It is rightly said by John Muir “Mountain is calling, and I Must Go”. The call of mountains cannot be denied as it gives one the thrill to explore the unexplored places
I was also equally mesmerized when I heard the plan of winter trek to Kedarkantha by iTvara Tours & Travels. I was way too excited for the trip and started planning and preparations a month before the trek begin.
Kedarkantha Trek, as per many reviews, has one of the prettiest campsites covered with the carpet of brown pine leaves along the way and mesmerizes anyone who has the slightest love for nature and mountain.
As we hail from Delhi, we preferred to drive till Dehradun. We started around 10:30 pm and reached Dehradun around 5:30 am. The camp organizer ‘iTvara Tours & Travels’ were humble enough as they were already waiting for us before we reached. They welcomed us with a warm smile and then began our journey to Sankari basecamp. They took us through the lush green pine forest still wet with the morning mist. It seemed like pine forest trees were spreading their branches just like a mother spreading her arms to her children.
The way we choose was via Mussoorie, Nainbagh, Naugaon, Purola, Mori, Naitwar. Midway we had our breakfast at a small restaurant near Nainbagh. This remote route offered us an amazing view of the mountains with clouds canvassing the backdrop, free-flowing river along the route, small picturesque villages decorated with flora and well-organized paddy fields with excellent water distribution system.
At Naugaon, the road splits into two parts – one heading towards Yamunotri and another one towards Sankari basecamp. We took a halt for 10 minutes to refresh and to take a break from motion sickness. During the break, while discussing our experiences of other treks we reached a conclusion that success of any trek lies in teamwork.
We reached Sankari basecamp around 4:30 pm, here we were introduced to our other group members and were immediately directed to have our lunch.
Sankari is a small village spread across fifteen kilometers inside Govind Wildlife Sanctuary at an altitude of 1,891 meter (6,204 ft) and is the starting point of many popular treks like Har-Ki-doon, Kedarkantha, Swargarohini. Just like iTvara Tours & Travels, the village is also a base camp for many other organizers like YHAI, Indiahikes, Himalaya Trekkers. The village also houses beautiful homestays which serve finger-licking delicious food.
The base camp at Sankari village is also known for small shops which sell and rent out necessary types of equipment for the trek.
With hardly any telephone connectivity and facilities except a few shops, we decided to spend the evening organizing our daypacks and backpacks for the days ahead. After having dinner at the base camp, the base camp manager briefed us the schedule, do’s & don’ts and introduced us to our guide Kailash who accompanied us till the end of the trek.
– As per many reviews and trek organizers, Kedarkantha is an easy trek, but personally I feel it should be termed as a moderate winter trek. The trekkers have to have climb steep snow-covered slopes within 2.5 days while dealing with the harsh weather conditions (at times the mercury dip to -12 degrees). The last leg of the summit, a few hundred metres, is most tough part where one has to climb at 60 degree inclination.
– It is necessary to carry Gaiters and Crampons as it assures the safety of the trekker.
– Avoid wearing sports shoes and jeans. Proper gears and clothes are necessary to avoid any unforeseen events.
The most exciting and adventurous part of the trek was that as soon as we were about to start the trek, we were informed that our first basecamp has been shifted from ‘Juda Ka Talaab’ to ‘Kedarkantha basecamp’. Earlier we were supposed to cover 4 km which gradually increased to 7 km. We decided to leave from Sankari at the earliest to make sure we cover the maximum part during the broad sunlight. We left at 8:30 am. It took us 9 hours to cover this distance.
The way to the summit is super steep and slippery and we realized it just after walking for five minutes. It was a sudden blow to our over-confidence as we were not expecting to start so early. However with some extra efforts, we crossed that stretch and then gradually with every passing minute, our legs and breath started following a rhythm and we continued walking.
The journey up to Juda Ka Talab was really picturesque. We were walking on a path covered with ankle-deep snow, tall pine, maple and oak trees, fallen leaves and a log of trees where the shadow was trees was playing hide-and-seek with the sun. Till now our UV sunglasses were still in the bags.
Midway we took a halt to refresh ourselves. A cup of tea was nothing less than a cherry on the top. And after that when we started the remaining half of our journey to Kedarkantha basecamp, it seemed like a never-ending journey as we were pretty much exhausted. And our guide Kailash was aware of the fact that we are not in a position to move ahead. So to buck us up he used to say after every 10 minutes only half an hour more.
The first glimpse of frozen Juda ka Talab at an altitude of 2,741 meter adorned with pine, maple and oak trees with a frozen lake and temperature below zero degrees motivated us to complete our goal of reaching the summit the next day. We were spellbound by the beauty around.
This is the point where the difficulty level notches up as the ice becomes slippery and way further is fully covered with snow. It is recommended to walk with crampons from here onwards otherwise climbing up can become very risky
Our journey of 7 km came to an end and we were pleased with our endurance, we camped at Kedrakantha Base (at 3429 meters / 11250 ft), we enjoyed the beauty of the majestic Himalayas and Yamunotri range of mountains with the bonfire and a hot cup of tea. We had an early dinner and wrapped ourselves in our sleeping bags to give out body the maximum rest and start the journey early the next day.
25th December 2017 started quite early at 5 am. We were well-equipped with daypack, headlamp, gaiters, and crampons. The clear sky with thousands of stars glittering above gave us positive vibes.
We walked through the knee-deep snow-covered trails and ridges. Despite seeing the Kedarkantha peak from a distance (we were three more small hillocks away), our body started giving up. However, with daylight breaking and sunrays falling on the Swargarohini, we got the adrenaline rush and mind overpowered body and we started walking again.
The toughest part of the journey was when we had to cross the steep height of 75-80 degrees. During this part of the journey, we decided to leave our poles and use hands/palms to hold the rocks and climb.
After putting all our efforts and energy, we reached our final destination, THE KEDARKANTHA SUMMIT. And within no time, all our exhaustion of last five hours vanished as we saw the astounding unbelievable 360-degree vistas of mountains around us. With Swargarohini, Bandarpunch, Kaalnag peaks on one end, Yamunotri range on the other. The view seemed nothing less than a fairy tale.
As usual, good things do not stay forever and now it was the time to start moving back to the base camp. After spending around 30-45 minutes, we started our journey back to base camp. The descent is more painful considering strain one experiences on the thighs and knees. At times, we even glided down, however, the journey was fun-filled. It took us 8 hours to reach the base camp.
We spend the evening with some light laughter sitting around a bonfire and relishing mouth-watering delicacies provided by iTvara Tours & Travels. It was an atmosphere of celebration, it was time to rejoice, it was time to say goodbye to the wonderful routes we covered, trails we measured on foot, bonding we cherished during last few days, pains we shared, it was time to say goodbye to the woods, forests, mountains and The Kedarkantha Peak.
The next day, from Sankari we came back to Dehradun and then to Delhi. I left the place with a promise to be back with new friends for new experiences with a deeper sense of love towards nature and mother earth. It is also time to look for some new destination, look for someplace off the beaten track. Till then Good Bye !!