MY FIRST TREK TO SNOW CAPPED MOUNTAIN-KEDARKANTHA
It started with a very random conversation with my friend Mady. We were discussing the importance to be away from the job stress, and guess the solution? Yes, It was a 'Hike to Snow capped Mountain'. We have completed so many treks from Sahyadri region in Maharashtra, but not so far single trek from Himalaya’s Mountain. A trek to snow-capped Mountain was one of the most awaited dream that could not full fill due to some reasons. Now was the time to give my dream a positive direction. My fingers went to scroll the list of Himalayan Mountains in Uttarakhand region that has numerous proud peaks and one of them is snow covered Kedarkantha.
Kedar means 'Lord Shiv' and Kantha means 'Throat'. The story goes back to Mahabharata. The Pandavas wish to built the Kedarnath temple here, but due to some omens they left the temple in half and that too up to throat and later that temple was built in Kedarnath. Kedarkantha is one of those magical Mountain that gives 360 view of Uttarakhand Mountains. Kedarkantha a name comes with snow cap peal, lush green meadows, tall pine trees, sunlight dousing your trail in golden glow. The Mountain is situated at the elevation of 12500 feet.
HOW TO REACH HERE
Sankri is the base village to start the trek in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state, this can be accessed by following ways.
The nearest airport is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun which is located about 25 km from Dehradun city. It is further well connected from Delhi airport.
You need to reach Dehradun railway station which is well connected from major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi. There are frequent trains available from Delhi to Dehradun. or
One can reach to Haridwar station from Delhi and then share cab or bus to Dehradun.
Dehradun is 255 km from Delhi so one can go by drive. There are regular buses that run from Delhi to Dehradun so it is advised to board government bus from Kashmiri gate in Delhi for Dehradun. One can also travel from Haridwar to Dehradun by bus.
Once you reach Dehradun take local transport like cab or bus to reach Sankri which is base village of the trek. Sankri is 200 km from Dehradun (There are only two buses available in between 6 am to 8 am).
MY EXPERIENCE OF KEDARKANTHA FROM MUMBAI
Day 1 TRAIN JOURNEY FROM MUMBAI
24th December 2019 was the day which was going to be Dream come true for me. Day started with bad new, as we missed our ticket confirmation just by 9 seats. Somehow we managed to travel in general compartment of the express train which was 22 hours journey to Delhi from Mumbai. Dehradun station was closed for few months due to which we had to travel via Haridwar.
DAY 2 HARIDWAR TO DEHRADUN
My plan was to reach Haridwar and then direct to Dehradun. On second day morning, we reached at Delhi and took another express train to Haridwar. Delhi to Haridwar distance was not more than 4 hours. Being enough time in hand we decided to explore Haridwar. “best of the journey comes when they are unplanned”, being enough time in hand we headed to Har ki Pauri in Haridwar which was only 2 km from Haridwar station. Har Ki Pauri is famous Ghat on the River Ganga where hundred’s taking a dip in water of Ganges. Aarti takes place daily evening between 6 pm to 7 pm. After aarti, we had Haridwar special Paratha and left for Dehradun by share cab. Haridwar to Dehradun distance was 2 hours by cab. As we reached Dehradun, we booked hotel near to tyagi road and stayed overnight. (Haridwar to Dehradun share cab charge-70 INR per person.
DAY 3 DRIVE FROM DEHRADUN TO SANKRI (195 km drive)
Dehradun-Kedarkantha-Dehradun, ideal itinerary takes 5 days, but we finished this distance in 3 day.
We checkout early at 5 am and started our journey towards destination. We met another two mad travelers Manav and Ujwal from Delhi and became good friends for whole trek. "Sometimes the journey is better than the destination" We hired share cab to reach Sankri which was the base village of Kedarkantha. Today the cab journey was about 195 km long and drive was so scenic that passes through Mussoorie hill station and then to tons of River on one side along with curvy roads. One can enjoy the view of lush Green Mountains with the feel of yourself standing on the top of clouds. We insisted cab driver to take photogenic break as we wanted to click some views of Mussoorie. This is one of the chilling place which is famous for it's kempty waterfall.
The route was Dehradun- Vikasnagar- Selaqui- Nougau- Purola- Netwar- Sankri. Remember the mobile network will not be available once you cross Purola village. We reached Sankri at 4 pm in the evening. Temperature at Sankri was in the range of 2 to 4 degree. (Cab charges from Dehradun to Sankri-500 INR per person)
Sankri is the base village where you find number of guest houses and homes to stay. There are two shops where trekking gears are available on rent. We had no crampons for trek, and luckily shop owner had only four crampons which we reserved for ourselves. After renting essential gears, we went to search place to stay overnight. It was Matri Devi home stay where we landed for night halt. They charged us 500 per head with one night food and night stay. Remember, once you reach Sankri immediately head to DC office to take permit, only if you are coming solo as permit is compulsory for all trekkers to enter in Govind wildlife sanctuary where trek starts. Unless you don't show guide to officers in DC office, you won't get permit. This is why we had to take guide along with us who also helped us for food at trek point. Mr Meher Singh who met us at Sankri and became guide for whole trek, he charged 1200 per head from 4 of us and helped us from getting permit to providing food till we finish the trek.
DAY 4- SANKRI TO KEDARKANTHA BASE CAMP (8 KM)
Ideal trek from Sankri is of 4 days from Sankri to Sankri which is offered by most of travel companies that includes Day 1- sankri to Jud ka Talab 4 km walk, Day 2-Jud Ka Talab to Kedarkantha base camp 4 km walk, Day 3- Kedarkantha base camp to Kedarkantha peak and back to Base camp 6 km walk and Day 4-Base camp to Base village Sankri. We had finish this trek in 30 hours from Sankri to back to Sankri. After overnight home stay, we got up at 7 am in morning and headed to DC office to take a permit for trek. Mr Meher Singh(guide) who helped us for getting permit with all the documentation process, and started this trek without wasting any time. The starting point of the trek is a charming little village called Sankri. The trail starts after short 5 minutes walk from the village. "Do breathe in and out exercise before starting the trek". For me to trek in Maharashtra was easy, but the trek in low oxygen area with bag-pack loaded with 10 kg stuff was going to be so tough for me. It took us 3 hours to cover the distance of 4 km, first check point called 'Juda ka Talab (Lake'. The temperature was in the range of minus as lake was frozen, but no one was allowed to go on it due to some risk factor. A slight change in altitude can do you astonishment. This was first time that I have ever seen frozen lake in real and my happiness was abundant. The ascend becomes difficult when your bag pack is loaded with minimum 10 kg stuff on back including tent, mat and sleeping bag as the climbing is in low oxygen area. While on the way to 'Juda ka Talab', there are small huts available that provides Maggy, eggs and tea only.
After this freezing break, we started towards our destination as Mountain was calling us. We had some fruits and energy bar which helped us to regain lost energy. You can keep some orange candy with you, it helped me a lot. You should keep drinking water every half an hour, though you don't feel like thirsty. From here the track with steep ascend that goes through dense forest of pine and oak trees which are deeper in snow. At 3 pm we reached at base point. After reaching the base Mr Meher singh helped us to set up our tent that we already carried and later he cooked some Dal Rice for us. Real twist comes here, after eating two bites, later it became Ice Cold Dal Rice for us. This is first time what I experienced, but due to no other choice we had to eat that cold rice. We had a long break here before sunset and fired some woods. Relaxation season for sometime continues here, that made us more photogenic. Kedarkantha Base camp lies at 11250 feet, where we experienced camping with bone fire.
KEDARKANTHA BASE CAMPING , LAST CHECK POINT BEFORE PEAK
The evening sky view was equally pretty with shining stars and planets decking the sun. As the night comes the sight becomes more gorgeous with Milky Way stretching from one end to other. Till time our dinner was ready and Mr Meher Singh called us to have delicious dinner made by him, and trust me it was so tasty. After dinner we went to sleep as next day was going to be very tough. At night temperature goes down. It was -7 degree. Overnight stay at the tent.
DAY 5 BASE CAMP-KEDARKANTHA SUMMIT-SANKRI(14 KM)& THEN BACK TO DEHRADUN
Yes, this is where our turning point lies. Last day of the trek which was going to be so hectic and long day. Today trekkers needs to hike from elevation of 11250 feet to 12500 feet. Ideally it is long day but the excitement of the journey and conquering the peak would be far greater and much more worthy. We kept everything inside the tent, except our camera. Mr Meher Singh heat up some water for us to drink along the way and left the base camp at around 3 am in midnight. There were so many people with us who turned on their torch light and started walking in queue towards summit. Everyone had one aim and guess what? It was to reach summit before sun reaches summit. If you are visiting Kedarkantha then never ever miss the sunrise from peak.
Night walk towards final destination, where temperature is in the range of -5 to -7 degree was amazing experience. Now was the time for crampons to comes in the picture. As the snow becomes hard to walk then crampon is the one that will help you to ascend that gives grip to your shoes. Without crampons, it is impossible to climb up. The ascend that goes through deep snow is such a narrow path that you will have to walk in queue. As I started reaching on more height my heart started pumping so fast. I know, I was suffering a lot as this was my first trek in minus temperature with low oxygen. "Best of the view comes, after hardest climb". When you look back from the top and you see the only head lamp light in ziz-zag and sound of crampons fractions the ice is enchanting. Towards the end of trail, trek becomes little difficult for first time trekkers.
Climbing through Oak trees till end, one can find the Kedarkantha peak much closer. At 6:00 am we reached summit. At the top of peak there is beautiful small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. There is small shrine of Lord Ganesh too. When you reach at the top and looking at all people standing back to each other and waiting for sun to appear slowly and paints the sky, is breathe taking view. It was dream came true for me. One can get deep in the first rays of the morning sun and gain all lost energy. One can even visualize the arresting 360 view of the snow-capped peaks of Uttarakhand. One can relax at the top and enjoy the magical beauty of sunrise. In my entire life I have never seen such a huge crowd walking in coldly night just to witness the magical sunrise from Kedarkantha.
MAGICAL VIEW OF SUN PAINTING THE SKY
We clicked lots of pictures on top, though it was so cold at summit. One of my favorite and dream came true picture was holding India’s flag from the height of 12500 feet. One of my trek mate was feeling so cold due to which he could not remove his gloves that appeared in my photos.
We spent almost 2 hours at top of the peak and started return journey from another route. This trail was covered with snow descending and sliding through snow. Those who has waterproof cloths can slide. Descending from any trek is so easy. It took almost 1 and half hour to reach back to base camp. I was feeling so hungry till the time. Mr Meher Singh made some Maggy for us. We packed our bags and left around 11 am to way back to Sankri.
Descending from any trek doesn't take much time. We reached Sankri around 3 pm without taking multiple break and immediately took a cab for Dehradun. We all went to sleep in cab after long day listening pahadi songs. We reached Dehradun at 11 pm in night and then traveled overnight to Delhi by sleeper coach travels. (charges 400 INR per person).
DAY 6 RETURN JOURNEY FROM DEHRADUN TO MUMBAI VIA DELHI
We reached Delhi early morning at 5 am and took express (Goa Sampark Kranti Express) train from Delhi to Mumbai that took almost 15 hours to reach Mumbai. Luckily we got emergency ticket in sleeper coach. I was still missing Kedarkanthas magical peak. Now my must visit place list is added all the top Mountains from Uttarakhand region.
IDEAL TIME TO VISIT KEDARKANTHA
Kedarkantha can be done throughout the year apart from monsoon.
Ideal time is November to January where temperature ranges from 0 degree to -10 degree.
In this period, sometime heavy snow will shut final summit at peak. Before leaving one should cross check the climate.
From February to May trek is available with mesmerizing view.
In heavy snowfall it may affect to reach summit.
PLACES TO STAY NEARBY
If one wants to stay at Dehradun, there are lots of OYO hotels available near to Tyagi road in Dehradun that provides stay option ranging from minimum 400 INR to 1000 INR per head.
We had stayed at Hotel Mayank which charged 400 per person, which was quite descent also.
At Sankri lots of home stay option available in the normal range with delicious home-made food.
One of my favorite was Matri-devi home stay.
At Kedarkantha base camp, the only option for stay is Camping. If you are going with any company then you need not to worry about camping.
If traveling solo then rent out some camping stuff at Sankri.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN UTTARAKHAND
Rishikesh- Yoga city at Himalayan foot hill.
Haridwar- Hilltop temple and Ganges ceremony.
Jim Corbette National Park- Bengal tigers and Ramganga reservior.
Nainital-Hilltop resort set on Nainital Lake.
Tungnath temple- Worlds highest Shiva temple.
THINGS TO REMEMBER ON KEDARKANTHA TREK
Physical fitness in necessary.
Permit and Guide is compulsory. Permit can get from DC office between 7 am to 5 pm. Permit cost is 150 per person per day.
Carry proper woolen cloths, thermal fleece with padded jacket to stay away from wind.
Keep at least high ankle shoes which will protect snow to enter in shoes.
Micro-spike or Crampon is must needed in night walk.
Head lamp or torch is necessary.
Carry proper insulator water bottle and some energy bar throughout trek.
There are some huts available at check-point that sells tea, omelette and Maggy. There are no huts at summit.
At last portable tents have put as a washroom.
Do ask in case of any guide or query to plan your trip.