It was a cold winter’s day at around 8 O clock on 24th of January when I walked inside the Maharana Pratap Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT). Vipin along with one of his friend was waiting for me there. We had just missed the deluxe bus that we had planned to catch to go to Mandi and on wards on our winter trek to Prashar Lake. We take a Haryana state transport bus, the only option that’s left. The journey began around 9 PM.
The bus is well it’s a state bus with government written all over it. The rattling noise of window glasses, the torn seats, the cool wind that could not be stopped from coming inside from so many gaps and cracks and soon I am freezing cold. I take out my blanket and cover myself up. I try to sleep but the bus is rocking and its hard as it is even to sit still. The journey is adventurous too. It’s too foggy outside. I couldn’t see anything outside the window and I am scared. I wonder how the driver is managing to keep us on track. I leave my front seat and walk back to the rear. The rear seats are empty. I take my seat there. It’s like closing your eyes when you see danger approach but well I’ll take it. It’s comforting anyway as long as you don’t have to see it. Somehow time passes and after a long arduous journey we reach Mandi.
In Mandi we were joined by yet another acquaintance of Vipin. He is a teacher and a traveler too. He has walked…yes walked all the way to cross Rohtang Pass and he has done numerous trekking. We catch yet another bus from Mandi and drive toward the nearest road head that will lead us to Prashar Lake Trek. It’s a winding road that we are on and the scenery is magnificent. We are literally riding above the cloud. There are gurgling water streams, undulating mountains and lush valleys that I behold as we near the base of our trek.
Around 10 O clock in the morning we arrive at the base from where we began our winter trek to Prashar Lake. A lot of snow was expected on the trail and it will soon grow tiresome, trying, arduous, cold, wet but ultimately breathtaking, awe inspiring and mentally and spiritually uplifting.
To be honest, the trail to Prashar Lake is tough. The gradient is quite steep and there’s fair chance that you may lose your way if you are finding your way easy. The trail is always on your right and it seldom appears like trail but it is. Just keep moving up and you are well on your way. After walking for around an hour we leave behind greenery and white sheet of snow greet us. It’s thrilling to witness that much snow. I mean it’s the first time I am doing a winter trek with this much of snow to negotiate. To make the matter worse I am wearing my woodland riding shoe which soon is wet as I negotiate knee deep snow. A word of caution: Please be very selective about the shoe that you wear if you are going on a trek. I learned on this trek how much difference they can make. I was literally unable to walk as I was going down the trail and it was painful and took quite a few days to recover.
Coming back to the trail, the fun was beginning. The entire landscape – as far as my eye could see – was carpeted with snow. There were no sign of habitations anywhere. It was tranquil and even the walk was like meditation; a different perspective. It’s amazing how traveling to new places could be so liberating, and transforming. The thoughts that they induce, the euphoria of such sights and the thoughtlessness within the thoughts. The things that you think of. The way in which you think of them. Well you gotta be traveling to understand this jabberwocky of mine.
Soon I am walking a treacherous trail. We are the first batch of trekker this day so we are making our own trail. We don’t have sticks or pole so our leg is the only thing to gauge the depth of snow. On one side there’s snow and on the other is steep gorge. It’s scary and adventurous at the same time. I could feel the adrenaline rush take over. My shoes, socks and the lower portion of denim are all soaked wet but I hardly feel the numbing cold. I am just too preoccupied in taking in the magnificent beauty of Mother Nature. What a sight it is. Surely this must what have made Kipling write “No man can live here; this place belong to gods”. There’s 180 degrees view of the snow laden Himalayan peaks as we reach the top of the trail.
Soon we reach a guest house which is abandoned at this time of the year as tourists seldom come. During winters the lake is connected via road so that one could ride all the way. But come winters and the road close down due to snowfall and thankfully so. Only travelers come around here at this time and no tourists which is why Prashar Lake trek is best undertaken in winter. And also if you are a working professional in Delhi like me trek to Prashar Lake is a weekend getaway from Delhi meaning you don’t have to take a leave to do this one.
After the first guesthouse we arrive at another one which is unoccupied but there’s a caretaker meaning we will have a warm shelter and food to eat in the cozy interiors. If you are traveling to Prashar Lake in winter make sure that you call and book the guesthouse in advance. There is nowhere else to stay unless you are camping on your own. There’s no provisions for food and water and you’ll be on your own during winters due to snow.
It was upon arrival in the guesthouse that I feel the first pangs of cold. My feet are numb and my boot seems to weigh 10 kilos. Socks are wet and with snow all around it will remain so. We stuff our shoes with newspaper to dry them as best as they could. The caretaker comes with tea and it is delicious. A tea at place like that, surrounded by snow all around and teeth chattering is just wonderful. After tea and a little rest, we leave for the lake which is about 500 meters from the guest house.
We walk the snowy trail and lo and behold there’s the lake with a floating island and a temple and a few structures. It is a sight to behold. The entire place is covered with snow and devoid of people. We make the descent towards temple. It’s a beautiful temple much similar to other temples in Himachal Pradesh in terms of architecture. After spending some time at the temple we ascend towards yet another view point. The sun is out and there’s chance that we might get to dry our shoe in the sunlight.
As we reach the other top, we are blessed with yet another splendid view of the mighty Himalayas. There are distant peaks, so many, so far and so near. I just sit down, trying to take it all in. The feeling as I sit there is just indescribable. I mean words won’t justify that. It is for moments like this that you travel. A moment of joy; of bliss. A moment when you leave all your worries behind. There’s nothingness, a lightness of being, the moment when you are you and just you and nothing else matters because in this moment nothing else exist, you are just so alive.
After spending something like an hour which felt like eternity we turn back. The sun is going down now and we need to make it back before it gets dark. The horizon is gold and yellow, a sight that will stay forever with me. We reach the guesthouse and have our dinner. In the night the stars are out shining brightly. It’s incredible how night appears so shiny and sparkling when you are out in the mountains. Stars might have abandoned the polluted sky of Delhi but in this abode of gods, the entire cosmos come out sparkling to pay reverence to gods and brighten their night. If only I had a tripod I could have captured Milky Way and the star trail but alas I couldn’t.
After a fulfilling day, it is time to sleep for tomorrow is another day. And it will be painful and most tiresome walk of my life till now for we have decided to take the path less travelled and descend from another side of the trail which is rarely taken by trekkers to Prashar Lake and the reason was obvious the other day when I had to literally drag myself for last few kilometers down the trail. But that is another tale.
Practical Information about Prashar Lake Trek in Winter
Prashar Lake lies 50 km north of Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India. Along the lake is a three storied pagoda-like temple dedicated to sage Prashar. Built in the thirteenth century, legend has it that the temple was built by a baby from a single tree. The starting point in winter for the Parashar Lake trek is Thakur Hotel at Suda village, a couple of kilometers uphill from Baagi Village. The trail from here winds through a series of switchbacks through densely forested hill. This also happens to be the toughest section of the Parashar trek. After you break through the woods, a ridge leads you along due east to Prashar Lake. The ridge has majestic view of snowcapped Dhauladhar, Pir Pinjal and Kinnaur mountain ranges of Himalayas. Follow the ridge for the next two kilometers to reach the Trekkers Hut and then on to Prashar Lake.
4.5 hour ascent from Thakur Hotel in Suda village a few kilometres uphill from Baagi village
7.5 kilometers one way
Starting Point of Trek
Thakur Hotel in Suda village a few kilometres uphill from Baagi village
Buses ply regularly from Mandi (H.P.) to Baagi village. The last Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation (HRTC) bus stops overnight at Suda village, a few kilometers uphill from Baagi village. In winters, this is the closest you can get to the lake by public transport. Taxis to Prashar may be rented from Mandi and Kataula
There is a Forest Rest House and a Trekker Hut near Prashar Lake which are open in winter. These can be booked by D.F.O Mandi (+91-01905-235360) and R.F.O. Mandi (+91-01905-269485). The temple complex has a dormitary, but as of 2015 January it was in a semi completed state. However, you can ask the temple priest for a free stay at the dormitory and bedding. If you catch the last bus from Mandi to Baagi, then Thakur hotel at Suda village is your best bet. Homestay can be arranged at Baagi village
Cold during the day. Under -9 degree C at night in December and January. Could go as low as -14 with windchill
Travel Tips for Prashar Lake Trek
Carry enough water as the only water source is available at the starting of trail and water will only be found once you reach the lake.
Carry dry fruits, chocolates and eatables with you. There are no shops around selling goods.
Book your stay in advance if you are not camping or the rooms are very limited and mostly booked in advance.
Be selective about the shoes you are wearing and carry sunglasses and sun screen lotion if you are doing winter trek to Parashar Lake.
Cost of Prashar Lake Trek
Parashar Lake could be done in as less as a 1000 bucks if you are traveling from bus from Delhi and camping by yourself. Tour operators charge as much as 5K to 7K for Parashar Lake trek. Even if you are traveling by bus from Delhi to Parashar Lake and staying in the guest house which costs 500-700 per night and which could easily accommodate 3-4 person, the cost won’t go above 2000 per person including food.
Weekend Trek to Prashar Lake
Prashar Lake trek is a weekend trek from Delhi. It means that if you have a Saturday off, you could easily do the trek by catching a bus from Delhi on Friday night, start the trek on Saturday morning and be back by Monday morning to join your office as I did.
- Winter’s Whisper