Ghepan Ghat Lake Yatra – In the Kingdom of Ghepan

Remember Naveen Boktapa? Yeah, the guy who walked all the way from Manali to Sissu across the treacherous Rohtang. He hails from Sumnam Village, arguably the driest villages of Lahaul. He is the one who ‘discovered‘ this lake in 2005.

The valley of Lahaul was under extreme drought between 2003 to 2007. The ill effects of global warming, probably! People used to embark on long journeys to far-off hilltops, in search of new  hidden sources of water. And none of them succeeded in finding a water source that could feed the demands of an entire village.

Back then, Naveen was we were in second year of our college. The year was 2005. And Google Earth was our favorite pastime. That was when Naveen stumbled upon this hitherto unexplored and unheard of lake. Although this exploration didn’t provide any solution to water problems at Sumnam, it surely gave us an opportunity to witness the magic of Mother Nature.

It took us ten long years to land at the shores of this pristine yet potentially dangerous lake. Dangerous because this is not your yet another lake. This is a lake which could lead to Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF).

However, that doesn’t take away the charm attached to this lake, an attribute common to all things hidden. It is a beautiful gem tucked away in the remote recesses of Himalayas. The massive expanse of turquoise waters of the lake are bewitching and awe inspiring at the same time. The monotony of the still waters is broken by countless specs of ice every now and then.

A huge wall comprising of rock and ice appears to be the end of this lake, which  originates from a gigantic glacier flowing from the foot of a rocky satellite that seems to be touching the infinite.

Sissu Lake Ghepan Gath Glacial Lake
Sissu Lake Ghepan Gath Glacial Lake
Ghepan Gath Glacial Lake Sissu
Ghepan Gath Glacial Lake | Photo By: Naveen Boktapa

The lake has been marked as Gepang Gath in Google Maps. I don’t know what Gath means, neither does Naveen, so we decided to call it Ghepan Ghat. Although the feeding receding glacier of this lake doesn’t come from the main Ghepan Peak.

The trek starts from Labrang Gompa, a two kilometer detour from Sissu Nursery on the main Manali – Leh Highway near Sissu. The trail is well marked, provided you know which trail to follow. We went along Sissu Nala that originates from the lake itself. However, the easiest way is to follow the ridge that starts from the end point of Labrang Gompa road.

Trek is of moderate difficulty and barring few patches here and there, it’s all smooth sailing of 14.1 km from Labrang Gompa.

Labrang Gompa Road, Start of the Trek
Labrang Gompa Road, Start of the Trek
Sissu Village, Raja Ghepan's Hometown
Sissu Village, Raja Ghepan’s Hometown

The trail meanders along the Sissu Nala. We decided to avoid the scree and chose the middle path that walks through slopy fields. A ridge and a water channel runs all along the trail until base-camp, but we somehow ended up in the middle ground. Ideally, if you follow the water channel and walk at a decent speed, you can find the lake on the very first day.

The left bank of the Sissu Nalla is occupied by gaddis’ from Mandi and Kullu where as the right bank belongs to Kangra and Chamba gaddis’. And all along the trail, even at the lake and probably beyond it, you’ll find little gaddi hutments constructed in traditional style. An impeccable work of pahadi craftsmanship. 

Because we chose the middle ground we ended up 3.62 miles short of the lake, so we named that camp as Base Camp 3.62. We four, Naveen-Rijul-Dr. Kamal Preet and I, managed to walk only 9 kilometers on first day.

We camped at a slopy meadow that overlooked the main Pir Panjal massif in the distance. The sky was overcast and remained that way for the rest of our stay in Lahaul.

Base Camp 3.62 stands at an altitude of 3870 meters. Ideally, one shouldn’t stay here because a few hundred meters from this site, you find a massive grazing ground most suitable for a leisurely camping.

A thick moraine wall forms the boundary of this lake which gives way to a huge ground on the other side. Twice as big as Chamba’s Chaougan. And that’s no exaggeration.

Base Camp 3.62, Ghepan Ghat Yatra
Base Camp 3.62, Ghepan Ghat Yatra
Base Camp 3.62, Ghepan Ghat Yatra
Base Camp 3.62, Ghepan Ghat Yatra
The Lake, 4070 Meters
The Lake, 4030 Meters

I came across a Geological Survey Report (Gepang Gath Glacio Study) which solves the GLOF mystery for us. Here are some of the key findings.

It is one of the fast retreating glaciers in Himachal Pradesh, on an average the glacier has receded 44.98 m/year during 2003-2012.

The area of this lake has increased from 0.26 sq. km. in 1965 to 0.78 sq. km. in 2012.

Most importantly,  the lake has been determined theoretically stable and the earlier fears of imminent catastrophe were plain exaggeration.

Local hindi newspapers are experts in fanning fears. Recently I came across a news report that said Sissu Village wouldn’t survive the year 2015 because this lake was just at the verge of exploding. Such nonsensical reports appear frequently in hindi dailies.

The lake has a smooth outlet and the valley downstream is deep, 14.1 kilometers to be precise. Surprisingly, not many locals we spoke to were aware of the existence of this lake. At the same time, none of the gaddis’ denied existence of this lake. Some of them have been coming here since late 1970s. One of them has pitched his tent just across the lake, at 4030 meters.

That’s some courage!

The Kingdom of Ghepan

This lake is named has many variants of its name. Some call it Ghepan Ghat, GSI people call it Gepang Gath, gaddis’ call it Ghepan Ka Alyas. So who is Ghepan?

Ghepan is the most revered deity of Lahaul Valley. So much so that he is called Raja Ghepan, the King. A peak by the same name rises above the Sissu village that stands tall like an Emperor. A solitary tower keeping a constant vigil. A massive rock face guarding the valley of Lahaul.

A glimpse of this peak from Sissu and you know why is it the undisputed King. The bluish Chandra gives way to the greener pastures, which in turn give way to black rock. The black rock then mysteriously changes its color to icy white. And then the icy white submerges with the infinite.

The jewel of Lahaul. The King Mountain. Jai Raja Ghepan!

The King Mountain, Raja Ghepan - 5870 m
The King Mountain, Raja Ghepan – 5870 m
The King Mountain
The King Mountain
Ghepan Gath Glacial Lake SissuGhepan Gath Glacial Lake Sissu
Base Camp 3.62 to Lake

Trivia

  1. Try not to camp at the ground below near the lake. Be wary of the fact that this is a GLOF so look for a high ground for camping.
  2. Do not follow the ‘nallah’ because that’s a wrong decision from the word go. Hike up from the monastery and ask for gaddi hutments because that’s where from the marked trail runs.
  3. Follow the kulh (irrigation channel) until the glacier point and then navigate the nallah to reach Camp 3.62.
  4. Do not litter

13 thoughts on “Ghepan Ghat Lake Yatra – In the Kingdom of Ghepan

  1. No, Karun, not that way. May be GSI spotted it in 2003. For us, it was Naveen who found this lake. Before us, our friend Shiv Kumar had gone here but that too was Naveens plan.

  2. Yes Paramvir, we did. Infact we had to stay put for an extra day because of heavy downpour. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Dear Tarun,

    First of all awesome blog and photographs. I salute your energy and courage. Me and my wife are planning to visit Sissu in the end of Spetember. We would like to trek to Jhepan Ghat Lake from Sissu. Is it a moderate trek? We are amateur trekkers with basic trek experiences (tungnath, kedarnath, deoria tal). Can we do the trek? Can you please help us with some basic information like guide contact number, trek path details?

    With Regards
    Bikramjit

  4. Dear Bikram, We didn’t hire any guide, so I can’t help you with that. On top of that, not many people have visited that area or rather haven’t even heard of that lake, so finding someone to accompany you to the lake would be little difficult. What you can do is ask around in Keylang, there is an Internet shop there, that fellow has been to the lake.

    Secondly, the trek is moderate but considering it is Lahaul, I will advise you to take two days from Sissu to reach at the lake.

    Third, take the trail that goes straight up from Labrang Gompa. You can email me or Whatsapp me for more details. (tarunokgoel->>facebook)

    My best wishes.

  5. Very nice adventurous travel write up about the Raja Ghepan Gath.
    Which is a Gathh and not ghat
    I think as in our language by Gath we mean flowing water or stream.
    Must discuss it with some other people about its name

  6. Dear Tarun, lots of thanx for the info. We are planning the trip in between 17th October and 25th October. Can you suggest what would be the night temperatures at that time in Sissu. Will it snow at that time in Ghepan Ghat? I will go with my wife. So, don’y want a heavy snowfall on the way.

  7. Hello Bikram, Lahaul in October that too on an unexplored trail doesn’t look like a good idea to me. Unlike Dhauladhars, Lahaul gets unbearably cold. So choose wisely!

  8. Depends how fast you walk.

    As far as danger is concerned, that again depends upon the month of your travel. I’d prefer Late June-Early July

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *