Kedarkantha – Metro to Mountains

Every beautiful journey comes into mind for a reason, and it happened to us when we heard Kedarkantha calling us. With this, our journey from the metro to the mountains began. 😊

Kedarkantha is a peak in the Himalayan ranges with an altitude of 12,500 ft. It was our first winter with a complete snow trek, and the preparations for this began almost a month ago with shopping and fitness. We watched several videos and read many articles to understand this mountain and the level of preparation required. The videos made us fall in love with the upcoming journey. Shopping for a winter trek is quite expensive, so we tried to rent out most of the gear and bought only those things that could be used otherwise. Efforts for this began almost a month ago with shopping and fitness. We watched several videos and read many articles to understand this mountain and the level of preparation required. The videos made us fall in love with the upcoming journey. Shopping for a winter trek is quite expensive, so we tried to rent out most of the gear and bought only those things that could be used otherwise. Fitness was the most important part of the prep. We made sure to spend enough time every morning and evening for workouts and brisk walks. Fitness is required, as it will make sure that you enjoy your journey more with your fit body, rather than feeling exhausted and not enjoying the trek. With all these in the background, the journey finally began.

The fresh morning orange and pink rays of the sun welcomed us at Dehradun airport. We had a grace day before the trek, and so we basked in the arms of Mussoorie, who showered us with fresh snowfall. 😊

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Our trek was with the team- Trek the Himalayas. The next day, we started for Sankri, a beautiful remote village with about 120 families at the foot of Kedarkantha Mountain. It was a journey of about 7–8 hours from Mussoorie. That evening, we were introduced to our team. We were a total of 17 trekkers from Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi, and Karnataka. There were two mountain guides: Vijay Rawat (aka Mallya) and Deepak Bhaiyya. Then came our hero, like Shah Rukh of the Indian army in the movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan, with his hands in his front pockets and a firm face. His name is Rishabh, a native of Joshimath, and he was our trek leader. He educated us about the mountain and the terrain and gave us various guidelines for trekking. He is an alumnus of NIMAAS and a pro-mountaineer.😊

That night in our shared room in Sankri, thinking about how to spend nights in the snowy mountains gave me chills. It was so cold there that the temperature was nearing zero. My mind almost gave up, but looking at the enthusiasm of the team the next morning, my spirit was back.

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The next morning, we were all geared up in our trekking gear: a rucksack, layers of dry t-shirts, fleece, a down jacket, snow-repellent pants with fleece, gaiters, a pole, and spikes. We followed the footsteps of our hero in a straight line. The pathway to our first destination, Juda Ka Talab, was hard ice, and it was so slippery that, within 10 steps of the hike, I put on ashtanga namaskar to Kedarkantha. It hurt badly on my palm, and it was worsened by the cold. Gradually, I learned the tactics of hiking from these thuds.

The mantra was this: baby steps, breathe from your nose, keep your mouth closed, and walk with the team. Whenever we were stressed, we would shout, “Mallya bhaiyya, 2-minute break please.” In these breaks, we inhale from the nose and exhale from the mouth to stabilise the breath and sip water, just enough to keep the throat wet. Rishi kept saying, “Guide se aage koi nahi jayega.” With all these lessons on our minds, we reached our first Maggie point: the Chacha’s. The pahadi Maggie was super tasty, and the tea and bun maska was out of this world.

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We resumed our hike and after trekking for about 4.5 km, we saw Juda ka Talab coming into our sight in the evening. The view was spectacular. There was this vast frozen lake with snowcapped mountains and pine trees on the backdrop. Our campsites were all set up and Rishi introduced the campsite to us. There were 9 tents set up for us right next to the talab. There was a dining tent and two toilet tents. Our food was ready and after the tasty lunch, we rested for a while. Then we went to explore the region around the talab. All the pain felt worth it. I was just engrossed in the beauty of the region in the Himalayas.

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Mallya bhaiyya then took us on a short acclimatisation walk, and there we found knee-deep snow all around. We started throwing snow at each other, and most of us fell flat on our backs on the snow bed. It was dark when we were back. The sky was clear, and there were zillions of stars in the sky. I found a rock next to the frozen lake and lay down on it to watch the stars. Zindagi me taaronke neeche nahi soya, tho kya kiya? I could hear my heart beating in the silence. It was damn cold, and after some time, my legs started becoming numb. Then, after a healthy supper, we went into our tents to sleep.

Sleeping inside the sleeping bag was so weird. I remembered how they showed on the TV- wrapping up a deceased COVID patient. The temperature hereon every day after sundown would be a lot below 0 degrees. I could never sleep even a bit and was feeling very uncomfortable inside the bag. I controlled my emotion, but I don’t know what, I felt so helpless and scared that I started crying. Then I woke up Deepak and he put me back to sleep. It was like I was waiting every minute for the night to end and the soorya to come.

The next morning, 4 of our team members quit. They descended from Juda ka lab. The tiredness of my sleepless night went away when the snow trek began to the next destination- the base camp. The view throughout the trek was breathtaking. There were fallen trees on which inches of ice had formed a layer. There were pine trees with snow-capped on their branches and bright red rhododendron flowers with beautiful petals. The view was so amazing that this therapy to eyes relieved me from all the pain. After trekking for about three-four hours, we reached the base camp.

Upon reaching, our hero gave us some fitness training as we had our summit climb the upcoming day. Sun was harsh and I already had got a sun tan despite strong sunscreen. There were many campsites of other companies in this vast area of the plain snow surface. We could see the peak of Kedarkantha, our destination for tomorrow from here. It gave me chills thinking about whether I would be able to walk so far and high in just 4 hours. However, the view from our tents was very beautiful that one can’t stop gazing at nature. Lying inside the tent with legs stretched outside, we saw the sun escaping into the mountains to brighten up someone else’s day in the other part of the world.

Then came the night. My scariest part of the trek. Like, I would be lying inside the bag, counting the minutes to pass. Thankfully, our sleep time was just 4 hours that day. “Kal ka timing 2-2:30-3” Rishi had said, meaning morning tea at 2 AM, breakfast at 2:30 & start by 3 AM.

TTH team served us with their yummy kaada every morning. They prepared it with tea leaves, ginger, cardamom, lemon and pepper and without milk. This drink removed all stress and prepared us for the day. Like- (Kannada dialogue) “Jeevanadalli Nava Chaitanya moodisutthade” 😀 😛

We all gathered with our gear at 3 AM and set out for our night trek. This trek was kind of weird as we had to walk without any views in the dark. We could only see as much as our torch covered. The trek was easy in a few parts and other parts, it was so dangerous. I slipped at least 3 times. One motu trekker in our team (I know he’s very lazy to read my travelogue till here, so I’m mentioning him as ‘motu’ fearlessly ) could not hike any further, so he gave up the summit. The rest of us hiked, and after almost 4 hours of trek, the sun started peeping from the mountains. On the other side was the moon, in its perfect waning crescent shape. The sky looked like it was a big dark blue shawl with orange, and red borders to it. It was so beautiful when these colours fell on the white snow on the mountains and this snow reflected these colours. I was literally in tears when I saw this beauty. I would go to any extent to witness this view again. It was a non-alcoholic Nasha I felt there. The air there had brought some kind of sweet fragrance with it, which will remain in my heart forever. Amazing, I fall short of words to explain this beauty. This was a gift to me, a reward for having worked hard for many days. This reward was priceless. We sat a few meters below the summit and witnessed the sunrise. I absorbed these rays and stretched my arms out to embrace them.

The last few meters of the climb seemed very dangerous. It was dead deep on the sides. My feet were not moving at all. I was standing there, not knowing where to go, or how to do it. Then came our hero Rishabh. He came to me and said- “Ithna take Kiya, ab last few meters kya Darna”, grabbed my hand and started moving quickly on the narrow path. I closed my senses and just went wherever he took me. That feeling when I reached the summit was spectacular. Swargarohini and other peaks looked like they were wearing bright and sparkling pearl and silver jewellery. I thanked God for giving me birth in this beautiful land, and for allowing me to see this beautiful creation he made. We absorbed the beauty of the Himalayan ranges from the top.

Now comes my favourite part- The descent. Can you imagine a snow slide? Yes, we not just imagined it but experienced it: Twice. Sit on the slide path, lift your legs slightly from the ground, lift your arms and hold the pole horizontally and slide! Whoooosh! I had never experienced anything like this before and this is my favourite part of the entire trek. Free fall slide for about 200 metres with a spectacular view ahead! We had two such slides to go. The snow would be at least 4-5 feet deep, which makes it impossible to descend by walk, so sliding remains the only option. On my second slide, there was a big rock along the way, which hit my bum, the pain which still is reminding me of its existence as I write this Anyways, once we finished the slides, we had to walk down the steep mountain with heels first, bending the body backwards to maintain balance. I never got this logic, and Gosh, I was slipping, falling with every 5 steps like a rhythm I always thought descent would be easier, but I have a different opinion now after taking several hits on my bum and knees!

Well, well. On the way back, we witnessed some amazing sights more beautiful than the ones from the summit. I could not take pictures the pain in my body did not let me! I just absorbed the beauty with my eyes and locked it inside my heart and kept hiking down. We finally reached the next Maggie point. We rested well there and then started moving towards our next beautiful camp- Hargaon. This was our last campsite and the view was just amazing from our tents. Rishabh proudly asked- “Maine hi location set Kiya tha, kaisa laga aap logonko?”. In the front there was a spectacular view of the snow mountains, on the left there was endless snow-covered land, on the right and back there were pine forests. Simply superb choice Rishabh!

Upon reaching the campsite, we chilled for some time and then enjoyed the samosas in the mountains prepared by our amazing chef. Then suddenly Mallya bhaiyya played loudly the pahadi songs and started showing his moves in front of our tents. We joined him, encircled him and then enjoyed some bhangra too along with some pahadi moves. Our delicious dinner was served to us and then we played antakshari until we felt sleepy.

The next morning, we started our descent towards Sankri. This was the easiest of all the days, as we had the feeling of accomplishing the summit. The best part of this day was Rishabh 2.0. For how Shah Rukh from the army suddenly becomes sweet towards the end of Anushka’s journey with the army men. He was a strict person till then and now suddenly showed his real face of being sweet This was his way of work, which taught me, particularly time management and brought back discipline in life exactly like I followed in my high school days. The discipline had made me a rank holder then, it made me a responsible trekker today.

Upon reaching Sankri, we went ahead to explore the little village, talked to the villagers about their daily life, and played with little kids on the streets. Then our de-briefing session took place and we were given certificates with the ‘Summiteer’ stamp on them I am thankful to Kedarkantha as it has let me climb it. I repeat- I have not conquered this mountain, rather, it has let me climb it. I am very thankful to TTH for having set such an amazing experience for us.

The mountains have taught me so many valuable lessons: Life without the internet and gadgets is way more peaceful as you ‘totally’ like literally ‘Kaaya and vaacha’ live with the people and serene nature around you. The importance of the co-existence of nature and people. The concept of equality is followed completely in the mountains. No stupid notions work out there. You have to be humble about everything and everyone around you to be able to survive.

It taught me that we don’t need ‘many’ things to live happily. Limited things can bring more happiness as the concept of wanting more things is not valid here. Gifted with a fit body to live, a right mind to dwell in to realise the gifts around us are more than enough to live happily. This is true happiness, which is not bound by ‘things’. It is life here, which is a plain and simple one having that completeness inside out. ‘Life is really simple I felt…We unnecessarily complicate it by creating unnatural bonding with materials. Life, on its own, is simple stuff.

I have fallen in love with the mountains and their people. Wanting to go back whenever the opportunity strikes. So, this is my story of transformation from being a metro woman to a mountain woman.