Lahaul Spiti is among the most beautiful and least explored regions in India. It’s average altitude is more than 4000 meters and thus is a high altitude desert with sparse vegetation and rare wildlife. Most outsiders need a few days of acclimatisation to get used to low oxygen levels in the high altitude. There will be more such details about Spiti in future posts, but for now, we are concentrating on Chandra Taal (Chander Taal ) Lake, the crown jewel of Spiti. Chandra Taal translates to Moon Lake and is situated at an altitude of 4300 meters above sea level.
Batal is a small rest stop about 16 km with a direct road link which goes till 1 km of lake. Another route is a hike via Kunzum La pass which is approximately 8 km. Depending upon the fitness level, this hike can be completed in 3-5 hours.
Permanent constructions are not allowed in the area and no campsites or vehicles within a km of lake boundaries. A lot of people take the road via Batal and see the lake before going back on their way. But for adventurous travellers who love camping and trekking, it’s one of the best places in India. You can either bring your own tent and pitch it at a suitable distance or rent a tent with sleeping bag and other accessories from people like Travel Spiti who operate camping sites over there. Following are a few words of advice for campers and hikers:
1) Don’t pitch your tents close to lake as it’s illegal and dangerous. Spiti is home to a lot of carnivorous wild animals like Himalayan bears, wolves, snow leopards etc. and any encounter with any of these animals can prove fatal. Apart from that, migratory shepherds bring their animals like sheep, goats, mules near the lake and a big herd can easily destroy your camp.
2) Take your trash back with you. It’s a must do for every camping trip.
3) Do not use soap in lake or wash your clothes there.
4) The terrain is unstable with lots of small sharp rocks and water is hard to find. Most of small streams have too much slit in them and their water can’t be used for drinking.
5) A lot of geologists believe that this region was a sea millions of years back. If you have a sharp eye and knowledge of geology, you will notice a lot of interesting signs.
6) A very strong wind blows through the region during night and most of day. It’s quite common to see tents being blown away every now and then.
7) If there are some shepherds in the area, you can request them to sell you milk, chesse, butter or meat. You can also buy some supplies, food, fuel from Batal or campsites.
8) Best time to visit is from late May till early October. Rest of the year, the routes are closed due to landslides and snowfall.
A popular but lesser known trek from Chandra Taal is the trek to Samudri Tapoo, which is the origin of Chandra Bhaga river. One route involves crossing the river via a ropeway and take 7-8 hours for a reasonably fit person. The longer route will take about 2-3 days. We will write more about it in one of our next posts.