Walking in the Himalayas – Kedarnath Trek – Kedarnath, India

Kedarnath is normally a destination as part of the famous Hindu pilgrimage – The Char Dham Yatra.  It is a very important spiritual destination for those seeking inner growth.  And needless to say, getting there is not easy.  A long bus ride from Haridwar will get you to Sitapur where there are hotels to rest before heading on the trek to Kedarnath. 

Important Note:  You need to register yourself and receive Indian Government permission before heading to Kedarnath.  This is important for safety reasons.

Ways to reach Kedarnath

  1. Trekking – perhaps the most difficult but has the potential to be the most rewarding. 
  2. Pony ride – you can hire a pony to reach the top.  Approximately 90% of the walking is eliminated.  However, a pony ride can be tough on your knees and back.
  3. Helicopter from Sitapur – The easiest option. Only problem, they operate only when the weather is safe for flying.  So, it depends on your luck.

The Kedarnath Trek

The most important question that comes to mind is whether this trek should be undertaken only by those who follow the Hindu religion or those who are spiritually inclined.  My feeling is that it does not matter who you are or what your beliefs are.  If you are a person who wants to experience an unique energy that resides in the Himalayas, this is definitely a place that will impact you. and therefore worth visiting.  Compared to all the other places I visited in the Himalayas so far, Kedarnath stands out — for a long time in a scary way, but now, in an awesome way.

For an experienced hiker or runner the steep inclines are not an issue.  In fact, they would consider this a fairly easy trek because the path is so well made.  However, if you are not as fit, the constant changes in steepness will affect you and slow you down considerably.   My advise: start at the bottom early in the morning so that you have enough time to reach the top.  The most important requirement (which I did not follow at that time) is:  enjoy your journey and don’t be too hung up on time (but do make sure you reach the top before 4 pm… walking in the dark is not recommended). 

The trekking path is very well laid out and maintained with tea shops in certain places along the way.  As you walk towards Kedarnath town, you will notice the surrounding scenery changing slowly.  First you will see high mountains and the deep valley where River Mandakini flows.  The waterfalls from high above fall gracefully to meet the river below.  Then, as you start getting closer to the Kedarnath Temple town, you will begin to see and experience the River Mandakini in a special way… truly mesmerising.   

Finally, as you reach the top, the scenery suddenly changes and the snow capped mountains appear in their full glory.   It is indeed a sight to see and experience… truly magical!

The Kedarnath town itself is small, but, there are nice walking paths laid out.  There is enough accommodation available if you pre-book.  But, let me tell you something –  if you decide to stay the night, you may not end up sleeping too well.  Personally, I had a rough night.  The next morning I found out everybody in our group did not sleep as well.  In retrospect, I should have just stayed up and walked around admiring and enjoying the beautiful, clear night sky that truly opened up to give us a glimpse of the milky way.  Sometimes, bright ideas strike only during introspection.

The Kedarnath Temple is absolutely beautiful — the architecture itself is simple but the vibes are pretty cool … from the Sadhus hanging around to the jaw dropping backdrop.  The funny thing about the mountains is that for a long time the mountains behind the temple will be hidden due to the clouds.  Then, around sunset, suddenly all the clouds disappear briefly and you get to see a golden hue on the snow clad mountain tops.  Simply stunning.  From speaking to other folks in the group, it appears people who are more spiritually inclined (not me by the way) tended to have more intense experiences.  I would like to believe that the energies are imprinted in my soul somewhere and will come out when I need to experience them the most!

Am I scaring you?  Sorry – I do not mean to do that at all.  Hiking back down is also a great experience.  It is a little bit hard on the knees due to the steep inclines but you really get to enjoy some incredible sights.  Don’t assume you will be faster on the way down.  Take your time and thoroughly enjoy yourself.  You will not regret it.  Once you reach your hotel in Sitapur, a nice warm bath and a comfortable bed will help you rest peacefully.

Final thoughts

When you are looking for a spiritual guide, you often hear about their connection to the Himalayas.   We often hear about how the Himalayas are very unique in the knowledge they hold and how the mountains are willing to share IF you are ready to receive.  When I went on this pilgrimage without my family, I was hoping to experience the same.  But, clearly, compared to other folks, I was not ready.  However, as I look back and reflect, it was an incredible journey (check out my previous blog post for details on the entire journey:  https://wanderingtalestraveldreams.com/2017/10/21/following-the-river-ganga/).  My lack of self-worth and lots of self-doubt came in the way of the truly enjoying the experience.  But, don’t let it be that way for you.  The trekking path is fairly well laid out.  You can walk up or walk down and take the helicopter one way if you are not up to it.  While staying on the top is optional, do consider staying (can potentially make it a day trip by taking the helicopter up and down).  But, do visit if you can — and it doesn’t have to be part of the full blown Char Dham Yatra.  It will make you a stronger person.

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