The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Snow Peaks and Hidden Trails: The Kedarkantha Trek

Ketaki Mathur, Class of 2020

13th March, 2018

Having reached the village Sankri the day before, we woke up early to begin our trek to Kedarkantha, a Himalayan range peak located in district Uttarakashi, Uttarakhand. The shock of the ice-cold water on my face jolted me out of my sleep. I laced my shoes, got the trekking pole, wore my heavy rucksack, and I was good to go!

Five minutes later, I was out of breath. Hands on my waist, panting and sweating, I asked, “How much more?”

My friend gave me a strange look and said, “Dude, the trek hasn’t even begun yet. We’re going for breakfast. Then we’ll start”.

As we started walking from Sankri, up the mountains, I was enamoured by the beauty around us. Snow-frosted peaks, azure sky, soft wisps of clouds, and lush green meadows accentuated by the strong, sharp sunlight. Though initially a group of twelve trekkers, we were soon joined by two more, whose ability surpassed even our trek leader. Neither were they ever out of breath, nor did they seem lost in the winding paths of the mountains. I wondered whether this ability was a product of their life in the mountains or a miracle of their paws and tails. The two dogs accompanied us throughout, wagging their tails and offering encouraging licks to those left behind.

Illustration by Ketaki Mathur, Class of 2020

The campsite was in a small clearing between the mountains. We pitched the tents, ate lunch of steaming hot dal, sabzi and roti, and tried to get used to idea of toilet tents (SPOILER ALERT: we never really did). Soon after, I went around the campsite, exploring the nearby lake, the mountain forests, finding even a bit of snow, and, for some strange reason, a dog skull (which we later offered in a bonfire, but that’s another story altogether).

As I began to settle for the night, lulled by campfire songs and stories, I heard a commotion outside. I emerged from my tent and found out that two glinting eyes had been spotted in the light of a torch. It was all chaos thereafter with someone screaming, “bhaago!”, and everyone running helter-skelter. Opinion still remains divided as to whether it was a bear or a snow leopard. Many theories and observations have been offered, but no conclusive decision has been reached.

14th March, 2018

We began our trek early next morning and went up the verdant mountain. I regretted not going to the gym; it wasn’t easy to climb the constant incline of the mountains. The trees cleared, and all of sudden there was snow! The view was absolutely stunning. Snow peaks in the distance, a checkerboard of grey and white, and a huge sheet of smooth white snow on the towering mountain ahead of us. I gingerly put my foot in the snow, not knowing what to expect. My feet sank in a little but I was able to walk.

At the Kedarkantha base camp, we saw the Kedarkantha peak in the distance deceptively calm but commanding a sense of respect.

Our guide from Renok, the trekking organisation, took us for a walking-in- snow session in the evening. The higher hills, still covered by a thick layer of snow, served as training grounds. I put my foot in the snow expecting an experience similar to our day earlier, but my foot sank into the snow till my knee! We had our Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani moment, too, in the evening building a snowman, having a snowball fight, and getting aesthetic pictures for Instagram.

15th March 2018

Our alarms went off at 2 AM. The stars were still out. We had planned to reach the peak for sunrise, and trekked on pure, slick ice with just our flashlights to guide us. The higher we went, the chillier and more determined the icy wind became. After a long walk, punctuated only by conversations about The Lord of the Rings, I began to see our surreal surroundings in the soft morning light. Plants silhouetted black against the white background. But the peak on the distance was disappearing into a huge cloud of a grey windy mountain. A storm was coming. We began our final ascent hailing the names of all the gods we could think of and trying not to look at the daunting mountain ahead. The buffeting wind threatened to blow us off our feet. One misstep, and we could have fallen down the cliff.

When we finally made it, the feeling was extraordinary. Shouts of exhilaration reverberated at 3800 metres. The wind was strong, but our spirits were stronger. We prayed at the temple on the top of the peak and clicked a few pictures evidencing our achievement. I couldn’t feel my hands and toes but I could feel a sense of wonder and amazement.

As we began our descent, the clouds erupted into a heavy snow. The storm persisted and threatened to make our tents fall in. We all had to pitch in and take turns to clear the snow off our tents. Our base camp was unrecognisable, now covered by a layer of white. Then, all of sudden the sun came out and the weather cleared. The sun was golden, sitting just above the horizon of the mountain range. We enjoyed the fresh snow till it was dark and I realised with a heavy heart that it would be the last time we all would see the snow, warm our hands on a cup of the morning tea, see a sky full of stars, and tease and talk to one another. Then, I saw the toilet tents. Okay, maybe it was time to go home!

P.S. The dog went up the peak and was back without a hair out of place. A true trek leader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.