Kedarkantha Trek: Freezing weather, Camping & the Himalayan Summit
The first experience, more often than not, is cherishable for almost everyone. This is magnified if you voluntarily choose to climb one of the most popular peaks of India — The Kedarkantha (elevation -12,500 ft.), located in the Himalayas. It all began when the 4 of us decided to choose a location for a much-needed holiday after the placement season. A random google search led us to Adventure Nation’s website which contained the package details for this trek as well as the itinerary. We checked for reservations and finalized everything quickly to embark upon a memorable journey to the Himalayas.
Trekking the mountains coupled with a cool breeze, curved roads and unassailable beauty had an inspiring impact on me. It reminded me of the fact that on your journey towards your goal, you’ll encounter different sorts of agents to distract/demotivate you but determination and passion for achieving the target keep you going forward.
We reached the Sankri base camp for an overnight stay, after a 9-hour bus ride with the worst suspension configuration on the rear axle combined with a driver who negotiates a hilly corner and then decides to check for the oncoming traffic. ;)
Post dinner, the briefing was conducted by the senior trek leader regarding the itinerary and do’s and don’ts for the entire plan.
Day-1: Sankri base camp to Juda ka talab camp
We started off at 9:00 AM from Sankri to the market for renting the trekking gear comprising of shoes, headlamps, gloves, and face covers. In my opinion, the trek guide should never be trusted when he says that the destination for today is just 3 km away. First of all, the distance is not measured horizontally, it's the hypotenuse and that too, with variable gradient. Secondly, the duration that he mentions is based on his speed which believe you me, is way more than what a novice can ever achieve.
Finally, after 3 hrs of struggling for breath, dodging mules on the way, and eating dark chocolate with cold water, we reached the camp where the temperature was nearly 3-4 deg. C. From this point onwards, we were implicitly on a “Save water” spree since merely touching it rendered our fingers numb and we had limited resources to provide for hot drinking water twice per day only. Last but not the least, the word “hygiene” had left the chat (for the entire trek) since we had a hole in the ground which was apparently the toilet, as they called it.
We slept in sleeping bags after a delicious (maybe because of low temperatures) dinner only to wake up at 6:00 the next morning to go for the “Juda ka Talab” (frozen lake).
Day-2: Camp to Juda ka Talab (visit) to Kedarkantha Base camp
One of the most accepted local stories regarding the medium-sized frozen lake states that Lord Shiva had come here to meditate. He wanted water, and he plucked a strand of hair from his bun (judaa) and threw it on the ground, which created the water body. Nevertheless, this is a picturesque spot and so it was camera time once again! Interestingly, there were some people who were attempting to break the ice and I could think of only one possible reason behind this — maybe they wanted to experience hypothermia!
Once again, after a 2-hour journey covering a distance of 2 km, we reached the Kedarkantha base camp, which was our destination for the day. All the members of our group took a long nap after lunch and after snacks, we came out with speakers, pre-downloaded music, and danced for almost 45 mins.
Day-3.1: The summit!
At the end of day-2, during dinner, the briefing was conducted by the local guide with instructions and plans for the 4 km long (one-way) summit. In order to experience the sunrise from the peak, we had to begin our journey at 2:30 AM at freaking -3 deg. C. With microspikes, 5 layers of clothing, DIY walking poles and our local guides — Bhagat & Manoj bhai, we moved towards the summit on the snow-covered paths. As expected, the oxygen levels started to drop with an increase in altitude and this time, all of us faced breathing difficulties to some extent. Nevertheless, we continued to move upwards in the anticipation of seeing the sunrise from 12,500 ft and …. network connection. We were perplexed to know that during the trek, we won’t get any network connection except on the peak. Our team’s frequency to rest on the way increased but if we waited longer than usual, the cold started to wear us down, despite having 5 layers of clothing including thermals.
Towards the end of the journey, the slope was very steep and the path became extremely tedious. And we came to know that the sunrise was delayed. Additionally, we reached earlier than we were supposed to. These cases implied that we would have to wait for a substantial amount of time in the freezing weather. When we took the gloves off for even a few minutes to click pictures, they’d freeze and our entire bodies started to feel cold. Nonetheless, as they say, all is well that ends well. We witnessed the sunrise and it was one of the beautiful moments of the entire trek. On the way back, we had to slide on the snow-covered slopes and it was really fun!
Day-3.2: Peak to Hargaon base camp
The penultimate day comprised of our downwards journey from 12,500 ft to 8000 ft at Hargaon base camp, where we were supposed to spend the night. We were exhausted as hell and we dozed off right after reaching the tents. As usual, after dinner, we were provided with hot drinking water and we filled our bottles. I woke up in the middle of the night only to witness that snowfall had just occurred. The top of the tent was covered with fresh snow.
Day-4: Hargaon base camp to Nature’s View Himalaya Hotel (Sankri)
Next day, after breakfast, we started our return journey to Sankri jumping from one rock to the other; some of us slipping on the snow as well. After 45 minutes or so, we reached a rest stop where we met Dollar (apparently that’s what he was named). I opened my bottle only to notice they were snowflakes inside, possibly due to the snowfall last night. After refilling our bottles, and sips of Frooti, Coffee and Appy Fizz later, we went ahead and reached the hotel to freshen up.
After a while, we realized that we had left something behind. Oh wait, that’s our jolly old friend - hygiene!!
1. We didn’t face any issues as such due to the weight of the rucksacks. But it's highly recommended to carry essentials only, coz you are the carrier.
2. Carry as many power banks as possible and charge them up at hotels and buses/trains. And plan out your strategy for using all the eligible mobile phones for photography so that all of them do not run out of battery in the time of need.
3. Apart from a few items of snacks, DO NOT FORGET to carry dark chocolate. They have high energy content and hence can satisfy your body’s food and heat requirements even with fewer quantities.
4. (**) Do not consume alcohol or cigarettes during the trek. Alcohol will cause dehydration which increases your oxygen and water requirements. Smoking really affects your stamina, more so at that altitude. And more than physical strength, you need the stamina to continue trekking.
5. On the same note, keep a tab on how much food you consume at the campsite for reasons like stomach upset(you won’t get toilets on the way.) and excess food increases your oxygen requirements. Also, don’t eat less or nothing at all. One of the trekkers did this and he had to return on day-2 because of fever and dizziness due to lack of sleep and proper food.
6. Lastly, as soon as you enter into remote areas, carry as much as cash possible instead of relying on bank transfers and ATMs (you may not have access to them).
Overall, for a first experience, it was really great for all of us. Although, during the trek, we questioned our decision to come here, quite a lot. A week-long trip right into the arms of nature is something everyone needs once in a while to get out of the daily hustle, more so when you have worked your ass off in the past few months due to the placements, applications, and the ongoing semester.
Frankly speaking, there were people who smoked during the trek, supposedly to keep themselves warm. But let me tell you, that doesn’t work, it's a misconception. Enjoy the fresh air, the magical aura of nature, and most importantly, your company. We cannot recollect how many jokes and shittiest conversations we had all the way since we left KGP. Nevertheless, we enjoyed ourselves a lot and Kedarkantha is one of the best trekking spots in India. Do visit, if possible!!