Metro to Mountains- Kedarkantha
Every beautiful journey comes into mind for a reason and it happened to us when we heard Kedarkantha calling us. With this, our journey started from the metro towards the mountains 😊
Kedarkantha is a peak in the Himalayan ranges with an altitude of 12,500 ft. It was our first winter complete snow trek and the preps for this began almost a month ago about shopping and fitness. We watched several videos and read many articles to understand this mountain and to understand level of prep required. The videos made us fall in love with the upcoming journey. Shopping for winter trek is quite expensive, so we tried to rent out most of the gears and bought only those things which can be used otherwise too. Fitness was the most important part of prep. We made sure to spend enough time every morning and evening for workouts and brisk walks. Fitness is really required as it will make sure that you enjoy your journey more with your fit body, rather than feeling exhausted and not enjoying the trek. With all these at the background, the journey finally began <3
The fresh morning orange and pink rays of sun welcomed us at Dehradun airport. We had a grace day before the trek and so, we basked into the arms of Mussoorie who showered us with fresh snow fall. 😊
Our trek was with the team- Trek the Himalayas. The next day, we started for Sankri, a beautiful remote village with about 120 families in the foot of Kedarkantha mountain. It was a journey of about 7-8 hours from Mussoorie. That evening, we were introduced to our team. We were a total of 17 trekkers from Kolkata, Mumbai, Delhi and Karnataka. There were 2 mountain guides- Vijay Rawat (aka Mallya) and Deepak bhaiyya. Then came our hero, like Shah Rukh of the Indian army in the movie Jab Tak he Jaan, with his hands in his front pockets and a firm face. His name is Rishabh, native of Joshimath, who was our trek leader. He educated us about the mountain, the terrain, and gave us various guidelines for trekking. He is an alumnus of NIMAAS and a pro-mountaineer. 😊
That night at shared room in Sankri literally gave me chills thinking about how to spend nights on the snowy mountains. It was so cold there that the temperature was nearing to zero. My mind almost gave up but looking at the enthusiasm of the team the next morning, my spirit was back.
Next morning, we were all geared up in our trekking gears- a rucksack, layers of dry t-shirt, fleece, down jacket, snow repellant pants with fleece, gaiters, pole and spikes. We followed the footsteps of our hero in a straight line. The pathway to our first destination- Juda ka talab was hard ice and it was so slippery that, within 10 steps of the hike, I put sashtanga namaskar to Kedarkantha. It hurt badly on my palm and it was worsened because of the cold. Gradually, I learnt the tactics of hiking from these thuds.
The mantra was this- baby steps, breathe from nose, keep mouth closed, walk with the team. Whenever we were stressed, we would shout- “Mallya bhaiyya, 2 mins break please”. In these breaks, we inhale from nose and exhale from mouth to stabilize the breath and sipped water, just enough to keep the throat wet. Rishi kept saying- “Guide se aage koi nahi jayega”. With all these lessons on our mind, we reached our first Maggie point- The chacha’s. The pahadi Maggie was super tasty and the tea & bun maska were out of the world.
We resumed our hike and after trekking for about 4.5 kms, we saw Juda ka talab coming into our sight in the evening. The view was spectacular. There was this vast frozen lake with snowcapped mountains and pine trees on the backdrop. Our campsites were all set up and Rishi introduced the campsite to us. There were 9 tents set up for us right next to the talab. There was a dining tent and two toilet tents. Our food was ready and after the tasty lunch, we rested for a while. Then we went to explore the region around the talab. All the pain felt worth it. I was just engrossed into the beauty of the region in the Himalayas.
Mallya bhaiyya then took us to a short acclimatization walk and there we found knee-deep snow all around. We started throwing snow at each other and most of us fell flat on our backs on the snow bed. It was dark when we were back. The sky was clear and there were zillions of stars in the sky. I found a rock next to the frozen lake and lied down on it watching the stars. Zindagi me taaronke neeche nahi soya, tho kya kiya? Could hear my heart beating in the silence. It was damn cold and after sometime, my legs started becoming numb. Then, after a healthy supper, we went into our tents to sleep.
Sleeping inside the sleeping bag was so weird. I remembered how they showed in the TV- wrapping up a deceased COVID patient. The temperature hereon everyday after the sundown would be a lot below 0 degree. I could never sleep even a bit and was feeling very uncomfortable inside the bag. I controlled my emotion, but I don’t know what, I felt so helpless and scared that I started crying. Then I woke up Deepak and he put me back to sleep. It was like I was waiting every minute for the night to end and the soorya to come.
Next morning, 4 of our team members quit. They descended from Juda ka lab. The tiredness of my sleepless night went away when the snow trek began to the next destination- the base camp. The view throughout the trek was breathtaking. There were fallen trees on which inches of ice had formed a layer. There were pine trees with the snow capped on their branches, bright red rhododendron flowers with beautiful petals. The view was so amazing that this therapy to eyes relieved me out of all the pains. After trekking for about three-four hours, we reached the base camp.
Upon reaching, our hero gave us some fitness training as we had our summit climb the upcoming day. Sun was harsh and I already had got sun tan in spite of strong sunscreen. There were many campsites of other companies in this vast area of plain snow surface. We could see the peak of Kedarkantha, our destination for tomorrow from here. It gave me chills thinking about whether I would be able to walk so far and high in just 4 hours. However, the view from our tents was very beautiful that one can’t stop gazing at the nature. Lying inside the tent with legs stretched outside, we saw the sun escaping into mountains to brighten up someone else’s day on the other part of the world.
Then came the night. My scariest part of trek. Like, literally, I would be lying inside the bag, counting minutes to pass. Thankfully, our sleep time was just 4 hours that day. “Kal ka timing 2-2:30-3” Rishi had said, meaning morning tea at 2AM, breakfast at 2:30 & start by 3AM.
TTH team served us with their yummy kaada every morning. They prepared it with tea leaves, ginger, elaichi, lemon and pepper and without milk. This drink removed all stress and prepared us for the day. Like- (kannada dialogue) “Jeevanadalli nava chaitanya moodisutthade” 😀 😛
We all gathered with our gears at 3AM and set out our night trek. This trek was kind of weird as we had to walk without any views in the dark. We could only see as much as our torch covered. The trek was easy on few parts and on other parts, it was so dangerous. I slipped at least 3 times. One motu trekker in our team (I know he’s very lazy to read my travelogue till here, so I’m mentioning him as ‘motu’ fearlessly 😀 ) could not hike any further, so he gave up the summit. The rest of us hiked, and after almost 4 hours of trek, sun started peeping from the mountains. On the other side was the moon, in his perfect waning crescent shape. The sky looked like it was a big dark blue shawl with orange, red borders to it. It was so beautiful when these colors fell on the white snow on the mountains and this snow reflected these colors. I was literally in tears when I saw this beauty. I would go to any extent to witness this view again. It was a non-alcoholic nasha I felt there. The air there had brought some kind of sweet fragrance with it, which will remain in my heart forever. Amazing, I fall short of words to explain this beauty. This was a gift to me, a reward for having worked hard for many days. This reward was priceless. We sat few meters below the summit and witnessed the sunrise. I literally absorbed these rays and stretched my arms out to embrace it.
The last few meters of the climb seemed very dangerous. It was dead deep on the sides. My feet were not moving at all. I was standing there, not knowing where to go, how to do it. Then came our hero Rishabh. He came to me and said- “Ithna tak kiya, ab last few meters kya darna”, grabbed my hand and started moving quickly on the narrow path. I literally closed my senses and just went wherever he took me. That feeling when I reached the summit was spectacular. Swargarohini and other peaks looked like they were wearing bright and sparkling pearl and silver jewelry. I thanked God for giving me a birth in this beautiful land, for giving me an opportunity to see this beautiful creation he made. We absorbed the beauty of Himalayan ranges from the top.
Now comes my favorite part- The descent. Can you imagine a snow slide? Yes, we not just imagined but experienced it: Twice 😊. Sit on the slide path, lift your legs slightly from the ground, lift your arms up and hold the pole horizontally and slide! Whoooosh! I had never experienced anything like this before and this is my favorite part of the entire trek. Free fall slide for about 200 metres with a spectacular view ahead! We had two such slides to go. The snow would be atleast 4-5 feet deep, which makes it impossible to descent by walk, so sliding remains the only option. On my second slide, there was a big rock along the way, which hit my bum, the pain which still is reminding me of its existence as I write this 😀 Anyways, once we finished the slides, we had to walk down the steep mountain with heels first, bending the body backwards to maintain balance. I never got this logic, and Gosh, I was slipping, falling with every 5 steps like a rhythm 😀 I always thought descent would be easier, but I have a different opinion now after taking several hits on my bum and knees!
Well, well. On the way back, we witnessed some amazing sights more beautiful than the ones from the summit. I could not take pictures, infact, the pain on my body did not let me! I just absorbed the beauty with my eyes and locked it inside my heart and kept hiking down. We finally reached the next Maggie point. We rested well there and then started moving towards our next beautiful camp- Hargaon. This was our last campsite and the view was just amazing from our tents. Rishabh proudly asked- “Maine hi location set kiya tha, kaisa laga aap logonko?”. In the front there was spectacular view of the snow mountains, on the left there was endless snow covered land, on the right and back there was pine forests. Simply superb choice Rishabh!
Upon reaching the campsite, we chilled for sometime and then enjoyed the samosas in the mountains prepared by our amazing chef. Then suddenly Mallya bhaiyya played loudly the pahadi songs and started showing his moves infront of our tents. We joined him, encircled him and then enjoyed some bhangda too along with some pahadi moves. Our delicious dinner was served to us and then we played antakshari until we felt sleepy.
The next morning, we started our descent towards Sankri. This was the easiest of all the days, as we had the feeling of accomplishing the summit. The best part of this day was Rishabh 2.0. Like how Shah Rukh from the army suddenly becomes sweet towards the end of Anushka’s journey with the army men. He was a strict person till then and now suddenly showed his real face of being sweet 😊 This was his way of work, which taught me particularly time management and brought back discipline in life exactly like I followed in my high school days. The discipline had made me a rank holder then, it made me a responsible trekker today.
Upon reaching Sankri, we went ahead to explore the little village, talked to the villagers about their daily life, played with little kids on the streets. Then our de-briefing session took place and we were given certificates with ‘Summiteer’ stamp on it 😊 I am thankful to Kedarkantha as it has let me climb it. I repeat- I have not conquered this mountain, rather, it has let me climb it. I am very thankful to TTH for having set such an amazing experience for us.
The mountains have taught me so many valuable lessons: Life without internet and gadgets is way more peaceful as you ‘totally’ like literally ‘Kaaya and vaacha’ live with the people and serene nature around you. The importance of co-existence of nature and people. The concept of equality is followed completely in the mountains. No stupid notions work out there. You have to be humble to everything and everyone around to be able to survive.
It taught me that we really don’t need ‘many’ things to live happily. Limited things can bring more happiness as the concept of wanting for more things is not valid here. Gifted with a fit body to live, a right mind to dwell in to realize the gifts around us are more than enough to live happily. This is true happiness, which is not bound by ‘things’. It is life here, which is a plain and a simple one having that completeness inside out. ‘Life is really simple’ I felt..We unnecessarily complicate it by creating unnatural bonding with materials. Life, on its own is a simple stuff.
I have fallen in love with the mountains and its people. Wanting to go back whenever opportunity strikes.
So, this is my story of transformation from being a metro woman to a mountain woman.
Thank you! 😊
Written by: CA Nileema D Shenoy