The fact that this summit has almost three well established trails leading to the base camp tells about how famous this trek has become over the last few years. Weekends see more than hundreds of trekkers attempting the summit which was one of the reasons for me to avoid but the snow shrouded summit lured me into it and what a great decision it was!
Trekking companies, for their justifiable reasons, would want you to complete this trek within 4 days but in above average fitness, you can return back on the second day itself (if not on the same day if you’re really short on time). Here’s a quick itinerary if you want to make this long weekend jump to Kedarkantha by yourself.
Night 0 – Night train from Delhi to Dehradun – Trains during Covid are barely running with any occupancy at all. There is no blanket service for the night so it was helpful for me to be carrying my sleeping bag for the trek. A fellow passenger next to me had to use my sleeping mat to ward off some cold for him to manage a blink.
Day 1 – The long bus from Dehradun to Sankri via Purola – recommended to carry a neck pillow because this one is going to be long and tedious one. The bus to Purola starts at 630 AM from the bus stand which is right next to the Dehradun railway station. Make sure to book your train accordingly and get a seat on the bus as soon as you get down from the railway station. This bus is decently comfortable but you should drop any hopes for the one that you will have to board from Purola to Sankri via Mori. You can also consider hopping on to one of the Boleros from Purola incase the bus seems overwhelming. Overall you should be at Sankri by 4-5 PM. NETWORK ALERT – Except BSNL, no network is available at Mori and beyond just in case you need to make any calls before that. This was quite surprising for me given Sankri is a major attraction and the towns before that were bustling with a sizeable population and busy markets. This was especially in contrast with the lesser busy towns of Himachal that have fairly good network service with 4G available in most places.
Sankri is this quaint beautiful town waiting for trekkers in the middle of the mountains. As soon as you get down from the bus, you will not miss the sound of the zipline wheezing over the gorge on your left. I met Mr Bahattar Singh (Hindi for the number 72 - you can reach him at 9410707371) at the bus stop who solicited me to take him as my guide. He was quite old and had a rustic personality and I didn’t give it much of a thought before agreeing to go with him. I didn’t even negotiate on the price with him and ended up giving him Rs2400 (Rs 2000 per day as his fees and Rs 400 on tops for being helpful wherever he could). One could also think of going without a guide on this well marked trail but couple of reasons why you should definitely hire a guide:
- Contribute to the local community – as simple as it is. We ought to spend money on local products and services if we want to enjoy the beauty of their local landscape
- Govt rules – Local administration have made it mandatory for trekkers to hire a registered guide given the increasing cases of people going missing. There is no one whose checking but it’s ideal to not come up in any situation such as this
- You might actually need the guide at some point if you’re not a professional hiker/mountaineer.
The guide helped me find a nice home-stay/ hotel and guided me to a cafe with internet facility which ran almost perfectly for a few minutes before going off but that’s all I had needed. Roamed around the town for a bit, explored the multitude of shops renting trekking gear, had some brilliant coffee at the town square, came back to the property, chilled with the staff for a bit to know more about the trek and slept into the chilly night.
Day 2 – Base Camp - After oversleeping, leisure bathing and a stomach full of breakfast had set me late to start my trek at 10 AM, I made it a point to cover up some distance quickly and behind Mr Bahattar, walking steadily across the ever steep forest for 6km, I reached Juda Ka Talaab at 1PM. I made some lunch here – peanut butter bread and some ginger tea and after making some quick notes, was quickly up and walking to rest only at the base camp next which was another 2kms of continuous uphill walking. Reached around 245 PM The heavy traction on this mountain has made the trails beaten up bad and combined with melting snow, you get a swampy uphill walk where you will notice people with crampons also slipping while coming downhill. I got my lightweight spikes on at this point.
[NOTE FOR NEXT TIME – I should have stayed at a further camp beyond the regular base camp which is an hour ahead but the idea came in later and we had already settled by then]
WATER – Water is an essential thing to consider for camping and the nearest water source to this camp is an hour away. I was up for making the distance and getting 5-6 litres for the night but my guide insisted that he borrow it from someone he knew at the camp and I gave in.
Base Camp was almost like a village given the population density. We were glad to find a secluded corner near a shed which I later used for cooking and set up my 2 man tent. I unpacked, changed, went for a stroll and settled in with some coffee before it was dusk. Went into the night chatting up with some fellow trekkers, made dinner with the ready-made lentils and rice that I was carrying with my portable gas and stove, heated some water for the night and slept in time to start the early morning trek to the summit.
Day 3 – Summit Day - Got up at 3AM but only managed to get out by 330AM. The guide had decided to stay in another tent with his old found friends a few yards away so he’d fixed me some tea by the time I got ready. I had some dry fruits, some more peanut butter and bread and we were off. It took us around 50 mins to reach the tea point towards summit where I had more of black tea, soaked in the warmth of the fire and delighted at the silence around as we had left the other groups behind by atleast 15-20 mins. This was by far the most peaceful time sitting in that makeshift tent before dawn, listening to local music. My guide at this point suddenly started feeling unwell (most probably a result of more than a few drinks the previous night - so probably not the most ideal guide but he was quite old and I was happy to have him around) and grouped me with another guide and his single client who could maintain the same pace as we had. So, the three of us marched ahead at the top of the line slowly to reach the summit before sunrise.
I feel the mountains before sunrise put up an even beautiful show than at sunrise with the diffused twilight marking the distant snow clad peaks. The entire bustle before reaching the summit was made worth while sitting there and taking in the view. At this point my phone and Go-pro died on me given that high altitude cold weather dries up the batteries. Keeping them fully charged and warm within a pocket can help and that’s a note to self for next time. I had to rely on my fellow trekker to take a couple of pictures for memory. This is what mountains always do to me, in all the walking and camping and cooking, I forget to take pictures, charge my gadgets, despite carrying a power bank and a solar panel as well. Perhaps next time I’ll be more conscious of it. I found a nice corner with some guides behind the summit flags, chilled with them for a bit and when my new group buddies were done with the photos, we quickly came down SLIDING. The path back is a different one and the one that allows you to slide through the narrow slides created by man butts and within no time, we were back at the tea point where I had left my guide earlier in the morning.
We both were happy to see each other and a black tea later, we started walking back towards our camp. We made lunch again with the ready-made packets of food left with me, packed up the tent and started walking back to Sankri.
I asked the guide to take me back through another route which was so much better than the swamps near Juda ka Talaab and more importantly, much quieter as well – in fact I didn’t spot anyone on the trail while coming back except some locals. I was back in Sankri by 2PM and was lucky to find a traveller that was going back empty to Dehradun and was happy to find people who were going the same route. I stopped at Zostel Mussoorie for the night.
Day 4 – Back to Delhi by 10 PM via the evening Shatabdi from Dehradun.
Inside my Walker 65 Rucksack and Fanny Pack:
Clothing – Waterproof trousers, Wicking Tshirts, Undergarments, Pair of fleece upper and lower for the night, Trekking shoes, Slippers, Couple of socks for day use, Fresh woollen socks for night, Towel
Winter Layering – Down Jacket for the evening or early morning hike, Fleece jacket for the day winds, Fleece cap and buff, Gloves
Camping – Tent, 0 degree Sleeping Bag, Insulated Mat,
Accessories – Trekking pole, Head Torch, Skiing Glasses, Solar Panel, Power bank and charging cables, Go pro, Thermal insulated bottle (750 ml), Toiletries, Medicines (PCM, First Aid, Allergy Meds, Diamox, Stomach Infection Meds)
Food – Butane Stove, Butane Cannister, Spoon, Fork, Knife, Steel Bowl for cooking, Plastic one for eating, Mug, Pril and Scrub, Ready made rice and dal packets, Cuppa Noodles, Dry Fruits, Bread, Peanut Butter, Power bars, Coffee
- Take the other route and not go via Juda ka Talaab
- Camp at the tea point towards the summit instead of the regular base camp - much quieter, even beautiful but cold too
- Carry spikes and not crampons - lighter, easier to use and sufficient for a trek like this
- Complete the trek in two days
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