Life in the mountains is uncomplicated. It’s old school. It takes us back to the basics where food, shelter and survival are the most important things in life. For me, it’s also a reminder of what a privilege it is to be alive and how insanely beautiful this whole world is.
All the treks in the Himalayas have a soul and I love it when you get to see it in person. The higher up you go, the closer you are to the heartbeat of the mountains. Although all treks are beautiful in their own special way, you are bound to have favorites and Kedarkantha is one of mine.
Winters treks have a magical feel to them. I guess it’s the snow; it calms the oceans within and around you. If you haven’t been to the mountains in the winters, do it. And you will know exactly what I mean.
I had the privilege of going to Kedarkantha during the Republic Day weekend and here are all the reasons why it is my absolute favorite winter trek:
1. The expedition like feel:
Kedarkantha is a treakkable peak and the same discipline of expeditions apply here in order to summit it. You rest at the base camp the night before the summit, wake up early morning (2-3 AM) and start your summit attempt. The whole experience of walking in the middle of the night in freezing cold weather, the head torches lighting the way and watching the sunrise from the top of a mountain seems like a demo of summit attempts of higher peaks. Just on a much smaller scale.
And as the sun makes its grand appearance, the whole world around you lights up. Like when the curtains open up in a theater. But the spotlight is on you, you are the star of this grand endeavor and you deserve to see all the beauty the mountains reveal to you.
The views are reserved for those who make the effort. And it is a sight you will not forget for the time to come.
2. 360 degree views of the Himalayas:
The views from the top of Kedarkantha are like no other. You don't just get to see famous peaks like Bandarpoonch, Swargarohini, Kalanag, Gangotri and Yamunotri range but you also get to see hundreds of unnamed virgin peaks all around you. Mountains, like timeless art, stand in the background everywhere you look and if they had eyes, they’d see a few strangers gaping at them in admiration.
This is a different world all together.
Untouched. Untainted. And absolutely still.
3. The most beautiful campsites:
When you are trekking, the campsites are you home, which makes them extremely important. It’s like a little treat for your eyes after a hard day’s hike. And Kedarkantha has some of the most beautiful campsites I have ever seen. If you are not happy with the views outside your window back home, come taste the views from your tents on Kedarkantha.
Your first campsite would be close to Juda Ka Tal and it makes you realize what a slight change in altitude can do for you. At this point we had no idea about what lies ahead of us at the next campsite.
Picture of Juda Ka Tal campsite
The base camp was no ordinary campsite either.
Imagine waking up to this view in the morning. If this is not the best greeting in the world, then I don’t know what is?
Picture of one of the campsites at the base camp
The campsites are not just beautiful during the day, but extremely scenic at night too. You’ll see Kedarkantha glowing in all its glory with the stars at night.
Picture of another campsite at the base camp
4. The perfect trail for photography:
There is magic in this world, you just need to be in the right place to see it. Kedarkantha is a trek blushing with beauty, giving photographers a perfect opportunity to capture pictures of a lifetime. Every frame looks like a postcard image, the snow falling from the pine trees looks like magic dust and the grand Himalayas are absolutely glorious. The entire trek is a photographer’s paradise.
5. A chance to experience the local culture and hospitality at Sankri:
I would never give up the opportunity to find out about the local traditions and folklore in the villages in India. The colourful traditions, rituals, festivals and the food – they are all so fascinating.
Much like the trek, Sankri is unbelievable rich and unspoilt. Rich in traditions and unspoilt by the progressive metropolitan cities. We stayed in a homestay before and after the trek, and the family hosting us was extremely kind and welcoming. They showed us the traditional clothes and jewelry worn during weddings and festivals at Sankri, told us about how everything they cook is home grown in the farms and the grandeur with which they celebrate national and local festivals in the village.
We were all welcome inside their kitchen, which was nice and warm, considering it was probably 5 degrees outside, where they prepared a local meal especially for us as a warm farewell.
Our meal consisted of red kidney beans curry, sisunak (nettle) saag (a herb found in the mountains), mint chutney, yogurt and Mandua chapattis. And it was delicious. We ate our hearts out and can’t wait to go back there for more. The hospitality of the locals makes you feel right at home, and I now have a home to go back to in Sankri.
You never come back empty handed from the mountains. The reward always seem greater than effort and the overall experience uplifts your spirits for a long time to come.
Come and see for yourself.
Find out more about Kedarkantha here.