Winter Trek to Kedarkanta
Updated: Feb 25
2020 had been the most frustrating year of all times. Covid had taken over our daily routines, travel plans, our holidays, and peace of mind. The travel bug kept troubling me. I was figuring out the safest means of getting out of my house. I finally decided I must do a trek to the Himalayas. I had done a couple of treks in Karnataka, but I had never done a high altitude trek, even worse, a winter trek to begin with. I really wonder what made me take that decision, but I quickly registered for the Kedarkanta trek with India Hikes.
Preparing for the Trek
After I registered for the trek, I got too busy with work, clueless about how I must prepare for the trek, but India Hikes came to my rescue. They plan your trek experience so meticulously.
They start with sending Emails about how to register for the trek and the mandatory documents you must carry.
The next Email is about how to get the required fitness level. Run 5km in 40 min still mulls in my mind. Ensure that you adhere to this rule strictly. You thank yourself and India Hikes for mandating this routine while you are up in the mountains.
Then there are a series of Emails about the climate, altitudes and how to get acclimatized, what to pack for the trek, how to rent gear, do's and don'ts, how to pack your trek bag, a conference call to discuss the experience of the fellow trekkers, and a WhatsApp group of the team you are trekking with. I was overwhelmed with the Emails that reached my inbox. I thought this was too much information (TMI).
I realized you cannot advise the old monk. India Hikes come with so much experience that they could never go wrong.
I took a ✈️ to Dehradun, stayed in the Grand Legacy hotel, from where India Hikes had planned a transport to the base camp. It helps to reach a few hours early as you do not have to rush during the stipulated time for the travel. The travel coordinator had messaged us about the name of the driver and the vehicle that was coming to pick the team.
The vehicle reached the hotel on time. We traveled through the beautiful mountains, stopped for breakfast and lunch. The local dhabhas provide healthy, clean food. You must try hot omelets with bread, steaming ginger and lemon tea, and roti subzi. It is a 7-hour drive to Gaichwon Goan from Dehradun.
This is at an altitude of 5600 feet. A beautiful house owned by a family. I asked a local if they belonged to a family. They said "hum sab ek jigar", they called family Jigar.
We reach the base camp in two tempos. Kruthi, the trek lead in India hikes welcomed us. I looked at this girl in mid-twenties and wondered how could this girl take you up to the mountains. We had a couple of extra trek bags that belonged to the trekkers who were in another tempo that had not arrived. Quickly Kruthi picked up two bags and started moving towards the house. I was shocked and surprised. But assured that I was in safe hands.
India Hikes welcomed us with tea and beautiful sunset views. There was an elaborate briefing to introduce ourselves, about what we should expect, how to pack our trek bags, how to roll our sleeping bags, and the green trail mission. There was an emphasis on punctuality and discipline.
Atleast 3 members of the 20 member group said they were doing this trek the second or the third time as they could not complete the trek the previous time because of snowstorms or ill health. I was only praying for strength and friendly weather to reach the summit.
Dinner included rice, dal, vegetables. I was not expecting Jilebis in the mountains. This was just the beginning.
This is not a project, but a mission. An initiative by the India Hikes team to leave the mountains better than we saw them. Each of us were given a bag to collect the nonbiodegradable waste in the mountains. For 4 days the trekkers collect waste and segregate them when they return to the base camp after the trek.
There is a sense of responsibility in the resources that are used. They are very innovative and careful about the usage of water. There were three bowls, one for sawdust, soap water, and clear water. Clean your lunch boxes with sawdust, throw the waste into a bin and wash the lunch box in the other two bowls. It worked wonders.
Women are advised to use menstrual cups if they are trekking during the menstrual cycles.
Appreciate the effort. Well, thought.
At 5 AM in the morning, they gave us wakeup calls. By 6 AM tea was served. By 7.30 AM we were ready. By 8 AM we had Idli for breakfast. At 8.30 AM we had completed warm-up exercises and ready to roll. For the next four days, this was our schedule.
We went through the villages to reach the last bit of civilization and then headed to the mountains. We stopped at a dhabha to get tea, just in case before we headed to the mountains.
I was amazed to see the structure of the houses, a 3 storey building to adapt to the temperature (spot one in the picture ) ground floor for the cows, first floor for the sheep, and the second floor for the humans. The roof had mica stone slabs which they brought from Kedarkanta. The story says, earlier, when someone in a community decided to build a house, people(men, women, and children) would get together, go to the mountains to bring these stones. Collaboration and teamwork at its best.
We reached the Jalota camp at 8000 altitude. The campsite is exquisite. Don't miss star gazing and the beautiful sunset. We also sighted a few shooting stars. I will never forget to mention food. Tea and pakoda for snacks. Shahi tukda for dessert.
Better Campsites Happy Trekkers
India Hikes got all the ingredients up to the mountains on donkeys, Wasting food was a sin.
Natural toilets were so neat as well. Pits were dug and enclosed within tents. They put packets of essential oil with baking soda up in the toilet tents to avoid a foul smell. All you need to ensure is to sing while you do your job.
Each night Kruti, our trek lead checked our BP, temperature, and oxygen levels. A quick briefing about what to expect the next day, a warm-up activity, stories of the mountains that happened each day.
So we were up early. The next camp was Pukhrola at 10000 feet altitude. This day is going to be a little easier as we were slowly ascending. We were now supposed to get acclimatized to the altitude and the weather. This was a shorter-duration trek We were on our way to witness more snow. Getting closer to better views.
We were asked to wear spikes to ensure we did not slip in snow. This worked wonders. We were so comfortable while trekking with the spikes. Also our trek leads, Mona and Vimlesh, along with Kruthi kept calling out Chala chala thakna mana hain, rukna guna hain. This seems to have become the slogan of my life. Keep moving, you are not allowed to get tired, even if you get tired, stopping is a Sin.
These little words of motivation, patting a back, words of appreciation means a lot to anyone out there. You don't learn all the lessons in your classrooms, do you?
I have a letter to share with my fellow trekkers in the mountains.
We were in awe to get to Pukhrola campsite.
That evening we had an even strict trek lead. He was a technical guy with a great experience. He briefed us about what time we should wake up, how to prepare for the summit, what we must carry. We were again trained on how to wear gaiters and spikes.
As we had reached early, we did the snowman as well.
This was the D-day. All of us were excited and panicky at the same. I was only praying to mother nature to give us the suitable weather to make it to the summit. All the planning and toil were only fruitful if I could reach the summit.
,We woke up at 4 AM. We had dhaliya and upma for breakfast. Thermo flasks with hot water, spikes, gaiters, layered clothes, no thermals, protein bars packed, torchlights, and trekking poles -all check.
The ascend is steep. We reach a mountain and just when we think this is a summit, nature had to play foul. We had to head further. The trek lead created paths for us to slide on our return, as he went ahead. We just had to follow his footsteps, else there were chances we went deep in the snow. It was very exciting and strenuous to walk in the dark, follow the team at the same pace, stay hydrated, and reach the summit on time.
At the summit, it surprised me to see the strongest person in the team crying, the most talkative person sliding away to a corner to sit in peace, the most silent person shouting in excitement. It was a Euphoria moment. Just when we were settling down, Kruthi gave us postcards to write about how we felt at that moment.
Surprise, surprise, we had steaming-hot parathas after the summit. We had a good time sliding our way back to the Pukhrola camp. We reached the campsite by lunchtime,
finished lunch, and started to the Akhoti Campsite. We reached Akhoti camp by tea time. There was a sense of accomplishment. I could sleep in peace. ...There was yummy Gulab jamoons for dinner. I never had such a dish in my life.
When you are in the mountains, you are always up for surprises. Guess who visited us the previous night.
We returned to the base camp after breakfast. We passed through mountains and valleys, beautiful scenes that I wanted to capture in the mind forever, the migration house for the shepherds, waterfalls, streams, and bridges. On our way back, we were asked to hug a tree and share anything we wanted. I felt there was life and the tree was listening to me.
After we settled down in the base camp, we had a debriefing session. Trekkers were supposed to talk about their experiences. Fairy tales, emotional gushes, hilarious stories of how people decided to take this trek and how it changed their perspective are another 10 blogs to share.
I returned with a great, first Himalayan trek experience promising myself to be more considerate to nature and to return soon.
Way to go!
You are the best 👌 India Hikes Team.