This was the final leg of our Uttarakhand excursion and we were very excited – partly because of the adventurist satiation of the past few days and partly because we were about to tread the Kedarnath trek. We had reached Gaurikund the previous evening and settled in our rooms at the GMVN guest house.

Gaurikund

Gaurikund is a small temporary congregation of shops, restaurants, and guesthouses lining a narrow concrete alley. Our driver informed us that this place becomes overwhelmingly crowded in some days when the Char-dham yatra takes peak. For now, at this very onset of the tourism season, the place was already alive with activity – drivers clamouring for parking spaces, vendors opening up and repairing shops, porters carrying supplies to the shops, and tourists getting ready for the trek ahead. The Kedarnath shrine doors are scheduled to open the next day and pilgrims and adventurers alike are already in a hurry to reach there in advance so as to witness the opportune event.

After breakfast which comprised of a mix of beans, vegetables and Indian bread, we headed to the Gauri temple to witness Shiva’s departure to Kedarnath on a palanquin. It was a very overwhelming moment for the followers.

We packed a change of clothes, essential woolens, some drinking water and a lot of sugar candies in our backpacks, leaving rest of our luggage in the taxi, and at around 9:30 AM we started our journey towards Kedarnath.

The Trek

The trek, a 14 KM man-made stony pathway, traverses along with Mandakini river curving across mountains. Everyone: pilgrims – old & young, from each part of India, rich & poor, on-feet, on-mules, or in palanquins, faithfulls and faithless’s, mules – carrying men and their supplies, and locals – shopkeepers, burden-bearers, is headed in the same direction – to the home of the Lord!

The Kedarnath Trek Path
Mules carrying supplies on the Kedarnath Trek Path

We moved steady and slow partly because we did not want to exhaust ourselves and partly because we did not want to miss beautiful scenery. After about 3-4 KMs we noticed a considerable drop in temperature and rain drops started to come. We did not want to take a break in the first half of the trek but when it rained heavy we stopped for shelter and tea  in a shop and moved on when it eased. We aimed to not to stop before the half mark at ‘Rambada’. The rain drops turned into frozen white beads by the time we reached Rambada – SNOW STORM HAD SET IN. We stopped for lunch here and after a break of nearly one hour we resumed our journey – which had now transformed into the most challenging and life threatening situation some of us had ever been into.

Knowing that we had 7 kms of journey to cover made us anxious. We walked IN and ON snow, just thinking about the next few steps and the next few minutes. By 6:00 PM we were able to glimpse our destination – Kedarnath township was in sight. By now, we were cold and tired; it took us great courage to locate our hotel, climb the stairs, change into fresh dry clothes and slip into blankets.

I don’t have pictures of this part of journey owing to extreme weather conditions. Hopefully tomorrow should be better!

The Kedarnath

The whole place was enveloped in glorious whiteness when we stepped out at 8:00 AM. It had snowed considerably yesterday. A long queue had already formed outside the temple. People have been waiting since 5:00 AM, we were told. We joined them. The plan is to complete the darshan, collect our bags from hotel and trek back to Gaurikund. Though, the sun was shining bright now but another snowstorm was forecast to hit in few hours.

Morning at Kedarnath – every surface was covered in snow
A long queue had formed for Darshan and we were at the farthest end of it
Sadhu’s at Kedarnath – his ash is more protective than my heavy-duty jacket 🙂
Looking at the Kedarnath temple dome
Devotees were treading barefeet on the frozen temple premises

We checked out of the hotel shortly after 11:00 AM and began our trek back after clicking some pictures of the area.

A view of the snow covered Kedarnath township and my brother clearly loving it
We stopped to enjoy the fresh snow on the way back – yesterday was disastrous here
Snowy peaks at Kedarnath
Just outside the Kedarnath township I turned back for a final glance at it
The trek path had become slippery due to snow and people walking over it constantly

Soon after the sunlight vanished and snow flakes started furrying around. But today we are not worried because we knew that after walking a few more kilometers we will be out of this storm.

The weather started changing soon – the storm was approaching

Weather became friendly as soon as we crossed Rambada when I took the following picture. Rambada is visible in the distance.

Looking back at Rambada and Kedarnath peaks

We reached Gaurikund by 6:00 PM. It was raining lightly and the guesthouse served steaming tea and coffee soon after. We were tired but satisfied that despite bad weather and unexpected snow storms we made it on feet as planned and none of us had taken sick. We will talk about this trek and this religious adventure at home and feel smug every time we’ll do so.

NOTE: The information about landmarks and distances presented in this post is not accurate anymore owing to the devastating cloud-burst and floods in June 2013 which had altered the geographical features.

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