt. Balakun to your right. Soak it all in because it is hard to come across such a visual splendor. You will see the abode of a local hermit by the name of Mauni Baba, who is believed to have survived for ages on just sunlight. After you are done with the experience and clicking memorable photographs, you can climb back to the Chakrateerth campsite. 
  • Day 6: After an exhilarating journey to Satopanth Tal and back, it is time for the descent. You can take it easy and descend to Laxmivan on this day, where you set up your camp for the night.
  • Day 7: On this day, you can start your tumble down towards Badrinath. The 4 km long route takes you through Chimtoli Khark to Badrinath. Once you reach Badrinath, you can book a cab and drive to Joshimath, where you plan the night's stay.
  • Day 8: Take a bus or a cab and return to Haridwar/Dehradun/Rishikesh, from where you had started your journey. This concludes the Satopanth Tal Trek.

Getting Fit for Satopanth Trek:

According to seasoned trekkers and mountaineers with years of experience under their belts, the Satopanth Trek and Swargarohini yatra should only be undertaken by experienced campaigners. It is a moderately difficult trek and is not suited for newbies. 

Thus, a great extent of fitness is required for completing the trek to Satopanth Tal successfully. For boosting your physical fitness, you can start a rigorous fitness regime that comprises cardiovascular training along with aerobics. Regular running, swimming, cycling, skipping, and stair-climbing are essential to strengthen your core, back, and leg muscles apart from maximizing cardiovascular endurance. You can also consider going to the gym for a couple of days each week for superior strength and conditioning exercises. 

However, no trek can be executed to fruition without mental strength. Your mental resilience is the key to battling unprecedented situations and staying calm and composed in the face of challenges. Practice meditation and yoga to strengthen your resolve.