Travelogue with TTH to Kedarkantha
Day 1: It was between 05:45 and 07:00 hrs on a cold November morning that twelve of us gathered together in the parking area of the Dehradun railway station. We came from different locations in India, but with only one purpose, to summit Kedarkantha peak.
Immediately, the efficiency of the ‘Trek The Himalayas’ team became apparent. The Tempo Traveller that would take us to Sankri was neatly parked next to the SBI ATM and our bags were loaded onto its roof. The vehicle was new and the tyres were in good condition with deep treads for grip.
After a round of self-introductions, we set off for Sankri at 0800 hrs and on the way passed through Mussoorie; stopped for a late breakfast (brunch) after crossing a little town named Kempty.
As we drove on, I spotted a Pallas’s Fish Eagle (with the distinctive white band on its tail) soaring upwards on a thermal above the Yamuna river. I hadn’t seen an eagle up so close!! How I wish I had carried my telephoto lens.
We continued alongside the Yamuna river and reached the Govind Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park around 16:00 hrs, where each of us had to give a photocopy of our ID card and a Passport size photograph.
We reached Sankri (elevation: approx. 6,400 feet) by evening. We were accommodated in a very nice hotel, the Wild Orchid Inn, with breath-taking views of the mountains and the valley with the river roaring down below.Since we were six gents and six ladies, rooms were allotted gender-wise as there were two rooms with 3 beds and three rooms with 2 beds. The rooms were neat and clean and the bathroom had a geyser which delivered piping hot water in minutes. It was pure luxury.
At 18:00 hrs, there was a briefing by Dev (our Trek Leader). We were asked to introduce ourselves with name, hometown and trekking experience. We were then given clear instructions about the code of conduct on the trek, dos and don’ts, and what we could expect during the trek. We were a family now, every member responsible for the other. Our medical and disclaimer forms were collected from us along with a passport sized photograph. We were given small cute Trash Bags into which we were to collect the sweet / chocolate/biscuit wrappers that we would consume during the trek. Trek The Himalayas (TTH in short) are a very responsible team and care very much for the fragile environment of the mountains. We were told that we would follow the 7-8-9 routine the next morning (tea at 7, breakfast at 8 and commence trekking at 9). All of us who had opted for our bags to be carried by Mules paid the fee. Those of us who had asked for trekking poles on hire were given suitable trekking poles. The briefing session was followed by a sumptuous dinner during which the hot topic of discussion was ‘paranormal activity and ghosts’.
By evening, the sky had become overcast and there was the constant drumming of hail rattling on the roof and we were a bit unnerved and kept wondering what would the weather be like tomorrow?Would we need our Ponchos? Would we be able to get good views of the mountains?
Day 2: We woke up to find clear skies and clement weather. We were ready and raring to go by 0900 hrs. Our bags, which would be carried by the mules, were neatly arranged outside our hotel entrance. When the mules arrived, our bags, along with the tents and sleeping bags, kitchen utensils, and other equipment were loaded on the mules. There were three furry dogs, hanging around the steps of our hotel. They were very friendly and allowed all of us to pet them. We were asked to pick up our munchies (a bar of chocolate, boiled sweets and biscuits). We posed for a pre-trek group photograph with the TTH banner, and then we set off with our backpacks…
We trekked through a Pine forest over rocky terrain and it was a gradual climb. We stopped every fifteen minutes or so to allow others to catch up. During these breaks, our Trek leader, Dev would share nuggets of trekking lore and knowledge. The forest was stunningly beautiful and the air was clean and pure. We refilled our water bottles at selected streams (Dev pointed out those streams which were safe). At around noon, we came to a flattish clearing where there was a small shack where a local was selling Tea and Maggi.
Dark clouds started forming and our hearts sank… We pushed on and then as it started snowing, we spotted tents!!! We had reached Juda-ka-Talab (elevation: approx. 9,100 feet), our campsite. It was in a small clearing and there was a small lake in a corner. After a late lunch, we went on an acclimatisation walk. The purpose of this walk was explained. It is a good healthy practice to climb higher and then camp at a lower elevation. We climbed up the mountainside for about half an hour and returned to our camp to a hot yummy soup. After the soup, Dev and Santosh came and checked our Heart Rate and Oxygen saturation in our blood using a Pulse-Oximeter.
By then the clouds had cleared and we were left with our mouths gaping. The stars!!!!! It was a new moon night and the firmament was bright with stars. We could clearly make out the Milky Way. It was a spectacle to behold. Every five minutes or so, a shooting star would streak across the sky. The temperature started dropping sharply and we had a quick tasty dinner and got into our tents.
The night was cold, very cold. My toes were in agony. It felt as if someone was pounding them with a hammer. It took about an hour for the sleeping bag to get warmed up and gradually, my toes stopped hurting.
For those of us who wanted to go to the loo in the dead of night, the screeches and barking sounds from the forest around the camp were a bit unnerving. But when we unzipped the tents and stepped out with our torches, much to our delight, we were accompanied by our very own Z security force – the camp dogs. We could not have felt safer!!! Until now, they were only cute cuddly pooches to be petted.. Now they suddenly became very important. They accompanied each of us to the toilet tents and back (of course, they had to be gently persuaded not to follow us into our tents).
Day 3: Brilliant sunrise with clear skies!!The 7-8-9 routine was followed. We had a sumptuous breakfast, did some stretching exercises, picked up our munchies, and after a group photograph at the lake, we set out towards our next camping site, the Kedarkantha Base Camp (elevation: approx. 11,250 feet). As we ascended, the view of the surrounding snow-clad peaks became more and more spectacular. And now we started crossing patches of snow. We reached the camping site before the mules arrived. It was here that we got our first view of the Kedarkantha peak.
When the mules arrived and the bags and tents were unloaded, our TTH staff gave us a demo on erecting a tent. We then enthusiastically erected our own tents. It was pretty simple and quick. We then got our sleeping bags and kept them in the sun on top of our tents. This was to air them and also warm them in the sun.
In the evening, we went for another acclimatising walk up the mountainside. This was followed by a hot soup, a Pulse-Oximetry test and dinner.
During the briefing by Dev, he pointed out that we were going to summit the Kedarkantha Peak the next day and hence had to start early in the morning, so as to reach the summit by noon (which was the turnaround time).
Day 4: We woke up early and full of excitement. What luck again – clear skies and brilliant sunshine!! After a nutritious breakfast, stretching exercises and picking up our munchies and the packed lunch, we set off over the snow-clad mountainside. The trail was a bit steep with ankle deep snow. After two hydration stops, we reached the base of the peak and commenced our final ascent.
The incline was very steep and the soft snow made the path very slippery. Looking up, we started getting worried about our capability and safety. But the reassurance and motivation by our trek lead for the day, Jocelyn D’Souza saw us through to the summit. It was a thrilling and exhilarating experience!!!
The 360-degree view from the summit was simply awesome. The entire range of snow topped peaks to the north were visible in clear detail along with the smaller Shivalik hills to the south. Dev pointed out each peak with names like Bandarpunch, Kalanag (Black Peak), Swargarohini, etc. We spent about half an hour on the summit clicking photographs. We ate our packed lunches, clicked group photographs with the TTH summit banner and then started our descent.
Trekking downhill in the snow was a hilarious experience with many of us slipping, sliding and landing on our behinds in the soft snow.
Once below the snow line, we were back in the forest and reached the base camp by early evening. Hot lunch was prepared and soon the sun started setting. After a delicious dinner, we crept into our tents and sleeping bags to brave the cold night.
Day 5: We again woke up to a clear sky, and after breakfast and some stretching exercises, we set off for Sankri. This was a longish trek, albeit downhill; through beautiful pine forests and a quaint little village. We reached Sankri mid-afternoon and surrendered to a well-earned hot water bath.
The evening’s de-briefing was a celebration-of-sorts with each trek member relating his / her experience, filling up the feedback forms and receiving our certificates with the much coveted ‘SUMMITEER’ stamp in Red.
We were then formally introduced to the entire TTH support crew.
The conversation over dinner was predominantly “Which trek do we go on next???” Expert opinion and recommendations were sought from the TTH staff and fitness levels were discussed.
I finally concluded that whichever the trek, it would definitely be with TTH.
Day 6: After a sound sleep, we woke up ready for the long drive back to Dehradun.We said our goodbyes to the TTH staff, exchanged mobile numbers and petted the pooches for the last time before boarding the Tempo Traveller.
We stopped to pick up some local produce like rajma, red rice, etc., at a store in a small village before halting for a brunch of yummy Parathas at Negi Dhaba in the village of Mori.
We reached Dehradun railway station by around 1700 hrs. Our group had bonded very well, and it was painful to say our goodbyes. We exchanged contact numbers, created a WhatsApp group, and decided to plan another trek together!!!
Special thanks to the TTH team: Aarti Sharma for customer Relationship Management and for patiently and promptly answering all our questions; Rajat Sah for Transport and Logistics; Joselyn D’Souza (Trek Leader) Dev, and Santosh Danu for motivating and guiding us during the trek; Bakshi and his team for the delicious food throughout the trek.
The entire trek was one unique learning opportunity. And I was privileged to meet and network with some very remarkable people. And the beauty of the mountains was simply awesome. I rate this trek with TTH, my most enjoyable trek to date!!!
Written By :- Sandeep Gangoli