I have done many mountain treks. I have had the opportunity to walk in snow. But I have never done a snow trek in my life till Cochin Adventure Foundation came up with their snow trek programme to Kedar Kanta in Uttarakhand district.
The one week trip started on Valentine’s day of 2020; no better day chosen to start for a mountain lover. There were 15 of us from different places from Kerala united together under CAF. The team included Tony, Dr. Abhilash, Veena, Hari, Arsu,Nadeem, Jomy,Eby, Rony, Ashik, Amal, Zalesh, Sumesh, Shyamkumar and myself. The medical formalities were completed . We were supposed to fill and submit declaration and consent forms..I took a flight from Cochin to Dehradun and reached Jolly Grant airport in the evening. Half a dozen people have already reached the place.We got an idea not to waste the evening and took a cab to visit JHILMIL JHEEL SANCTUARY about two hours from Dehradun. We were taken in the forest open jeep.
We were fortunate enough to see different types of deers including swamp deer, Sambar deer and spotted deer. Among the lot of birds that we saw the most interesting was the ORIENTED PIED HORNBILL and CINEREOUS VULTURE in the vast field. During the drive we were able to see nail marks of Tiger on trees, wild elephants and wild boars. We were able to spot and hear the sound of the great SARUS CRANE.
On the way back we visited the famous religious destination, HARIDWAR. Some of our friends did rituals there. We had dinner on the way back. Most of us stayed in Nomads house Bunk stay with rooms and dormitories. Few people took flight to Delhi and from there to Dehradun by train. Some of them missed their trains and they had to take flight.
By morning we were all ready. We started off in two jeeps to SANKRI, a tiny village base camp seven hours from Dehradun. In one hour we reached Mussoorie and had breakfast from there. I never missed the fried momos whenever I came to the North. We saw the KEMPTY WATERFALLS in Mussoorie.On the way we had lunch from Har Ki Doon restaurant. Most of us had maggi/roti. INitially we followed the Yamuna River till Naugaon and later we moved along the Tons river. We reached Sankri by around 6.00 pm
We stayed in the Himalayan High homestay. They had a puppy with a fracture of its leg and it was interesting to see someone aptly put a splint for him.This was a base camp for various other treks like Har Ki Dun. In the evening, we were briefed about the programme. We collected the trekking gear for rent that was ordered prior to coming. This included Rain Ponchos, Trekking shoes, Trekking pole, trekking pants and Jackets, headlamp and we also got sleeping bags, gaiters and crampons to wear while trekking in snow. The night was chilling though it was nothing compared to what we were going to experience in the next few days.
Har Ki Dun Swargarohini mountains were seen from the homestay. There were apple orchards owned and leased by Reliance group in the vicinity. It was not the time for apples anyway.
Next day morning after breakfast, we set out by around 10.30 am for the great adventure . We were supposed to climb 4 km on the first day. We started a bit late as some of us had to buy a few essential things from the market. We were quite excited to trek on snow. It was the first experience for most of us including me. There were a lot of other trekking groups. By 12.00 noon we reached the first resting point which was a dhaba. Some of us had tea and maggi from there. We saw a lot of people slipping and falling in the snow. Though the surrounding snow was white, the walkway was almost black in colour as the mud was mixed with mule poop.
Mules were used to carry the load to the camps. The view of leafless trees on the snow covered mountain was a beautiful contrasting scene. On the way we saw a lot of mules climbing up and down the hill. We also started to see tents where people stayed overnight. Ours was yet to come.After walking for about 4 hours we reached our first base camp by around 2.30.
The tents were ready. I got into one of them. Three of us were supposed to stay in one tent. There were tents for other groups also. Our group had separate kitchen and dining tents. After a nice hot cup of tea we explored the surroundings. The beauty of the place really made us forget all our tiredness. We got time to mingle and talk more intimately. We had already become a close family. We were told that we had entered GOVIND PASHU VIHAR national park and sanctuary and so camp fire was not allowed.
We had a gastric feast at regular intervals, the tea, soup, roti, dal rice; everything felt so tasty there. The moment the sun came down, it started to become really cold. Though we got inside the tent early at night, the mattress, inner and outer sleeping bag and many layers of clothes just couldn’t prevent the freezing cold. Getting out for wee was really a nightmare and we had to do it a few times as we drank a lot of water to prevent altitude sickness. That night most of us slept just for around 2 hours from 4 am to 6 am.The sleep was quite shallow too.
Next day morning after breakfast, we started by around 9 am to the next base camp. One of our team members decided to go back and he was not feeling well and he waited for us in Sankri base camp. Within 2 hours , we reached a beautiful frozen lake called JUDA KA TALAB. It was 2700 m high. We took some snaps and moved on.
We walked for around 3 km and reached TALKETRA, the second base camp by around 12.30 pm. The place was much more beautiful than the first one. We had to wait for the mules with the tent materials to come. It was quite unfortunate to see the mules falling with luggage on their back and their masters were brutally beating to make them get up.We helped the guides to make the tent. Meanwhile some of our artistic minds woke up and we made a couple of craft work on snow including snow men.
After lunch we were not made to rest much. Afternoon we were made to do a 1 hour acclimatization walk. The place around was mesmerising and no camera could capture the complete beauty of that place. We climbed the hillocks covered with snow and walked between the massive trees. Some of us on the way back slid over the snow. The night was almost the same as the previous one. We were told that the temperature would be around -5 to -6 degree C. I slept only for an hour. In short I slept only for around 3 hours in 3 full days. We were given strict instructions regarding the summit climb.
Two of our friends decided to stay back in the camp and so 12 of us with guides started off at 3.00 am in the morning after oats porridge breakfast. The final climb was 5 km. We walked in pitch dark and thanks to the headlamp we could see what was in front. We just followed the person in front. The traffic was quite heavy. Many places had space for only one person to walk. So the journey was a bit slow and we could manage easily. As the dawn creeped up, we could see the summit and excitement pumped up. We just managed to reach the summit by 7.10 which was 5 minutes before the sunrise.
The next half an hour was sheer bliss. One cannot explain the emotional feeling of a person who has sweat to reach a summit. Moreover the 360 degree sheer view of that place made us speechless. The guide gave us an idea of the surrounding geography and showed us the various peaks around Uttarkashi including Har Ki Dun, Swargrohini, kalanag, bandarpoonch, Yamunothri, Gangothri etc. There was a sanctum with a flag hoisted at the 12500 ft high summit. After taking a group photo We started our descent.
We had to climb down all the 12 km and reach sankri by evening. It took only 2 hours for us to reach the second base camp.After lunch we started off by around 12 noon. With previous experience we took the descent lightly. But snow trek was a different ball game. We took almost 6 hours to reach Sankri. The path was so slippery as the melted ice was mixed with mud and mule poop. Some of us fell quite a few times but luckily not injured much apart from some ankle sprains.
I had a busy time as an ortho surgeon with frequent consultations. One of the guides got kicked on the chest by a mule. He was stable but was quickly sent down for further treatment. I met a medical student while climbing down. He was limping due to knee pain. I came to know that he had an ACL reconstruction just a year back. He was happy with the first aid and my advice. The maggi noodles that I had from the dhaba during descent would have been the tastiest I ever had(Thanks to tiredness and hunger). We reached Sankri by around 6 pm. We returned the rented items. The guides expressed their appreciation by making us a cake. The electricity was not there. It didn’t make much difference as we survived the last 3 days without it. My iphone still had 30 percent charge even after 3 days. Thanks to airplane mode. The only place where BSNL had range during these three days was at the summit where I called my family.
After dinner, a good night’s sleep was most needed. We decided to go in 2 batches next morning as the first batch wanted to catch flight early. We started by around 8.30 am. We caught up with them in the har ki dun restaurant where we halted on the way to Sankri. The mustard fields on the background of the rivers were looking gorgeous. We halted for lunch in a small restaurant and had meals with Pakora and curry made from fish caught from Yamuna River.
We reached Dehradun by around 3. I was the only person to stay that night and I took a dormitory in Nomads house bunkstay. After a fresh up, I took an auto to the famous ELLORA’S melting moments bakery and bought famous caramel toffees. After dinner I walked around 4 km back to the dormitory.
Here comes the icing on the cake. When I asked the hotel guys to arrange a taxi to go to the airport, he requested whether I could ride a bike as they wanted to get 5 bikes to be sent to the airport to pick up bikers . I said yes and guess what; the next day I got to ride a Royal Enfield for the first time in my life and that too Himalayan ride. The one hour ride was a great experience. I got to reach the airport for free. There were 4 other bikes along with me.
I reached Cochin by around 6 pm and from there I took an auto to Angamali. I had to wait for more than an hour to get a Kottayam bus and I had to stand in the fully loaded bus for more than 2 hours. From Kottayam I took a bus to Thiruvalla and reached home by around 11.00 pm. I pushed my body to extreme exhaustion. But the reward was a blissful mind with memorable moments for the years to cherish. I’m looking forward to another snow trek soon.