Kedarkantha – The Winter Trek


“Getting to the top of any given mountain was considered much less important than how one got there: prestige was earned by tackling the most unforgiving routes with minimal equipment, in the boldest style imaginable.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

This one sentence accurately defines the trekking experience 19 of us had in our recent trip to Kedarkantha. Kedarkantha peak at 12500 ft. seem to be too remarkable, but as the name says shaped like Shiva’s Neck, (Kedar means Lord Shiva and Kantha means Neck), actually one of the most scenic trek and offers great views to the Himalayan ranges, reason behind making it to one of the Top 10 treks in India by Conde Nast.

Almost at the Top

Almost at the Top

Mid November, the trekking plan was made keeping forth-coming holiday season in mind by colleagues Anurag (our team captain) and Shikha (Co-captain). Mostly like other corporate people, none of us had any previous trekking experience or required physical fitness. A small fitness schedule was shared, but I am not sure how many of us actually followed the same.

The Plan:
20th December: Pick up from Dehradun railway station. Drive to Sankri (10-11 hrs).
21st December: 3 km trek starts from Sankri 6,450 ft to Juda ka talab 9,100 ft.
22nd December: ~3 km Trek to Juda ka talab 9,100 ft to Kedarkantha base 11,250 ft.
23rd December: ~4 km Kedarkantha base 11,250 ft to Kedarkantha peak 12,500 ft and down to Sankri
24th December: No Plans… Buffer
25th December: Drive from Sankri to Dehradoon Railway Station and Train to New Delhi

The Team: Amit, Anurag, Ankita, Ashish, GauravS, GauravG, Kamal Thakur, Kamal Ahmed, Kuldeep, Mohit, Munish, Pawan, Rahul, Raj, Shalini, Shikha, Varun, Vikas, Yogi

Team : Always Ready to Rock n Roll

Team : Always Ready to Rock n Roll

Sankri :
Around 200 kms from Dehradun via NH123, criss-crossing over the hills and valleys this is a place where the experience is not just in the destination, the road to the place are all part of it. In some ways, the area harks back to the ‘old hill stations’ before they became over built messes – a few scattered houses, the little bazaar, patches of forest and wide open views.

Sankri : Football Match

Sankri : Football Match

Sun Shine and the views

Sun Shine and the views

Some stretches after the Kempty Fall, are damaged due to frequent land sliding and require a vigilant driving. However the highway provides a great and expansive view to the river following down on the left side of the road, recommended for quick stop on the way up to the mountain to take in the view or a selfie. With rounds and rounds of Antakshari, Dumb charades and numerous stories, we didn’t feel the ups and downs of the Tempo Traveler, not even the tyre burst.

Quick Click : On the way to Sankri

Quick Click : On the way to Sankri

Late evening arrived in the Hotel Wild Orchid, with all the dust, most of us directly headed for a quick shower/nap with all the questions and answers in our mind regarding next day trek. It is recommended to book Hotel Room in advance during peak season as Sankri has 2-3 hotels offering some facilities for travelers. Only BSNL seemed to be giving some connectivity option in Sankri for an hour-two in the morning. Check with locals for the exact timings (depending on the generator’s availability)

Reaching Juda Ka Talaab :

Great People n Great Team work

Great People n Great Team work

JKT as locals call it, is a small mystic land surrounded by snow-capped mountains, beautiful scenery and picturesque landscapes. A 3 Km trek started around 10:30 am with all of us full of energy and spirit even to win over the Everest and the same seemed to have eloped after a short while. Kept on encouraging each other after each fall, telling stories, discussing future plans, office culture, around 2:00 pm we entered to a flat landscape covered with snow where bright sunlight was filtering through thick oak trees. During Summers I hear this gets convert into a lush grassy meadow.

Juda Ka Talaab : Frozen Lake

Juda Ka Talaab : Frozen Lake

This lake has a picturesque setting amidst oak and pine trees. Camps were set up and Dal-rice was in today’s menu for lunch, with limited cutlery and water, somehow finished the lunch one-by-one. Yogi brought his guitar and evening was spent around a cheery bon-fire. Most Challenging part of the day was yet to come…. Sleeping Bags, trust me it’s not easy to sleep in these in -18 degree, unless you have blessings of an “Old Monk” to take care of you.

Camps Setup at Juda Ka Talaab

Camps Setup at Juda Ka Talaab

Kedarkantha Base Camp:
Some of us decided to go back to Sankri due to injury and rest of us made two groups and group one with 11 of us started the trek around 9:00 post breakfast, second group with 5 teammates were to follow us once ready. The enclosing Deodar forest and fresh snow made it difficult to follow the trail and we had to make our own paths, however offered remarkable views of snow peaks and valleys. A maiden dressed in white, this is how the base camp looked after approx. 3 km of trek and the white radiance of the land had a mesmerizing ambience.

Kedarkantha Base Camp

Kedarkantha Base Camp

From here you get the first glimpse to the Kedarkantha Peak and feel “Oh Yes! Abhi”.. This is tranquil spot, offering solace. The rarified air and the clouds gliding by give the sight a surrealistic setting.

The Summit : First Glimpse

The Summit : First Glimpse

Lunch was getting ready but where’s the second group. After an hour of wait, we really got worried and sent some local guides in search of our team-mates. Finally after 2-3 hrs of rigorous effort, got the good news and meeting those 5 people was the great relief.

Lunch at the Shack

Lunch at the Shack

Colors of Life

Colors of Life

In the shack, there were stories from the LOST n FOUND group and the views that we would be missing as we didn’t get LOST. Another night in sleeping bags, guess what me and shikha found an innovative solution and stuffed the sleeping bags with all our remaining stuff from rucksacks and used our overcoat as blankets inside the sleeping bags. It did help, but tonight there was another problem, with all the lost n found event, camps were made up in hurry and the base was not leveled, another freezing night and zero sleep.

Kedarkantha Base Camp II

Kedarkantha Base Camp II

The Summit Yatra :
Early Morning hour was spent in dilemma to go or not to go ahead, untill the Team Captain asked us to get ready, that brought us back to the reality, and a glance to the top, energized us. We quickly got ready with our Tractions and Gaiters (temporary one) and started to what we refer now as “The Journey to Another World”.

Kadam Kadam Badaye Jaaa..

Kadam Kadam Badaye Jaaa..

It does become more strenuous as you start to reach the top. The views afforded on-route were phenomenal, and every turn was a must-stop-and-soak-in-the-view location!

Almost at the Top

Almost at the Top

Finally, we reached and each one of us shouted …. YES…..!!!

Feeling : Top of the World

Feeling : Top of the World

The large flat hilltop presents a 360 degree views of the area. Besides the perennially snow-capped chain of the Greater Himalayan ranges, very few peaks in the vicinity match the grandeur on display here.

The Summit : Yes we did it and did it together !!

The Summit : Yes we did it and did it together !!

Starting from Base Camp in the morning to the Summit and reaching Sankri by evening had to ascend and descend, covering 12km in a single day, not an easy task. It’s not for everyone, but is makes for a great challenge for those who are up to it and yes we were!!

Mostly trek operators/itinerary recommends to make another stopover at Har ki Gaon, another beautiful place. The enclosing deodar forest keeps the spot shaded and hidden away. However as planned, by evening we were at Sankri. Followed the same route from Sankri to Dehradoon, but this time it was not the Antakshari or games, but memories of the trek and stories that kept us busy.

Trek Essentials:
Apart from Physical Fitness, the most important item : Shoes. Forclaz 500 and above is recommended, tractions and gaiters are a must if you plan to visit during winters. A visit to nearby decathlon store will help. Bag packs and Rucksacks from Wildcraft are also available online at Amazon. Ultimately it would be your determination that would take you to the Summit.

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”
― Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

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