When I was planning this trek, I never knew that how blissful this expedition would be, the unimaginable beauty of majestic snow-capped peaks, the enticement of green woods, the strikingly beautiful green meadows, walking in dense fresh snow, tackling the most unforgiving routes and much more that too in just one single trip !!!
Kedarkanth indeed is one of the most picturesque treks that I have ever come across till date. Never ever I had been to such a beautiful place in my life. Truly the journey to Lord Shiva’s Kanth is remarkable. One of the unique things about this trek is that when you get to the Kedarkantha summit, it is as though you have touched the sky and the surrounding peaks are at your eye level. Kedarkantha trek is truly an ideal destination for the nature lovers to bask in the beauty of undisturbed nature and enjoy delightful and blissful moments with exhilarating experiences.
Towering at 12500 ft (3800m), Kedarkantha summit is a located in Govind Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttarkashi District, in western Garhwal region of Uttrakhand. Kedarkantha Peak literally means the throat of Lord Shiva (Kedar refers to Lord Shiva and Kantha means Throat). Kedarkantha is also known as Bal-Kedar and according to a local legend it was supposed to be the site of Kedarnath. It is said that when Shiva was wandering at Kedarkantha in his bull avatar, to hide from the Pandavas, the local dwellers disturbed his peace. Therefore, he fled to the present Kedarnath site. The villagers of Sankri believe that the trident of Lord Shiva, erected at Kedarkantha protects them and keeps the Himalayan Rivers replenished.
The trek starts from Sankari, a small village located closer to Kinnaur in the Uttarkashi district of Uttrakhand. The total trek distance from Sankari to the summit & back is around 22 km. The summit offers a 360-degree panoramic view of the spectacular peaks. From the top of the Kedarkantha summit, you can also view Rupin valley, Har Ki Dun valley, the Dhauladhar range of Himachal Pradesh and views that goes down to the dense settlement of Purola. It is one of the best winter treks in Uttarakhand and can be covered in a span of 4 days (Chandigarh – Sankari & back). This region gets early snow in the winters and soft white snow covers all the surrounding peaks after the snowfall by December, making it one of the best snow treks. All the surrounding mountains, which otherwise were insignificant now looks extremely elegant and beautiful with their sharp points appearing like dominating peaks of the Himalayas.
I had been thinking of doing this trek since I saw the pictures of the summit online. Since I had never done any snow-bound winter trek ever, I zeroed down on Kedarkantha. I did some research online got contact number of Pramod Rawat, a trek guide in Sankari. He planned & arranged all the stuff including stay, food arrangements, anti-slip Ice Crampons for that extra safety so that you do not fall while trekking on the snow. Over that, he also gave us gaiters so that snow does not get into our shoes from the top. I rang up Joban and I told him about my intention of going for Kedarkantha trek. As always he confirmed up immediately to join me for the trek, as he said, ‘Bas bta de kab jana hai’ it is quite a while, we had done a trek together’.
Day 1 (Reaching Sankari- 16th -17th April 2019)
We started our excursion from Chandigarh on 16.04.2018 at 11.00 pm. As I prefer to travel by normal HRTC buses I and my friend boarded the bus from sector 43 ISBT for Dehradun as there was no direct HRTC bus to Sankari from Chandigarh. Surprisingly we got tickets very easily this time otherwise we use to face a huge influx of people going to the hills during holidays. We reached Dehradun ISBT early morning at 4:00 am. There was no bus available for Sankri at the ISBT Dehradun. We then boarded an auto to the nearest point (near railway station) which is around 6 Kms from ISBT. The first bus that goes to Sankari early morning comes at around 5:00 am. We boarded the bus and reached Sankari at about 4:30 pm. The journey to Sankri began and the air soon filled with the sounds of our joy and excitement, as we passed the beautiful city, gazing at people going to work.
It was drizzling since morning we took the bus to Sankari. The journey starts from Mussourie and passes through Kempty falls, and some other small towns like Purola to enter the Supin range of Himalayas. A couple of hours before reaching Sankari, we entered Govind wildlife sanctuary, a protected area. Sankari is the base camp for both, Har-ki-Doon as well as Kedarkantha trek. Finally, we met our guide Pramod and he welcomed us at the guesthouse with hot tea and delicious noodles. We were tired, and perhaps peckish, we ate like anything. Promod gave a detailed briefing of our trek. The guesthouse at Sankari is basic, with spacious and reasonably clean rooms & toilets. The quilts were warm enough, so we did not have to struggle for the sleep. In the evening we strolled the village and checked out the market. You will find everything here right from hiking equipment rental store with equipment such as waterproof shoes, rain ponchos, headlamps, down jacket, trekking poles etc. So you don’t need to purchase the costly gears for this trek.
There is no network reception at Sankari so make sure that you inform your family beforehand. Vodafone network gave some connectivity option in Sankri from only 9:30 pm for about an hour in the evening. Also early in the morning, I was getting network reception. However, do check with locals for the exact timings. BSNL network seemed to work there more than other networks. We called for the day then so as to embark our journey very next day to Kedarknatha basecamp.
Day 2 (Reaching basecamp- 18th April 2019)
The morning was cloudy and after a sumptuous breakfast we were ready to trek to ‘Juda ka Talaab’. We started at 8:30 am in the morning. The trek is all ascent ranging from easy to moderate slopes and crosses several bridges. Our first destination was Juda ka Talaab which is at about 9100 ft and takes about 3:15 hours on foot from Sankari. The 4-5 km trek would gain almost 2700 ft height so it was quite strenuous initially. The trek passed through dense forests of native flora such as pine, oak, birch, deodar & rhododendrons trees. The forest was primitive.
Trees like skyscrapers rose ever upwards, as far as my head could lift. They were hoary fortresses and stood proudly. Their smell mixed with the distinct aroma of fetid earth comforted our hearts. We could hear the orchestra of birdsong playing in the canopy of the trees and calling in distant melodies to their kin. There was hardly anyone except three of us. Pramod had great stamina and zeal to accomplish each & every milestone. He motivated us especially me to move on and on without stopping in between. A true go-getter !!!
As soon as we started ascending, I felt as if I was losing my breath but it was just that my body was rejecting the change. Gradually I acclimatized myself with the fresh air and greenery around me, gaining altitude, the sun peeping through the woods, small streams running down the rocks as a fresh source of water, and a man’s best friend, furry and cute Sheru, walking alongside.
We found one pit shop around 2.5 km after hiking. We rested for some time here. You can have Maggi similar stuff here. We refilled our water bottles. The hike was not that tough, but at places, there was slush or frozen snow that made the trek slippery at places.
There are two other pit shops before you reach Juda Ka Talaab. So you can refreshen & re-energize yourself throughout the trail. We finally reached Juda Ka Talaab at around 11:45 pm. The campsite was huge and had on its left side the ‘talaab’ the pond. We were now at 9100 ft, and the temperature was falling down rapidly. I felt so free in that very moment that I began running around the open space and got the chance to capture the beauty of the lake. India hikes and installed their tents all around on the campsite.
We then had our lunch clicked some pictures and were all set to trek towards the basecamp. The serrated mountains loomed in the distance. We made our way towards them as we had to make base camp by afternoon. We reached the basecamp at around 2:00 pm. It is an at an altitude of 11,400 ft with only camps around. We again found India hikes tents all around.
The camp was a pretty sight, with snow all around. They were flour-white covered with at least 3 to 4 feet of snow. I could see the storm blowing over the peaks. The weather changed in just no time. It froze my marrow to think that I would be climbing in those conditions tomorrow. However, our anxiety levels increased a lot and we were eagerly waiting to scale the Kedarkanth summit. Pramod asked us to have some Maggie and I insisted him to cook it myself. With all the veggies in place, I prepared a sumptuous veg maggie for them and I am sure that they would remember it for a long time. I was clicking the pictures of the peaks when Joban tried to take some slides on the snow. He tried but couldn’t get much of it as he didn’t know the technique.
Pramod meanwhile brought a soup loaded with ginger. We also met some guys who came from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh for the trek. After having some chit chat with them and sharing my travel stories I moved to my camp.
I just dropped dead in my sleeping bag and rested till Pramod woke me up for the dinner. Pramod’s cook had prepared a delicious dinner for us. The dinner luscious and we ate our stomach full. After having our dinner we went for a walk outside. It was a full moon night, we could hardly see the stars so what to talk about shooting Milkyway Galaxy. However, we clicked some beautiful shots for our camps and stars that we could see. The moonlight falling on the peaks made them glow like anything. What a picturesque sight it was.
We then moved in our camps and rested so as to regain our stamina for the big day. The Base camp is the chilliest place, as it’s an open meadow and quite windy. At night, the temperature dropped down to – 10 degrees adding to more to the thrill of being on one of the best winter treks in the Himalayas.
The next day’s ascent to the peak of Kedarkantha was going to be a steep one, in freezing conditions on snow-covered treks. I was worried about my fitness, capacity to tolerate low temperatures, and had fear of slipping on snow trek or frozen ice. After preparing my backpack, I fell sound asleep, in anticipation of my early start and our mission for tomorrow. In the morning, Pramod gave us the gaiters & crampons to wear so that we could trek on the snow trails.
Day 3 (Reaching the Kedarkanth Summit- 19th April 2019)
We left for the summit early morning at 5:50 am. The ascent was entirely a snow trek with 3 to 5 feet snow all around. With the crampons on it was initially feeling very difficult to take each an every step as it required an effort. In spite of frequent temptation to stop in between and rest, we choose to walk. Pramod was keeping an eye on me all the time and kept encouraging us to move on and on without any stops. We reached a place in between where Parmod showed his snow sliding skills which tempted us to do so. However, seeing another ascent to hike after sliding we thought of not take any chances rather we kept it for our return journey. We watched Pramod and his accomplice sliding over the snow. They made at least 5 to 6 slides. Gosh ! what these guys are made of !!! Sliding down & again coming climbing the mountain to go for another is not at all easy. Meanwhile, we clicked some group photographs as a memory of the trek.
There is a pit shop at around 2 km however due to excessive snow it was closed. We rested for a while there. From this point, the journey is steep and tests your stamina.
At some point of time, we thought going back but Pramod didn’t let us divert our mind. He said, Don’t look down just have your mind focussed on that peak, we need to conquer it !!! and then there was no returning back. We took a deep breath and just hiked. The views afforded en-route were phenomenal, and every turn was a must stop and soak in the view location.
Pramod hiked like a snow leopard jumping from one cliff to another. We were astonished to see his agility and stamina. One step after another and there we were the magnificent Kedarknatha Summit !!! Boulders & stones arranged in square form with a Trishul pointing towards the sky mark the summit.
Everyone was dumbfounded after reaching the top at once we forgot about the fatigue and suffering. Numerous magnanimous Himalayan snow-capped peaks stood tall in front of us.
The views were astonishing and mesmerised us in no time. With glistening white caps, like a perfect storybook picture, the mountains soared upward as if determined to kiss the heavens and dominated the horizon in every which way we looked. Each of them was white-peaked. They seemed to be rushing towards us from all the directions. It was so damn beautiful.
Mt. Swargarohini – 6252 m, a mountain massif in the Saraswati (Bandarpunch) Range was visible from the summit. Swargarohini massif acts as a watershed between Yamuna and Bhagirathi River. Other peaks visible we saw were Mt. Jorkanden – 6473 m, Mt. Rangrik Rang – 6553 m, Mt. Kalanag – 6387 m, Mt. Bandarpoonch – 6316 m, Mt. Ranglana – 5554 m, Mt. Gangotri – 6692 m, Mt. Yumnotri – 6615 m, Obra Valley Peak 5480 m, Dauru – 5877 m, Rupin & Supin – 4650 m, Kinner Kailash range – 6050 m (Himachal), Chanshal pass -4250 m & Har ki dun – 3566 m .
The 360-degree panoramic view of the peaks was truly unparallel. It surely requires energy, zeal and positivism & above all will to reach the summit, but once you reach the summit, you gift yourself one of the best ever experience of your lifetime. We reached the summit at around 10:30 pm. After capturing the mountain massifs through my lens we thought of taking some rest.
Meanwhile, Pramod came and told hey look you got 20 minutes more and then we slide down the peak from the southern ridge !!! Listening to this we got goosebumps initially but as he made the first slide I got the confidence and there I did my first ever snow slide from 12500 feet !!! and from there on I made around 4-5 slides. It was literally fun and I enjoyed every bit of it.
We finally bid adieu to the majestic Kedarkantha Peak and descended back and reached the basecamp at 1:00 PM. We were so tired that we just dropped dead on the mats placed near our camps and soaked ourselves in the sun. After relaxing a bit we had our lunch. We then decided to trek back to Sankri the same day as the only early morning bus that leaves to Dehradun comes at around 5:30 am. The next bus is at 7:30 am. We then packed our bags and descended back to Sankri via another route which passes through Hargaon. Hargaon is also camping place for Kedarkantha trek. The trail is a complete descent and passes through dense forests and more clearly marked well-paved pathway, laden with small stones.
There was a lot of slush in the path as such it was difficult to descend easily. The scenic views of the valleys en-route were beautiful. Hargaon is also a camping place for Kedarkantha trek.
Finally, we reached Sankari at 5:45 pm. We chit chatted with locals and then moved to our homestay for our calm & peaceful victory sleep.
Day 4 (Reaching Chandigarh- 20th April 2019)
Next morning we boarded the very first bus to Dehradun and bid farewell to this beautiful place. We gave a last look at the town and its white-fanged mountains and embarked our return journey. We reached Dehradun by 4:00 pm and then got our bus to Chandigarh. This trek was a life-changing experience and guys if you haven’t tried it, you definitely should. Open up, get yourself out of your comfort zone, meet new people, experience new places and accept the change, it really is what the whole world is about. This was my second visit to Garhwal Himalayas. No words can ever be enough to perfectly describe this blessed land. The stunning landscapes, the incessantly colourful play of nature, enchanting history carved in ancient stones, a mesmerizing floral and faunal plethora and the simplest of the people are things you will experience here and the Kedarkantha trek is a perfect destination for the nature lovers to loosen their soul in the beauty of undisturbed nature and enjoy delightful and blissful moments with exhilarating experiences.
Kedarkantha trek is commonly done through two routes.
- Sankari (6400 ft) to Hargaon (8900 ft) – 6 km
- Hargaon (8900 ft) to Kedarkantha Basecamp (11250 ft) – 6 km
- Kedarkanth Basecamp (11250 ft) to Kedarkanth Summit (12500 ft) – 3 km
- Sankri (6400 ft) to Juda Ka Talaab (9100 ft) – 4 km
- Juda Ka Talaab (9100 ft) to Kedarkantha Basecamp (11250 ft) – 4 km
- Kedarkanth Basecamp (11250 ft) to Kedarkanth Summit (12500 ft)- 3 km.
If you want to do a budget trek then cut off the travelling expenses by travelling on the bus. However, if comfort is your priority shared jeeps can also be taken from Dehradun to Purola and then from Purola to Mori. From Mori, shared Jeep’s can be taken further till Naitwar and then from Naitwar to Sankri. Travelling by shared jeep increases dependency and is also time bound and will increase your budget. Kedarkantha trek can be done throughout the year but the beauty of it is in its snow which turns the trek into a white dreamy land. The entire excitement of this trek comes from the snow and tolerating cold. The best month to trek Kedarkantha summit is in December, January, February, March, April, May, June, September, October & November. You can contact Pramod on 07617763774, 9456571174. He will offer you the best budget Kedarkantha trek package in Sankri.