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The Kedartal trek is not for everyone. It is a difficult trek. What this means is that it requires a considerable amount of fitness to do the trek. What it gives in return is a truly magical trekking experience.

The trek climbs to the glacial Kedartal lake.  On our other treks, we get terrific mountain views. But not as close as the ones on the Kedartal trek. You have Mt Thalaysagar, Mt Bhrigupanth, MandaParvat, Mt Jogin, MtGangotri rising up right in front of you. These are no small mountains.

Trekkers take a break in the shadow of Mt Bhrigupanth on the way to KedarKharak PC: PadmanavaSen

The trek in itself is fantastic. Climbing out of Gangotri through magnificent pine forests, the trail enters high altitude pastures. The camps along the way give terrific views of the great mountains surrounding these settings. This is one of our few treks where you almost always sight the blue sheep or bharals.

The variety on the trek, grand views and terrific mountain settings make this one of the great treks in India.

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Day 1

Reach Gangotri/ Dharali

• Altitude: 10,055 ft (3,064 m) • Time taken: 10 – 12 hours from Dehradun Gangotri is the base camp for the Kedartal trek. Around 20 km before Gangotri, Dharali is a village along the Bhagirathi river. Lodges dot either side of the main road leading to Gangotri. You will stay in one of these. The drive to Gangotri becomes interesting after you cross Uttarkashi. The roads become narrower, the forest around denser. It also becomes colder as you gain altitude. Look out for the pretty town of Harsil on your left, around 55 km before Gangotri. Expect to see thousands of pilgrims at Gangotri, especially during the chardhamyatra season in May and June. They throng here to see the source of the river Ganga, so sacred in Indian mythology. It is said that King Bhagirath prayed to Lord Shiva for salvation of the souls of his 60,000 sons. Shiva obliged and requested Goddess Ganga to release her water, which purified the ashes of Bhagirath’s sons. This mythological story elevated the status of River Ganga as a means to purify one’s soul. angotri, the base camp, is situated right on the bank of Bhagirathi river. PC: AtulRana

Day 2

Acclimatisation day in Gangotri

• Altitude: 10,055 ft (3,065 m) to 11,000 ft (3,352 m) • Trek gradient: Easy- moderate Use this day to get acclimatised to the altitude. Take a short trek up one of the trails around Gangotri and ascend till 11,000 ft and then return to base. You can spend the rest of the day exploring the area and taking in the pilgrim-town’s sights and sounds.

Day 3

Trek from Gangotri to Bhojkharak

• Altitude: Drive from 8.300 ft 10,055 ft (3,065 m). Trek to 12,450 ft (3,780 m) • Time taken: 1 hour drive. Trek for 5-6 hours, 6.5 km • Trek gradient: Moderate-difficult. Steep ascent all the way. The terrain is rocky in many parts. • Water sources: Carry sufficient water. There are three sources on the way where you can refill your water bottles. Negotiating the narrow path across the mountain wall requires a lot of patience. PC: PadmanavaSen Walk into the Gangtori market. There are public washrooms here if you want to use them before setting off on the trek. Carry dry rations or packed lunch since there is no food available on this trail. Around 50 metres from the washrooms, take the steps going down to the right towards the BhairavGhatibridge across the Bhagirahi river. The trail to BhojKharak begins as soon as you cross the river. You will see a GMVN lodge to the right. You will also pass the ashrams of a few sages. The trail here already begins to ascend. After 200 metres, take a trail that climbs up sharply to the right, along the side of another ashram. This brings you to the forest trail to BhojKharak. This frequently trekked route is the only path available to reach BhojKharak. Here one, the trail ascends steeply almost all the way to BhojKharak. The trail is rocky in most parts. Being the first day of the trek, it is likely that you will struggle for your breath as lift yourself and your bag on to the rocks. Below you, you hear the KedarGangariver thundering past. Above you are branches of the fir trees you find in this forest. The valley becomes narrower as you go deeper. There are short stretches of flat walks that allow you to catch your breath but the climb is relentless. After an hour and a half of climbing, the fir tree give way to birch or bhoj. The barks of these trees shed think sheets that resemble paper. Due to the durability and texture of this bark, most of our ancient Indian texts were written on these. The locals use it in their shoes as insulation from the cold. Though the terrain is strenuous, ‘rhythmic trekking’ takes the edge off it. It is important to take small sips of water at equal intervals to keep well hydrated. The trail crosses three water points from where you can refill your water bottles. After about four hours of trekking, the trail emerges out of the forest. Here, you get your first ‘spider wall’ or a narrow path on a near vertical rock face. The trail has just enough space to keep a foot at a time. Focus on the next step and do not look down – you’ll be able to cross this path comfortably. BhojKharak campsite PC: AtulKiniMThe trail climbs for another fifteen minutes before you reach the second spider wall. Cross this and you will reach the campsite within five minutes. The BhojKharak campsite consists of small strips of land lying to the left of the trail. You will have to find flat stretches to pitch your tents. There’s wild grass growing around. The valley here is quite narrow so the view are not very great. The closest water source is the stream flowing along the spider wall that you just crossed.

Day 4

BhojKharak to KedarKharak

• Altitude: 12,401 ft (3,980 m) to 14,000 ft (4,267 m) • Time taken: 5-6 hours, 4 km • Trek gradient: Moderate-difficult. 1 km of steep ascent followed by 3 km of moderate ascents and descents. • Water sources: Carry sufficient water. There are sources on the way where you can refill your water bottles. Meadows on the way to KedarKharak. PC: Sushant Ale The trek from BhojKharak to KedarKharak is relatively simple compared to the previous day’s climb. Though there are a few grim patches, the terrain has uniform ascents and descents. The trek to KedarKharak, situated at 14,000 ft, is 4 km and takes about five hours. The ascent is quite steep as soon as you set out of the campsite at BhojKharak. After 1 km trek though the Bhoj forests the trail leaves the tree line and enters meadows which are multi colours in autumn – an astounding setting for photography with the snow covered peak Bhrigupanth in the backdrop. The next 2 km feel like a relaxing stroll as there are fewer steep ascents. It is in this stretch that you may get a chance to encounter high altitude fauna like bharal (blue sheep), goral, Himalayan black bear and a variety of birds. The climate gets chillier as you gain altitude. Do not be surprised if you notice a thin layer of frost over the stones in the streams. After passing about two more water points you reach Kedarkharak. The camp is set on a vast dry meadow with a few sparsely distributed boulders beside a wide stream. The stony path through which the stream climbs is the trail for the Day 4 Trek. It is an exceptional sight to watch the sunset at KedarKharak. As the red ball of fire sinks behind the snow clad Bhrigupant the entire meadow looks orange and turns grey at dusk.

Day 5

KedarKharak to Kedar Tal and return to KedarKharak

• Altitude: 14,000 ft (4,267 m) to 16,116 ft (4,912 m) and back to 14,000 ft (4,267 m) • Time taken: 8 hours, 8 km • Trek gradient: Difficult. Continuously ascending trail over a rocky terrain. • Water sources: None. Carry at least 2 litres of water. Mt.Bhrigupanth and Mt.Thalaysagar on the way to Kedartal. PC: Sushant Ale On this day the excitement level among the trekkers is usually at its peak, with the eagerness to make it to the emerald lake taking over any exhaustion from the previous days’ treks. Start early as this stretch is the most laborious of all. At a height of 16,116 ft, the ‘Tal’is a 5 km slog from KedarKharak through rocky mountains with absolutely no greenery around. Despite the barrenness, the terrain can be quite exhilarating. With vigorous ascents and very few descents it demands a great deal of energy and effort to be able to reach the destination on time, considering the unpredictable weather conditions, with the probability of snow and rain being quite high during this season. The trail can best be described as a rocky maze with just one or two small streams that are not close by, thus requiring us to carry adequate water supplies. If not careful, one can easily get turned around and it takes a while to realise that the route is off beam. For this reason a lot of cairns ( piles of stones) have been placed en route to the Tal to point out the right direction. Watch your step as there are plenty of loose rocks on the way. After about 5- 6 hours of trekking, and half kilometre away from the lake, you can see the mighty Thalaysagar Peak across a rocky ridge. Once you cross this steep ridge, the descent to the lake begins. The temperature falls drastically at Kedartal. You can see the flawless reflection of the mighty old Thalaysagar peak on the Tal. Though the water is freezing, it is quite an experience to wet your fingertips in the emerald green lake. Spend some time here and soak in the scenery before turning back to KedarKharak on the same route. Reflection of Thalayasagar in Kedaral. Picture by Vikas Sharma.

Day 6

: KedarKharak to Gangotri

• Altitude: 14,000 ft (4,267 m) to 10,055 ft (3,064 m) • Time taken: 8 hours, 11 km. • Trek gradient: Moderate. Continuously descending trail over a rocky terrain • Water sources: Carry sufficient water. There are few sources on the way where you can refill your water bottles. A herd of bharal on the trail to BhojKharak. These shy animals are a rare sighting though this is their habitat. PC: PadmanavaSen Start the descent to Gangotri right after breakfast. Trace the same path back and cherish the surroundings one last time. Since most of the trail is descending, it should take you lesser time to reach. Be mindful of loose rocks on the trail.

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