I went on a winter trek to Kedarkantha with my family ( 4 of us- Me, Murali, Shruthi, and Sridhar) in the month of April this year. Since it was our first trek in the Himalayas, we chose to go with IndiaHikes because of its reputation in the trekking community in India. Being avid nature lovers, we couldn’t agree more with IH’s motto of green trails and leave the mountains in a better condition. That was one more reason we choose IndiaHikes. The trek has been special for us in many ways- Be it being our first trek in the Himalayas, or the first encounter with snow, or the sweet fragrance of the apple blossoms or the colourful flora on the trail or camping under the blanket of stars- we will cherish every experience from this trek for lifetime. Indiahikes had arranged the trek so efficiently that the only thing we were left to bother was to enjoy the vistas, click loads of photographs and drink a lot of water (not to explicitly mention the loo breaks !!). We used our cameras extensively to get back as many memories as possible from the trek and here I am sharing some of those. Though it is true that every view on the trail from Sankri to Kedarkantha peak will qualify as a postcard, it is also true that no picture can do justice to the beauty we witnessed.
We arrived at Sankri one day prior to the trek after a tiring journey of about 8 hours by road from Dehradun. Having hot pakoras and tea overlooking the snowcapped peak peeking from beneath the mountain ranges was all that was required to cure our fatigue. After a quick briefing session and a sumptuous dinner, we called it a day and retired to bed.
Next day, the trek began through the picturesque location of the quaint village of Sankri. The weather was pleasant and the vistas were great. the Kedarkantha peak stood behind the mountain ranges as a beacon.
By midday, we had reached the first campsite, Juda Ka Talab. Most of the pictures that I had seen of the JKT portrayed it as a frozen lake but we saw an entirely different picture. It was a peaceful lake with a calm little island surrounded by hushing pine woods and the rolling green meadows- this campsite had already cast an enchanting spell on us and we knew the spell would only get stronger each day of the trek!
That night, we slept under a blanket of a million stars. Since it was a new moon, the only light we could get was from the feeble glow of the stars.
Our next campsite was the Kedarkantha base camp at 11,250 ft. This was where we encountered the first patch of snow. Meandering with the gushing wind on the green carpets, anyone would love to call this home. The KK basecamp overlooked the endless mountain ranges of the Dhauladhar on one side and the Kedarkantha peak on the other side.
Since we had reached the KK basecamp before noon, we had ample time to acclimatize and to explore the basecamp. We even made a snowman. The weather in mountains is highly unpredictable and we experienced it first hand when the azure sky turned dark engulfed by clouds in no time. It started to rain hailstones – but it was in no way similar to the kind of hailstorm we see in the southern part of India. The hailstones were actually small balls of snowflakes. After an early dinner, we retired to bed not knowing what the weather had in store for us the next day.
The next day which was the Summit day started pretty early. we started the ascent by 3.00am aided by trek poles, gaiters, crampons, and headlamps. After having a quick breakfast at around 2.30am, an apple, a pack of biscuits and two liters of water was all each one of us had to survive till we returned back to the base camp after the summit. As the sun rose from beneath the snow-clad peaks spreading the hues of amber, we continued our ascent slowly wading our way through the knee deep ( at times, waist deep) snow. The sky was still not clear. There were thin clouds spread across the sky as if forming a veil to the rising sun.
As we headed towards the summit, more peaks emerged as if engulfing us. While everyone was concentrating more on reaching the peak, I slowed down and turned back to have a glimpse of what we had been through. I could see hundreds of peaks spreading as far as my sight could reach.
“bas panch minute aur” is what our trek guide kept telling us a countless number of times to keep us going to the peak. Hardly did we know at that point in time that there was a trek of about 1.5hrs pending before we reached the summit.
As we continued to summit, our trek lead Mohit climbed a rock to feel the gushing wind and I could not help clicking a picture. For me, it looked as if he was on top of the world.
And finally, we made it. All the exhaustion was gone the moment we knew we had reached the peak . As we clicked pictures from every possible angle from the peak, our trek lead and the guide offered pooja to the Trishul on the peak. I sat there for a while doing nothing, just enjoying the smell of fresh air, caressing wind, and the beautiful vistas. It was a moment of complete solitude. The mountain has let us be there and we had to submit ourselves with gratitude.
After spending some time at the peak, we headed back towards the base camp as we had to descend down to Hargaon camp on the same day. It was tough to walk down the snow covered peaks and the best way to come down quickly was to slide in places where the snow was soft. After having lunch at the KK basecamp we headed towards the Hargaon campsite.
Hargaon campsite was the best and the cleanest among the campsites on the trek. Located at 8,900 ft, the campsite offered an excellent view of the forests, meadows, and the snowclad peaks.
Descending back to Sankri was the most difficult part of the trek for me. Not because the terrain was tough. It was because my soul refused to come back with me while my body strolled down the slopes. As I reluctantly returned to the hotel in Sankri, a part of my soul stayed back in the hills wanting me to get back to the mountains some day in search of it!