The Roopkund or Rupkund Lake, also known as the Skeleton Lake is located at the altitude of 16,499 feet in the Himalayan Trishul mountain chain. This shallow glacial lake in the uninhabited Chamoli district of Uttarakhand is a prominent trekking destination. It is considered one of the most mysterious places in India.
Every year when the snow melts hundreds of human skeletal remains become visible, though less and less of these relics are reported to be seen with each passing year. These skeletons were first discovered by a British forest guard in 1942 and their origin had since been debated. In 2004 they were conclusively determined to belong to a group of possible pilgrims, accompanied by local guides, dating back to the 9thCentury who might have lost their lives to a massive landslide or a sudden blizzard. There were wounds to their heads and shoulders and among their remains were found spears, jewelry, and shoes. Visiting tourists are prone to carrying these bones with them in large numbers on mule backs during their descent and it is feared that nothing of these relics will remain in the years to come. There is some talk of developing the area as an eco-tourism destination in the future in an attempt to conserve these relics. The story of Roopkund’s mysterious skeletons was covered in the National Geography documentary called "Riddles of The Dead: Skeleton Lake".
There are no roads to Roopkund, so anyone who wants to get there must undertake a four-six days trek between 8000 to 16000 feet, through lush forests, rippling brooks, and ample undulating meadows. As one crosses these meadows the landscape swiftly gives way to heart-stoppingly beautiful alpine stretches. The lake is encompassed by a rock face named Junargali on the North and a peak named Chandana Kot to the East. The trek starts from a point called Lohajung, and from there the next stop is the relatively flat Ran ki Dhar where trekkers can camp.
On a clear day, one can see the meadows of Bedni Bugyal or the trial peaks of Trishul from here. Other notable peaks that trekkers will see are the Mt. Nanda Devi, Mt. Nanda Ghunti, Nilkantha and Maiktoli Peak. There are a few temples and waterfalls on the way. Weather is hostile all year round and the skeletal remains are testimony how passing through these lands can be fatally dangerous if one is not adequately equipped and prepared for surprises along the way. The trek happens once during the summers between April and June when one will find snow on the trail and windy and unpredictable weather, which makes the trek a little difficult. The next trekking season is between September and November when the trail is rocky, and the weather cold but stable, and the trek only moderately difficult. This is also the time when the mysterious skeletons surface.
A religious festival is held at the alpine meadows of Bedni Bugyal every autumn where the nearby villages participating. A more elaborate 21-day long celebration called the Nanda Devi Raj Jat takes place once every twelve years at Roopkund, in which the Goddess Nanda is worshipped. The pilgrims are led by a four-horned ram to Shiva’s home at the base of the Trishul Mountains during this time. The lake remains covered in ice for the most part of the year.