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Thread: Kedartaal - The incredible trek

  1. #1

    Kedartaal - The incredible trek

    Original journey, narration and photos by Mr. Kallol Sen.
    Acknowledgments:
    Mrs. Kajal Chakrabartty (Documentation).
    Mrs. Sharmistha Dasgupta (English Adaptation).
    Prologue

    The Pujas were over, but the festive mood was still on. Sitting in the comforts of my place on a lazy afternoon, my trekker friends and I were now filled with the thought of “what’s next?” The obvious choice was the Himalayas and time and again we ended up choosing the Garhwal Himalays. This time too was no exception. Garhwal Himalays is by far the most popular trekking destinations in India. The beauty of the Garhwal hills is picture perfect. Presenting a fusion of high mountain valley and lakes, many streams and many of India's greatest rivers, Garhwal Himalayas is truly a trekker’s paradise. Carmine Rhododendrons bloom and the scarlet flame of the forest blossoms are luminous in dense and lush greenery. The faith of the aged has kept alive a lifestyle that dates back by several centuries. There are several wilderness trails through dense forests of Deodar, Cypress, Oak, Pine and Rhododendron that harbor a large variety of the Himalayan fauna. These lead to the lush verdant valleys and undulating green meadows carpeted with alpine flowers in summer. The blue and emerald lakes, majestic waterfalls, meandering rivers, rich thick forests, incredible mountains, green valleys and a wide range of flora and fauna including birds and butterflies, provide a glorious combination. The legendary Ganges, Yamuna and many more rivers originate in these mountains. To sum it all the Garhwal hills are a veritable paradise for trekkers. Among the many options which we had, we finally chose Kedar Tal.

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    Kedartal is also known as “Shiva's lake” is a glacial lake situated at an altitude of 4,750m (15,600 feet) in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas in India. The lake is fed by the snowfall over Thalay Sagar (6,904m), Meru (6,672m), Bhrigupanth (6,772m) and other surrounding peaks, and is the source of Kedar Ganga, which in Hindu mythology is considered to be Shiva's contribution to Bhagirathi (a source-stream of the Ganges). Kedartal, at a distance of 17km from Gangotri, is a popular trekking destination. Starting from Gangotri the route involves a steep rocky climb along the narrow Kedar Ganga gorge en route to Bhojkharak, 8km away. From there it is 4km to the next available camping site of Kedarkharak, and a further 5km to Kedartal. The route passes through scenic Himalayan birch forests, but is made hazardous in places by falling rocks, high altitude and segments of steep ascent.

    It was all finalized and if luck favored we knew that we would also get the chance to encounter a good variety of high altitude fauna too, e.g. Bharal (blue sheep), Goral, Himalayan black bear with a great variety of birds. The trek could be a bit strenuous, but the rewards were very high.

    Day 1, September 18th, 2007

    The Upasana Express left the Howrah station at 12.50 p.m. We had packed sufficient amount of dry food, stove, kerosene oil, tent, first aid kit, comforters, torch etc. that made quite a bit of a luggage. Our coach coincidentally had a few more trekkers and we learnt that some were going to Kedar Tal too. The trail we heard was tough and we decided that it would be better if we trekked together.

    Day 2, September 19th, 2007

    We reached Haridwar at 5.15 p.m. and checked into Mishra Lodge. The lodge is just beside the Ganga and was moderate enough to spend the night.
    The room charges were a nominal Rs. 150.

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    Contd...
    Last edited by kallns; 29th July 2011 at 02:53 PM.

  2. #2
    Day 3, September 20th, 2007

    We hired a car and reached Hrishikesh. We changed the car here and hired another one to take us to Gangotri via Uttar Kashi. [Uttarkashi, meaning Kashi of the north, is a holy town in Uttarakhand, India. It is the district headquarters of Uttarkashi district. Uttarkashi is situated on the banks of river Bhagirathi at an altitude of 1352 m. It is home to a number of ashrams and temples and also to the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. The name of the town reflects its similarity to and location (as north of) the city of Kashi (Varanasi). Similar to Varanasi, the town of Uttarkashi is situated on Ganges, lies next to a hill named Varun Parvat, on confluence of two rivers Varuna and Asi, has a ghat called Manikarnika Ghat and has a temple dedicated to Shiva (Kashi Vishwanath Temple)in the center of the town.]

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    We reached Gangotri at 8.30 p.m. and checked into Hotel Chandralok, room charges again a mere Rs. 150. It was a pleasant stay and we spent the rest of the day resting after fixing a porter for Rs. 300 for the next day’s journey.

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    Gangotri, the origin of the River Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga, is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga (Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda. The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is a 19 km trek from Gangotri.

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    [According to the Hindu Mythology, King Sagar, after slaying the demons on earth decided to stage an Ashwamedha Yajna as a proclamation of his supremacy. The horse which was to be taken on an uninterrupted journey around the earth was to be accompanied by the King's 60,000 sons born to Queen Sumati and one son Asamanja born of the second queen Kesani. Indra, supreme ruler of the gods feared that he might be deprived of his celestial throne if the 'Yagya' (worship with fire) succeeded and then took away the horse and tied it to the ashram of Sage Kapil, who was then in deep meditation. The sons of the King Sagara searched for the horse and finally found it tied near the meditating sage. 60,000 angry sons of King Sagara stormed the ashram of sage Kapil. When he opened his eyes, the 60,000 sons had all perished, by the curse of sage Kapil. Bhagiratha, the grandson of King Sagar, is believed to have meditated to please Goddess Ganga enough to cleanse the ashes of his ancestors, and liberate their souls, granting them salvation or Moksha.] I had earlier visited Gangotri and this time found it to be more crowded. The place now had many shops and newer roads.

    Day 4, September 21st, 2007

    My previous attempt to visit Kedar Tal met with a dead end as the weather was rough and it poured heavily for several days compelling me to cancel the trek, but this time luck seemed to be on our side as the day was bright and sunny. We started off from Gangotri at 8.30 a.m.

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    We walked keeping right along the narrow path alongside the mountains after crossing the Gangotri Bridge. Then keeping Kedar Ganga to our left we continued along the steep ascent. We trekked through the Kedar Gorge.

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    The entire trek is along Kedar Ganga, through fir (Cedus) and Bhoj (Birch) trees. The bark of Birch was used as paper for ancient manuscripts in India. We could see Gangotri far down below, which slowly hid from our eyes behind the mountains. After a while suddenly we saw the peak of Thalay Sagar (6904 m), which is a mountain in the Gangotri Group of peaks in the western Garhwal Himalaya.

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    It is on the main ridge that lies south of the Gangotri Glacier and lies 10 km southwest of the Hindu holy site of Gomukh (the source of the Bhagirathi River). It is the second highest peak on the south side of the Gangotri Glacier (after Kedarnath), but it is more notable for being a dramatic rock peak, steep on all sides, and a famed prize for mountaineers. It is adjacent to the Jogin group of peaks, and has the lake Kedar Tal at its base.

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    On further trailing, Bhrigupanth peak (6772 m) came into our sight. It is a massive peak lying on the north-eastern slope of Srikailash, Man Parvat, and Satopanth. This mountain is at an altitude of 6772 m. As we approached nearer the mountains hugeness became more prominent to us. The enormous peaks were snow laden creating an exquisite panorama.

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    We trailed continuously till Bhoj Kharak from Gangotri.

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    We set up our tents on a flat area amidst the Bhoj tree forest. It was very cold and humid and all around us there were steep gorges. We were famished by now and the porter started to cook us some hot Khichdi. We finished our lunch at around 3 p.m. and it had already started raining accompanied by a bit of a snowfall. We took the day off and immersed ourselves in Mother Nature’s lap mesmerized by its beauty.

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    With the view of the huge white peaks of the Bhrigupanth and the Thalay Sagar looming in front of us through the colorful leaves of the Bhoj trees and Kedar Ganga flowing deep down between the gorge, life seemed perfect. We had Maggi and tea in the evening and took an early dinner for the following day would again have a strenuous trek.

  3. #3
    Day 5, September 22nd, 2007

    We woke to a cloudy morning. Having our breakfast we left Bhoj Kharak at around 8.45 a.m. The whole trail ahead would be of steep ascents and fortunately soon there was sunshine again. The peaks could not be seen for quite sometime. The weather was great with clear blue sky and we saw some Ibex roaming on the mountain slopes.

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    The terrain slowly became rockier and there was no trace of trees.

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    We at times lost our track among the huge boulders along the trail. The mountain slopes adorned many bushes of varied colors. Some were red, some yellow and some green providing fodder for the mountain goats and deer, which were grazing there. Massive snow clad peaks towered over us as we ascended the mountains. The magnificence of the place simply made us forget all our tiredness. We knew that this trail had many Rock Fall Zones and we were walking with great caution.

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    We also had heard about some mountains having soft soil and a trekker has to place his foot very carefully so as to avoid falling down into the gorge. We spent quite sometime clambering our way around the mountain sides at around 10.30 a.m. we reached a plain area. We walked over the flat terrain and reached the camping ground at 12 noon. The place is called Kedar Kharak. The breath-taking views totally compensated for our strained hamstrings. We were surrounded by numerous mountain peaks with Bhrigupanth and the Thalay Sagar dominating the skyline and the cool Kedar Ganga flowed on our left. We had our lunch and settled to take rest. We saw many trekkers on their way back. To our surprise we saw a group of Ibex coming near our tents making us feel oneness with Mother Nature deep inside our hearts. Like most other days it soon began to rain followed by the inevitable snowfall. We started to worry. If the rain continues, all trails would be covered by snow and we neither had suitable clothing nor shoes to facilitate further ascent. Finally it was decided that the next morning we would visit Kedar Tal as early as possible and immediately start our descent to Gangotri.

  4. #4
    nice post, really love the pictures
    Last edited by shubha_dg; 1st August 2011 at 03:48 PM.

  5. #5
    Day 6, September 23rd, 2007

    The morning began with dampened spirits as it was raining and snowing from the very early hours, but soon it all cleared up and we started our trek at 7.30 a.m. The trail was tough for us as the air was thin and the ascent was moderately steep. After a 5 km trail at 9.30 a.m. we got our first view of the Kedar Tal.

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    We were awestruck with nature’s inexplicable splendour. Walking on difficult terrain to reach Kedar Tal had made us breathless, but we forgot everything seeing the reflection of the Thalay Sagar peak in the crystal clear blue and transparent lake. Gusty winds were blowing past us and the whole panorama was simply magical. We seated ourselves beside the enchanting emrald lake with the mighty Thalaysagar (Sphatiklin) Peak, providing the splendid backdrop. Kedartal also provides breath stopping close view of Greater Himalayan peaks of the Brigupanth (6772 mts) and Jogin Group of peaks. Jogin 1 (6465 m), Jogin 2 (4363 m) and Jogin 3(6116 m) are the three main snow peaks of the Jogin group. These peaks encircle the Khatling Glacier.

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    We sat there for quite sometime and our porter informed that during the month of May, the whole place is covered with snow. After having some light snacks at around 2.00 p.m., we started descending down. We wanted to stay there a little longer, but the weather seemed to be changing and it would be quite a risk if we stayed back any longer. The descent is always easier and does not take much time. We trailed our way back to Kedar Kharak and halted there for the night.

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    The next day would be another descent to Gangotri, and we knew we had to give our legs a full night’s rest.

    Day 7, September 24th, 2007

    The morning began in a chaos as it was already raining and we had to start off immediately. The trail back to Gangotri could not be postponed, as it would be very difficult for us to descend down the mountain slopes later with no adequate shoes for trekking in the rains. Already our legs hurt and we could not take any further risks. We finally started off at 9.30 a.m.

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    The whole trail was descent along the mountain slopes and we could not even stop for once for it was raining continuously. We totally exhausted and almost out of our senses.

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    Somehow around 2.00 p.m. we reached Gangotri.

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    We were totally drenched in the rains. We immediately checked into a hotel and without further delay changed our clothes and headed off for our lunch, we were starving. Our decision to leave Kedar Tal and descend down proved to be a life saver for later we learnt that the other trekkers who were still near or at Kedar Tal have got stuck in the heavy rains and the military rescue force have been sent to their aid. Many have already lost their track or died on their way.

    We felt fortunate but sad for our fellow trekkers. We had to stay at Gangotri for the next 3 days.

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    Day 10, September 27th, 2007

    We came back to Haridwar making a very slow trial amidst various landslides.

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    We had to change our train tickets and finally boarded the Kolkata bound train.

    Day 11, September 28th, 2007

    We reached Kolkata safe and sound. The trip was enriching but even today when we reflect back on our memories, deep within our heart we can feel the grief and pain of the family members of those trekkers who were not as lucky as we were and have lost their lives in the quest of the ethereal beauty of the Himalayas. Time and again Nature proves its supremacy and shows us our stand.

    End...
    Last edited by kallns; 1st August 2011 at 03:44 PM.

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