What Everyone Ought To Know About This Breathtaking Trek

31st Mar 2019

Kedarkantha Summit - Conquered

Photo of What Everyone Ought To Know About This Breathtaking Trek by Malhar Lakdawala

Continuing the annual tradition of summer trips, a bunch of us were looking for a place to go. Options ranged from Dubai, Tokyo, NorthEast, but somehow the ‘Beginner’s Trek’ of Kedarkantha caught our attention. We (Kunal) quickly did the bookings and waited eagerly for the days to come in.

People suggested us for moderate breathing and physical exercise to get ready for the trek; we complied with both. Packed with warm clothes, energy bars, and other essentials, we reached Delhi via flight, and then via train to Dehradun.

Day 1

So our travel started off from Dehradun, driver’s no. was already shared with us, and timely pickup was arranged. It was a 200kms drive through the hills: passing Mussorie, Kempty falls, Lakhmandal Caves and other scenic places as we proceed. We took breakfast and lunch breaks at regular intervals and reached Sankri by 3:00pm.

Enroute Sankri via Kempty Falls

Photo of Kempty Falls, Lakhwad, Kempty, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

Sankri is at a height of 6000ft and is the last place till where the vehicle goes. Sankri is a small hamlet, with not more than 1000 people dwell. The major focus is on tourism, as many treks originate from Sankri. There are a few small tea houses, where one can get simple food, Maggie and Momos to eat.

Photo of Sankri, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

With the rucksack and all essentials, we started our climb to Juda ka talab (JKT) which was at 9000 feet. The uphill Trek was of 8 kms (they say it is 4 kms, but its point-to-point, the actual distance traveled via foot is 8 kms, we verified this by multiple tracking devices). The trek started through the woods, with conventional rocky and muddy forest terrain. As we approached JKT, snowy terrain started, and it was a complicated task to accomplish the last 10% of the trek. We reached JKT by 2 pm, almost exhausted.

We met the Trek leader, named Raj Mohan, who was one of a gem person. With 25 years of trekking experience in Kashmir, Nepal, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Indian Army and other places, he had lots of captivating stories to share.

We were offered lunch, evening snacks, and dinner at regular intervals. We were briefed about the trek: plan of action, dos and dont's, rules to follow, and what not. We were introduced to our guide, named Yashpal, who again was a person of interest. As all of us were doing the snow trek for the first time, we were all ears. We collected our trekking gears, which we had already booked online.

Renting tip: We booked rental equipment viz. Shoes, Gaiters, Walking sticks, Headlamps from Himalayanhigh. We were told, it will be water/snow proof shoes, but it wasn’t really the case. All the equipment was from Decathlon. Instead of renting, it might be more economical to buy it directly from Decathlon.

Day 2

This is the day when we started our actual trek. We assembled at 8:00 am, had a heavy breakfast, and started our ascend by 9 am. We were a group of 4+1 guide. At Kedarkantha, there is a rule to have 1 guide for 5 people, so you are always in close watch of commanded eyes.

Starting our trek

Photo of Sankri, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

Frozen Lake of Juda Ka Talab

Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand by Malhar Lakdawala

JKT is a frozen lake, surrounded by snow. Our campsite was a few feet below JKT region. There are several companies’ campsites at the location. We were offered Dal-Rice in lunch to refuel our Carbohydrates and Proteins levels.

Rest of the day went in playing games with other trekkers and sharing travel stories.

Tip: Avoid sleeping and having medicines once on the trek. If you are facing any signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) the best solution is to descend

Day 3

This was our acclimatization day. After breakfast, we did a small 3km trek to other campsite named, Hargaon. Met several trekkers who were either ascending or descending the mountain. We preponed our schedule and slept early, as we had to start our summit climb at night 3am

Acclimatization Trek to Hargaon

Photo of Hargaon, Uttar Pradesh, India by Malhar Lakdawala

One has to sleep in sleeping bags, inside tents. Sleeping bag experience can be tricky, many reported that they didn’t get proper sleep, as many aren’t accustomed to that kind of sleep. Even washroom facility is by a dry toilet. For the food, almost all the operators have wonderful kitchen facilities. We were fed almost 6 times in a day:

• 8am – Morning Lemon Tea

• 10am – Breakfast – One Indian Breakfast like Upma, Poha and Cornflakes; accompanied by Bournvita, coffee and Milk

• 2pm – Lunch (Dal – Rice)

• 4pm – Evening Snacks (Maggie, Pakoda, etc)

• 6pm - Hot Soup

• 8pm – Dinner (Roti, Sabji, Dal, Rice, Sweet)

Delicious Meal at 9000ft

Photo of What Everyone Ought To Know About This Breathtaking Trek by Malhar Lakdawala
Day 4

We woke up at 2am, got freshened up, had breakfast (yes, they cooked Chana dal and porridge for us at 2am). Got our gaiters, headlamps, torches, and crampons on, and started our ascend by 3 am at a temperature of -5C. 5 of us stayed together and walked in a straight line.

Scary Tip: If you are wearing headlamps, you will see many glowing eyes of animals reflecting back. Those eyes can be of a dog or a wolf, no one knows. I found many pairs of eyes staring at me as we moved. A pair of eyes was staring at me through a tree we were passing from. So you are never alone on the trek :-P. Best is to focus on your trek.

Enroute Kedarkantha Summit | Time: 4am

Photo of Kedarkantha Base Camp, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

Trekking in the night is a bit easier, as snow is very hard and crampons make a great grip on them. Since there is no sunlight, weather conditions aren’t harsh. We were able to cover quite a distance in the dark.

Tip- Take plenty of water and energy bars with you, as climb to the summit is completely self-supported

Snow White Blanket in the entire Pathway

Photo of Kedarkantha Base Camp, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

We saw a wonderful sunrise arising from the snow-clad mountains. The peaks of the mountains turned golden, and it was a surreal sight to witness.

By 8am we reached the foothills of the Kedarkantha mountain. In front of us is a juggernaut mountain fully covered in snow. At this point, we had already trekked for 12kms, and this is the point where the majority of the trekkers give up. From the photo (below), the summit looks achievable, but it is a 2-hour continuous uphill trek of final 3 kms.

Juggernaut Kedarkantha Mountain. Zoom at the Red Arrow, you will be able to see people climbing up

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

We started our journey for final ascend by 8:30am, and it was indeed fatiguing. It was no more a physical challenge, but a mental one. Yashpal, guide, who didn’t say much in the entire hike, started encouraging us. He stated, don’t focus on the far-sighted summit, but focus on nearsighted trails. Focus on pushing oneself up. Many times my group members felt to give up, but he kept supporting. After 2 hours of the trek, there comes a juncture of a narrow ridge. Its essential to control one’s body as one wrong move, one can be at this side of the ridge or that side, directly into the valley. Final 15 minutes of the summit were equally dangerous and challenging. That was definitely not a thing, we had signed up for. Crampons have metal based spikes’ sole which gives great grip on snow but is slippery on a rocky surface. Here we were hopping on huge rocks, trying to maintain control at each step, cursing all the decisions which led us up here; and there he was, our guide, strolling around the ridge with his hands in his pockets. He helped us through the final steps, to concur the summit

Inching in towards the summit

Photo of Kedarkantha, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand by Malhar Lakdawala

It was one of the finest moments, once we were up; We finally made it. From 12,500ft, the view from the peak was breathtaking. The snow- clad Himalayan range was in front of us. We celebrated our achievement with unfurling the Indian Flag. We were all alone at the top, and a feeling of accomplishment marched in. All the pain, hunger, boredom, was gone; the magnificent sight kept us captivated.

Conquering Kedarkantha Summit

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

View from the Top

Photo of Kedarkantha Summit, Bandiyar, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

We began our descend by 11am, which was very late according to all the standards.

If Going Up was tough, then coming down was equally complicated. We knew how to climb the mountain, but didn’t know how to descend it. We just weren’t accustomed to climbing down.

On a narrow ridge, seeing the base point which is 2 kms below, it was an arduous task. We came below a few steps and then just slided down

Since the temperature was high, snow became soft, the slides weren’t that smooth.

Descending Kedarkantha

The return to the JKT base camp trek was exhausting, somehow we were able to reach campsite by 4pm. Support staff was prompt enough to serve us lunch and look after our body. We finally rested after a 14 hour, 30km trek and a heavy meal.

View from Our tents at Juda Ka Talab

Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand by Malhar Lakdawala

Gulab Jamuns were waiting for us in the dinner to cherish our achievement.


Day 5

We woke up, and this was the time to say goodbye to the beautiful memories. At this time we 4 were only there in the entire campsite. The chef, support staff, each one of us became quite emotional bidding goodbye. They had selflessly assisted us, and didn’t leave any stone unturned for our summit conquering. We started our descend by 9am, after bidding goodbye to everyone. We were walking very comfortably and reached Sankri by 2pm.

Bidding Goodbye to the Awesome Trek Support Team

Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand by Malhar Lakdawala

Once down, we had our lunch, and had our first bath in last 4 days (Didn’t I tell you, there is no bathing facility on the trek). By evening, we went to the market area, and found so many familiar faces. Fellow trekkers, other guides, Maggie point shack owners; our connection with the place just went deeper. Four days ago, we were absolutely clueless about this place, and now so many people and stories to reminisce.

On this final day, we bid goodbye to a wonderful place; a place who not only had its own beauty to flaunt but also a place which brought out the good in us. Before this trek, we never thought we would be able to live in such camping conditions. Who would have thought, we would be trekking at 3am in the night, in -5C temperature at 9000ft in snowy condition.

Human capabilities, indeed has no limits

Do ping me in for any queries related to trek, I would be more than excited to answer

Few things to note:

We found several articles stating this as a beginner’s trek, but in our opinion, this was no way a beginner’s trek. The difficulty level can be stated as Medium difficultly level. Kindly do this trek, if you have a good physical endurance. Maybe people from the north have a good tolerance for Cold and height, Mumbaities lack both. So plan carefully

This is a weather-sensitive trek, February 2019 was so snowy that no groups went to the summit. Strong winds, snowfall, etc affects this trek drastically, your guide should be able to make sound decisions for you

In the case of AMS, Descend

While taking First Aid, mark your medicines with relevant disorder it cures. We missed this. So we had the entire bag of medicines, but didn't know which medicine to take :-P

We trekked with a team of Trekveda and TrekTheHimalayas (TTH). Apart from these, Indiahikes also has a good set up. Try to go on a trek only from these, others were more like a pop-up.

We paid around Rs. 8500-9000 for Dehradun-Dehradun 6 days itinerary, inclusive of food, stay and travel. Excluding of rented equipment

If anyone has photos of the ridge up there, please share, I’ll post it in my blog, with due credits

Kindly share your summit experiences, I’ll be glad to witness your stories.

One with the Trek Lead - (from Left) Ketan Jain, Raj Mohan (Trek Lead), Me - Myself (Hi!), Kunal Jain, Leena Jain (R)

Photo of Sankri, Uttarakhand, India by Malhar Lakdawala

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