Deepak Tal-Baralacha La Pass : Gateway to Himalayan Wonders
‘Each fresh peak ascended teaches something’—-Sir Martin convoy
Post by Col Satish Singh Lalotra
The northern range of our country stretching from J&K till Arunachal Pradesh packs a punch in itself in the form of a tourist’s delight, a hermit’s choice of his peaceful abode to indulge in his solitude, a nature lover’s pick of his or her choicest venues and an environmentalist’s inquisitiveness.
The mountains of Himalayas encapsulate among themselves rolling green hills, snowcapped peaks, that contribute significantly to the surreal vistas of states and UTs like J&K, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand etc.
In fact these most distinguishing features of Himalayas are also an essential part of the local religious beliefs strengthening it as an abode of God. They also make for a symbol of the supreme.
The expansive natural lands and mountain ranges of the Himalayas offer endless opportunities for those looking to explore whether it be long term hikes, day long treks, or mountain expeditions.
Trekking trails can be found in all the ranges of these frontiers of our sub-continent. In particular in Himachal Pradesh one may begin from Chamba, Pangi valley, Bharmour, Mani Mahesh and so on.
As mentioned above though the entire ranges are full of nature’s aficionados but many of those have been in the cross hairs of human/tourist exploitative ranges leading in the bargain to their desecration from environmental and beauty point of view.
A stage has now been reached that for an avid tourist to go to a pristine place in the Himalayas he/she has to really trudge several miles from off the beaten track.
One such off beat track I have been lucky enough to go while de-inducting from Siachen glacier way back in 1996 while in service via the Leh-Manali route.
Leh-Manali route is one of the most sought after and equally treacherous stretch hiding within its recess many a spine chilling events full of twists and turns. The stretch is beckoning in its entirety to the travellers in terms of the risks, adventure, and sheer Himalayan beauty is concerned.
Though the general area of Leh -Manali is choc-a-bloc with nature’s bounties but then some geographical features like the ‘Deepak Tal’ are as mesmerizing and mysterious in their very being as they can be.
‘Deepak Tal’ is a small little lake located astride Leh-Manali highway at a distance of about 20 kms from ‘Jispa’ and 43 kms from ‘Keylong’.
It is one of the two lakes that you will see while travelling towards the famous ‘Baralacha La pass, the other being the ‘Surajtal’.
A small water body, scenically located acting as a brief stopover for travel weary tourists travelling from Leh to Manali or vice versa.
The lake is located at an altitude of about 3750 meters fed by glacial melts during the monsoon season and freezes completely in the winters.
The calm waters of ‘Deepak tal’ act as a mirror, reflecting the calm surroundings of snowcapped peaks. There are now couple of Dhabas near the lake where you can also eat something of your choice.
One can go even for boating in this small lake, which was just unthinkable during the 90s. All these new features have been added in the recent past to give a substantial boost to the untapped tourism potential of this far flung place of our country.
But the time line I have mentioned in this article of my crossing over of this place i.e. 1996 leaves much to be desired in terms of the facilities and the media glare to which it now is being subjected to.
‘Deepak tal’ is located on the ascent for the world famous pass —The Baralacha La which is just about 31 kms before one reaches the mountain pass as such. Since this dangerous pass is almost always under the snow with the month of September end witnessing a continuous snowfall hence the footfall too reaches to a minimum during the months of September/October.
I was lucky enough to cross over with my unit in the nick of the time. Cut to the present times, there are many changes which are taking place in this general area at break neck speed.
But the all-encompassing change which has really ushered in a sense of spark in the local population is the famous ‘Atal tunnel’ thrown open now to the general public for its movement.
Darcha the final place before ‘Barlacha La pass is generally knee deep snow bound making all movements whether on foot or vehicle bound coming to astandstill from October till May end.
Best time to visit ‘Deepak tal’ are the months of May, June and September. The weather during these months is very pleasant with the views heavenly.
The months of May and June are when most of the visitors will find lots of snow still clinging around and forming the snow walls at the ‘Rohtang’ and ‘Barlacha La ‘ pass .The months of July and August should be avoided due to the monsoons .
In fact the entire region around Manali receives heavy rain fall to cause massive landslidesand road blocks. As stated earlier the lake of ‘Deepak tal is above 31 kms from the ‘BarlachaLa pass making it incumbent upon to find out the weather conditions prevailing between the pass and the lake.
Any flickering of weather and developing into a major environmental disaster doesn’t take much time in these forbidding heights. The pass as such sitting at an elevation of 4890 meters (16,043 ft) receives as much as 50 ft of snow during the months of winters.
It is the first pass to close on the Leh-Manali highway and also the last to open up in the months of May-June every year. There are 2 ways to reach ‘Deepak tal’ / BarlachaLapass, one via the Rohtang pass and the second is through the Rohtang tunnel.
During my brief sojourn with the area in 1996 the ingress and egress to the pass lay over the Rohtang pass only with very rudimentary safety in place.
It is only now that in the recent years the famous ‘Atal tunnel’ has been built and thrown open for the masses to reduce the agony of theirs.
The route of journey for an avid traveller can be divided into two –
Manali—Gramphu-Kokhsar—Keylong—Jispa-Darcha—Deepak tal-(160 kms)
Manali—Keylong—Jispa—Darcha-Deepak tal (115kms)
As for commuting a traveller can avail bus services for Leh from Manali or Keylong,but then one will have to alight at Deepak Tal with no provisions for a back journey . With such a scenario in place it is best to hire a taxi or a motor bike from Manali.
The lake of Deepak Tal is relatively small in size with quick boating rides in place lasting about 15 to 20 minutes in duration. The weather at Deepak Tal is quite cold at any time of the year.
Between May to September the day temperatures will range between 10 degrees to 15 degrees centigrade with night time temperatures plummeting to even zero degrees and beyond.
There is no mobile network at Deepak Tal. BSNL, Airtel and Jio users will lose reception a little after Keylong. Vodafone, Idea and other networks will be off while travelling towards Rohtang from Manali.
As for the nearest ATM, it is about 43 kms away in keylong and the petrol pump at Tandi which is again about 52 kms from Deepak Tal. The nearest hospital is at keylong with some basic facilities.
All in all, the trip to a place like Deepak Tal can really ask for the best of reserves of your mental and physical faculties. But then the best scene is only visible to those who climb the highest …!
(The writer is a retired army officer and can be approached on his email…email@example.com)