Kedarkantha Trek in Winter from Delhi

Kedarkantha Trek Report (7th till 11th March 2017)

 

“Out of the city and over the hill,
Into the spaces where Time stands still,

Cast away care and come roaming with me!”

juda ka talab - Kedarkantha trek

On 5th of March at around 4:00 PM, I decided to do Kedarkantha Trek. Actually I was pretty drunk when the travel bug bit me. SO what did I do? I packed (This I realized once I arrived in Sankari and opened my rucksack), two raincoats (only uppers), two half sleeve t shirts, one short and that was like all. I left in a hurry to catch a bus to Dehradoon from ISBT Delhi. The bus left at 7 PM from ISBT and arrived at Dehradoon during the wee hours at around 2 in the morning. The funny thing was that I didn’t have cash and I had the bus stop midway to withdraw cash from an ATM. I wonder how I persuaded the conductor to allow me to board the bus.

So I arrived in Dehradun and as the destiny would have it, met a few guys at a tea cum snack stall. They were returning from some wedding party and of all wonder and no wonder were carrying a few bottles of the liquid that lifts your spirit 🙂

After a few pegs, I concluded that I need some sleep. A desperate urge you see. Obviously I had to do some tough climb in coming days and to say I was not at all prepared will be an understatement. I haven’t walked or jogged for months. Spirits intake is at max level and what not.

So, pragmatically I decided to book a room in the first hotel that I will find and get an hour or two of power nap. The bus from Dehradun to Mussoorie start plying after 6:00 AM and it was like 3:00 AM.

Found a hotel near bus stand and paid 500 bucks. The nap really helped.  Woke up at 6:00 and headed straight for bus terminal. Took the bus and arrived in Mussoorie at around 11 AM. From there caught another bus that dropped me at Mori.

From Dehradun, it’s a meandering road via Mussoorie. The Yamuna at its best follows the winding course before you enter the territory of Tons river valley. It was late in the day when I arrived in Mori. I wondered if I would manage to reach Sankari that day or not.

From Mori, one needs to either hire a cab or catch a shared cab which will either drop you to Naitwar or Sankari. Hiring a cab privately was not an option as I was traveling solo on budget. So I took a shared cab to Naitwar and the final shared cab that dropped me at Sankri at around 5:30 PM.

Sankri is the last village connected to the motor road. This sleepy little village is about 13 Kms inside the Govind Wild Life Sanctuary. You need to take a permit after paying around 100-200 bucks at Netwair where the check post is located. I was not aware of this hencde didn’t took the permit. I was informed about it only when I was returning to Dehradun.

It was 7th of March as I arrived at Sankari, base for embarking on Kedarkantha Trek. There are only a few hotels/accommodation at Sankari. During peak season, pre booking is what I would advise anyone who is planning a trek to Kedarkantha Trek. However, March is not the peak season and so I was lucky to find the hotel almost vacant.

Even as I was in talk with the hotel guy, I met with a group of 5 guys. They too were from Delhi and were on to Kedarkantha Trek. They were negotiating rates for porter and tents for camping. And it so happened that I joined them which made us six. Quite good considering that each sleeping tent accommodates 3 persons. I was carrying my own sleeping bag but not the tent. Too much weight to carry and the physical condition that I was in I would rather rent one than carry my own.

So for the night, I checked into a hotel which was rented to me at 500 per night. It could have accommodated three people easily. As I settled into my room and opened my backpack I was in for a shock. As I stated in the very opening, I was baffled by my choice of things to pack.  And that it was a snow trek and the denim I was wearing was bound to get wet didn’t make me feel any better. I wasn’t even carrying extra pairs of socks and that my shoes were not waterproof didn’t help either.

And even as I told myself “all is well”, it rained the entire night with intermittent snowfall.

On 8thof March, it rained heavily followed by unseasonal snowfall again. I would have loved it if I was carrying proper clothing but I wasn’t so I was morose. And the fact that booze was not available in Sankari didn’t help either.

So I did what I do best. I slept most of the day. There were no phone connectivity and no TV. SO I was like completely cut off from the rest of the world. In my own world, I woke up in the evening and thankfully the rain abetted by then. By then my previous day’s hangover was completely over.

So I did what I do best. I got out of the bed, took my camera and stepped out of hotel for a stroll.

It was then I realized how beautiful a place Sankari was (is). Surrounded by mighty peaks of Himalayas and undulating lush valleys, Sankari is a sight to behold. And that it was snowing only added to the beauty of this remote hamlet in Uttarakhand. Not more than 300 people only live here. There are two hotels and a few shops only. That the place is not that popular among tourist is what helps maintain its pristine condition.

The fact that Sankari is an isolated place and the inhabitants so laid back coupled with the pastoral setting makes it an ideal base camp to unwind and recuperate. It was more so to me after a tiring ride from Delhi and days of hangover. My mind, body and soul detoxified as I had no booze to drink (body), no TV or phone or internet to keep me awake (mind) and as I savored the sight of lush valleys and snow laden mountains dotted with pine, maple and oak trees (soul).

It snowed entire night on 8th. Temperature hovered well below zero degrees. And I slept most of the time. Notwithstanding the fact that it snowed all night, it was decided that we will begin our trek to Kedarkantha on 9th of March. We had already delayed it by two days – most of which was spent as sleeping time. In fact there’s nothing much to do in Sankari. It is just a place to do nothing. There small hamlets in Uttarakhand and Himachal are definitely rejuvenating. In places like these, you come and do nothing and you do everything you wanted to do.

Coming back to trek, the guys I was travelling with were so full of energy that it was decided to give it a try on 9th to reach the basecamp instead of camping at Juda Ka Talao to compensate for the lost day. We started full of energy. The trek began at 11 AM which was late considering we were planning to make it to the base camp but it had to be due to heavy snowfall last night and in the morning as well.

So the trek begins. The sky looked ominous with promise of rain and fresh snowfall. For those who have been told that Kedarkantha Trek is a beginners trek and easy to do, be warned. It is not especially during winters. You do need proper gear such as crampons and trekking shoes to make to the summit.

The initial trail is quite steep and will make your every breath count. But don’t get disheartened. It will get easier as you climb. Starting of all the treks – as far as I am concerned – will take your breath away and it’s not just the scenery. The thing is that your muscle and lungs need to get into rhythm. Things fall into place after you have climber the first kilometer or so.

So with our porter cum cook in the lead we marched on towards Kedarkantha. After initial fatigue, I was happy to be making good progress. In fact I took the lead and raced ahead. The thing is that I always do better at uphill climb as compared to descent. For the most part trail was well buried beneath snow which was making the climb a bit difficult and tiring. Soon my shoes and socks got wet due to continuous walk in snow. The fact that I wasn’t carrying any pair of extra socks didn’t help either.

At around 1:00 PM, I reached the magi point which is located midway or so from Sankari to Juda ka Talab. I wait for the rest of the guys to catch up. It took full hour before they arrived. We had tea and I sat by the fire trying to dry my shoes. The fact that I was tired after the climb was only thing that kept me from shivering in that extreme cold weather. The entire surrounding was laden with 2-3 feet of snow.

At around 3:00 we started to make our ascent towards Juda ka Talab. The weather was turning more and more ominous by every passing minute and reaching base camp was out of question. We decided to camp at Juda ka Talab for the day. A few trekkers who were making descent told us that a day before up till Juda ka Talab it was lush green and only as they neared Kedarkantha Base Camp that they encountered snow. In our case it was snow all the way.

As soon as we left the magi point, it started to snow again. The oaks and maples were laden with snow and it was exhilarating to walk in the snow. In fact it was my first such experience. Never before have I trekked during snowfall even though I have done quite a few winter snow treks in Himalayas.

It took us another 2 hours to reach Juda ka Talao. It snowed all the way and I was wading in around 2 feet of snow, my shoes and socks all drenched and my feet almost numb.

At Juda ka Talao around 2-3 feet of snow had accumulated and there was no greenery except for the oak trees surrounding the lake and surrounding. Not even a stone on which one could stand to try to stand on dry ground. I desperately needed such place to get my shoes as dry as I could.

We pitched our tent on the snow itself. A few trekkers returning from base camp told us that it is impossible to do the Kedarkantha summit due to heavy snow unless you are carrying proper gears for snow trek. Only pros or people with sufficient gears could make it to the top. Most returned without climbing the summit. Weather wasn’t helping much either.

We tried to make a patio right outside our tent and a lot of fun leveling snow with our feet. We even – crazy as it may sound – went out to gather some wood to make a bonfire. Most of the wood that we collected was wet due to incessant rain and snowfall. But we did manage to collect some. The bonfire lasted as long as the spare kerosene though.

After dinner we retired to our tents and sleeping bags. Despite the fatigue of a tough day’s climb, the temperature around -5 to -10 was making it difficult for us to sleep. To make it worse, it started to snow which continued till morning. Every half hour we had to shake off the snow to prevent tent from collapsing. Oxygen level also got quite low making it difficult to breathe. We hardly slept at all. The heavy snowfall ruled out any attempts for further ascent. With my shoes, socks and now even jeans almost completely wet, going further up was like inviting disaster for me. Rest of the guys were also unwilling to make any further climb.

So after spending some time at Juda ka Talab most of which was devoted to photography, we started our descent back to Sankari. It took us around 3 hours to reach our hotel. During the descent, sun was up and melting snow made it rather difficult to tackle the trail. I slipped quite a few times as did others. However it was a fun descent. During the last stretch of the trail it started to rain and I got all drenched.

Arrived at hotel almost numb with cold and took a bath with the freezing cold water. Washed my jeans and shoes as they were the only pair that I had and changed into a half sleeve t shirt and a short for lower no sleepers either and it was snowing outside. Unbelievable as it was I had become impervious to cold.

It snowed entire night but I was quite cozy inside the comfort of woolen quilt. I was to catch the early morning bus(5:00 AM) along with other guys from Delhi but my body was not ready. So I slept late in the day and took a shared cab to Dehradun instead. As I walked out of the room I beheld a mesmerizing sight. The entire surrounding was covered in thick sheet of snow.

Never before had I witnessed so much of snowfall first hand. It is said that all is well if it ends well and leaving Sankari with memory of such enthralling scenery was worth the every hardship and spirit-less (pun intended) days I had spent and the tough ascent that I made although it was up till Juda ka Talab only.

On 11th March 8:30 AM left Sankri to Dehradun ( via Naitwar to Mori to Purola to Naugaon to Damta at 12:50 PM to Nainbagh 1:20 PM to Kempty Falls at 2:20 PM to Mussoorie at 2:45 PM.) I arrived in Dehradun at 4:00 PM. I left Dehradun after lip smacking dal tadka and tandoori roti all just for 75 bucks at lucky da dhaba.

It took 4 painstakingly long hours to reach Roorkee from there. Dunno how long will it take to reach Delhi. It is 10:30 even as I write this. Delhi is still far.

As an afterthought, this is the first travelogue I have written on my phone while sitting in the bus as I travel back home. Quite a start ah! Well looks like it. This is my first solo trek too. You see, there’s always a first time.

And this also happens to be the first time that I have delayed publishing a post that too by three months.

However Kedarkantha still beckons though and I will be back.

Practical Information:

Delhi to Dehradun: INR 275

Dehradoon to Mussoorie: INR 80

Mussorrie to Mori: INR 120

Mori to Naitwar: INR 60 in shared cab

Naitwar to Sankari: INR 60 in shared cab

Trek Cost: 1500 including tent and porter cum guide cum cook

Sankari to Dehradun: INR 500 in a shared cab

Dehradun to Delhi: INR 250

Total Cost: INR 2965 excluding 1000 at hotel in Sankari and INR 500 at hotel in Dehradun

Total Days: 6

Distance travelled from Sankari: 6 kilometers of round trek to Juda ka Talab

 

P.S. Will add more photos later

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