Monday, June 20, 2011

Kedar Tal Trek - Part 1

Document Title: Phat Gayee / Phat Jayegi
Dates: Day -1 and Day 0 (9th and 10th June)

Kedar Tal (Tal = Lake) is situated at an approximate altitude of 4,800m in the Himalayan ranges. It is the source of River Kedar Ganga, which merges with the River Bhagirathi in Gangotri, 18 km downstream. During its 18km existence, Kedar Ganga is as rough, fast, and noisy as you could expect an adolescent Himalayan river to be.

I came to know Tilak Soni, an avid mountain trekker from Delhi, through We had become pretty chummy over the last few months. Thanks to Facebook, I came to know of his plans to go to Kedar Tal, and if possible, try and explore further up. Leaves were arranged, and, Saurav, one of my colleagues, joined us on this trip. Few more were to join us later on.

So, on 9th of June, 2011, we landed at Palam airport in Delhi at around midnight.

Our Spicejet flight was funny enough. The correct departure time was 8.25 PM. We got a message as well as a recorded call that day that mentioned that the flight was being preponed [sic] to 8.25 PM. Hmm. How can something be preponed by 0 minutes? Anyway, the flight ended up being delayed by 30 minutes.

An old man was making a big hue and cry saying he wanted to get in the middle of the boarding queue. People were in no mood to entertain him - hey, all of us were in for the same flight, so why can't he wait. Apparently, someone had told him that there were limited seats, and boarding was only on a first-come first-serve basis. (Well not exactly, but that's how things looked:-)

Once we landed at the Palam airport, I called up our driver. He was waiting at the new T3 terminal, while we were at the domestic terminal 25 minutes drive away. His response when I told him this was "Phat gayee sir". Little did I know at that point in time that this phrase was going to be the buzzword for the next few days.

We met our fellow travellers at the airport itself. Lovedeep Sharma and his wife Shwetha Sharma, both settled in Norway for a long long time. We met Tilak finally outside his residence, and the 400 km drive to Uttar Kashi finally began at 01:20 hours.

In the cab, the conversation soon steered to details of the rough trek. We already knew that the three-day 18km climb was not going to be easy. When I prodded further for exact details about the terrain, Tilak cocked his head back from the front seat of the Innova and said these beautiful words: "Ab kya bataaon Sirjee, 70-80 degree continuous climb hai, phat jayegii hamaarii."

Phat Jayeegii? [Faulty translation: We're gonna be screwed.] 
Phat Jayeegii hamaari?

Those words reverberated in my ears for some time. Nowhere during the last two months of telephone calls, were those words ever uttered. It was just not there in the unwritten contract that we had agreed upon. I did not sleep that night.

We crossed Rishikesh at 5:20 hrs, and started the trip though lower Himalayan foothills. This is Ananda spa, a neatly located facility on the way.

We reached Uttar Kashi by around 13:00 hrs. Our stay was arranged at Hotel Shivlinga, on the banks of the Ganges.

After having tea, we ventured out to buy some provisions for the trek. And that's when this thing struck us - there is no sense of privacy out here. Check out the ATM:

People were offended because they were not allowed to stand right behind you, while you were typing the pin number. ATM activity is like a mini serial for most - they will watch you click, type, withdraw, and go. This is not to offend anyone, but I found this quite strange, considering the security we attach to ATM transactions elsewhere.

Lunch from a roadside hotel was crappy.

Vegetarian dinner was in itself very good. I managed to spice it up a bit with chutney of Piscean pedigree.


We started off for Gangotri at 8 in the morning. Kishan Powar, our guide who has trekked our route 20-30 times, traveled with us.

Landslides are common phenomenon here. This one was particularly ruthless.

The true heroes of the mountains.

I saw a lady with her toddler on her back working as a contract laborer at this site. Truly remarkable, even though it's an economic necessity and not a virtue.

Here's the temple at Bhaironghati, near to Gangotri.

We reached Gangotri by afternoon. Jumbo Jilebi welcomed us.

There are shops and stalls selling pilgrim accessories. Some of them sell Rudraksh in the most unconvincing shapes and designs, and have stories to go behind them "You know, there is this one tree in the interiors of Nepal where such shapes are common." These are 100% guaranteed fake.

This is Surya Kund, right next to Gangotri, where the roaring Bhagirathi river (not yet christened Ganga - that will happen in Devprayag later) plunges down a gorge.

We went for a short 1.5 km trek to a cave just to see how our legs were shaping up. These are shots on the way.

This Sadhu apparently lives in this cave all year round. Note that Gangotri is covered under a THICK carpet of snow for six months starting October.

This is the Gangotri temple.

The real source of the river is at Gowmukh, 18 kilometers away. The glacier is melting fast, and the source is moving back slowly but surely. This is Ganga Aarti (Aarti = twilight), which is a worship ritual of the river goddess. River worship apparently is not a Hindu-only phenomenon.

I met two sadhus in the evening while chilling in front of our hotel. They did not want cash, but was checking if I could buy them some tarpaulin to cover their temp accommodation from rains. [This type of charity is not in my blood - I don't know what came over me.] It did not cost much, but the real cost was that I ended up being hassled by other sadhus left, right, and center. Ran in and locked myself up in the room.

I later met my original fellows and took a snap with them.

Their blessing was this: "Tumhara bhandaar hamesha bhara rahe!" (May your coffers be always full).

There you go - "Tumhara bhandaar hamesha bhara rahe!" That sounded much better than "phat jayegii hamaarii". I slept better that night. Tomorrow we go for the real push.

Part 2 can be found here.


  1. we have planed and going to kedartal oct 12 can u sugest snow will be there

  2. we have planed and going to kedartal oct 12 can u sugest snow will be there

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