When I say, the great Himalayas, what comes to your mind? Everest, of course. But can you tame Everest, for most of the population, it’ a no. But to get close to the Himalayas, you don’t need to climb to Everest, there is something else, there is the thunderous Kedarkantha. People believe that once Lord Shiva was meditating here, so this name Kedarkantha. The peak of this grand Himalayan mountain stands tall at 12,500ft (3800m). Whether you are a seasoned climber or testing the water for high altitude trekking, the summit of Kedarkantha will reward you handsomely. The entire climb is steep, through deep snow and vegetation, but if you get to see the sunrise at the summit, you will forget all the pain.
Why and when?
There are some times when you want to go away from all these chaos, to a place with no phone, no traffic, no crowd around you, just you and the snowy mountains. If you love partying in beaches, you may or may not like these physically demanding getaways. Although you can travel in any month except the rain, I chose February. The Himalayas remain in its true self during the winter and coolest during January and February. Being one of the tallest peaks, you can see other Himalayan peaks like Nanda Ghunti, Swargarohini, Kalanag peak, Bandarpunch mountains, Yamunotri range, Jaonti, Gangotri etc. when you summit Kedarkantha. The kedarkantha temperature varies from -15 degrees to 10 degrees across the year. But, If you want to see the glaciers, snowfall and what -10 degrees feel like, winter is the time you should choose. How will the winter trek help you physically, check this blog about hiking vs trekking. Though some experienced climber would call Kedarkantha the best beginner trek, you have to have certain physical fitness to approach it, after all you are trekking in himalayas.
Things to carry
- At least 2-3 T shirts
- Upper body base layer thermals
- Waterproof trekking trousers
- Sunglasses with UV protection (A must)
- Jacket (Rated for at least -5 degrees, can be rented)
- Gloves (Waterproof and rated for -5 degrees)
- A woolen cap which covers your ear
- Neck Gaiter (Can be purchased at Sankri)
- 10 Pairs of Thick socks
- Pair of Slippers
- 1 Pair of trekking shoes (Can be rented)
- 1 trekking pole (Can be rented)
- Head-mounted torch(Can be rented)
- Spikes (Can be rented)
- Sanitizer, Dry tissues and Wet Tissues
- Power bank
- 2L water bottle, Energy bars and Biscuits
Things to remember
- Don’t litter the mountains
- Tie up your shoelaces firmly, don’t let the ice get into your shoes
- Pick shoes a size larger than your regular size (Pick a number 10 if you generally wear 9)
Beginning of a great winter trek
It’s a 5 to 6 days trek. So you have to set up your camp in the mountains. Though I could have taken my own tents and essentials, I chose to book a Kedarkantha package through Thrillopia as I wanted to enjoy nature as much as possible. The arrangement and travel would be taken care by the agency, for me, it was Himalayan shelter. If you are not an experienced trekker, I strongly recommend you to have a guide, because sometimes the trails become too difficult to approach and the burden of setting up camps, preparing meals, getting water etc can rob away the fun.
How did I reach there
Kedarkantha is in Uttarakhand. So I reached Dehradun from Delhi by train, if you want you can take a flight too. The next morning at 8.00 am, the agency picked me up from Dehradun for “Sankri”. Sankri is a small village and considered to be one of the base camps of Kedarkantha trek. It takes 7 to 8 hours to reach Sankri from Dehradun. It might sound like a long journey but the beauty of Dehradun, Mussoorie and the serpent mountain road is breathtaking. On the way, I had my breakfast and launch.
If you want to travel by road, the delhi to kedarkantha distance is 430-450 Kilometres. Basically you need to reach Dehradun and then Sankri. If you are a 4-6 people group, this might be the better option.
I really loved the way the buttered ragi rotis and egg bhurji tasted, you should really try them. As the day progressed, altitude increased, the mobile network started vanishing and finally I reached the check post before Sankri, where you need to get verified with your ID card. It’s 6.30 pm, I reached the resort at Sankri. Though I really appreciated the exceptional driving skill of the driver, I could not understand why no one was using the horn in the blind turns, sometimes it was scary, but they know there way. The temperature was chilling, but dinner was simple yet delicious. I knew the next few days there will be now creature comfort, so I took a bath in the hot water and slipped inside the cosy blanket. After a day-long trip, it was a peaceful sleep, and you need the sleep to make your body fresh for what’s coming next.
The day 1 (Altitude 2720m, 4.5 Km Trekk)
It’s 8 am and I was shivering when I landed my feet on the bathroom floor. Anyway, I had a quick bath and assembled at breakfast. I must say the ghee at Sankri is outstanding, I ate around 6-7 slices of bread with butter even though I am not a bread and butter person. The briefing by Mr Raghav and Mr Bachhan Rana, our guide and the owner of Himalayan Shelter respectively. They suggested renting the Gumboots for better waterproofing and grip. Here I made a mistake, we (Me and my cousin), rented only one head-mounted light, but I strongly suggest if you are travelling in a group, pick a torch for each. Some people also got the support sticks, though I preferred to use my hand and legs to the fullest and did not got any stick. So as you can see, you don’t need to buy anything as you can get everything for rent, even jackets. It will cost you Rs 600-700 for the complete set.
Motivation is your best equipment
So we started our walk towards the mighty mountain. After a kilometre, we reached the foothills and start following the trail. The climb was quite steep, rocky and muddy. It will take some time to acclimatize with the sudden increase in altitude and stress on your body, so take your time, don’t rush. Although some people sent their luggage to the 2nd base camp via the mules, I believe if you are here for a true adventure, carry your own luggage. We have left the trolley at the resort, so now I was carrying a 45L backpack, a handbag. My brother was carrying a 50L backpack, and a DSLR. If you like leg workouts like me, then you won’t face much problem in this day 1 climb, but it was not same with my father. It was really difficult for him to control breathe and even some blood came out of his nose. To help him a bit, I carried the DSLR with a bit, after eating some snicker, now he was climbing smoothly. In the way to our campsite even there were tea shops, you can get Maggi, eggs and snacks, just make sure you take the wastes with you. Don’t dispose of the waste in a different shop’s dustbin, they spend money just to send those back from the mountain.
Noon (1.30 PM)
It’s the time, we reached our 2nd base camp, Odari campsite. Some groups also prefer to set up their camp at Juda ka Talab. For the last 2 hours, we were walking in Snow. I know the excitement multiplies when we first see snow, but when there is snow till you thigh and some snow inside your shoes, making your toes numb, then it becomes a pain. Anyway, due to the continuous walk and sweating, we never had never felt cold till now, but now when we were sitting, the sweat on our body was chilling us, even in the middle of the day. So I quickly changed my socks, put my jacket on a rock to dry and joined my group for a frisbee session. The travel agency had already set up their camp there and prepared the launch, Rajma (Kidney beans) and Rice and trust me It was heavenly.
The Sun had set at 6 pm, a cold night was approaching. We had dal, roti and some sweets. I had never slept in a sleeping bag and that too on ice. It’s 00.00 am and the temperature outside is -3 degree Celsius. It’s getting difficult for us to sleep. I stepped out and gazed at the sky and I could not believe it….
Read the second part of this great Indian winter trek.