Indeed It’s India: Snow Woods and the Kedarkantha Trek

Man Standing on top of the Kedarkantha Peak
Atop the Kedarkantha Peak

8:30 AM, 26th of December, 2017

There was a chilly morning wind around me as I was digging a really small hole in the mud. I take out the little trophy out of my waist pouch and put it in the hole and cover it up with some mud and many rocks. I finally finished The Kedarkantha Trek. Atleast the peak.

Standing up and looking around me, I realized that I was 12,500 feet above sea level. I was at the kedarkantha mountain peak. And I hid the treasure. It is now safe.

I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a little bit. Let me begin from where we left of actually.

Backing Up a Little Bit

So yes, it was the 24th of December and I was still in the little hill town of Sankri staring at the Har Ki Dun peak and not being able to see where the Kedarkantha was located at.

Apparently, the Kedarkantha peak would be visible only after a day’s trek into the woods surrounding it.

Snow filled Path through woods on the Kedarkantha mountain
Snow filled Path through woods on the Kedarkantha mountain

Before that, let me brief you about the organisers of the Kedarkantha Trek.

There is the Janjay Adventures led by Dr Krishna and Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru. Then there is our local guide the Himalayan Climbers led by Neeraj Joshi.

Dr Krishna is, as I’ve previously mentioned in my post, a man of great energies. Looking at how he moved from point A to point B, irrespective of the terrain, temperature or steep, one wouldn’t believe the fact that this person has had his chemotherapy just one day before the commencement of the trip. Nevertheless, he is always ready with his backpack and sunglasses.

Team Janjay Adventures
Left to right: Jude, Pinki, Debiprasad, Sharanya,Chandan, Neeraj, Amar, Jaahnavi, Senthil,Swetha, Dr Krishna, Simran, Me, Vedanth

For the local Guides, we were led by the Himalayan Climbers team. This included Neeraj Joshi, Chandan bhayya, Pratibha Joshi and their staff.

We began our trek on the morning of the 24th. We walk slowly and steadily up the hills. Occasionally halting because “Mule aarahe hain”

“ Mule aarahe hain”.

The First Day

We trekked for about 4 hours the first day before reaching a snowy terrain for our campsite. Accordingly, we parked ourselves for the evening and set a good bonfire and warmed ourselves.

Trekking through the woods
Trekking through the woods

View of sun setting

I would be lying if I told you all that there were no instances where I regretted coming to the trek. Every exhausting minute made me think my decision on embarking on this trek.

Exhaustion was one thing and the biting cold was another. If I were to emphasise that, the cold and shivers post 4 pm every day was too much to handle that we did not even find time to suffer.

Nevertheless, every time anyone complained about cold, Dr Krishna would tell us that feeling and shiver to bitter cold is just a choice. You can always regulate your own body temperature.

By the fire side
By the fireside

Also, whenever we were walking on snow, we were instructed to look at our feet and walk. This way we never comprehended how far we covered and managed balance( I do not know how that works exactly).

While I was totally oblivious to this fact, the instant I saw burning embers in that bonfire that day, I realized something.

The ambers knew nothing of the cold outside. They are just doing their job. Burning.

Now, this might sound a bit stupid but think for a while.

The ambers and the steady walk taught me something. Focus on your work and today and fret not tomorrow or the world.

Shiva

Me by the Juda ka talab
Juda ka Talab

Each day we worry about how we are going to date tomorrow, the day after or the next year. Accordingly, we look at our targets and goals at a distance and always wonder if we are ever going to make it.

Similarly, the simple way to deal with this is to just walk daily.

I mean, do your job today. Trust the process. Let go of the fear of reaching the summit. And before you realize it, you’re already at the summit.

The Three Musketeers

While the entire 4 days of the trek was eventful, there were quite a handful of instances where I got to see wildness. When I mean wild, I mean people with a casual sense of adventure. I mean the 3 Musketeers.

If-The-Car
If-The-Car

#1 Musketeer:

Iftheqhar

It would have been a mundane trek if it weren’t for Iftheqhar. There were ample instances where I got to see a true adventurer in him.

For instance, at the end of the second day of our trek, we finally reached the kedarkantha base camp. Panting and nursing to our exhaustion, most of us walked a little around the campsite viewing the snow, gazing at the surrounding scenic mountains or just basking under the sun.

Armed with his camera, Iftheqhar set out to explore other campsites and possible valley sides. I volunteered to join in too. This turned out to be a detour trek on its own but mostly for him as I gave up in the middle because I was lazy. He ventured further deep into the snowy woods to discover yet another frozen water body and a few amazing pictures along the way. Conversely, I sat on a big rock overlooking other mountains and pretended that it meant something profound. (It didn’t by the way)

All the witty and improv fuelled attributes aside, Iftheqhar brought into the group something unique. A real sense of adventure.

An adventure without wandering would just make you a tourist but never a traveller. And Iftheqhar was a true traveller.

Pratibha Joshi
Pinki

#2 Musketeer:

Pratibha Joshi( Pinki)

A travel blogger and a final year fashion designing student based out of-of Dehradun, Pinki was a true solo traveller.

All during the trek, you see a girl with her gloveless arms inside her white down jacket pockets. Walking uphill, downhill, through knee-deep snow, murky soil, rocky terrain with a small backpack strapped to her. All that without a single huff, pant or a stick to support her climb.

What’s more astonishing was her endurance throughout the trek.

She WALKED the climbs and JUMPED the steeps. A solo traveller and writer who I believe can simply walk to and fro on any terrain.

Pachu and Chandan bhayya respectively
Pachu and Chandan bhayya respectively

#3 Musketeer:

Pachu

I know too little of this guy except for the fact that he finished the kedarkantha peak in a single day, solo and without any backpack, resources or plan.

He is an avid traveller and a guide from Bangalore who aims to climb all the virgin peaks in the visible vicinity.

There were many such great souls along the way. Like Chandan Bhayya, whose signature motivation for us to walk was “aap ache kar rahe ho, Jo acha nahi kar raha hain, wo bhi acha kar raha hain” (You’re doing good. Those who are not doing good are also doing good).

Or the Hyderabadi guy called Karthik who had no plan except to halt and camp when he felt like it.

A Christmas by the snow
A christmas by the snow
Camping by the snow
Camping by the snow
A diary, Ink pen, and loads of snow
A diary, an ink pen, and loads of snow

himalayan snow

We celebrated a beautiful snow filled Christmas.

The Christmas day was full of walking/trekking in the snow. That was the beauty of The Kedarkantha Trek.

The phrase “You’re walking on thin ice” has had a literal sense on the Himalayas. In order to avoid any slipperiness, you are not supposed to walk on the path walked by anyone before. You’re supposed to walk on deep white snow which provides grip.

It’s ironic when you think about how contrary it is to how we are supposed to walk life figuratively. If we all did manage to walk in paths less taken, I don’t know how the outcome would be.

Maggie at high altitudes
Maggie at high altitudes

The next day was our summit day.

After a 4 am quick hot Maggie,

We started out early to the summit. In darkness. At 5:30 am in the morning.

Walking in the dark is different from walking in daylight. All we could see was the feet in front of us illuminated by our small headlamps.

Amidst Simran and Iftheqhar arguing whether the light by the adjacent mountainside sunlight or just a small village having a late party, the sun rose. We halted not more than 1 minute while ascending. Every halt gave us a magnificent view. Every view outranked the previous one by great proportions.

trees and snow
trees and snow along the way

an open meadow

The Kedarkantha Trek Peak of 12500 ft

By the time we were just a kilometre away from the summit, the group broke ranks. Scattered. A few behind, a few ahead. A small platoon returned back to the base camp. There came a moment when I was walking alone. For about 30 minutes or so.

I could see someone behind me and ahead of me at a considerable distance. I walked slowly but every step I took made me question my decision of embarking on this trip.

But every second I thought of giving up and turning back to the base camp, a single thought kept me walking.

“If I could do this. If I could finish this, I can do ANYTHING”

With that in my mind, I kept walking. Trying not to look at the peak which was at an intimidating distance but only at my feet because that helped me lose track of the time and effort.

People holding a banner on snow

The Treasure

Finally, at around 10:00 am, I made it to the summit.

Jaahnavi and Iftheqhar have already reached making me the 3rd person to summit.

I laughed a bit at how silly that sounded. Felt like being back to my kindergarten class.

Slowly people began to finish the summit. One by one.

We halted for about 20 minutes. Clicked a lot of pictures.

I found a nice snowy rock and sat down on it. Facing towards the south. Took a deep breath. I made it man.

I spent 10 solid minutes doing nothing but staring at all the mountain peaks I could. Naming them internally after my friends.

a gaze

I got up and went on to dig and bury the treasure I brought along with me.

I have hidden 2 letters along the way to the peak and 1 trophy atop the kedarkantha peak. If you ever felt lost. Or if you just like wanting to go out on a real treasure hunt, let me know. I will give you the map to find that treasure.

The only small tea stall you'll find during day 1 of the trek in the woods
The only small tea and maggie stall you’ll find during day 1 of the trek in the woods

And after a few more pictures, we started our descent.

Descents are something that is done with care and caution.

If done right they are all fun, and if not. Well, I wouldn’t be blogging soo early again would I?

Also, why are the ascents are always glorified but never the descents?

Whenever someone speaks of any adventure, they talk of all the dragons slain, traps avoided and snakes jumped to reach their treasure. And the story ends there. But come to think of it, it does not end there. You have to cross the same traps back. Jump above the same snake pits. Pass through the now dead dragon carcass. All this while carrying a huge loot bag.

A return from an adventure is an adventure on its own accord.

We slid down our way, walked a little, slid down some more and finally made it to the kedarkantha base camp and sankri the next day.

Digging snow
Digging snow
a huskie
A huskie???

We broke ranks again while descending as each of our descend speeds varied. Although the descent through the snow was a bit of a task but, once we crossed the snow-filled path and entered the woods, it was just a lazy and peaceful walk.

Lost and Found Himalayan Hospitality

I and a co-traveller Sharanya have lost our way when we finally reached the base village and kind of lost our way to our homestay.

But a bunch of local kids helped us find our way back.

kids

One of the best things I found during the Kedarkantha Trek about the mountains is the hospitality it possesses. In the mountains, money is just a piece of paper with no much meaning than a means of regulating transactions. Therefore, people do service out of pure love.

The Himalayan Climber staff’s job was simply to cook. But the staff were hospitable enough to persuade us to eat while the food is hot or eat some more because it apparently gives me energy. Asking us enough times to drink hot water, offering tea till we actually drink it.

Jaahnavi looks from every summit she does of every mountain and draws it on a tissue
Jaahnavi looks from every summit she does of every mountain and draws it on a tissue
Tissue paper art
Tissue paper art

The family which hosted us back in the base village of sankri before and after the Kedarkantha Trek too were an epitome for this. The kids constantly asking us if we need anything while the granny asking us about our trip. The little girls telling me how to layer so that I don’t freeze and many such instances prove the indigenous hospitality that the mountains possess. Something which no amount of money can ever buy.

Throughout the trek, I found that most of the people working around in the village were actually not from the village. They have come to work here from almost hundreds of kilometres away from this particular mountain range.

One such person was Gabbar, a staff member/chef in the Himalayan Climber troupe. 5 years ago when he was 16, he gave up his studies to work as a tour guide and as such.

“I get paid good and get to trek and travel a lot. My life is perfect” He says handing me a cup of hot tea the day we departed.

 

Gabbar by the himalayas
Gabbar

 

Save the Himalayas

One of the most disturbing things I found along the way is the litter. Sometimes along the way, I used to find a toffee wrapper or a cigarette stub or a paper glass.What was even more disturbing was the litter other trek companies were piling in the village.

Comparatively, I was glad that our trek organizers choose to use steel utensils for everything and not plastic.

A pile of dirty plastic plates in th
A pile of dirty plastic plates

While we packed our bags and our traveller tempo arrived to pick us up the next morning, I’m honest when I say I was happy to see Raju Bhayya but tensed at the prospect of another 8-hour nauseating drive back to Dehradun.

I couldn’t look back at the mountains as they hid pretty well among the wooded hills. Perhaps Chandan Bhayya’s “aap ache kar rahe ho” echoing throughout.

I just assumed that the mountains will be calm by nightfall. Resting, Relaxing.

As if humans walking on its surface has made it just as tired as we were or a bit more. It has had fun too, along with us. As if the peak itself was on the kedarkantha trek with us.

So did I, but for there was more, ‘cause the adventure continued…..

And the Adventure Continues atop kedarkantha trek
And the Adventure Continues

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