Gayathri Venkataraghavan

From the blog

KEDAR TAL – Where the Streams Gurgle and the Mountains Whisper

A compelling desire to be part of the majestic Himalayas and the Ganga’s journey led us right to the lap of the king of mountains.We did some research and when Bikat Adventures suggested Kedar Tal we latched on to it. We were told that it was a moderate to difficult trek and we took it up as we wanted a moderate challenge and not an entirely easy one.

A few months of physical and mental preparation, ticketing, shopping and the final take off from Chennai airport was all a blur of activity. We went from the humid coastal city of Chennai to Dehradun, and then to Uttarkasi by jeep and halted there for a day.

Uttarkasi is a quaint Pilgrim Dham (centre). The center of activity is around the ancient Viswanath Temple which is a miniature version of the Kedarnath Temple. It houses the magnificent huge Trishul that is said to have been used by the Devas against the Asuras in battle. It is also the place where Sage Markandeya worshiped Lord Shiva. You can feel a special spiritual aura here.

We decided to do a short trek to Nachiketa Tal the next morning in preparation to the actual trek. This proved to be a great trek out in the woods in total silence and the Tal itself was serene and beautiful. We were fortunate enough to visit the area which had the cave where sage Nachiketh had sat in penance in order to enter Yamaloka with his body.

That afternoon we left for Gangotri, in a journey that took five hours by jeep through the ghat section with the raging waters deep below. We met our trek leader Rohit Mishra that day and went to sleep, excited about the coming days.

June 2, 2018

Gangotri (9576 ft)

Gangotri Dham is a serene place that houses a beautiful temple for Ganga Ma in the form of a lovely Golden Idol. The constant roar of the holy river as she dashes past is a site to behold and hear. We met our trek leader Rohit Misra from Bikat Adventures and the ace photographer Ayush other than our local guide Devendra.

We were super excited as we actually began preparations for the final trek. We had breakfast, and Rohit took us for an acclimatization trek in Gangotri. It was beautiful to walk by the Bhageerathi along the Surya Kund.

We got some tips in ascending and descending mountainous regions, and also some basic lessons on how to use our trekking poles and techniques for tying the shoe lace, things that seem small but make an immense difference when the actual trek begins. It was a relaxing trek and we got to know each other, and the wonderful family who accompanied us on this trek- the Krishnans from Gurgaon.

June 3, 2018

The actual trek began. Loaded with our back packs with all the essentials for 4 days , we set off on a very steep ascent over Gangotri. Soon, we left the raging waters of Bhageerathi behind and were now walking beside the Kedar Ganga. A waterfall, a roaring drop into the ravines, a beautiful huge live landscaping fountain, a gurgling spring… it made the entire scene so enchanting and we hardly felt like leaving it behind. However the ascent was steep and required focus ,so we had to tear our eyes away from the beauty surrounding us, and file it in our brain for recall later.

We left the Gangotri Dham far behind as we walked into the mountains . We encountered a small segment of loose rocks and sand, and with the help of Rohit and the local Guide Devendraji, we managed to cross it. Then came the Spiderwall 1. It has a low hanging rock which had to be scaled, keeping in mind the back packs and then the wall itself, which had a narrow outcrop . It has to be crossed carefully.

Next came some charming brooks and we drank the crystal clear pure water, enjoying the sweet taste. The Pines and the enchanting Bhoj Trees (that’s how the hillside gets the name Bhoj Karak) kept us company and provided some respite from the hot sun. Towards the end of the day’s trek we came across the Spiderwall 2. We conquered it with the help of our spirited team leaders Rohit, Devendraji and Ayush. Finally we arrive at Bhoj Karak, the campsite.

Bhoj Karak at 12,893 ft is not the ideal campsite as it has limited space, but we were here for the Himalayan adventure we always dreamt of, so we didn’t mind the discomfort.

Bikat Adventures has this “learn as you trek policy’’ and hence Rohit our leader saw us through some cooling exercises, taught us to pitch our own tents, and also gave us a short lesson on the points to look into before setting camp. Hot soup, chai and a nice dinner made us relax a little. The night was tiring and long as many of us were sleeping in tents with sleeping bags for the first time and using toilet pits instead of the comfortable rest rooms that we never appreciated before this moment.

June 4, 2018

We were up early and were briefed about the day’s activities. We rolled our sleeping bags (That is a task!!) and got ready for the instructions after cleaning ourselves and changing back into trekking clothes. We left by 8.45 am for the next part of the adventure. This proved to be a long day as the ascent was steep again and we were facing lesser tree line, and hence much lower oxygen levels. We kept encouraging each other and stopped for lunch under some shade.

The best thing about the trek was the extreme patience that Rohit exhibited. He never hurried us but kept encouraging us to keep doing well at a good pace. The local guide Devendraji was always at the lead, Ayush was with all of us in intervals, as he was recording the entire trek ,and Rohit followed us from the rear making sure that each one of us were fine and ahead of him.

We then came to the most challenging part of the trek. The Rock Fall area. This was a risky bit as we were a little past 12 pm and the wind had set in. There were loose rocks and mud sliding down the hill. We had to pass this tricky area quickly. The raging waters are close by and the small rocks and loose sand keep tumbling down in intervals. It was by the sheer expertise of our guides and porters that we managed to cross this segment. A prayer on the lips and total focus on following their instructions saw us through this area. We had to start climbing again after this. Our legs were wobbly, bodies exhausted, and our minds tired. Kedar Karak was spotted ahead finally and the sheer sighting of this lovely campsite bought a great deal of cheer into all of us.

Kedar Karak (14468 ft) is an ideal campsite with the vast expanse of the mountains looming over us and small streams of water from which we got our water supply. The gurgling Kedar Ganga down below,provided the musical score for the stay. The Bharaks (himalyan Goats) roaming up in the hills was picturesque.

The porters require a special mention. The challenge they face while negotiating the trek with the heavy loads on their heads is unbelievable. They are so nimble footed and manage to jump from rock to rock and reach the campsite much before us. God bless them all, we can only pray for them and aspire to have some amount of their athletic abilities. We had Hot soup, tea and chappatis and noodles for dinner chitchatting about various adventures and treks that the other members had been to and we all retired tired and feeling cold but excited about the camp and the following day. It rained for most part of that night.

Some of us could see signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) due to the steep climb and altitude, and headache nausea and exhaustion hit a few of us.

June 5, 2018

The big day. 4 of us left with Rohit, Devendra and Ayush towards KedarTal. This was supposed to be a shorter trek. Beautiful brooks and rivulets, green and yellow grass covering the hill side soon gave way to the moraines. These were rocks that had fallen and covered the glaciers over hundreds of years. My God! The different colours and the semimetal rocks of various hues and shapes were totally mesmerizing. We could hear the glacier melt hear and there and that was such a spiritually uplifting kind of music to the ears, one you could not hear anywhere else, and one that would stay with you long after you left that magical place. These waters form the brooks and riverlets that merge with Ganga making her one of the biggest rivers of the world.

We kept walking up, over the hill side and the moraines and after several such passes. Finally we ended on top of a hillside and down below was the enchanting site of the shimmering emerald Kedar Tal.

KedarTal (15,748 ft)

What a sight to behold! All our worries and tiredness were forgotten as we walked down to the lake side. On a good clear day we should have been able to see the towering peaks of Thalaisagar , Bhrigupanth and Jogin 1 , 2 and 3, but we were not that lucky, as they were covered in clouds for the most part. They kept teasing us and the clouds parted here and there giving a peak into the magnificence of the mountains and how it must be when uncovered. Ayush was lucky to stay back for a little while and get us back some great pictures. However here again is a lesson that the mountains taught us – patience and perseverance and finally acceptance that there are powers far beyond man can ever imagine.

We stood by the lake side for a while, uplifted and energized, sang some songs, went upto the crystal clear water and walked along the banks for a bit. Stealing backward glances of that wonderful site, we started our way back to campsite. Back through the moraines and some smaller semi frozen ponds of water, rivulets and some surreal rock formations, we reached Kedar Karak and rejoiced at the wonder that God allowed us to be part of. It made us more contemplative and thankful all at the same time.

Hot Bhajjis and soup with chai welcomed us at the campsite and this we gobbled while listening to Rohit’s session on AMS which was very educative. That night we did some star gazing and again got transported to the unbelievable magic that the galaxy had to offer in these remote parts with almost zero pollution.

June 6, 2018

We packed up early and after our reluctant goodbyes to the beautiful site, we left for the descent to Gangotri. Again the challenge of the Rock Fall area and the Spiderwall segments was overcome with the expertise of the local leaders.

How did we climb all this? Was one common question we all had… But I guess that is another lesson that the mountains teach us – the human body is capable of much more than we can imagine and mental energy is as important a physical energy. We paused and kept turning back trying to take in as much of the lovely mountains as we could. The Bhoj trees lovingly welcomed us, giving us the much needed air to breathe, the gurgling rivulets let us quench our thirst, and the yellow green of the hillside and pretty flowers blooming seemed to congratulate us.

Soon we saw Gangotri far below us and we realized that we were entering human terrain again. When will we be part of the mountains again, when can we experience the magnificence of the Himalayas again, we wonder. We thank the entire Bikat team for the wonderful experience, our team leaders, cooks, and porters for bringing us back in good shape and with great memories. And we thank and humbly bow down before Mother Nature, for we saw her in all her glory and we cannot wait to experience the magic of the ancient mountains again. For now, we will rest our weary body with the sound of the melting glaciers, the roar of the Ganges, the mystic snow covered peaks playing in our minds, constantly reminding us that for a few extraordinary days, we were part of this wonder.

Gayathri Venkataraghavan is a professional Carnatic musician.She loves nature and her travel takes her to some interesting places where she loves to be part of nature. Trekking is a passion she hopes to pursue.