What is it like in the north? I cannot help remembering this being the only thought running on my mind as I started my journey to Uttarakhand. A trek to Kedarkantha, a place where magic exists!
Day 1: Dehradun to Sankri
I and two other friends booked this trek with Uncia Trails. We chose this travel company as it offers you great-customized packages as per your needs. Since we were a group of 3, we were going to join this trek with a few other people. Meeting new people along the journey has always thrilled me. Talking to people and getting to know their stories and perspectives will only make one realize how good exits in every person. It is quite exciting, how one can learn so much from different people and their experiences. As we got down in Dehradun, we met our coordinators from Uncia, Avinash and Shubham. These guys were the ones that ensured that all our requirements were being met throughout the trip. As we started our journey, the Tempo Traveller had 12 of us. I was both excited and nervous as I sat in the Traveller dreaming of the Summit. As I started getting to know everyone in the Traveller, I had a sense of relief, as I felt comfortable with each one of them. They all seemed nice. The journey from Dehradun to Sankri is beautiful. One the way, you get a scenic view of the mighty mountains and rivers flowing by. You will see beautiful fields including Step farming practised in the Mountains. Be sure to enjoy this breathtaking view while you are on your way to Sankri as most of them miss this because of falling asleep during the journey.
Day 2: Sankri to Hargaon
The trek starts from the village of Sankri, situated in the Uttarkashi district; this is truly the gateways to the Himalayas for trekkers without any doubts. The place is filled with Mountaineers and tourists. You will see many small commercial shops selling trekking gears and other essentials. For Dog Lovers, there are a number of local fluffy Mountain dogs, who will make sure to take their heart away with their cuteness. As we got into our rooms, I could sense butterflies in my stomach. I was going to start my Trek the next morning. The food served here was homely and nice. Be sure to taste the local pickle that they serve. Their bread omelettes were my personal favourite.
The trail from Sankri to Hargaon base camp is a scenic view with dramatic landscapes, meadows and every now and then, trekkers can hear the river streaming by. Close your eyes and listen sharply. You will find yourself in a different world altogether, while you hear these streams of gushing water along with the birds singing a song for you. The Pine forest will soon open up to beautiful Alpine Meadows and one can start to see trails of snow starting from the 1st day of the trek during winter. On the way, there are plenty of teashops to get a quick bite or to relax and have some hot tea and the Pahari Maggie, of course! Eating Maggie in the mountains has a unique feeling of satisfaction.
The campsite overall was beautiful. There were vast green mountains, surrounding these mountains were snow-covered mountains. As though they were different layers, somehow arranged perfectly. These views are sure to remind you of those perfectly arranged sketches you used to make during your childhood. It is here you will begin to wonder if everything one imagines truly exist somewhere out in the world. Somewhere, where no man had gone before maybe? This place is truly a world within the world!
The food provided in the camp was homely. Dal and rice mostly! Just what the trekkers’ need after a long tiring walk to regain all the energy, carbs are the best during these times. The best thing about the food was that there was always a sweet dish along with the main dish every day.
There were two washrooms provided along with sand. I suggest and request everyone going for treks to please, learn the usage of these toilets. Making sure, you are keeping the mountains clean and hygiene is purely every trekker’s responsibility. Everything got for the purpose of facility & hospitality, that includes your basic tents, food and water facility along with other necessities, even though it is not much, has been brought there with a lot of effort, without proper transport facilities or a good amount of labour, as procuring them to such altitudes are not easy. The tent stays are a different experience altogether, listening to the howling of the wind inside the tents, wrapped in the sleeping bag is beautiful in its own way.
Day 3: Hargaon to Juda ka Talab to Kedarkantha Base
We started our trek the next morning first to visit Juda Ka Talab on the way and then all the way to Kedarkantha Base camp. Juda ka Talab is a frozen pond by the mountains. The hike from Sankri to Juda ka Talab is a vertical climb of about 2798 ft. approx. Surrounded by the Pine forests throughout, it is a tranquil setting where time seems to have frozen along with the beautiful frozen Talab. According to traditional beliefs, this Talab is said to have formed when a droplet of sweat fell down from Lord Shiva’s hair. Other locals say that it was formed over time by the flow of water from multiple slopes in the region. Overall, Juda ka Talab is one of the most beautiful sights seen on the way to Kedarkantha peak.
Kedarkantha has a sense of magic one cannot explain. The beauty of the forests and the vibes this place has is no match to any other. There is a historic reference to this place as it is called the “Bal-Kedar”. According to a source, I remember reading that, according to local legends, it is said that Lord Shiva was in his Bull avatar, hiding away from the Pandavas when the local dwellers here disturbed his peace. Therefore, he made his way to the current Kedaranath site. If not for this, Kedarkantha was supposed to be the actual Kedaranath site. The village of Sankri believes that Lord Shiva Protects the Himalayas and keeps their water replenished.
As you ascend towards the Base camp, you will get a magnificent view of small villages in the surrounding mountains, Oaks, Pines and an open sky along with the view of the mighty Himalayan ranges. By now, our whole group had become friends on the way. Their rest of the day went by as people started to have dinner and relax, chitchat and chill for the rest of the night until the Summit climb to be starting at night.
Day 4: Kedarkantha Base to the peak > Descend back to Hargaon
While we were in the Base camp, the feel of it was unbelievable. The night sky especially was so blissful that you can see twinkling stars, wherever you look. For one to be there, after staying in the cities, is a mind-blowing experience. One can see the Summit from this camp. For whatever reason, if you decide to give up at this point, all you have to do is look at the peak peeking back out at you; you will hear it call you for sure and there will be no looking back! The next thing you know is you will be wearing your gears to climb up to the calling of your soul. This is exactly what happened to most of us.
After good food, we started our trek at around 2 am, aiming to reach the summit by 7 am as the sunrise the next morning was said to be at 7:15 am approx. The night trek is another beautiful experience. With torchers and gears on, we go in a line with mountain dogs happily accompanying us (Which is the cutest thing). An open sky full of stars, if you are lucky to have a clear sky during your trek. It will make you wonder if you are on a mountain or in outer space. We had an upcoming full moon during our night trek and the moon looked like he was just a few feet away from my grasp. The moon accompanied us and cast his light over the mountains. As I looked up at the Moon, it felt like that was the closest to him I’ll ever get. I looked at my friend look at the moon like a kid that night and wondered if he could grab just the Moon for me if he tried to stretch a little. That is how close you will feel to the sky at this place.
The trek to the summit is pretty challenging. The trail gets steeper. If one slips, there will definitely be a chain reaction. There was a heavy wind that night! It made me feel like I was about to fly away if I tied to take another step. The wind will make it even more challenging to climb up, as your vision will start to get a little blurry. This might even be due to the decrease in the level of oxygen as you get to the higher altitudes. You will have an uncontrollably running nose. As you reach the peak, the Trishul pointing at the sky marks the Summit. There is a small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati along with Ganesha. Kailash, Har Ki Dun and Rupin ranges are visible from the peak. Look all you want here. These images are sure to last with you for a lifetime.
At this point, while you are looking at the beautiful Sunrise, as the rays of the Sun make their way from behind the Mighty Mountains, there will be shadows falling on the opposite side of these Mountains. There will be a spectrum of colours spreading across the sky. All your tiredness will be gone at this moment. You will feel as light as a bird, only to wish you could fly and stay by these Mountains forever if it were possible. Your body will automatically relax. All the efforts will feel worth it. As you descend, you will be a different person. You will have new dreams and definitely a much happier version of yourself!
The Descend from the peak back to the base camp is fun. Bring out the kid in you coz boy, you are sure to slide down those Mountains like a boss!
Day 5: Hargaon to Sankri
After a successful summit climb and a rewarding view from the peak along with a playful climb down from the slopes, we reached the Hargaon camp. Later that night, as the moonlight cast over our tents and as the night grew darker, there was silence all over. It was excessively cold for me to fall asleep. I kept listening to see if I can hear anything at all and just then, there was a strong wind coming out of nowhere. The gushing sound of this strong wind seemed so dangerously beautiful! The whistling of the wind and the echoes of the howling wind hitting the mountains and coming back was as though I was in a cave about to be swallowed by some gigantic mammal that has no historic reference. The sound of the winds from that night still lingers in my head. As I lay there inside my tent in my sleeping bag, I kept wondering if our tents were going to fly off, taking us all along with it.
At around 4 am in the morning, we woke up to a beautiful snow shower. It was as though we slept in one fairyland and woke up in another. We were in the midst of the forest, on the mountains and there were snowflakes showering down and giving a kiss of magic to anything and everything you set your sight on. There were no traces of any other colour but beautiful pure white. There was snow everywhere. It felt like it was the luckiest day of my life. It surely was as it was my first snow and I got to experience it in such a heavenly place! All of us there had become kids again. Playing in the snow, running, jumping, dancing, making a snowman and making lots of memories.
The climb down from here to Sankri was magical. It felt like a fairytale. The silence of the forests and the quiet of my soul spoke to each other the entire way down. I kept stopping by to look all around, not once could I see any spot that looked out of place. It was heavenly. What a beautiful world God has created for us. The purity of the mountains and her forests covered with snow is sure to heal all your wounds from inside out. I tried to soak it all in, so I never forget what that moment right there felt like!
This being my first time in the snow, I felt as light as the snowflakes themselves! It felt as though I was floating somewhere in the sky surrounded by clouds all around me. Who knows if the Gods really do reside in the mountains? One this is for sure, there is positive energy there, which talks to the silence within you, you will hear it if you truly listen. When I stood by the woods while it was snowing, I realized how the mountains and I were one. How the trees and I were one and how I and everyone else were just one and the same, elements of nature.
Nothing more, nothing less!
Isn’t that the beauty of this whole universe? How somethings and people can be so different but are all still coming from the same source. My magical Kedarkantha trek came to an end with this thought!
I believe once you are back from a trek like this, you become a different person, brand new! Free of all the chains that had once put your spirit down. The only chain that will sustain thereon is the ones you have just created, between you and nature itself. All that you will see after, as my friend says, is how we are all just like snowflakes, all different and beautiful, in our own ways!
I would like to thank Uncia Trails for all the services they have provided. Even though there were many confusions and changes of plans last minute, they ensured to handle everything and each one of us just right! I am glad I chose them as my travel company. Their hospitality and friendliness is no match to any other! They took care of everything for us, including our transport from Bangalore. With them, I did not just go for a trek but I came back with lots of memories that I will cherish for a lifetime!
The best part of my trek with them is that I got to meet beautiful people who I now call my friends. I am sure we will all meet again, climbing the mountains somewhere, teasing each other, gossiping in the tents and adding value and quality to the memories that we make for what we call life!