Kedartal lake and surrounding peaks of Gangotri range of mountains

Kedartal Lake Trek – A Dream Trail For Hikers

Kedartal, as the name indicates, it is the Lord Shiva’s lake. The legend says Shiva created this lake as a contribution to River Bhagirathi. The lake is believed to be the origin of Kedar Ganga, a tributary to Bhagirathi which joins the river at Gangotri. But, in that landscape, you happen to see Kedar Ganga originating from a glacier which feeds the lake too!

Kedartal with views of Mt Thalaysagar and Mt Bhrigupanth

After an injury at Chadar trek, I was thinking that my left hand is gone forever! Very depressed, I was pushing hard to get some movements in the wrist. I had never thought I could go for a trek within 4 months of injury.

Craggy peaks around the Kedar Kharak campsite

I still decided to make it to Kedartal lake with only one hand operational. Initially, it sounded like madness but, later I didn’t regret. It was hard but wasn’t as hard as I believed.

Gangotri To Kedartal Lake Trek Route

Day 1: Gangotri to Bhoj Kharak

The trek starts from Gangotri and the trail is steep uphill including numerous switchbacks through the birch forest. Birch trees are referred to as Bhoj trees in the local language and so the first campsite inside the Bhoj forest is named Bhoj Kharak.

Bhoj Kharak is one of many campsites on the Auden’s Col trek route.

The trail is well marked, other than all uphill terrain there is nothing much to talk about. Just a few meters before the campsite the Spider Wall crossing is interesting. Almost vertical granite with a couple of inches wide footholds and quite a deep valley below … Well… it is not as scary as it is mentioned in all websites. But, yes! one needs to be careful.

Mt Bhrigupanth and Mt Thalaysagar seen from Kedar Kharak 

Day 2: Bhoj Kharak to Kedar Kharak

The second day of trekking from Bhoj Kharak to Kedar Kharak is comparitively easy on knees but tricky and very interesting! Steep climb, blue sheep pushing lose rocks from top, we dodging those falling rocks, crossing sliding zones, river crossing at places. I loved it. What is the fun in just walking and walking? It is fun to get some dust and dirt.

The real heroes are the porters. I envied them, their immunity towards the cold, altitude and the terrain. When our team, well equipped with Vibram sole trekking shoes and saying “mein guide ke sath hi jaoonga” (I will go only with the guide), these guys were walking in a pair of flimsy slippers with no grip at all and carrying a backpack of the size of an almirah! I heard they carry about 30 to 50KG! They deserve a story of their own.

We had started late in the morning and got to experience some snowfall at the end. I was in an open area, there was nothing to hide and strong cold wind brought snowflakes. Snowflakes were ramming to my face.

The lightweight poncho wasn’t of any use, it was flying in every direction, except to protect me from snow and wind. The romantic looking snowflakes which come in slow motion aren’t so in reality, they seemed too hostile and felt like ripping my facial skin.

In the mountains, you can hardly do anything but accept the situation- if hot sweat, if cold shiver!! There was no option than walking ahead. Fortunately, the storm was brief and the last stretch of the trail is almost flat and opens up into a beautiful grassy meadow with views of high peaks and blue sheep grazing around.

Himalayan Blue Sheep or Bharal at Kedar Kharak

Since Kedartal has not gained much popularity as Roopkund the campgrounds are sparsely occupied. Kedar Kharak campsite is one of the best. Wide grassy ground gently sloping down and once a while the pretty visitors- Himalayan Blue Sheep grazing lazily.

The campsite has good old mountains around, space, peace, quiet and some craziness. Only a group of Indiahikes had camped and ours. One of the best campsites ever!

A herd of blue sheep arrived, and the whole campground came to life! People with cameras tried to approach them in all possible angles and postures. Others just stood around and took videos and pictures with mobile phones.

Watching the sheep, a thought came to my mind, while on treks our existence comes down to that of these sheep. We want to survive, eat and sleep. Nothing else matters.

A massive glacier on one side of the Kedar lake. Took this picture from the lateral moraine separating lake and glacier.

Day 3: Kedar Kharak to Kedartal Lake

On the third day trail from Kedar Kharak to our final destination- Kedartal was rocky, harsh and looked never-ending. For me, the tension of reaching somewhere before the weather got bad was mounting.

Today I was better prepared with waterproof pants and wasn’t relying on the poncho only. But, there was no snowfall or rain, it was a very pleasant day! After going up and down on the rocky moraines, the final steep climb through the loose rocks and slushy slippery mud kind of induced the effect of altitude.

Almost at 16,000ft air is thin, crisp and dry. Climbing 4 steps makes you huff and puff! I went up like a zombie, every two steps I stopped and looked up to judge how much more! Finally, I was there!! Dumbstruck!!

The view was stunningly beautiful in “high altitude colors”- white and a thousand shades of brown. Well, there was blue of the sky at times when those cottony white clouds moved. It looked like magnificence redefined!

I forgot about my tired limbs and tried to capture the sheer scale of the mountains with my mobile phone. Some pictures I captured are here, though any camera cannot do justice to the spectacularly magnificent grandeur of the place. I went around the place and clicked pictures … so many of them!

Frozen Kedartal and our camp

The romance of staying in a tent pitched right beside a frozen lake and watching the moon-rise is beyond words to express. The moon slowly rose up from behind Mt Bhrigupanth. It was just a night after a full moon and the light-filled everywhere! I sat there on a rock on the lake bed and looking at Mt Thalay Sagar when others tried to do some long exposure photography.

A porter came for water and asked me gently … “Madam Ji, kab tak yahin baithi rahegi?” (Madam, How long will you sit here?). My response right away was … “Marne tak 😅” (Until death). Soon thick clouds covered the place, dampness was felt by the skin and it was time to get inside the tent.

At high altitudes, I cannot sleep. And while trekking above 8,000ft I just don’t get sleep for a week or so. And hence I keep coming out of the tent every night just to look around, and the star-filled sky. At Kedartal I came out to check twice at 1 AM and 3 AM. The first time there wasn’t much the mist had covered most of the mountains. But, the second time was dreamy.

The moonlight had lit up the whole place. But the thin curtain of clouds masked the sky and the light was diffused and dimmed. The stars were hiding. The enchanting and otherworldly beauty of the mountains soaked in the dim moonlight was like a dream. Trust me!

A moment’s sight of Mt Thalay Sagar shining under the moonlight was worth freezing me for a few minutes. I don’t have words to explain it. It made me forget everything else and I was eternally happy! I could stand there and watch forever! It was bitterly cold but the haunting beauty of the landscape was hypnotic. I thought of making friends with the bitter cold.

Hard to say goodbye! But, we had to … looking back at Kedartal …

Staying back at places like Kedartal is not an option. The next morning we had to leave. With tons of memories and a camera full of pictures we left.

Even though Kedartal is not ravaged like Roopkund or Goecha La the plastic still has made its presence. I could see some Pepsi Cola bottles on the surface of the frozen lake. Oh! When are we going to learn? Well, another drill on the sliding zone and descending the steep downhill trail finished our memorable trek. At Gangotri, while we settled the dues etc I finished two big fat aloo parathas effortlessly.

The jinx! Unfinished Moon Peak, unwell on Goecha La trek and injury on Chadar!! I broke the jinx!! I finished Kedartal with no issues! Yey to me!!

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as the sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn – John Muir

A blog by Kusum Sanu.. She is author of Scrapbook-A Travel Blog. She is a solo traveler, photographer, and a trekker. She believes in minimalistic living and doesn’t just visit a place but tries to truly live it.


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