Trekking in the mountains require a lot of physical fitness, strong psychology, and passionate affection for flora and fauna. One should be ready to sacrifice the comfort of the home and face any hard situation in the mountains. Sleeping in tents, hiking through rough terrain, drinking water from the streams, filling the stomach with the simplest food etc. are part and parcel of every trekker’s life.
By the time I decided my next high-altitude trek, I already had a team of very enthusiastic trekkers willing to explore the Himalayas. In January 2018, we decided for a get together in a trek to one of the most remarkable places on the earth, Kedarkantha. Kedarkantha is a Himalayan peak in the Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. The peak stands at an elevation of 12500 feet and situated within the Govind wildlife sanctuary, also known as “Govind Poshu Vihar Park & Sanctuary”. We were a part of a professional trekking group.
In Uttarakhand, the most convenient starting point for all treks is Dehradun, which is also an extremely popular travel destination for tourists visiting the state. Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Haridwar are all within 55-60 Km from Dehradun. Apart from Dehradun, Kathgodam is another important starting point for trekkers in Uttarakhand.
Reaching the base camp
The base camp of Kedarkantha trek is a Himalayan village named Sankri, at an altitude of approx. 6500 feet. It takes approx. 9 hours by road to travel 190 Km from Dehradun to Sankri via Mussoorie. Shared cabs are available for the journey.
The base camps of different treks in Uttarakhand, are villages consisting of small shops, basic accommodation facilities for trekkers and the houses of the local people. Surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks and greenery all around, Govind wildlife sanctuary starts from Sankri. It is also the base camp for the famous Har Ki Doon trek. The temperature during night in January end, falls much below zero degree centigrade.
Kedarkantha is a short trek of 4 days from Sankri which can be visited any time of the year except for the rainy season. However, January to April is the best time to visit Kedarkantha for snow loving trekkers. It is one of the best winter treks in India.
4 days itinerary to Kedarkantha peak
Day-1: Sankri to Juda Ka Talab. Camp at Juda Ka Talab at an elevation of approx. 8800 feet. Camp site within the forest and by the side of the talab.
Day-2: Juda Ka Talab to Kedarkantha Base. Camp at Kedarkantha Base at an elevation of approx. 11250 feet. Camp site on a snow field.
Day-3: Kedarkantha Base to Kedarkantha peak at an elevation of 12500 feet. No camping and night stay.
Day-3: Kedarkantha peak to Har Gaon at an elevation of approx. 8400 feet
Day-4: Har Gaon to Sankri.
The trek to Kedarkantha, Day-1
The trek started at 9:00 am sharp. The path was steep and uneven as we trekked through Govind Wildlife Sanctuary. Small shops on the way run by the locals sell tea, Maggi, bread, and different preparation of eggs. After hiking up-hill for 2-3 hours, a cup of hot tea feels very refreshing.
The more we ascend, the amount of snow on the trail increased. Gaiter is a must for all winter treks like Kedarkantha. Finally, around 1:00 pm we reached Juda Ka Talab, a small frozen lake at an altitude of 8800 feet. Temperature in the afternoon ranged between approx. 5 to 6 Degree Centigrade.
The picturesque camp site at Juda Ka Talab was located inside the Govind sanctuary. With fresh snow all over and frozen lake on one side, the location was breathtaking. Soon after sunset, the temperature went negative and we had to pack ourselves in the sleeping bags after an early dinner. We were bit scared about the wild animals in the sanctuary, but learned that in that freezing temperature, all animals move down to a lower altitude and the camp site is safe from them.
Although stepping out of the tent alone at night is not recommended, on a trek, if you do not do that, you are not experiencing one of the most amazing view of the Himalayas, the sky and the pin drop silence. However, if you move out of your tent midnight, ensure someone accompanies you and you stay within of the boundary of the camps.
Day-2 on Kedarkantha trail
The days trek was a short hike of only 2 hours to Kedarkantha Base. The trail moves up-hill amid green trees with white patches of snow on them. The entire landscape was covered with snow and we could hardly find mud and rocks.
Kedarkantha Base is a snowfield keeping the tree line at a distance. Camps are set-up removing the snow in a relatively flattened surface area. The weather was crystal clear with the sun shining bright above our head. It was literally impossible to look down on the snow with naked eyes. Cat-4 sunglasses are a must in the treks, especially in a winter trek or a very high-altitude trek. Kedarkantha peak was clearly visible.
All the camp sites on the way to Kedarkantha are picturesque in nature and will blow your mind away. We, the trekkers should always be cautious on keeping these places clean and tidy. Throwing plastic bottles, wrappers of candies etc. should be prohibited. We were carrying a small pouch to stock our own throwaways on the trek and carry them down to the base camp.
Day-3 on Kedarkantha trail
We started the hike at 3:00 am as decided on the previous day. Destination was Kedarkantha peak at 12500 feet. The climb was more than 1000 feet and the target was to reach there before sunrise at 7:00 am.
That was a moonlit night and the path to the peak was unforgettable. The reflection of moon light from the snow on the ground and from the snow-capped mountain peaks was mind blowing. The trail was clearly visible and even with our head lamps switched off, we could hike without any obstacles.
At the beginning, the trail was somewhat flattened without much ascend. But, from a certain point, the stiffness increased and the slope was almost 45 degree. We started climbing at a faster face keeping in mind the target time of 7 am. Needless to mention, drinking water that we were carrying , were the life savers at that stiffness and altitude.
As we approached the peak, the amount of snow also increased on the slope. At places, the snow accumulation was not less than 4-5 feet. We had to be extremely cautious while climbing.
Magnificent view from Kedarkantha peak
It was dawn around 6:55 am, when we reached the peak. The arc from the west towards the east via north were filled with hundreds of snow-capped mountain peaks and the sun was gradually coming out behind those peaks in the east. I was literally speechless looking at the mesmerizing view of the sunrise. The temperature was freezing, and a very cold breeze was keeping the temperature much below the actual temperature at approx. negative 15 degrees.
We spend around 45 minutes on the Kedarkantha peak. From the peak, the destination was Har Gaon via Kedarkantha Base.
The descend from the peak was real fun. All the way down to Kedarkantha base, we slid on the snow, made snowballs, and threw at each other. We descended to Har Gaon around 2:30 pm which is almost on the same altitude of Juda Ka Talab.
The sun set at Har Gaon was again mesmerizing. The golden peaks at a distance was looking amazing.
Day-4 and Day-5 on Kedarkantha trail
Day-4 was the last day of the trek and we were descending to Sankri. After hiking for around 4 hours, we reached Sankri.
On the 5th day, it was time to bid goodbye to all our trek mates and the local people of Sankri. We started at 8:00 am and reached Dehradun by 6:00 pm.
Basic information regarding Kedarkantha trek
- Anybody above the age of 10 years can attempt Kedarkantha. There is no upper age limit. But it all depends the fitness of the person.
- Beyond Sankri, all accommodation is in tents. 2-3 people in one tent.
- Good sleeping bags to resist -15 degree Celsius is a must.
- Head Lamps are preferred to torch. It is extremely difficult to keep hands outside the pockets of the jacket and hold the torch.
- No smoking and drinking on the trail. Drinking and smoking dehydrates the body.
- Average day temperature during peak winter ranges between 3-5 degree centigrade
- Temperature at night falls to negative 8 to negative 10 degree centigrade
- Waterproof trek shoe, gloves, gaiter are mandatory for winter visit to Kedarkantha.
- No source of water on the trail. All streams remain frozen during winter. Hence, drinking water should be carried from the camps.
- The final stretch to Kedarkantha peak is steep with huge accumulation of snow. One needs to be extremely careful while climbing
- Kedarkantha is rated as easy to moderate trek.
N.B: Please check the covid guidelines 2022 by UK govt. before planning this trip.