There are many reasons for Kedarkantha to be the most popular trek amongst trekkers and nature lovers. Elevated at 3810 meters or 12,500 ft the Kedarkantha peak is remarkable, as its name suggests, shaped like Shiva’s Neck, (Kedar means Lord Shiva and Kantha means Neck) with green dense forests, vibrant variety of flora, captivating sights of mighty Himalayan peaks. It is one of the most scenic treks in India and the beauty and aura of the mountains leaves you spellbound on this trek. Blushing with beauty the entire trek is a photographer’s paradise. The snow falling from the trees looks like magic dust and the view of rising and setting sun behind the glorious Himalayas make every frame a perfect postcard image.
It is covered with pristine white snow from December till April and in that duration it is one of the best snow treks that offers a lot of fun in fresh snow with challenges in the right proportion to the trekkers not distorting the fun part of it. Being a moderately easy trek it is quite a sought after winter trek by both the beginners as well as experienced trekkers. If you have a love for trekking this is one of the best treks in Uttarakhand you can do.
The trek starts form Sankri near Uttarkashi through dense pine forest covered with brown dried leaves that you walk on. You will start witnessing stunning panoramic views all round of famous mountain summits. There are many wide openings on the trek which are not seen on most of the treks. You walk at a comfortable pace throughout the trek. The entire trek route has gradual ascends and descends and few steep climbs appear on the last few hundred feet which can get slightly strenuous for some. However when you reach the summit and get a spectacular view of 13 majestic Himalayan peaks you know it was all worth it!
If possible try to reach Rishikesh a day before the trip starts. That gives the trek leader time to brief you about the trek. That also gives you enough time to relax and to prepare for the trek. Enjoy the overnight stay in our camps and wake up to the sounds of barking dear and chirping of birds next morning.
Meet the team at 6:00 am and start the journey to Sankri. We halt on the way for breakfast and lunch. It is a picturesque uphill drive that takes you along the river Yamuna through the mountains with quaint views of hills, valleys, gorges, and forests as you pass through the Himalayan ghats. The road curves through dense blue pine forest after Purola and then we would follow the path of Tons river from Mori. On our way from here you will come across dense conifer forest, scattered apple orchards, farming fields and open valleys in between. We will reach Sankri by evening and check into the guesthouse. Relax in the evening or explore the village and as it was a long day, have an early dinner and rest well. BSNL would have an erratic network at Sankri. No other network is available here.
We will start our trek to Juda ka Talab after breakfast. Our trek starts from Sor which is at a 10 min walk from Sankri village. Follow the trail which takes us into forest with pine and maple trees. As you enter the forest you would walk on a carpet of brown dried leaves and hear the sound of gushing waterfalls which will be visible only as you ascend further up after a distance. Woodpeckers are commonly spotted on this trail. The forest clears up to a meadow where you would find a few tea huts and you will be tempted to take a break. As you proceed you will see Himalayan peaks such as Swargrohini, Bandarpoonch in the background. After another hour of gradual ascent you would reach the campsite which is covered with a blanket of snow during winters and turns into lush green meadow in summers. The dazzling Juda ka Talab is surrounded by tall trees and is frozen during winters. Walking on the ice sheet of this lake is surely a thrilling experience. During summers you can sit for hours near the lake and catch a glimpse of exotic birds and animals of surrounding areas. Legend has it that Lord Shiva opened a small lock of his hair and water dripped to form this small pond called Juda ka Talab. We will pitch our tents here and explore the surroundings. Overnight stay in tents on this campsite.
We will start our trek for the next campsite after breakfast. We will begin with steadily walking through pine and oak trees and then enter open mountains. On this trek we will pass through some deeply dense forests and steep ridges. We will also come across some stretched out meadows with shepherd huts. The gradient of the trail will be a littler steeper than the previous day and views of peaks such as Bandarpoonch, Swargarohini, Kala Nag, and Ranglana on the trail will keep you mesmerized. Kedarkantha base camp in the open highlands stretches in front of the Dhauladhar Ranges. It is the finest campsite on this trek with a fascinating view of the arc shaped range of snow- capped mountains. You can see Kedarkantha peak through the trees, looming in the background, distant and calm. At night the stelliferous skies with dense network of stars and glistening peaks provide an awe striking view that remains imprinted in mind for the longest time. This campsite also witnesses some of the best sunrises known to man. Overnight stay in tents on this campsite.
After a filling breakfast we will start our attempt to the summit as early as 3am and will take about 4 hrs to reach on top. It takes about 3-4 hrs to reach the summit and we would try to reach there before sunrise. We will cross three hillocks to reach the peak crossing forests and meadows. The trek starts with the gradual ascent through the forest. Slowly dense forest trails surrounding by Pine trees start to disappear. Closer to the top the trek becomes a little strenuous (especially for the first time trekkers) with knee-deep snow and steep climb. Observe the horizon at Swargarohini turn orange as you are on your way to the top. The Kedarkantha summit is made notable by an array of stones in square shape with a Trishul in between pointing up towards the sky. Once at the peak we will witness one of the most beautiful sunrises that ever happened. From here Gangorti and Yamunotri ranges are clearly visible. You will also notice the Devkiyara and Borasu Pass Chansheel pass and the Kinner Kailash ranges besides the other known peaks of Swargrohini, Bandarpoonch, Draupadi ka danda, Black peak, Rangnala peak, Jaonli. The peaks changing their colors from red to orange to yellow will be a sight you will not forget for the time to come. It tends to get windy on the top so keep your woolens and windcheater handy. There is a small Shiv temple on top that you can visit. We will start the descent after relaxing for some time here. The initial trail is as steep as the ascent was so you need to watch every step for about a kilometer. You can enjoy glissading in snow on certain specific slopes under the supervision of your trek leader. We will stop by at the base camp for lunch and then start our journey for Hargaon which will take about 2 hrs through dense oak forests, pine and maple trees, shepherd huts and frozen streams On this part of the trek you will see small clearings every half hour that are unique to the Kedarkantha trek and rarely seen in the Himalayas. Set up your tents upon reaching the Hargaon campsite and rest well after a delightful dinner.
We will pack up and start our journey back to Sankri after a healthy breakfast. The pathway is well paved and clearly marked pathway through rich dense pine forests with streams flowing along Further down the trail we will come to a ridge that gives a splendid view of the Har ki dun valley. As you walk through the forest you get an aerial view of the neighboring villages. The last stretch is through dense pine forest. Once you reach Sankri you check into the guest-house. It will be a good idea to spend the day at this culturally rich village with gorgeous wooden architecture. Visit the old temple having alluring wooden carvings with architecture that is worth a look. Spend time talking to the locals and hear their religious stories and beliefs to get an insight of their rich culture. They will be happy to show you their traditional outfits and jewelry. Try the herbal tea that they get from jungles to keep them warm in the cold climate. If you are lucky to be there at the right time you you could be a part of the melas and enjoy folk music and native dance. You can shop for the locally grown apples besides small hand made goods, wooden toys and wooden home décor items for friends and family.
Start your day by enjoying the morning sun and a hearty breakfast. We would start around 7am for our journey back to Rishikesh. Relish the scenic drive through the mountains and the stretched landscape. We will reach Rishikesh in the evening where our tour ends with memories to cherish and stories to take back to our family and friends.
P.S.: Distances and altitudes are approximate and may not be exact.