Kedar Tal Trek

Hike to the beautiful Kedar Tal - First Pilgrim
Kedartal Trek: A Hike to Shiva’s Lake – It was 16th of October 2016 and the alarm rang at 4:30 a.m. I woke up with a sore back and tired legs, the Cold wasn’t helping either!. It was my 25th continuous day of hiking in the Indian Himalaya and just the previous day I was back from Tapovan and Mount Shivling Base camp above Gaumukh (the source of the River Ganga) surviving a mercury drop of almost -15 degrees Celsius.

Today, I was supposed to leave for Kedartal and Thalay Sagar base camp. As much as I was excited about the hike, I was skeptical of the unknown. I had spoken to numerous locals and they advised that the trail was bad and there were sections where one had to cross sections using all four limbs and sticking on to rock faces with virtually hundred meter drops. There was also a section requiring one to do some crazy Kedar Ganga River crossing.

As I set out I met a team consisting of a Canadian couple in their 40s, their guide, 2 porters and a cook so I joined them for a bit. Excited as I usually am in the mountains, I was moving pretty fast compared to the Canadian group. After a steep climb, there was a dangerous section where the porters took rest for a while awaiting the Canadian Couple. I told them, I would head straight up on my own and hopefully, meet them at Kedar Kharak based on how it goes that day.

Porters resting en-route Kedartal

Thalay Sagar base camp is a 3-day hike, if you need acclimatization. However if you are fit, you can complete the hike in a day and half.

It’s the strange thing in the mountains, all the tiredness just vanishes once you are back on the trail. I was also more confident since I managed to pack some food, as I planned to complete the hike in a day as compared to the longer 3 day which most people attempt. So, a day’s ration would suffice.

A hiker from the Canadian group, En-route Kedartal

I had soon left the group behind and set out on my own. The key halts on the trail are at Bhoj Kharak, Kedar Kharak and then KedarTal / Thalay Sagar base camp. Surprisingly, I didn’t meet anyone else on the trail that day.

Beautiful Alpine forest enroute Kedar Tal / Thalay Sagar

After walking 2–3 km, one catches the first glimpse of Thalay Sagar. All the way, one can enjoy the autumn Colors of the Garhwal Himalaya.

First Glimpse of Thalay Sagar before Bhoj Kharak

Upon Reaching Bhoj Kharak, one has to cross a dangerous vertical section on all four limbs to reach safely on to the other side. I was greeted by bharals (Himalayan Blue Sheep) as soon as I reached Bhoj Kharak. They were about 30 of them and started eloping upon the first sign of my human existence.

Himalayan Blue sheep (bharals) at Bhoj Kharak enroute Kedartal

Upon further hike, I started seeing bear foot marks and then they vanished all of a sudden for a few km. Only later the Canadian group informed me that they had seen a bear with baby follow me from a distance but there was no way to alarm as they were probably trailing me by 3–4 kilometers.

As a note, I already knew that the bears and leopards in Uttarakhand generally would not attack unless provoked or you surprised them with your sudden appearance, so I was fine as the bear would have eloped at first sight of me with my huge backpack!

Motion Triggered sensor Camera for Snow Leopards.

I was told, sighting a snow leopard is a possibility in this region and it certainly felt so due to the abundance of Himalayan Blue sheep, the favorite meal of the Snow Leopard.

As one moves further up the trail, Bhrigupanth (6772m) and Thalay Sagar (6904) both present themselves in full glory.

Bhrigupanth (Left) and Thalay Sagar (right) as seen near Kedar Kharak

Further up the trail, one has to descend several meters to cross the Kedar Ganga river while walking amidst Rock-fall and Landslide zones.

Kedar Ganga River is fed by glaciers from the Thalay Sagar and Bhrigupanth and the waters of Kedar Tal (lake). Kedar Ganga meets the Bhagirathi at Gangotri and is considered Shiva’s contribution to the mighty and holy Ganges.

Kedar Ganga River (source lies somewhere at Kedartal, Thalaya Sagar/Bhrigupanth Glaciers)

Once, the river was crossed few times, one has to start another round of steep climbing only to look back and see what he has left behind and look further to awe inspiring views of the beautiful mountains.

Soon, I reached Kedar Kharak to be greeted by more Himalayan Blue sheep and beautiful views of Thalaya Sagar. Kedar Kharak(alt: 4300m) is the last alpine meadow enroute Kedar Tal.

I threw my heavy backpack and sat for a longer time, just relaxing and gazing at the beautiful peaks that surrounded me.

Camp Site at Kedar Kharak overlooking Thalay Sagar, Bhrigupanth and the various streams of the Kedar Ganga River

Camp Site at Kedar Kharak overlooking Thalay Sagar, Bhrigupanth and the various streams of the Kedar Ganga River

Kedar Kharak was where I decided to rest for the day and head to Thalay Sagar the next day and back to Gangotri post that.

Himalayan Blue Sheep (Bharals) at Kedar Kharak

The next morning was cold and lazily slipped out of the tent. It was only about 7 AM that I started for the Thalay Sagar base camp and Kedartal.

Crossing some Glaciers en-route Thalay Sagar

Almost There! Kedartal at an altitude of 4900m is one of the highest lakes in Himalaya and the Asian Sub-continent

Approaching base camp and Kedar Tal.


Another view of the lake and the mountains

Rising to 6904 meters above Sea-level, Thalay Sagar is a mountain in the Gangotri Group of peaks in the western Garhwal Himalaya. It is more notable for being a dramatic rock peak, steep on all sides, and a famed prize for mountaineers. It was first climbed on 24 June 1979 via the northwest couloir and ridge and thence across the shale band of the North Face by an Anglo-American team comprising Roy Kligfield, John Thackray, and Pete Thexton

Soon, It was time to leave but not before looking back one more time and not wanting to return back to civilization!

Bhrigupanth (Left) and Thalay Sagar (Right)

It took another 6–7 hours to descend from Kedar Tal to Gangotri which was done at lightning speed. It was definitely a hike that would stay with me for a long time. The sheer beauty of the Kedar Lake, the mighty views of Thalay Sagar and the beautiful trail are just out of the world.

Kedartal makes up for a great hike from Gangotri apart from Tapovan, Nandanvan, Raktvan and Kalindi Khal Expedition among others!

Here is my itinerary for Kedartal Trek

Published by

Neeraj Mishra

My soul is stuck amidst the high peaks and the deep chasms of the beautiful mountain-Himalaya (the abode of snow), from Nanga Parbat in the West to Namcha Barwa in the East, from Nanda Devi in Garhwal to Kanchenjunga in Sikkim.

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