Why I regret my trek to Kedarkantha after completing Rupin Pass

I’ve been putting this post off for a long time. Nobody likes to write about their own failure. But I realised that as a trekker, you might be able to pick something up from this post. So try and make it to the end of it.

Last year, on January 1st, I was at the Kedarkantha summit. I stood at 12,500 ft, with the people I hold closest to my heart, watching the sun rise over the Himalayas. On the one hand, I felt extremely pleased and thankful. But within me, I felt a deep resentment.

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One of the few pictures I shot at the Kedarkantha summit

I repressed that feeling of resentment for many months after the trek. In fact, a couple of months later, it faded away completely.

It was only after four months, in April, when the feeling showed up again. It was when Arjun and Sandhya announced that I would go to Rupin Pass on May 29th.

What I felt was not excitement or thrill. It was fear.

I feared Kedarkantha would repeat itself.

The whole trek came back to me in flashes. Driving past Purola and Mori, reaching Sankri and acquainting myself with the village, starting the trek to Juda Ka Talab, seeing the first clearing under a blanket of snow…

While I could recollect vivid images of the prettiest sights, other images involuntarily came back – the heaviness in my legs, the exhaustion in my body, the inability to breathe. My first night at the Juda Ka Talab campsite was a nightmare. I shivered incessantly, felt nauseous throughout the night and kept at least six others worried and awake. After that, my climb to the summit was worse. I was just ten steps into the summit climb when I told my sister that I can’t go on. She and eight others I’d gone with egged me on. But instead of enjoying my climb, I found myself bending over my pole every few minutes. I had a strong desire to give up and turn around. I had no stamina to endure four days of trekking.

I hated recollecting those images. Who wants to accomplish a trek like that? What’s the point in making it up to the summit?

I was in denial about it for a long time. I used to convince myself that the trek went great and everything was sunshine and happiness. But that was far from the truth.

The truth was that I was not fit enough to do the trek.

I was fooled by the “easy” tag. My previous trek to Chandrashila had been a cake walk. So I’d let my ego get the better of me. I had prepared intermittently for just two weeks before the trek. And I got what I deserved – a trek that boasted of success on the surface but was underlined with bad memories.

So when Sandhya and Arjun mentioned Rupin Pass, I was scared. It was that “difficult” trek that everyone always spoke about. It was that trek where you have to climb the near-vertical gully. Even trek leaders had glorified it as an adventure. “If you want an adrenaline rush, this is the trek to do.”

I tried to talk them out of it. But they felt this was an experience I needed at that point in life.

It was settled. I had a month and a half to prepare.

I started jogging the very next day. I downloaded Nike Run and created a “Rupin Pass Challenge” for myself.

I started slow, with around 2.5 km, then pushed it to 3 km and 4 km within a week. Around two weeks into my fitness routine, Komal told me, “Do 5 km everyday. Doesn’t matter how much time you take. Just push it to 5 km.” So I pushed it to 5 km. It was not so tough.

The toughest part, however, was waking up early. I hadn’t done that consistently ever since my football training days. But the thought of the Rupin Pass gully was enough to push me out of bed. I couldn’t afford to get complacent.

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A screenshot of my 10K run

With one week to go for my trek, everyone in my office decided to go on a 10k run. I was a bit nervous because most people in my office did 10k runs just for fun. Nevertheless I went along. Surprisingly, I did a 10k run! I was flying with confidence after that!

When I left to Dhaula on May 29th, it was with a light heart.

On May 30th, I started my trek from Dhaula to Sewa. The 9.5 km walk was fairly easy. I was in the middle of the team, not ahead, not left behind. I didn’t lose my breath, I was comfortable. Nothing compelled me to pause but the view of the Rupin Valley. Oh it was glorious to be able to stop and enjoy the turquoise waters of Rupin.

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In awe of the scenery on the way from Jiskun to Udaknal

The next two days went well. I was particularly impressed by my stamina on the way to Jiskun. It is the most taxing day on the trek apart from the Pass-crossing day. You start from Sewa, lose a whole lot of altitude and climb up to a much higher altitude. I wasn’t running up the mountain, but I was steadily climbing. While others paused, I didn’t find the need to. I remembered how Arjun always said, “In the mountains, slow is fast.” I was amongst the first three to reach Jiskun.

It felt great to be able to reach so quickly. Not only did I have enough time to roam around in Jiskun, I  had a great time on the trail as well. I had the luxury of stopping and deciding which tree to hug, or just marvelling at the size of the fortress-like cliffs around.

I saw the best views on the way from Udaknal to the Lower Waterfall Campsite. Trekking through the glacial valley with the many criss-crossing waterfalls was thoroughly delightful! There were little flowers underneath my feet, colourful bugs that buzzed around tirelessly, the cows and sheep that grazed about – I was walking through a fairytale. It never struck me that I was walking or exercising. The best surprise was when we were welcomed by the Rupin Waterfall to our campsite. Man, did our jaws drop! That view stole the show.

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Our campsite at Lower Waterfall or Dandheras Thatch. What a view it was!

But on the sixth day, while climbing from Lower Waterfall to the Upper Waterfall campsite, my body faltered. I was struggling to breathe. Every step felt like the last one I could take. With several breaks I made it to the Upper Waterfall campsite. But my confidence was a little shaken. Why did I struggle when everyone else did this so smoothly? And why despite the fitness?

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Standing at the tip of the Rupin Waterfall.

I was quite nervous after reaching the campsite, looking at the snowy terrain around – something I would have to brave the next day. But the mellifluous flow of the river calmed me down. To add to that standing at the tip of the waterfall and looking at my previous campsite far below brought back the lost confidence.

The day of the Pass Crossing

The next morning, my eyes flew open at 4 am. My stomach did a flip. The Pass Day. It was finally here!

All geared up, we gathered in the darkness. It was around 5 am. In the silence of the mountains, I could hear my heart thumping. My extremities tingled with excitement. Our Trek Leader Ankit explained the plan – We would get to the pass in three phases. First climb from upper waterfall to Rata Pheri and from there, walk to the foot of the gully and then start the gully climb to the pass.

With all instructions in place, we started our climb. On uneven bouldery terrain, we had to take pretty lengthy steps upwards. I noticed that those around me were already tired. I found myself encouraging them to climb, not feeling an ounce of fatigue myself.

I made it through the first phase with ease. We reached Rata Pheri in around 45 minutes. To think that Indiahikes used to camp at Rata Pheri left me mind-blown! It is a humongous snow field surrounded by cliffs of caramel and vanilla. What spectacular colours!

Then I saw it – the gully.

I could easily recognise it from the pictures I’d seen.

It looked tiny from afar. Like you could cover it in ten steps. Geared with microspikes, we started our trek towards it. The closer we got, the more it grew vertically.

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The gully to Rupin Pass far behind me. Pardon the silly smile. I was delirious with excitement.
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The gully to Rupin Pass when you get closer to it. It looks more and more menacing with every step.

 

I remembered how the Kedarkantha summit seemed to go farther and farther away as I trekked towards it. My exhaustion had been playing mind-games with me, telling me that the summit climb wasn’t worth it – to turn around and descend.

But this time, I was not tired; I wasn’t even breathing hard. What I felt was sheer excitement! My legs wouldn’t stop. I was too restless. I wanted to climb that gully!

When I reached the foot of the gully and looked up, I gulped.

This was it.

We started our climb in a line. No one would overtake anyone. We would wait for the technical guides to carve out steps in the ice.

Half way up, someone said “Don’t look back.” Of course I immediately looked back. Expecting to find land behind me, I turned, only to be greeted by thin air. Level ground was far below me. Bloody hell!

It was a moment that struck a deep chord in me. For some inexplicable reason, my eyes flooded with tears. I couldn’t believe my own strength.

And just like that, within ten minutes, I stood at Rupin Pass.

The sense of achievement I felt standing at the Pass, surrounded by snow fields, meeting the mountains of Kinnaur at eye-level, was unmatched. I had earned those 20 minutes at the pass. It was my achievement – something no one could take away from me. The confidence I felt while standing up there still stays with me to this day.

After crossing the pass, I almost raced down to Ronti Gad. I started last from the pass, but was amongst the first to reach the campsite. I felt invincible.

Now, when I look back on this trek, I can only picture the beauty of the river, the glacial valley and the lovely trees and meadows. I can feel adrenaline rush to my skin when I think about the climb to the pass. What an unblemished experience!

And all it needed was a good level of fitness.

What went wrong at Kedarkantha

If only I’d been fit on the Kedarkantha trek. Standing at the summit, I would have marvelled the golden shimmer of the sun on the mountains. Instead, I was fishing for a spot to sit down. I would’ve clicked pictures, made a hundred memories. Instead, I sat on a rock eating an apple. That’s all I can do now – ponder about what could’ve been.

What I experienced at Kedarkantha was like a relationship gone sour – something I don’t want to look back on. It was the complete antithesis of a good trek experience.

Luckily, I work at Indiahikes and have the liberty to go there again. Not everyone has that luxury.

Another big lesson I learnt after Rupin Pass is that fear is a solid ingredient to have before a high altitude trek. I took my Kedarkantha trek too casually. The idea of Rupin Pass, on the other hand, made my heart race. Which is why I gave fitness top priority.

The thing is, more or less every time you step out on a trek, you complete it “successfully.” But whether you enjoy the on-the-way experience or struggle through it is what sums up your trek experience. That’s what ultimately lasts in your memory.

Like Ruskin Bond says, “The adventure is not in arriving, it’s in the on-the-way experience.”

If you have any such experiences to share, do let me know in the comments below. I’d be less embarrassed if I had company.

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Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy is the Chief Editor at Indiahikes. She heads the content team and runs a video series called Trek With Swathi. Before joining Indiahikes, she worked as a reporter and sub-editor at Deccan Chronicle. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications such as Deccan Herald. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates that mind like nothing else can. Through her work at Indiahikes, she hopes to let more people experience this sense of liberation, by spreading information about trekking and by instilling the right spirit of trekking in them.Read Swathi's other articles. Watch Swathi's video series here.

31 thoughts on “Why I regret my trek to Kedarkantha after completing Rupin Pass

  1. Well written & completely true. Kedarkantha is definitely not as easy as everyone says! I remember how difficult it was for me. It was my first trek in the Himalayas & fortunately I had a fabulous bunch of trekkers in that group. When I got back I knew that if I was to be back in the Himalayas, I would definitely have to be fitter. So I joined a running group. My second trek was Goechala in November last year & it was much harder than the moderate-difficult grade! I’ve resolved to be fitter for my next trek… This is just another benefit of trekking in the Himalayas. They make you come back & they make you come back fitter.

  2. Rupin pass is my one of the best trek… because in rupin pass you can see different type of views trail and terrain everyday…

  3. Rupin pass is my first Himalayan Trek and it is the best. Everyday the views change and good trail where you start from 5000+ feet and reach 14000+ feet. I had the same fear that whether i am fit to do this trek and also I don’t want to return midway without climbing the Pass. But yes that fear helped me to complete the trek without any issues and I had a good bunch of trekkers in that group.

    As stated by Rohan these treks make you come back and they make you come back fitter.

  4. Very well written Swathi! It is very true that we all go through this phase. I went through this phase during my Hamptapass trek. Though I had prepared myself compared to my previous trip, I struggled for a reason… I am determined to go back more prepared this time. Like Rohan Bagde said, Himalayas make us go back fitter every time with more determination!

  5. Absolutely love this article and I am so glad you decided to publish this. Running makes all the difference and this post has most definitely motivated me to start running again to prepare for the next set of treks. 🙂

  6. Very nicely written. I had stopped going for a trek because of similar experience, this article is motivating me again to go for many more treks. Thank you . 🙂

  7. Very nicely written Swathi, yet again! I can relate to each and every single word put by you in the article, not only because I have been to Roopkund and Buran Ghati and have been lucky enough to experience the mighty Himalayas, but also because I understood about the importance of being fit in my 3rd or 4th trek. Thus, I too, learnt it the hard way. It’s difficult to put in words, but I can comfortably say that IndiaHikes has given me few of the most cherishable memories, that I will always carry through-out my life.

  8. To enjoy the Himalayas in all its grandeur one must me fit both physically and mentally. There’s nothing in the summit, it’s the trail and how we enjoy every step on the trail, that matters! Dress up comfortably and enjoy the mountains. Finally, request people not to imagine trekking like as shown by the Bollywood 🙂

  9. Extremely well written and aptly described one’s strength and weakness. Every trekker has faced the same and one can easily relate with each words of your’s

  10. Well written. I remember the snowstorm at Rata Pheri , where we camped for the night, and we started the pass crossing a bit late due to the snowstorm. After crossing the pass we camped staright at Sangla Kanda (I guess that’s what the name was). I was not too fit but enjoyed none the less.

  11. Quite a narrative that, Swati! The moments of doubt during one trek and pride in the other expressed with such honesty and insight. I can see many trekkers smiling and nodding in agreement, about the lessons that we keep learning up above there. 🙂

    @ LSP’s comment about Bollywood’s unreal depiction of trekking – In a recent movie, I cringed when I saw trekkers shown sipping beer at the base camp and dancing around. Incredulous!

  12. Swati what a lovely article. You could have been writing about me! My experience at Chandrashila was similar to your Kedarkantha experience. I was the last one trudging in every single day and when I finally summited all I could do was sit on a ledge. While I did not feel any resentment or anger about the experience, it did help me make one vital decision. I will not be fooled by the ‘easy’ tag. I am planning a trek to Kedarkantha next and I am taking my fitness much more seriously this time round.
    Thanks for this article 🙂

  13. Thanks Swati for sharing your experience of both the treks. It inspires one to be well prepared before embarking for the Himalayas. Kindly give your comments on the fact that the symptoms of nausea, breathlessness & sleeplessness experienced by you at the Kedarkantha camp could be of Altitude sickness(AMS). It is well documented that the fitness level has no relation to the likelihood of developing AMS. Also, would you suggest that prophylactic medicine(Diamox) be taken prior to starting the trek.

    1. Hi Vandana. It was not AMS because my oxygen level was normal, and in fact on the higher side. My pulse rate was also normal. All this was checked at night when I was sick. It was the low temperature that I couldn’t bear. I didn’t take Diamox on this trek. I wouldn’t recommend it for this trek as a preventive measure as it climbs only to around 12,500 ft. Take it only if you feel any symptoms. There’s nothing to worry about because descent to a lower altitude is easy on this trek. On the other hand, I took Diamox as a preventive measure for my Rupin Pass trek from the third day onwards, when it climbs above 8000 ft and goes up to 15,500 ft.

  14. Well written swati I am 57years old and completed chandrashila in October16.whether my age suits for kedarkantha winter track.I don’t know the difficulty level there

    1. Hello sir, you can definitely trek despite your age as long as you’re fit. Instead of Kedarkantha, I would suggest Deoriatal. It is a notch easier and it is the best Himalayan trek to start with. 🙂
      You’ll find the details here – indiahikes.com/deoriatal-chandrashila-peak

  15. Daily jogging doesnt give enough time for joints and muscles to recover. So maximum you can go for jogging is on alternate days. Daily jogging over months can make some permanent damage to the lower body.

  16. Hi Swathi,
    I read your article on your experience and feeling of trekking Kedarkantha and Rupin Pass. Great to read and proud about your passion on trekking. I too had trekked both and second time to Kedarkantha as I loved trekking in Himalayas even at my age of 68 years. I had trekked with IH in himalayas 19 times and now I am leaving tomorrow to Tally Valley trek. Yes what you said about fitness is very much true. I advise other trekkers not to take any trek for granted and make full physical and mental preparation which I do meticulously. I trekked Chandrashila with you and enjoyed your company and now again signed for the second time to the same peak to reinvent the trail and enjoy and now taking seven more new trekkers to this trek and hope to guide them. Hope to meet you some time in your office.

  17. This piece is too good and important to remain unshared with the upvoming Kedarkantha group which I am a part of.

    So I did just now.

    I liked your writing.

  18. Swathi, I was under the impression that everyone at India Hikes are beyond the ordinary and don’t experience such situations 😀
    The easy tag is quite a misnomer at times. Kedarkanta was my first trek and I did think it wasn’t all that easy but when I went to Kuari Pass next, Kedarkanta felt much easier in comparison 🙂

  19. Kedarkantha was mt first Trek.. I can’t mention how much I cherish those moments in words.. Thankfully, I was fit enough for Kedarkantha.. I used to go first, stop there till the last person crosses me and again walk to reach the first one. It was fun. On my way from Judaka Talab to Luhasu, I realised, I forgot my phone and glasses, at a meadow we left.. So, I came back and collected them and went up again to reach the lunch point among the first five people.

    Yess.. absolutely! Fitness gives you some amazing memories in the trek.. It takes away the whole factor of tiring out, out of the equation..

    Love the article 🙂

  20. Hey!!!
    I am 48 yrs and fell in love with the greater Himalayas last year. We had planned a rupin pass trek but was advised by IH to start off with hampta. After your article I feel i must do Rupin before i turn 50 and I will start preparing from Jan 2018. I did not know why but the mountains keep calling you back.
    Thanks for sharing your exp.

  21. That was an interesting read. The title caught my eye and I don’t ‘regret’ having come here.
    Good on you on completing the Rupin Pass trek !

  22. Wow!! Everything is flashing right back to me now! You seems to have read my mind . I had just been to KK trek (1st week of April). That was my very first himalaya trek with not much preparation. It was my solo trek. We were group of 7 & m the only damage piece among them. Btw I never knew guys talk.. like alot! They talk & gossip about their trek to Grand Canyon, to Iceland, to Northern lights etc & I m like okkk…. everything goes over my head! N damn, they walk like zip, zap, zoop & I am like, walk 20 steps n rest for 10mins. Our guide was literally with me all the time. He is like “there is no rush, take baby steps n walk slowly”. To be honest I was mentally, emotionally n physically (kinda) prepared for this trek but on final day of summit, my body almost gave up. Loose motion, puking, headache, cold &cough, I thought I will not be able to complete n irony is we had not even walked for an hour! ( Tht was 4:30am ) I requested fr buffer 1hour (to start early for summit) cos I knw I can’t walk fast like them. Luckily everyone agreed. That moment I realised people who travel far n wide are very humble, understanding n genuine ( may b cos they too had gone through such hard times during their initial days ). Coming back to my story. I requested our guide to stop for a while cos my legs were shaking n I was breathing more heavily (joke is I had the highest pulse rate among all. It was 95.) Whilst they were busy clicking pictures of sky n snow, I was standing little far from them to take a breather. And I couldn’t stop my tears (but I didn’t showed them – you see big girls don’t cry) . I was literally praying to God to give me strength n courage to finish my first ever trek successfully. I told myself repeatedly that I came all the way from Blore for this trek, using all my leave balances & I can’t give up like this. I have reached so far yet so close to finish. In god’s name & chanting, I successfully completed with sunrise view. Back in sankri, they thought that I will not be able to complete. I proved them wrong! You see when heart n mind wants something badly, nothing can stop! Later i rewarded myself with bunjee jumping n river rafting at Rishikesh!

    P:S Did I mention my monthly came at the summit

    Tenzin

  23. Nicely written and sums up a lot of people’s experiences.
    The only complaint I have is it wrongly gives kedarkantha a bad impression at first glance.

    Would have loved to see the title being more related to not preparing your body physically than the names of mountains as they are almost irrelevant.

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