3rd December 2020. I was sitting with my friend on a bench, waiting for my train to Dehradun. We were rubbing our hands to keep ourselves warm in the bitter Delhi cold. At least we had a bench to sit on comfortably. The usually crowded Nizamuddin station was no more so. Corona had successfully frightened the crowd away. Yet my orophilic self was at unrest with excitement. I checked my watch. 11:40 pm. Still, 5 minutes to go for the train to come… for this new adventure to begin. And there I saw, a blazing light in the distance. We got up, picked our luggage, and prepared ourselves to board the train.
Table of Content
- Day 1 of Kedarkantha Trek
- Day 2 of Kedarkantha Trek
- Day 3 of Kedarkantha Trek
- Day 4 of Kedarkantha Trek
- Day 5 of Kedarkantha Trek
- Day 6 of Kedarkantha Trek
- For Trekking Package
The train arrived at the Dehradun railway station around five in the morning. As we stepped outside, I felt a shiver run down my spine. The chilly morning was one reason. It was complemented by the Covid examination squad waiting to welcome us. Of course, I did not have any symptoms. But you know, that fear… what if… what if I was found positive and quarantined? I gathered my courage, presented them with my Adhar card and other personal details, and took the test. I took a sigh of relief when we were done with this.
A taxi awaited us outside the railway station. I made sure to withdraw some cash from the only atm on our route. It was around 8 am that we left Dehradun for our greater adventure!!
Once settled, I took in a deep breath. Ah, that car-ish odour, characteristic of any travel. I looked outside the window to savour the view of the mountains. A nostalgic warm feeling enveloped me as we passed through Mussoorie. My travel thirst that the lockdown had caused was getting quenched.
But there was something off. Against this beautiful spirited backdrop of Nature, we felt staled by the train journey.
Hence, we decided to halt and freshen up at a roadside Dhaba. I brushed my teeth and spruced up my spirits. Then we sat down to nourish ourselves. Resting at places on a long journey has a delight of its own.
Breakfast at Mussoorie road
I had some paranthas at the Dhaba. Paranthas are an all-time favorite. A trip feels incomplete without having paranthas with melted butter dripping on it. I also had focaccia bread with me. My girlfriend who owns a bakery in Dehradun had come to meet us at the railway station. Before leaving she gave me this focaccia. The cheesy delight garnished with love was the tastiest I had ever eaten.
While the morsels of food served my hungry stomach, my eyes relished on the view of the mountains. From the Dhaba, I could see two cosms of Nature uniting. A row of trees with mountains in the background. Their heads shaking hands with the rich blue hues of the sky.
Now that we had freshened up and sated our souls, we gathered ourselves together. After 30 minutes of our stay, we had resumed our journey at 10 am. Brimming with the passion we sat tight for our long journey to our destination, Sankri village. Leaving the Mussoorie road, we directed ourselves onto the Kempty fall road also known as NH 707A.
As much as it is about adventure, traveling is also about making memories. Each and every moment of your trip is valuable. All these moments fall into place to form the album of life. A way in which I make my travel moments memorable is by associating the shifting views with songs. I was aware that the network would be weak in this region. Hence, I had already downloaded my travel song list. I would like to share some of these melodies with you too-
We had been driving for almost 2 hours now. The driver turned the car onto the road NH 507 where we were joined by river Yamuna. He stopped the car at a suitable location near the river. We jumped out of the car and ran excitedly towards the river. Taking our boots off, we walked on the natural parapet of rocks and stones forming the bank of the river. It was 12:30 pm. Cool water massaging our feet with a warm sun overhead! What can be more delightful?
The clear stream of water dazzled with sunlight reflecting on its surface. It was hard to believe that this was the same dark, foamy river which would soon be flowing through Delhi. This was the Yamuna which is described in the mythical tales. This is the Yamuna whose ripples danse remembering the sweet music of Krishna’s flute. I wish I could restrain it here and prevent it from reaching the polluted cities; this epitome of chaste beauty. But alas!
As I reminisced about all this, the clock struck 12:30. And it was time to move on. These 30 minutes had been some of the best and most enjoyable moments of my life.
After driving for 2 hours from our halt at the Yamuna, we reached the town of Puraula in the Uttarkashi district. The cute settlement spread across the vales and hills was pleasing to look at. We stopped for lunch. After refueling our stomach, we proceeded towards our destination.
As soon as I sat in the car, the after lunch laze seized me. I looked at my watch. I remember reading 2:30 pm through a dizzy vision. Before I realized, I had already fallen asleep.
Himalaya first View
When I opened my eyes, it was 4 pm. The evening view sparkled it’s magic on my drooping eyelids and brightened them up. Tinctures of orange that colored the sky lent their radiance to the mountainous terrains. This amazing view was painted onto the canvas of Nature while passed through the Govind Pashu Vihar Wildlife Sanctuary.
As the journey continued, darkness started to subdue the shimmers of the setting sun. We arrived in the hamlet of Sankri along with dusk at about 6pm.
Despite the long tiresome journey, we were too excited and hungry to rest. After leaving our luggage at the homestay, we left to explore the market and enjoy some local snacks. There, we had the best momos ever. I had never tasted such momos. They were so tasty that I could not stop myself from ordering another plate. If you are vegetarian, you will really enjoy your time in the village as there’s hardly any non-veg to be found.
After having snacks and refreshments we went to shop for a few items we needed. A trek for me is incomplete without candies. Munching a few candies after a long hike can be extremely revitalizing.
Then we returned to the homestay. As it was dark, hardly anything of the view of Sankari village was visible. But to observe night in the mountains is a completely different experience in itself. With the least intervention from artificial lights, Night spread across the vast expanse of the sky with its twinkling stars is something to relish. I went back to my homestay, had dinner and went to bed early to rise up early for the next morrow of adventure.
Also Read: Kedarkantha Trek – Guide To Best Winter trek
Sankri to Juda Ka Talab
As I am a morning person, I woke up at 6 am, even before the sun had risen. I stepped out of my room to be greeted by a mesmerizing view of gigantic mountains standing in all their majesty.
I let my feet carry me for a morning walk in the village. The mountain tips were bathed in the rays of dawn. Against the backdrop of which stood a small quaint temple. Its serene look was hard to resist, hence I spent some time there.
After those moments of peace, I went around for a stroll in the village. The gorgeous hamlet bewitched me into the maze of its charm. I didn’t realize when I lost myself in it. At last, I found my way to the homestay. By this time, the sun had crept out and it was peeking at the village from one of the mountainsides. It was about 8:30 am.
The sun prompted me to take a shower and boosted my energy to get ready for breakfast and the trek. The homestay owner served me the most authentic food made in the most organic ingredients. It was so amazing that I stopped only when a burp reminded me that I had eaten 6 paranthas.
Sankri to Juda ka talab
At 10 am we left for the trail where our trek started towards Juda Ka Talab, the first base camp for Kedarkantha peak.
By 10:30 we were done with all the permit work needed for the trek. Then with vigour in our legs, we started on our trail climbing up the hill. It was a pleasant day with the sun shining warmly in a clear sky. We trekked into the woods, walking in the shadows of the forest canopy. The trail was cut out of boulders emerging from the soil which firmly rooted the conifers. Various adventurers had left a mark on this trail, the mark of passion which now possessed us.
After hiking for 1.5 hours we found our first Dhaba. It was one of the cutest eateries I had ever visited. It was settled in the heart of the forest. As if God had created it along with the forest using the natural resources.
We relaxed there for 10 minutes. We got back on track. After 20 minutes of hiking from the Dhaba, we found a water stream. Making its way through the rocks, it filtered downhill. It flowed with water which was crystal-clear. Despite being chill cold, one is enticed to touch it and feel its purity. We refilled our bottles from the stream. It is not every day that you get to taste Nature literally.
Around two and a half hours of trek later, we reached the first resting point. It was like a plain grassland with rows of trees growing at intervals. Dried leaves carpeted the ground making me feel as if we were visiting some foreign land during automne.
1.5 KM More
It was from this place onwards that we started to find the first indications of snow. Shreds of snow spread hither and thither. Have you watched those Glucon-D ads in which the exhausted child gets energy against the hot summer. That’s exactly how the sight of snow acts. It energizes trekkers and encourages them to march forth.
We took a Maggi break for 30 minutes. A hike without Maggi is incomplete. I believe that Maggi tastes even yummier at higher altitudes. As you slurp in the spicy hot Maggi, its fumes flush your face. You feel a balmy sensation spreading through your body. It satisfies your stomach and warms your soul. The shop from where we got the Maggi was a humble makeshift kitchen. It had all the necessary appliances and ingredients to make instant hot
Fully energized, we felt a strong desire to reach our first base camp. The signboard near the shop told us that Juda Ka Talab was only 1.5 I’m away.
It was around 2 pm that we left the place. As any trek lover, I keep my eyes firmly fixed around, especially on the ground. While heading towards the camp, we discovered some amazing walnuts scattered on the ground there. Don’t forget if you are on your trek there. Keep an eye out for walnuts. They might be hard to break but you won’t ever get such organic walnuts for free ever, right?
As we advanced further in our hike, we discovered more and more snow. The shreds turned to clusters. Those clusters soon frequented to become the flooring of the forest.
While the snow tried it’s best to glue our attention to it, the scenery around was equally beautiful. It was hard to resist looking at the mountain ranges at the distance. With their frozen tips. It felt like the conifers growing in our wood were the devotees of those divine mountains.
Juda Ka Tatalab
At 3 pm at last we reached the signboard welcoming us to our first base camp, Juda Ka Talab. It was 4 hours since we had started from Sankri village. It was now that we had finally reached our camp. The feeling of relaxation that I had felt at the sight of the camp site still appeases me. Apart from the distance, the trek had been really enjoyable. We really didn’t face any hurdles or difficulties. Indeed it was pretty easy. Even an amateur would find it to be somewhere between easy and moderate.
Against the backdrop of the distinctive mountainous flora, stood the tents. Without wasting out time we checked in into our tent and got ready for lunch.
Our instructor who was experienced in camping prepared our food. Then, he served it hot to us. I must say he indeed was a great cook. Such heart-warming and scrumptious food he had made.
I wanted to relish each morsel of it. But this place, Juda Ka Talab is situated at a great height. To be precise, at 2741m altitude as my altimeter showed. We realized that if we didn’t gulp it down quickly it would soon get cold. What a pity! We had to finish all that good food within seconds.
It’s been quite some time now that I have been mentioning Juda Ka Talab. Now that we were near it, the adventurous voice within me was getting ever more anxious to visit the lake. But I resisted it. As I had earlier said I am a morning person. I was leaving the lake for the next morning. There was another reason too. Right now in the evening, there must be a crowd of people visiting it. But I wanted to visit the lake in its untouched grace during the untouched hours of early morning. I wanted dawn to reveal that suspense of Nature for me. Hence, I spent the rest of the evening sitting beside a classic mud stove, chulha. Drinking some hot black tea and warming myself up.
Ever since we were in kindergarten, we have learnt the significance of waking up early in the morning. It holds a special place especially when you are on a Natural expedition. I woke up around six in the morning. Not a single soul was up yet. It was a cold morning. I first went to the toilet tent to answer Nature’s call. After which I left for Juda Ka Talab. The lake was 300m away from our campsite.
Alone I walked towards the lake, my heart racing. And then I was there, at the bank of this aquatic Elegance. In the calm of the early hours, the lake was seated serenely. No noise, not a ripple, just reflections. Reflections of the conifers clustered around it. The dark of the breaking dawn tinged its surface with a shade of noir. So much so that the lake had an appearance similar to that of an eye. The eye of Nature. To be honest, at this time of the year I had expected to find a frozen lake. But maybe the temperature hadn’t been that low then, fortunately.
Surrounded by silence, I let my mind imitate its object of admiration. Just like the lake, I started to reflect in my mind. And before I knew half an hour had flown by. I heard distant murmurs. Surely the indications of human activity resuming in the camps nearby. Unsurprisingly, it was about 7:30 am.
I returned to my camp and started waiting for the sun to follow my tracks to our site too. Around 8 am, the first rays of sunlight touched my face. In a cold place like this, they felt like blessings being showered from heaven. I decided to brush up and get ready for breakfast
Juda Ka Talab was just the first step of our trek. We had a long way to go to reach our main destination. Our instructor allowed us 2 hours of time to prepare ourselves for the journey forth towards our second base camp, Kedarkantha base camp. We had breakfast and packed our bags.
10 am was the time our instructor had given. And it was punctually at 10 am we left the campsite for the Kedarkantha base camp. The trail to Kedar Kantha base camp is from Juda ka Talab. So I got to witness the stunning lake again.
The lake is as divine as its mythical tale of origin. The early morning view had its grace. But right now, the lake shimmered with the golden reflection of the Sun. It felt as if it was emanating the aura of Shiva’s penance. From whose Juda (hair knot) had this lake transcended here.
We had been noticing how the snow had been getting denser with each step forward. Our instructor made us aware of the snow which we would be encountering in the next one hour of the trek from Juda Ka Talab. Even half an hour had not passed when we realized what he meant. Nor were we surprised as we had been expecting the same. Soon our trail was covered by snow on all sides.
“This is just the beginning,” our instructor said in a spirited voice. He also advised us to keep the spikes ready for the shoes which were going to help us walk on frozen ice. I had never used spikes before. I could hardly keep my excitement to use them. After 1 hour of trekking from Juda Ka Talab, we found another one of those convenient makeshift dhabas. Here we halted to take a break and rest for a while. We quenched our thirst and put on the spiked shoes.
From that dhaba onwards, we lost the ground completely. The snow which had been appearing in frequent clusters had now aggregated to become the flooring of the forest. It was all covered with crystal white snow.
After 15 minutes of rest at the Dhaba, we resumed our hike. This time we were extra focussed. We soon realized how helpful the spikes were to walk here. And trust me spikes are one of the best gear that I ever used for trekking. We had to trek very carefully on this frozen trail, that too in a straight line. Putting each step firmly with care. The trail was really slippery. One false step or stagger and we were done for. We would roll down the hill like Jack and Jill.
But I don’t want to freak you out or discourage you from this trek. You just need to be very focused and extra careful. You might think that our second-day trek was exhausting but to tell the truth, it wasn’t. Because of all the caution, we hiked slower but did not trudge. Hence, we were not tired at all. And the mesmerising view of the snow all around you will keep your spirits elevated. The sight of those tiny shrubs and ferns standing strongly amidst the heavy snow will strengthen your determination.
Kedarkantha Base Camp
After three hours of alert marching, we reached the Kedarkantha base camp at around 1 pm. It is at an altitude of about 3000 m. The weather was perfect. The clear sky complemented the sparkling snowy view and made it even more enjoyable.
Enjoying these beautiful views of a mystical essence we trod forth with a steadfast grip. Otherwise, the trail was pretty easy to follow and walk on. My brain let open its memory’s store of the most invigorating music. This combined with the elegant scenes of Nature made my hike enjoyable.
It was almost 3 hours of trekking from Juda ka Talab when the tents of the Kedarkantha Basecamp emerged into sight. Tents of bright luminous colors pitched on a snow-white cliff surrounded by woods and other mountains. It was about 1 pm then. At last, we would get to rest here. If you know, as per government rules you are not allowed to pitch a camp anywhere above 3000 m altitudes.
We sighed with relief as we unloaded our stuff and placed it in the tent. With our shoulders free, we felt like freshening ourselves by exploring the place around us. We decided to go to the Dhaba for some snacks. On our way we discovered the various recreational activities happening around the base. We saw people ski and snowboard with zeal.
We spent the rest of the day discussing our plans for the next day. At last, the time had come for our summit to the peak of Kedarkantha, the culmination of our entire journey!!
As you know, reaching the summit is the central part of any hike. And this was Kedarkantha itself, the place where Shiva in search of peace had once meditated. A place where even gods come to fix their minds on the Supreme Reality. Such a place should only be visited at a time when its mysticism is at its “peak”.
To observe and absorb the aura of this place, we decided to rise early. We wanted to witness Kedarkantha drenched in the first divine sparkles of the sun’s beams. Our instructor told us that we needed to wake up at 3 am sharp in order to enjoy the sunrise on the peak.
Kedarkantha Peak summit
Our alarm rang at 2:30 am. It was pretty dark outside. We had some light breakfast. I could hardly eat out of excitement. After packing some refreshments and heavily wrapping ourselves in woolens and jackets, we set out to write the climax of this adventurous voyage.
It was a full moon night. I distinctly remember the scene. The milk-white moonlight glittering the white snow in the night. They merged together to form a dark shade that possessed a bright sheen of its own.
As we trekked, this setting kept on transitioning. It became lighter with each progressing hour. We had trekked for three hours when the first streaks of dawn colored up the horizon. The orange shade told us that the chariot of the Sun God was ascending our way. But we still had to finish an hour’s more trek to reach our destination. Somewhere a voice in my head asked- Would we be able to make it?
We were really anticipating the sunrise view. We did not want to miss it at any cost. As the scarlet spread further from the depths of the sky, the voice in my mind strengthened. I muffled the voice by speeding my legs up. We still had 30 minutes before the sun would show its face.
Despite the haste, I could not resist the view. The to-be crimson of the upcoming day welling onto the canvas of the sky, was a sight to admire. The snowy terrain was coming to light. Without a second thought, I captured the moment.
Pacing through such beautiful moments, I wished this beautiful journey would never end. I was in a dilemma. On the other hand, we were climbing faster (but carefully, of course) for the sake of the sunrise view.
Kedarkantha Peak Summit
Almost after 4 hours of summiting 4 km, we, at last, we reached the peak. We hopped up and there it was the shrine of Shiva amongst those piles of stony slabs. These slabs arranged in an irregular manner looked spiritually elegant.
The moment was joyous for us. The moderate difficulty of the hike surely contributed to this jubilant emotion. The steep terrains covered with rocks and snow make the hike a bit hard but adventurous.
Now that we had reached there, we were overcome with bliss. Enchanted by this spectacle of Nature, we had completely forgotten about the sunrise. When suddenly, amongst the gushes of cold wind, a warm glamour gently touched our faces. We looked into its direction. What our eyes met was probably the reward of our efforts that day. The Sun had risen in all its magnificence. Its ray’s filtered the sea of clouds gracefully passing by. The frozen peak lit up and Nature beamed at us. We had experienced the Sublime.
My altimeter told me that we were at a height of 3653 m. The temperature was -1 degrees. Hardly surprising! Considering all those cold winds literally slapping against us. I could hardly feel my hands and feet. But as the saying goes “No pain no Gain”. We would never have had such a Divine experience had we not visited the peak at that exact time and moment.
Descending Back to Base
We spent the next 30 minutes capturing pictures of the peak and the surrounding mountains. We also took some selfies with the celebrated Nature. Then we quickly had the refreshments which we had brought along. People were able to operate their phones because of the presence of the Jio network at the peak. Most of them were calling their families, assuring them about their well being, or expressing their delight.
We left around 8 am. This time, we took another route. This route is longer but full of adventure and fun. It adds more to the trek, overall. You get to see a new array of Natural views and the trek remains fresh as ever. Before leaving, we visited a temple located near the peak. It was a small shrine. But with a serene presence, it enhanced the sublime nature of the mystical peak. We joined our palms and closed our eyes to take in this silence and let it clean our inner selves.
Descending is always one of the most enjoyable and fun parts of a trek. This time it was even more entertaining. We slid down from the peak and covered 2 km in 20 minutes!! The experience, the frolicsome ride that was, is difficult to describe in words. But trust me, I had never done something like this before. I would really insist that whoever gets the chance should try this. It’s a fantastic experience.
While trekking downwards we reached the last dhaba on this route. As the Basecamp was an hour away, we decided to nourish our shrivelled bodies with some hot, spicy maggi. The delicacies of the world on one side, and hot warming Maggi after a freezing trek on the other. The weight would be biased towards the latter, I guess, at least for me. It was around 9 am in the morning and the Sun was blooming like a flower sourcing warmth.
Back to Juda Lake
Within an hour, as expected we had reached the Kedarkantha Basecamp. Hot breakfast awaited us. Although the hot Maggi had helped us through the chilling trek, our stomachs were famished. The delicious food acted like the mythical Sanjeevani medicine and revived our spirits.
There was a site that I really missed. After having an extraordinary experience there, I wanted to spend some more time there. It was Juda ka Talab. The grandeur of the lake was magnetic. Hence, we decided to trek back to Juda ka Tabal the very same day. We planned to stay there for another night and then return to Sankri by another longer route.
Margaon to Sankri
So it happened. We trekked for 2 hours and reached Juda ka Talab where we spent a night in its glorious presence. Then we started on this another route which goes by the name- Magaon route. It’s a 6 km long trail. To be honest, I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach while departing. I just didn’t want to leave. The Himalayas and its children hold the temptation to turn a worldly man into a sadhu. I guess that’s what Shiva’s, the ascetic with a household, residing on these peaks symbolises.
This route had its own perks. It was longer, hence, it gave us more time to enjoy some amazing mountainous views. We hardly met any tourists on this trail. We marched downhill in a solitude characteristic of tranquil Nature. The sound of our steps made a rhythm in the silence. Distant snowy peaks, rough mountainous terrains bending to converge into valleys and canyons; I was changed by the opulence of Nature.
Interestingly, we met some kaccha houses and some deserted damaged shacks. Had it been a different circumstance, they might have looked haunting. But here in the lap of Nature, they seemed to adorn the peace and quiet of the ambiance. We did not find any dhabas on the way, though. One of my favorite parts of the hike were the apple orchards on the way. Walking by the apple trees ornamented with their rosy red fruits made my mouth water.
Enjoying these views, stopping at these kaccha houses, we had a great trek. After hiking in the solace of Nature for 4 hours we reached the hamlet of human settlement, Sankri at 2 pm. Once we reached the homestay, the first thing we did was to clean ourselves. Trekking means not being able to bathe. We spent some good time scrubbing our bodies to clean them. Ah! After this long bath, we felt a distinct kind of freshness. We were back into our world.
Sankri to Dehradun
After a sound sleep on a warm bed, we woke up early in the morning at 4 am to return. Voilà! There we were back in the taxi playing some good travel music, returning to Dehradun and “home”.
Well, what is “home” for a traveller? I found more peace on the peak of a frozen mountain than the artificially heated cuboid of bricks I live in. They say good things have to end. But they don’t. I was going but taking a lot along and leaving a part of me back there in Kedarkantha. The Yamuna was traveling along us too. From these realms of purity into the crowded city.