Kedarkantha Trek would be your best choice when it comes to trekking in India in winter. From December to April, Kedarkantha makes for a terrific trek in virgin snow, with pretty campsites and astonishingly wide clearings in the forests.
Not many know that on the Kedarkantha trek, the winter snow sets in by the middle of December and lasts until the third week of April. You are likely to come across snow just as you cross the 10,000 ft mark, lying on the forest floor among the pine trees. When you reach the meadows, a huge blanket of white is likely to surround you in every direction.
This trek has the prettiest campsites in the Himalayas. Not all treks can boast of the beauty of their campsites like the Kedarkantha trek. Each campsite is unique in its beauty. The Juda-Ka-Talab campsite sits in a clearing surrounded by giant pine trees, the Kedarkantha Base campsite is on an open meadow with snow peaks all around. It is almost as if each one of them competes with the other for the beautiful setting.
The drive to Kedarkantha takes you through Mussoorie, Nowgaon, Purola and Mori before finally bringing you to Naitwar. It is a remote route so exquisite that it is one of the most beautiful drives in the Indian Himalayas. Trekkers need to especially watch out for the section after Purola until the base camp.
This is a huge perk of trekking to Kedarkantha. Right from the Kedarkantha base camp, you’ll see stunning 360 degree views of famous mountain summits. This is jaw dropping. When you get to the Kedarkantha summit, it is as if you have touched the sky and all the summits are at your eye level!
Are you planning to go on your first trek? You really want to experience a snowfall, camp in snow and see some astounding views of snow-capped mountains? Then this trek is perfect for you! With just the right amount of snow, this trek is meant to introduce people to trekking on snow. Since the temperature falls well below zero, carrying more layers is advised. Anyone above the age of 7 is fit to go for this trek.
Kedarkantha is is classified as an an easy-moderate trek. You gain gain about 2,000 ft in altitude each day. The trek also demands continuous ascent and this is what makes it seem a bit difficult to some. The switch from walking on soil to walking on snow with micro-spikes can take some time to get used to. All of this requires decent amounts of stamina and physical fitness.
If you’re trekking to Kedarkantha in winter, the temperature during the day will be at around 8-12 degrees and at night, the temperature will drop to -5 to -7 degrees. You will need to carry a minimum of five warm layers. Apart from this, ensure you carry your warm accessories such as synthetic (water resistant) gloves, woollen socks, balaclava and thermals. These are imperative on a winter trek.
Apart from this, there might be snowfall in winter. Ensure you carry a poncho to have a comfortable trek.
Trekking shoes: You will need trekking shoes with good grip. Sports shoes will not be comfortable enough.
Backpack (40-60 litres): A backpack with sturdy straps and a supporting frame. Rain cover for backpack is essential.
Three warm layers: Here’s a video on how you can layer yourself.
Three trek pants: Wear one pair and carry one pair. This should be enough. But your pants could get wet while sliding, so carry an extra pair.
Three collared t-shirts: Carry light, full sleeved t-shirts that prevent sun burns on the neck and arms. A common mistake that trekkers make is not changing their tshirts often enough. Regardless of how cold it is, the body tends to sweat a lot. Trekkers who don’t change to fresh clothes fall ill due to wet clothes and are often unable to complete their trek.
Thermals: Carry thermals to keep warm at night. Keep them fresh. Don’t wear them while trekking.
Sunglasses: Sunglasses are to prevent snow blindness. They are mandatory on this trek since you will be traversing ice fields at the pass.
Suncap: The sun is more harsh on your skin at high altitude and will zap your energy quickly. Wearing a suncap will help.
Synthetic hand gloves: One pair of water proof/resistant gloves.
Balaclava: You may use woollen scarves instead as well.
Socks (2 pairs): Apart from two sports socks, you can take a pair of woollen socks for the night.
Headlamp/LED torch: Mandatory
Daypack (20 litres): This is required ONLY if you are offloading your backpack.
Toiletries: Sunscreen, moisturiser, light towel, lip balm, toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste. If you plan to use wet wipes or sanitary napkins on the trek, make sure you carry a zip lock bag to put used tissues and napkins. Bring this ziplock bag back with you to the city and do not dispose wet tissues and sanitary napkins in the mountains.
Cutlery: Carry a spoon, mug and a lunch box. We insist on trekkers getting their own cutlery for hygiene reasons.
Two water bottles: 1 litre each
Plastic covers: While packing, use plastic bags to compartmentalise things and carry few extra plastic bags for wet clothes.
Mandatory Personal Medical Kit
Diamox – 10 tablets (to prevent AMS)
Dexamethasone – one strip
Nifedipine – 5 tablets
Crocin – 6 tablets (fever)
Avomine – 4 tablets (motion sickness)
Avil 25mg – 4 tablets (allergies)
Combiflam – 4 tablets (Pain killer)
Disprin – 6 tablets (headache)
Norflox TZ & Lomofen– 6 tablets each (diarrhea)
Digene – 10 tablets (acidity)
Omez/ Rantadine – 10 tablets (antacids)
Crepe bandage – 3 to 5 meters
Gauze – 1 small roll
Band aid – 10 strips
Cotton – 1 small roll
ORS – 10 packets
Betadine or any antiseptic cream
Moov spray (aches, & sprains)
Please carry the below documents. Document two and three need to be downloaded (PDF), filled in, signed and handed over to the trek leader at the base camp.
Original and photocopy of government photo identity card – driving license, voters ID, etc
Day 1 : Getting to the base camp – Naitwar
Altitude: 5,600 ft
Time taken: 8 – 9 hours. Transport from Dehradun Railway station at 6:30 AM
Gainchwan Gaon is a village in Netwar that is connected by road to Dehradun. The journey takes 8-9 hours via Mori, Purola and Netwar. You see beautiful valleys and forest cover throughout the journey. At the Netwar Barrier you need to take a permission. A government issued ID is essential for this. After the barrier, take a right side turn to go to Gainchwan Gaon. The road that goes straight, takes you to Sankri. After taking the right turn, take another right turn after in 30 minutes. This takes you to the village Gainchwan Gaon surrounded by Sialdia, Paisar, Gwari, Sunchangaon, Dargangaon and Deora. The guest house where you will be staying is in Sialdia.
Roam around this quiet village and be enchanted by the sound of the Rupin river.
Day 2 : Naitwar/Sialdia to Jalouta
Altitude: 5,600 ft to 8,950 ft
Time taken: 4.5-5 hours
Trek gradient: Easy. Gradual ascent for 2-2.5 hours followed by a steep ascent.
Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water. There’s one water source half way through the trek.
There’s a motorable road all the way to Altwar which is a work in progress. You will have to stick to the villager’s path that goes through apple orchards and farm lands. The Sunchangaon and Dargangaon villages are unique in their culture, in their architecture and lifestyle. Altwar is at a distance of 3 km from Gainchwan Gaon if you come through these villages and 6 km via the motorable road. Indiahikes trekkers trek on the shorter route since a cab up the motorable route takes more time.
From Altwar, you can see the Rupin valley. The trail goes into a forest and ascends gradually. After some time you see a clearing amidst the pine and oak forests. This is the first water point where you can fill water from a tap. This is also a good spot to rest and click photographs of the beautiful surroundings.Forest near Jalouta.
After the clearing, you enter the forest which is denser now. Soon you see a wooden bridge over a dried river bed. The trail from here on is quite steep and more like a staircase made of slabs of rock. After gaining some altitude, the incline becomes more gradual. You see the Rupin river as you traverse through fallen trees on the trail.
As you walk further, you enter a clearing with a hut. This place is Raj Odari, from where you take a route which deviates from the main trail. After some distance, you see a stream cutting through the trail. After crossing the stream, you trek up a trail that is on a gradual incline in a grassland. Less than a kilometer later, you arrive at Gainkaka. From here there is a gradual ascent till a stream at a place called Jalouta. This place is surrounded by pine trees. This is your campsite for the day.
Day 3 : Jalouta to Kedarkantha Base (Pukhrola)
Altitude: 8,950 ft to 10,800 ft
Time taken: 4 hours
Trek gradient : Easy. ½ km ascent to a meadow followed by ½ km of level walk. Gradual ascent which becomes steep for the last 300 metres to Pukhrola.
Water sources : Carry sufficient water. You will find streams along the trail to refill your water bottles.
Today’s trek is quite short but there’s close to 2,000 ft of altitude gain. So remember to keep yourself hydrated well. The trail is steeper and the terrain is undulated and mixed. You see multiple clearings and meadows as you trek from Jalouta. The second such clearing is called the Siunn ka Thatch and it is at an altitude of 9,293 ft.
The trail again goes through a jungle and opens into another clearing called Mowru ka Thatch. Take a short break here to enjoy the serenity of the place. After Mowru ka Thatch, you trek through a tree covered area on steep terrain. The tree cover slowly loses density and you see Rhododendron trees. Now you’re just an hour away from Pukhrola, our new Kedarkantha Base.
After crossing a couple of streams, you enter a huge meadow and you see the Kedarkantha summit sitting right in front of you. This is Pukhrola – your campsite for the night. Take good rest and enjoy the picturesque sunset here.
Note : The cold in the open is intense and it often gets windy. Carry enough woollen wear to protect you from the elements.
Day 4 : Pukhrola to Kedarkantha peak; descend to Hargaon via Juda ka Talab
Altitude: 10,800 ft to 12,500 ft to 8,450 ft via 9,211 ft
Time taken: 6 – 7 hours
Trek gradient: Easy to moderate. 2 hour steep ascent to reach the summit. Steep decent to Hargaon.
Water sources: Carry 2 litres of water. First water source at Talkhetra, around 2 hours into the descent.
Today you make the final push towards the summit. Start from Pukhrola at 5:00 AM. Those of you carrying your rucksacks will need to pack up the previous night and take all your belongings with you. Kedarkantha summit is around 2 km from Pukhrola. You can drop off your rucksacks around ½ km before the summit and proceed with just a day pack. You can collect your rucksacks again during the descent. If you are offloading your bag, carry a day back – your rucksacks will be taken directly to Hargaon.
The route goes on the western ridge of the mountain and it gets very steep at multiple points. It takes two hours to reach the summit by this route. On the summit you are surrounded by mountain ranges and valleys. You see Dhauladhar range, Chansil Pass, Rupin valley, Har ki Dun valley. Swargarohini also comes into view along with Bandarpoonch and Kalanag. Some of the other peaks you see include Jaonti, Gangotri, Draupadi ka Danda and Jorkanden.
While descending, you first come down to the point where you can collect your bags. From here, trek down the shoulder ridge of the east face. You trek down a gradual slope to reach a meadow. After walking ahead for a few minutes, you enter a forest where the path divides into two. One goes over a log-bridge but you take the other path which goes to the left.
In 1.5-2 hours, you reach Talkhetra which is at an altitude of 10,025 ft. Stop here for lunch. You can also refill your water bottles here.
From Talkhetra, you have 2 options. If you’re feeling up to it, visit Juda ka Talab else head straight to Hargaon. Juda-ka-talab is a beautiful lake in a clearing in the forest. It will take you about an hour to get here. The trail is mostly descending, with a 10-15 minute ascent.
Descending straight to Hargaon from Talkhetra will take you about 40 minutes.
Day 5 : Hargaon to Sankri
Altitude: 8,450 ft to 6,400 ft
Time taken: 3.5 hours
Trek gradient: Easy. Gradual descent all the way.
Water sources: Carry sufficient water. There is one water source, around 1.5 hours into the trek.
Although this is the last day of the trek, it gives good competition to the other days. You trek mostly through forest cover, with clearings surrounded by maple trees along the way. You get some really beautiful views of Har-ki-Dun and Swargarohini from these clearings. Start early so that you can spend some time taking in these views.
Day 6 : Drive to Dehradun from Sankri
Distance: 220 km
Time taken: 10 – 11 hours
Start from Sankri early in the morning, preferably before 7:00 AM since the journey takes at least 10 hours. If you have time to spare at Dehradun, go to Mussoorie or Yamunotri.
Thoughtful thoughts to your inbox