YHAI conducts many treks of different difficulty levels. This was by far the hardest I have been on. Unfortunately it would seem that this was the last YHAI organised trek to Kedarkantha in the month of December. Further treks would most likely take place in November as the Govind Pant National park where the trek takes place will remain closed next December onwards.
We went during the dates from 31st Dec 2016 to 6th Jan 2017. One whole day goes in transfer from Mussoorie camp to Sankri itself. The journey takes around 8 hours and is uneventful for the most part. Though the road taken is beautiful and many hills are to be crossed before Sankri is reached with Yamontri snaking down slowly in the valley far below.
Reaching Sankri, it was raining and a quick tea was followed by orientation activities.
In the lower camps, the camp in-charges put a lot of emphasis on getting acclimatised. This essentially meant not stuffing yourself over to resemble a fat over layered walrus but to get used to the cold so that the 5 layers which were to be worn at the higher camps would be adequate.
The acclimatisation walk the next day was quite standard and we went to an old local temple after that. Packing of bags, getting weight checked by the leaders and then preparation for the night cultural program dance took the rest of the day.
The cultural program was very diverse with many talented people performing. We learnt dance steps to the extremely catchy song jhingat from Sairat. Every trip has an associative song and for me it was.
We started from Sankri for Juda ka talab around 9 after the breakfast. It was a 6 hour trek including a lunch break. At Juda ka talab camp the sunlight disappears around 5:30 and hence everything is super fast and compressed in the small time you have there. This includes tea, dinner, taking of sleeping bags and bournvita. And then it is off to the tents to sleep. However we defied the cold and stood till 9:30 pm telling each other stories, singing songs and moving our bodies.(to feel warm)
Started towards Lohasu camp. Juda ka talab is a frozen lake that comes after 30 minutes of trekking. It is a good place to get your rainsheet and do a few small slides.
Onward from that was long ascends towards the base camp for the summit : Lohasu.
Lohasu has many trekking groups at one place. This is the base for the Kedarkantha summit. It had started snowing by the time we reached Lohasu and we got fresh live snowfall pics instead of the simulated ones we were clicking. 😀
Inspite of the inaccessible remote place and the shortage of water, dinner had gulab jamun which made me quite happy.
We were woken at 2:00 am and started our ascend to the peak. No bags were to be taken and minimum supplies (goggles, jaggery, water ) were carried. It was total night when we started the climb and it felt magical to see torches bobbing around in a straight line ahead and behind me.
The idea was to see the first sun rays of the day from the top of the kedarkantha. Alas, owing to the difficulty level I could not witness this precise sight. However, first rays and the view from the top were too amazing. However it was too icy and cold to register the beauty of this sight for more than 5 minutes. The trek upwards to the summit was one of the most challenging climbs I have taken. The steepness of the climb plus the fast snow laden wind made the climb notoriously difficult. But the whole group soon came onto the top. The top has a small symbolic shankar mandir with a ganesh shrine at the entrance.
After some 30 minutes at the top, the downward journey began.
This however was full of snow slides and we reached the Lohasu with a nice frozen bum.
After lunch at Lohasu we quickly made a short trek to the next camp which was at har ki gaon.
The camp here is small but there was a nice patch of sunlight some distance below. This was a good place where we played frisbee.
Soup was served and tea soon followed. The long day ended with a nice DJ atmosphere created by everyone which included catchy music, flashy party googles, LED balloons and some spirited dancing.
This was a downward trek back to Sankri base camp. Watch out for slippery falls on slopes due to ice. Quite a few of us tumbled on our heads. 😀 After certificate collection it was time to head back via the 8 hour bus journey back to Dehradun with memories of snow and ice.
1) Get a stick to aid the climb from the Sankri camp. ( Or you can borrow it from the previous batches)
2) Carry woolen socks
3) Avomine and an empty stomach if you are prone to motion sickness on the bus journey from Sankri to Mussorie and back.
4) Do not defile nature just for small conveniences and comforts. Please do no not get plastic/Styrofoam plates and aluminium foils on treks. These do not degrade and all the waste in the camps is manually ported back to lower camps. Do not add to the junk.