A three-day expedition to the alpine lake of Kedartal allows a photographer to beat lockdown blues and revel in the natural wonders of Uttarakhand. Text and photographs by Abhinav Chandel
It was a few months into the first lockdown in 2020, and ennui was beginning to set in. Crossing state borders was out of the question, so I decided to explore my home state of Uttarakhand with a few fellow adventurers. And there was no better way to do it than hitting the trekking trails in the Gangotri region of the Himalayas. I chanced upon a photograph of Kedartal while browsing the internet and knew instantly that this pristine lake, situated at an altitude of 4,750 metres, would be my destination.
The trail to the glacial lake begins from Gangotri, a popular pilgrimage site. However, we gave the popular route alongside River Ganga a miss; it would’ve taken us towards Gaumukh, the pout of the Gangotri glacier and the origin of River Ganga. Instead, we trudged along the steep trail running in the opposite direction. Within an hour, we were high above the town of Gangotri, staring into the vast expanse of Himalayan wilderness.
The trail moved upwards alongside Kedar Ganga, a stream that stayed with us until Kedartal, and took us to our first campsite, Bhoj Kharak, perched at an altitude of 3,780 metres. We had made our way through a jungle of birch trees, at times tackling steep ascents and rocky climbs and on others gasping at the magnificent views of the snow-capped Bhrigu Parbat.
Day two of our trek gave us some great sunrise views of Bhrigu Parbat. It also widened up the valley for us and presented an unobstructed view of the Thalay Sagar mountain throughout the day, along with other mountains and peaks. The second campsite, Kedar Kharak, situated at an altitude of 4,200 metres, is where a million stars hang in the night sky and cold Himalayan winds pierce your windcheaters.
By day three, we traversed more than 17 kilometres and finally laid eyes on Kedartal. The turquoise lake and the tall peaks surrounding it reminded us once again why treks like these are worthwhile. Kedartal rekindled my love for Uttarakhand. By exploring one of the remotest regions of the state, I felt closer to home.