Friday, 12 May 2017

The Mountain Story - Kedarkantha Diary

I want to go someplace where I can see snow”, she asserted. 

It was last few days of the college, and mandatory graduation trip was already in place. Our group was heading Indonesia for possibly the longest duration, but we craved for more and thus began the search for a snowy destination as she desired. We explored options from Sikkim to Everest base camp and finally zeroed down to Kedarkantha trek. It wasn’t easy to convince the lazy bones in the group for a trek, but we managed to establish a consensus. Just when everything looked fine, the plan received its first jolt when one of us had to drop because of early joining date. However, it didn’t stop the rest of us, and we embarked on the journey. 

“If anything can go wrong, it will”, says the Murphy Law. A quick stop in Delhi to buy trek gears looked impossible even when we had buffer time, all thanks to the great Indian railways and the dreadful journey that continued for 36 hours. It can be a whole new story on how we did everything just in time and managed to catch the connecting train to Dehradun. Early morning, we reached Dehradun railway station where we met the rest of the trek batch. Our transportation was ready, and it took 8-10 hours to reach Sankri village. It wasn’t a pleasant ride. It was almost evening when we checked-in to our hotel. A quick batch meet was called, and we were introduced to trek leader and the staff. It was followed by a session on detailed rules and scenarios in trekking. Later after dinner, I thought of going for a walk to explore the place, and I was accompanied by my friend. However, there was nothing much to see except few open shops and basecamps of other trek organisers; therefore, we mostly spent time chit-chatting while discreetly strolling the street from one end to another. It had been a long tiresome journey in past three days, and I dozed off early. 

The next morning, after quick breakfast and a mandatory group picture, we started our trek. The destination for the day was ‘Juda ka Talab’. It is approx. 4 KM from Sankri at an altitude of 9100 ft. Though the distance sounds less the steep climb and slippery track made it look like never ending path. The queries about distance kept coming, and there was always one standard reply from the guide – ‘another half hour’. Perhaps that was true for someone living in the mountains but for city dwellers like us that half hour was taking hours. A much-needed break came halfway when we stopped for lunch in an open meadow. A small Dhaba served us bread omelette and Maggi. It gave us some energy and with renewed vigour we continued. The first glimpse of campsite finally brought a smile and an end of today’s journey. I spent the evening sitting idly near the lake shore. The body was yet to acclimatise the mountains and the night wasn’t easy as almost everyone struggled to sleep. I had a sleepless night too but for an entirely different reason. 

Juda Ka Talab
The girl who yearned for snow got sick and had a restless night, but she recuperated by morning. “I drank a lot of water, and that’s how I recovered”, she said. It is true that hydrating adequately is an essential aspect while trekking as it keeps body and mind energised. It was time for us to march ahead and move to the next campsite, the Kedarkantha base. It is approx. 1.5 KM from ‘Juda Ka Talab’ at an altitude of 10,800 ft. Everyone was expecting another hectic day, but this was the easiest part of our entire trail, and we reached there even before we realised. There I witnessed the most picturesque sunset, and it was pure bliss. I spent next one hour trying to capture the remarkable moments. The darkness engulfed the entire place soon after sunset, and we headed to our tents after early dinner. 

A starry night greeted us at 3 AM in the morning as we got ourselves ready with crampons and gaiters to push for the Kedarkantha summit. I had started showing weariness, and my health card readings went alarmingly low in the morning. 
I told you to drink more water. Why don’t you listen?”, rebuked the girl. 
It is so scary to go out of the tent in that darkness.”, I replied sheepishly. 
Under the moon holding a torch in hand, we began hiking in the sleepy trails of the snow-clad Himalayas amidst the dark trees. I saw moon fading slowly as the sunshine engulfed the sky and the summit was visible but still far away. The trail was getting steeper, more inclined and challenging as we marched ahead. However, the landscape in front of us was getting more beautiful, and that kept us going. As we reached halfway, a sumptuous treat of deliciously baked omelettes came from the Barfani Dhaba. There we stopped for a while to fill our stomach and regain lost energy before continuing to the summit. The last leg of the trail was toughest where at some point inclination was almost 70 degree, but it didn’t deter us reaching the peak where at 12,500 ft. altitude breathtaking 360-degree views of mountains welcomed us. 

The descend started after spending 40-45 minutes at the summit. I felt exhausted and weak. However, it didn’t stop me as going downhill was comparatively easy and was more fun when we had to glide down. We traced our path back to Kedarkantha base and continued to our next camp in Hargaon. It was at an altitude of 8,450 ft. but not very far from Kedarkantha base. The body was drained but a jubilant mood wanted to celebrate the successful summit, and we continued playing games till late night. The next day we began descending back to Sankri. It was the last day of the trek, and we slowly but steadily followed the trail that was mostly through forest cover. 

Hargaon Camp
It felt good to see roads again though we started missing the harsh terrain soon. It was a relaxing stay in the hotel in Sankri, and we geared up to leave for Dehradun next morning. I looked out the car window as we ran parallelly to the river amid continuous drizzle. It was time to say goodbye to the beautiful landscape, the never-ending trail we covered on foot, the bonding and pain we shared. Though our journey ended we’ll continue to cherish the lifelong memories made in the woods and mountains. 

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