To me, the word vacation has always been synonymous with facing the astounding big white Himalayan peaks! So, when the topic “dream vacation” came up, I thought of penning down one of my many treks that I undertook in the Himalayan wilderness, and of all the places I visited in the Himalayan belt, the name KEDARTAL echoed in my heart and mind.
In 2005, when I first decided to trek to Kedartal, I could not find any reliable source of information anywhere. However, I had seen some photographs of this heavenly landscape and I knew that this was the place to be—a place so beautiful that its photographs appeared almost unreal. And to me, the only way left to believe in these photographs was to go through an arduous 18 km, high altitude trek, which starts from Gangotri (3140mts) and culminates at heavenly Kedartal (4912mts/16100 feet).
As told earlier, I did not have any information about the place; I spoke to few locals in Gangotri, about the trail, its difficulties, weather conditions, things to carry, and the most basic requirements for the trek. The first fact that came up was that Kedartal was not a place where a casual trekker could go all alone (what I normally and strictly prefer). As there are no sources at all of finding any food/drink on the entire 18 km stretch, you need to carry all the provisions for your journey with you, adding to the weight of your backpack significantly. You invariably need an additional person to share this load. I found Uttam Singh (US), a local guide. For the next sixty hours he was my guide, friend, companion and cook. I had to pay him a small token for performing all these roles!
One early morning, just after finishing our breakfast, we entered deep woods and right from the beginning, I got an indication of the toughness of this trek. The whole stretch seemed to be excessively steep right from the beginning, as just 18 km of stretch makes you gain an altitude of about 1700mts! After half an hour I needed some water and to my surprise we had left the bottles at the dhaba where we had breakfast. US told me not to worry as there was a water stream nearby. However, it took an hour and half for those ten minutes to get over. In the mean time, he kept on repeating—bas ten minutes sa’abji. And then, there in front of me was a big and beautiful waterfall, and I think, I must tell you, how the water tasted? It was and is, still the sweetest thing I ever had in my life! To this day I remember the smell and the taste. I wonder why scientists around the world think water is an odourless and tasteless liquid.
After eight hours of backbreaking uphill trek our bodies simply refused to move forward and the weather favoured us. At 3:00 pm, clouds gathered, it became dark, and within minutes it started snowing, making it impossible for us to go any further. We were fortunate to have reached Kedarkhadag, an exceptionally scenic high altitude meadow (4270 mts). The spellbinding beauty of the meadow, however, we could see only the next morning. We pitched our tents quickly, sank in our sleeping bags, and tried to get some sleep, enduring the wear and tear our bodies had undergone due to the high altitude trekking. We woke up at 7 in the evening, and US found a big rock nearby and got our dinner ready. Within the next hour, in below freezing point temperature, we had tea, soup, and Maggi noodles out in the open! It was an exceptional dinner in an exceptional setting. We were again in our sleeping bags with the alarm set to 5:00 am, to shoot Thalaysagar bathing in early morning glory.

In the morning when I came out of my tent, it was still dark outside with sub-zero temperature and the whole stretch of land was covered in a thin layer of snow. But then, to shoot the first sunrays kissing a Himalayan peak, one has to brave all these adversities.
It was a clear cloudless morning and I witnessed the golden sun rays bathing the tip of Thalaysagar. It is the second highest peak (6,904 m/ 22,651 ft) on the southern side of the Gangotri Glacier, but it is more notable for being a dramatic rock peak, steep on all sides, and a famed prize for climbers. It is adjacent to the Jogen group of peaks, and the lake, Kedartal is situated at its base.
We had our grand morning tea and left for Kedartal at 6:30 am. Now we were trekking at an altitude of almost 5000 mts. The air was freezing cold and every step of mine at that altitude was making my body dehydrated and the water in our bottle was still frozen. The steep climb, low oxygen level and the freezing temperature were making every step of ours feel like a gigantic effort. While crossing one of the many streams, the thin frozen upper layer of ice cracked and my right foot sank in the stream. In the next few seconds frost appeared on my shoe and my trouser got stiff with filled in ice crystals!
After three-and-half hours of slow and rigorous trekking, I now stood on a huge mound. As I moved further, what I beheld was something I had only seen in photographs. I felt relieved as my belief in the existence of such a beautiful place was restored. In front of me, at the foot of the peak, was a huge mile-long green spread, the glacial Himalayan lake, Kedartal. And in its backdrop, was an imposing 7000 mts Thalaysagar. Together they constituted a dream like composition.
I spent about two hours there, without taking my eyes off from what you see in the picture above. To me, this has been the most beautiful natural surroundings I’ve ever been to…. very close to be a dream.
I always think, some time down the line (may be in my early sixties), when I’d be still young and strong enough, I shall go to the Himalayas and spend my last years roaming in this wilderness, falling somewhere in the lap of these majestic mountains. And then I’ll claim a piece of land not more than 3’ by 6’, which will be mine forever. Then only, I believe, my dream vacation will begin, when I won’t have to ever come out of my dream. I’ll remain there being a part of them till eternity.

Amit Kumar


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