Kedarkantha: A dream trek
I always wanted to go on a Himalayan trek since my college days. However, the plan never materialized due to my ever-busy group of friends. The idea of going solo on a Himalayan hike was far too daunting for me. Finally, my flatmate and I decided to take some respite from the boring corporate life.
The next task was not very difficult as I had already heard about Kedarkantha being the best winter trek for beginners. After seeing the beautiful photos and reading about the trek, we decided to book Kedarkantha Trek for early march. We booked with Trek The Himalayas for the 7th March 2020 batch.
Prepping for the Trek: Since this was my first winter trek, I had to buy a lot of stuff as the weather in the mountains is quite unpredictable. Decathlon is a one-stop solution for everything you need. If you don’t want to buy it, you can always rent the gear, but my suggestion would be to buy it if you plan to go for 3–4 treks in a span of a few years. And I am sure you will as one who goes to the mountains keep coming back. Our journey started from Mussoorie. The drive from Mussoorie to Sankri had some stupendous views.
We stopped for breakfast near Kempty falls and had delicious Aloo Parathas. This was also a time to interact with our fellow trekkers as we had missed the introduction session at Dehradun station. There were 26 of us. All boys! We stopped for Lunch at Purola. Mobile network is not available after Purola, and that is when you instantly disconnect from the rest of the world. After crossing Purola, we started getting glimpses of snow-clad peaks. The tempo driver pointed out one such majestic peak as Kedarkantha. The sheer magnificence of it filled us all with awe and excitement.
We reached Sankri in the evening. Sankri is a quiet and beautiful village in the Govind Pashu Vihar National Park. After reaching Sankri, we were allotted rooms at the hotel Wild Orchid Inn. The rooms and bathrooms were clean, and there was a geyser for the hot water supply. We were served tea with hot pakodas before the briefing began. It was freezing even in Sankri with a temperature ranging between 2–3 degrees. After the briefing, we collected our rental gear, had dinner, and retired for the night.
We started our trek at 9 am after a hearty breakfast. As soon as the road disappeared, we encountered muddy trails. We never thought we would have to walk in ankle-deep mud on what was supposed to be a snowy winter trek. The trail was easy but very muddy, and it took us around 5 hours to reach our campsite.
Juda ka Talab is a frozen lake at 9600 feet, and luckily for us, we had our campsites right in front of the lake.
Juda ka Talab is a frozen lake at an altitude of 9600 feet.
In the evening, we were informed about the idea of acclimatisation walks in the surrounding areas. It is essential to get acclimatised to higher altitudes to avoid any misadventure or AMS during the trek. When we reached the campsite, we were greeted with a pleasant surprise: hot delicious Momos on a chilly evening at 9600 feet. The tents were on twin sharing basis, and we were provided sleeping bags for the night. It was my first experience sleeping on a snowy surface, and as expected, it was not a pleasing experience. I woke up at around 4 am as my toes were freezing badly. The next morning, our trek leaders were ready with colours as it was Holi. We celebrated Holi at Juda ka Talab.
Today we were going to trek on snow, and our trek leaders advised us to wear microspikes and gaiters. We were to gain an altitude of 1500 feet over a distance of 2–3 km. The trek today was fairly easy, and the Microspikes made trekking on snow a cakewalk. The weather was pleasant, and we had an entire day for ourselves. The views from the Kedarkantha Base camp were surreal.
This certainly is the most beautiful thing about treks. You have these stunning, sky-high mountains with alluring snowy peaks all around you—beautiful blue skies with clouds just a touch away. We spent the day witnessing the beautiful landscapes nature has to offer.
Kedarkantha Base Camp 11500 ft. I sat alone for some time to behold the captivating scenery around me. Mountains, I feel have a sense of permanence about them. They are unaffected by time and space. They teach you a great many things but the most important of them is humility. You realise your insignificance and your mental prowess at the same instant. They stand tall with all their grandeur yet are humble enough to let you conquer them. They teach you to be humble and kind.
Soon, the sun started hiding behind a mountain as if it was returning to its home somewhere in that faraway mountain. It was one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life. Slowly, the sky bustling with vibrant colours started smoothly fading away into deeper shades of night. As it started getting cold outside, we went into the dining tent and started playing games eagerly waiting for our trek leaders to brief us about the summit day. We were told that we would be starting early at 3:30 am the next morning. In the night I woke up to the sound of rainfall, it was midnight. For a moment I thought that we wouldn’t be able to summit and I slept again only to be woken up at 2:30 am by our neighbouring tent mate. Tea and breakfast were served exactly at 3 so that we can move by 3:30 as decided. I was both nervous and excited. It was my first summit trek, and the idea of witnessing the world from a mountain peak was exhilarating. The weather was clear, and we could see a lot of people from other groups starting on their way to the summit. Trekking in the moonlight was an altogether different experience. With our head torches on, we set out on moonlit snow. The glittering rays from the moon fell on the shimmering snow, illuminating our path to the summit. The trail unexpectedly felt easy with gradual ascends. It got very narrow, allowing only one trekker to pass through. After trekking for 2 hours straight, we stopped at a tea stall for some refreshments. The tea stall seemed like an oasis in the middle of the desert. After some hot honey lemon ginger tea, we set out for the climax of our Himalayan summit quest. As the trail to the summit was unfolding itself, we began to witness mighty Himalayan peaks. I stopped for a few minutes to capture the breathtaking views surrounding us.
It began getting very cold and windy as we were climbing. The summit seemingly near was still far away. It was getting challenging to climb further as the trail had gotten very steep, and it was difficult to maintain balance because of the strong chilly winds.
I stopped at a rock, hoping I can wait here till my trek mates come back after summiting. Most of the members of our group were ahead of us, and that’s when our trek leader Rishabh bhai came to us and asked us to keep going. The next sentence from him “ Vaapas jane ka rasta summit ke uss side se hai” filled me initially with fear and the very next moment with vigorous energy and willpower to reach the summit. I started climbing much faster and stopped only to find a traffic jam on the last 100m patch leading to the summit. I was completely blank when I finally stepped onto the summit. I had been waiting for this very moment for the past 4 days, yet there I was standing with uncharacteristic calmness. We just got enough time to click some spectacular pictures before the inclement weather forced us to descend.
After the beautiful summit with TTH Trek Group, It started snowing just before we reached the campsite. What more could one have asked for? It turned out to be a dreamy trek. After scaling my first summit, I was treated to my first snowfall. It was beautiful beyond words.
After resting for a while, we descended to Juda ka Talab. It was still snowing, and we were all inside our tents after a long day of the trek. The TTH team always exceeded our expectations. But this was unexpected. We were given crispy hot SAMOSAS with tea for snacks. Since it was snowing, our guide, Dinesh Bhai tent-delivered it to us. This gesture by our trek staff filled me with overwhelming gratitude for the mountain people.
I hoped to sleep soundly that night, but nature had other plans. It was continuously snowing from the afternoon, and we had to shake our tents and clear the snow sitting over them else they would fall. Our trek staff cleared the snow from our tents the entire night to make sure we could catch some sleep. I could not thank them enough for this very kind gesture.
The next morning when we woke up, the landscape had turned truly majestical. The silvery snow settled itself on the leaves of trees, and branches adorned with snow. These are the trees you read about in storybooks but witnessing them for real made the last day of our trek more beautiful.
Pine trees covered with snow I will get a better poncho next time:)
It took 4 hours for us to descend. I had completed Kedarkantha summit trek. At that moment, I felt that I had accomplished something priceless. I am going to cherish the memories of this trek for a lifetime. There were times during the trek when I promised myself that I would never return to the mountains, but as they say, the mountains keep calling you back. As I write this, I have already planned my next Himalayan Hike🙂
Written By: Siddhant Jain