24 kms. 4 days. A dreamy terrain. A mountain summit.
Add a pinch of courage if you are a beginner, and it all seems doable.
Going on your first ever trek is always nerve-wracking. There is much to consider, your fitness, your mental acumen and ability to withstand extreme temperatures – it is not uncommon to be filled with self-doubt at the very thought of these factors. But remember, all long journeys start with a single step. It is all a matter of attitude as Mohammad Ali once famously said, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out, it’s the pebble in your shoe”.
A little adventure is good for the soul, and Kedarkantha is the perfect beginning of this grand journey. Let us explain why!
1. A Relaxed and Easy Going Trek
Kedarkantha is a fun trek that takes the seriousness out of trekking. It’s almost like going on a 4-day active vacation. All the campsites can be reached in less than 4 hours, which gives you enough time during the day to enjoy the views, walk at a comfortable pace and have some fun in the snow. And if the weather turns against you and you get caught in a snowstorm, you can turn around as soon as it clears up and get back to Sankri within a few hours.
However, that does not mean you won’t have to wake up early morning every day or not walk uphill or that there are no challenges whatsoever. I will get to the challenges in a minute.
Look at the pictures below; do these trekkers look like they are on a mission, or stressed out or dying out of exhaustion? In fact, quite the opposite!
2. The Right Amount of Challenges
All treks throw a few challenges at you and this is where you get a chance to test your inner strength. Kedarkantha trek offers the right amount of challenges, just enough to give you a feel of accomplishing something you never thought you could.
DEALING WITH THE COLD
The first and I’d say the biggest challenge you’ll have to bear would be the cold. The temperature drops considerably after sundown and none of us in our urban spaces are used to sub-zero temperatures. Your hands and feet never seem to get warm and you might have trouble sleeping at most campsites. But don’t let that discourage you. It takes some time for our bodies to adapt to change. You are subjecting yourself to too many new things, all at the same time. It's going to be -15 outside and you will be sleeping inside a sleeping bag, on a mat, inside a tent. It is going to feel a bit uncomfortable in the beginning.
Is there something you can do about it? Absolutely! Bring the right clothes suitable for a winter trek, especially thermals, warm socks, gloves and good quality waterproof shoes. Don’t forget to throw in a pair of warm water-resistant trekking pants and a down jacket. You can also bring a hot water bottle and keep it next to your feet inside your sleeping bag at night. It works like a charm.
A STRENUOUS WALK TO THE SUMMIT
The summit day is the only challenging day during the trek. Although it just takes about 4 hours to reach the summit, it is 4 hours of steep ascend in sub-zero temperatures as you start at 3 in the morning. But trust me, starting your trek in the middle of the night is actually a blessing, because you can’t really see how steep the trail is or how much further you need to walk. You just keep one foot in front of the other and as the sun starts to rise, you realize that you that you are almost there.
Need some tips to calm your mind? Here they are. Go with an open mind and the will to reach the top. Reaching the summit is going to be one of the most memorable moments of your life. Remember, the cold is short-lived. As the sun rises, your senses come back to life and rejoice with the warmth, so the walk back from the summit is going to be absolutely thrilling. Also, trekking is all about working together as a team, it is not a race. So, don’t worry if you are slow, no one is going to rush you or leave you behind. You walk as a team and reach the summit just fine to celebrate together.
3. The Things You Get to Learn
As a beginner, the list of things you get to learn on Kedarkantha is fairly long. You acquire skills that will help you even after the trek and give you a reasonable amount of bragging rights. The learning curve on this one is as steep as its slopes going up to the summit!
Here is everything you can look forward to on this trek!
ASCENDING AND DESCENDING IN SNOW
Walking in snow is much different than walking on a beach. On Kedarkantha a large part of the route is easy to walk on because there is a clear trail to follow, but when it snows, all the routes disappear. Yikes! Walking blind, with no markers for direction can be daunting for sure! Add the difficulty of wading through knee-deep snow and the physical exhaustion that comes with it, things start to look a little more frightening. But it is all about learning the technique. There is no problem that does not have a solution. To tackle this very challenge, all throughout the trek, your trek leader will keep giving you tricks to navigate the terrain and make you practice on the slopes in the earlier days of the trek. By the time you are facing the steep slopes on the summit push, walking on snow on steep gradient would have already become second nature!
LEARNING HOW TO PITCH A TENT
If you ever want to go camping after Kedarkanth, you will be able to pitch your tent like a boss. It almost seems unnecessary at first, because you always have a team who pitches your tents for you on organized treks, but trust me it’s a good skill to have. It reduces your dependence in the outdoors and encourages you to go out for independent camping trips. It is also an essential skill if, in time, you plan to up your trekking game and go for much difficult climbs. On outdoors adventures higher up on the difficulty scale, even in organized treks, each person is required to pull their own weight and know their own way around the many gears and equipment, including tents.
It’s very useful to learn this skill early on. At the basecamp of Kedarkantha, you learn all the steps of how to pitch your tent. Find the right spot, thump your feet to flatten the uneven snow out, learn how to decide which way your tent must face based on multiple factors and finally get on to actually assembling this temporary home of yours. It may seem like a small thing but it is an extremely satisfying experience and very freeing too, much like learning how to change the tyres on your car for the first time.
GLISSADING IN SNOW
This is one of the coolest things you’ll get to do on the trek. For one, it saves you a lot of effort while descending from the summit but more importantly it also unleashes the child in you which is a precious experience out in the wilderness. There are a lot of patches where you will get to glissade down the trail, but remember to only do it in presence of your guide or trek leader. They will teach you how to control your speed and how to stop. Don’t go rolling down the slope and fall off the edge, if you can help it! Have all the fun you want, but not at the cost of safety.
4. And Lastly, The Timing is Just Perfect
We bet you’ve heard that trekking is addictive. Why does it become a compulsive habit though? Here are some of the possible reasons - time slows down in the mountains, there are no gadgets to offer distractions, no meetings to attend to, no chores, no traffic jams, no rush, and overall no stress. It is small wonder why being outdoors can be so rejuvenating. Although this is indisputable, it is also true that taking the time out to get yourself outdoors is not the easiest! This is where Kedarkantha shines too since it is accessible and it is 4 days short. The amount it offers in its short duration makes it even more special – all it needs is a long weekend.
This was all about what makes Kedarkantha an ideal choice for beginners. We hope to see you here soon and learn what made it special for you!
This article was originally written by Pooja Dhiman on 06-02-2018.
It was edited and updated by Neeti Singhal on 4-10-2023.