Keeping up with my travel goal of covering India’s 10 best treks, I decided to set out on number 8 -called Kedarkantha. Having done number 10 - Sandakphu, 9- Hampta Pass, 7- Chopta Chandrashila, and a few other shorter ones, I was prepared to strike off the next one on the list and this time all by myself.
Indiahikes was my choice for the sheer professionalism and accountability they demonstrate in organizing these expeditions for trekking enthusiasts. This was my 3rd trek with them. As we were inching close to the date of trek, we started receiving a stream of emails from them notifying us about the preparations we need to make, things we need to carry and getting us all on a WhatsApp group for us to start interacting.
I had booked-DDN express (I didn’t realize at the time of booking that it starts at Madurai) – a train, I realized closer to the date of the trek, was getting delayed consistently. Fortunately around that time, one of the trekkers in our batch sent a message on our WhatsApp group mentioning she had extra tickets for Nanda Devi (another train to Dehradun which starts at Delhi and had a comparatively better running status) as her friends had to pull out at the last minute. I jumped at the opportunity and decided to travel by Nanda Devi and cancelled my existing ticket.
Interestingly, the whole situation made me meet 3 friends Aishwarya, Pranay and Varun – all Charted Accountants from Chennai and Sonam – another solo traveler from Mumbai who utilized the opportunity just like I had.
It was the night of 23 Dec, while we all met on the train, we got along pretty well, so much so the noises we made while interacting had put all the fellow passengers at unease.
We arrived at Dehradun the next morning at about 7 am and had to board a mini-bus for our 10-hour drive to the basecamp – a small village named Sankri. While the five of us waited for the bus to leave, we were joined by Tejaswi and Avinash – two more CAs from Delhi. By now we had 5 CAs in a group of 7 people. And if that wasn’t enough we discovered, 2 more CAs were joining us from Bangalore making it a total of 7 CAs. It was raining CAs and that was purely coincidental.
Apparently all the CAs on board were a tad bit disappointed for running into their own fraternity for the want of running away from them. The non CAs were wondering if 'CAs are the new engineers'!
Well the ice-breaking happened with all the banter that took place on the bus. And in no time we were chit-chatting, laughing and grooving to the soulful music of Amit Trivedi- courtesy one of the CAs.
We reached Sankri at dusk and met Tanmay Bain – our trek lead for the next 4 days. We were stay put in a guest house. The rooms were allotted to all the trekkers on a sharing basis. The first thing we were given, was a health card which we were asked to carry with us for the entire duration of the trek. Our blood pressure, oxygen levels and BMI were recorded in that health card.
This was one practice which was religiously followed for the entire duration of the trek at every campsite. Our health was kept a close check on to ensure we could undertake our journey successfully.
After settling down in our rooms, we gathered for the first briefing of our impending trek and met other fellow trekkers. We were a group of 29 people from various parts of India. During the quick round of introduction which included talking about our trekking experience, I discovered, I happened to be the most experienced trekker in the group. And while I rattled off the names of the treks I had undertaken, some of them seemed flabbergasted. Well, I was surprised as until my last trek I probably was the least experienced trekker and suddenly, I was there on the pedestal.
The briefing was followed by evening snacks and early dinner. We got together to play cards that night, after a few rounds of playing bluff, and speculating whether or not it will snow, as all the previous batches had returned disappointed, not having experienced snowfall, with an unrelenting hope in our hearts we proceeded to our respective rooms and called it a night.
It was 25th of Dec, when we woke up in Sankri, the day of Christmas and the first day of our trek. I had heard the sound of the raindrops falling on our roof the previous night and voila! we woke up to a chilly morning with glimpses of snow from afar on the mountain peaks, which weren’t there the previous day.
Well, the excitement was building up, as now there were chances of finding snow on our trail. Kedarkantha happens to be a winter trek, essentially a trek defined by its snow covered landscapes, in the absence of which we would have had to return disappointed like most of the previous batches. But now we had seen a ray of hope, up in the mountains.
We got ready, had breakfast, offloaded our bags and gathered to begin our journey. A few of us were late and we only started the trek 15 mins later than our scheduled time. A stickler for time, our trek-lead wasn’t very impressed, he used his quick wit to get the message across and finally led us to our day one climb.
We were at 6400 ft. and were to gain 2700 ft. to reach the campsite called Juda Ka Talaab at a height of 9100 ft. – one of the prettiest campsites – so we had heard.
The trek began with views which had autumn hues, the lush greenery – a prominent sight in monsoons was taken over by the sun-dried trees, a carpet of brown leaves, faded hues of the fall, a seemingly worn-out ambience with a rustic charm and a rugged terrain. We started our ascent crackling our way up on the fallen leaves.
We identified our campsite by our signature orange camps along with the dining tent where we were all supposed to gather. It had been snowing for about 3 hours, we started feeling the chill in our spines and pangs in our stomachs.
The warmth of the sun was comforting and view of the snow covered expanse quite exhilarating.
We reached our campsite and picked our camps and got together to play water-relay – a fun game that made us replenish ourselves with water while playing. We played a few outdoor games and were then given a demonstration of crisis management on a trek. It included learning how to make rope stretchers and how to carry ailing trekkers. The set of activities kept us engaged until the evening. Another round of health check and we were given micro-spikes which we were supposed to wear the next day.
Few moments before the sunrise over the Swargarohini peaks
The sky changing colours
All while making our way up the summit
I don't think Pavan even has a slightest clue of this picture. :) P.C. Pranay
Inching close to the summit, I turn around and get a picture with the 'background' and the 'foreground'. P.C. Pranay