KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek

Tripoto
5th Jan 2018
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

It has taken almost an eternity for me to write this one. If you're planning your next winter trek, then this blog is for you.

But before I dive in, allow me to tell you how it all began. Taking you to the big bang.

Last year, I was blogging on Tripoto and after an intense month of finger bleeding typing resulting in various blogs, I won the 2nd prize, a trek to Kedarkantha with dates of my choosing, fully sponsored by the lovely folks of Tripoto. The trek was organized by the leaders of trekking community in India, Indiahikes. I chose second week of January as the dates of departures as I'd researched it'd be a good time to expect snowfall.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek 1/1 by Shashank Sinha
credits: Google

Days, weeks and months passed by and finally the date arrived when I had to embark this journey. I've mentioned Rs 12k as the cost of this trek (commercial pricing). For me, it was fully sponsored minus the traveling costs to Dehradun and back!

The first leg was an overnight journey from Delhi to Dehradun.

Indiahikes had already sent the communication about the taxi driver's numbers, to all trekkers 2 days prior. Once I arrived in the wee hours, I immediately called the driver and located my cab. The trekker had to bear the cost of the cab from Dehradun to Gainchwan village (the place from where the trek would begin). It was a scenic drive and I interacted with a few of the other trekkers from my group.

Cost of cab: Rs 1100/-

Duration of Journey 6-7 hours.

One of the reasons why I was excited to do this trek with Indiahikes was that they had recently discovered a new trail to KK (Kedarkantha). All other trekking communities/groups followed the route of Sankri till the summit & back. Following IH's (Indiahike) route offered isolation from the rest & scenic (also different) route via ascent. While descent we were supposed to go via thee regular route towards Sankri only.

As soon as we reached the guest house, we were told not to bath, as we might expose ourselves to risk of hypothermia. In high altitudes AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is common and hence we followed the expert opinions.

Blood pressure and oxygen level was recorded for each & everyone. This would be done at the start and end of the day's hike by IH for the next 3 days. I was highly impressed with their professional conduct throughout.

The first night at the guesthouse we interacted with each other. There was a group of 10 students from Mumbai, 2 brothers from Pune, 2 sisters from Bangalore, a father-son duo from Kolkata and few others. It was quite a diverse group & I was excited to know what the next days had in store for me.

Day 2

We woke up, had a light breakfast and soon formed a circle around the trek-leader. The trek leader was supposed to be in the middle of the queue while trekking at all times and his two comrades at the head and tail of the group ensuring no one gets lost and maintains the pace.

So we started.

As I walked and gained altitude, I'd take short gaps to restore my breath or to sip in water from my hydration pack. Or at other times to observe the natural surroundings around.

Soon we reached another small village where we rested for a while and had snacks & even played cricket with local boys for 10-15 minutes. It was such fun to interact with the villagers or to see the insides of their homes created mostly of wood!

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

But soon we picked pace as we had to reach the next campsite before dusk. Here are a few more pictures.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Womens tents were segregated from Mens & even if you were married, you weren't allowed to share a tent as per IH policies. Toilet and Kitchen tents were present at a stone's throw from us.

A sumptuous dinner was served. Almost forgot, one has to carry their own cutlery to eat/pack food for the trek. It was so cold that it hurt to wash the hands with cold water. The fingers would go numb and hurt excruciatingly. At our request IH did arrange warm water also although we had to use it judiciously.

Day 2 concluded with a bonfire session in the evening with travel stories shared by many to pass the time. A few students tried their hands on astral-photography as temperatures dropped, although they were not satisfied with the results.

Day 3

The morning view.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Kadhi Chawal always my favourite.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Morning call was at 5 AM, one was supposed to eat by 6 AM, get fresh and depart hopefully by 7 AM. We strictly followed procedures. I had bonded with Utpal uncle and his son, Arnab, with whom I also shared my tent. At 54, uncle's fitness was remarkable! It was a great sight to see him hike faster than most of us and keep our spirits up! It was Arnab's first trek and he had slightly over-packed. IH arranged for porters for those who preferred to offload their bag-packs.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

The solitude!

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Throughout my journey, I can proudly say I didn't need to offload my rucksack.

A few more shots from the journey which lay ahead.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Small patches of snow had indeed turned to an ocean of it as we progressed. We made our way through the canopies into a clearing!

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Excited to see so much snow, the pace of our group decreased a bit as we found ourselves playing in it or at other

times, writing names. I sunk my trekking pole in the snow and I could tell it was more than 1.5 feet of snow present at some spots!

The canopies gave way again and it cleared out enough to know that there'd be no more trees along the way till the next camp site.

We reached around 3 PM.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

I remember being served fresh rhododendron juice at the camp site. Trek leader did a headcount and we gathered for lunch. The 2nd day's trek was fairly easier in comparison to 1st day, probably because our bodies understood the brunt of what we were putting it through.

After lunch, we simply lay on our respective yoga mats and congratulated each other for having reached the 2nd campsite. The final KK summit route clearly visible from here.

Here we were introduced to the 4th IH representative. I believe his name was Aryan. He was was a professional mountaineer and a skiing expert too. After our health check we received instructions from him about the planning for next morning's early summit attempt.

Summit climbs are usually done at night. At about 10 PM. But that's for mountains like Everest etc. We were briefed to start the summit at 5 AM max, if preferable then 4 AM even. The logic behind doing a summit at nights or at wee hours is, snow is a bit rock solid due to freezing temperatures of night and hence the crampons and microspikes under the shoes have a firm grip on it. By day time, it becomes soft and shallow. Each one of us was given a micro-spike or a crampon. Microspikes weren't available for my shoe size hence I had to wear crampons (professional mountaineers wear this only). IH's guides were helpful in helping me adjusting this under the shoe.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

At night it was sub-zero temperatures. I remember because one of us had brought a gauge of some sort. It was damn cold. The new year started in such an amazing way for me. I recall looking up at the sky. Never once had I seen so many celestial bodies at once. Such a clear night sky & a blanket of stars above me! It was surreal.

Day 4

Waking up the next morning was so tough! But the adrenaline of reaching the summit was gushing through. After all, this was the hard part. Once up, it'd only be descent afterwards I thought.

And so under the leadership of Aryan and the other guides we started. Helping each other hand in hand to overcome obstacles of any sort. It was a group effort in pitch darkness. We knew we'd miss the sunrise but that was okay. It was a group decision after all.

The gradient started to turn a bit steeper however, slowly and steadily we pulled through. The views were so magnificent from the top. It's rightly said, the best views are after the hardest climbs.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

We met a few other people on the summit too (from other groups). Our guide, JaiRam gave us a brief introduction of the peaks surrounding us. Swargarohini peaks were visible from here along with Kala Naag, Bandar Puch 1-2 etc along with mythological significance associated with it.

The story of Lord Shiva on Kedarkantha: The locals tell various tales about Lord Shiva's attachment to Kedarkantha. Legend has it that Lord Shiva sat on the top of Kedarkantha for meditation but due to disturbances from the local villages in the vicinity, ended up evading it and moved to Kedarnath instead.

At an elevation of 12,500 feet realizing all this was a memorable experience.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

After spending about an hour and a half on the top, we decided to descend.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Memories of Bhrigu came rushing back when I got to know we were going to slide a couple of times on our way down. And indeed we did! Snow crept in my shoes however I didn't mind. It was one hell of an experience. Just don't hurt yourself and brake at the right time doing this stunt! You'll never forget it trust me.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Taking a short break to eat Egg Maggi.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

Reaching the final campsite, a little before Juda Ka Talab.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

In the mornings, we'd wake up to our tents covered with snow! We had missed snowfall throughout the journey!

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

The summit was over however trekking continued.

Day 5

We began early morning (the routine by now) again and descended further. I met many trekkers from YHAI. Boy, their groups are huge!

The next highlight was the frozen lake!

First View

Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand by Shashank Sinha

It indeed was frozen completely when I reached. People were playing cricket right on the lake itself! First it freaked me out! Then slowly I mustered courage too!

I put my bagpack on the ground, set my phone on timelapse mode on the little tripod and walked on the lake! Biblical !

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

The legend has it that Lord Shiva opened a little of his hair and water flowed out to form this small pond.

We continued further down and reached Sankri. Our accomadation was at Gypsy Child Hostel. It was a pretty funky place with the mountain feel to it.

Gypsy Child Hostel

Rooms were cozy but mostly there were dorm beds for individuals. A group of 25 easily accommodated there.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

In the evening all of us went to the village market to shop for some souvenir or just to pass time.

Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha
Photo of KedarKantha - Here's why it should be your first winter trek by Shashank Sinha

One of the trekkers, Prasenjit from Kolkata created a beautiful composition of our journey later. Sharing his video below! And oh yes, I'm on the cover.

From Sankri we took the same cab to Dehradun which we took on Day 1 while coming up. And from Dehradun, I booked a seat in Shatabdi towards Delhi and reached Delhi around midnight.

In the last 6 days, I hadn't bathed but had one hell of a story to tell!

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