- Add/plan for buffer days for bad weather. Summit hikes usually go to the highest altitude possible, and the weather at those places can change within minutes.
- Prebook your hotels/hostels. Internet connectivity is spotty. Use hotel aggregator apps to look for hotels and call them up. Sometimes you might get a cheaper rate. Ask if geyser and other facilities are available before booking.
- Figure out multiple ways to get to your base village of the hike. If you miss your bus, knowing other ways of transportation will help you a lot. Sometimes, public transport could be more expensive than private jeeps, if you are travelling in a group.
- Talk to locals and other businesses. The initial price offered for our rafting was 1000 Rs per person. We negotiated it down to 600. On talking to some people, we found that we could have negotiated it down to 300-400 bucks.
- Carry cash. Use UPI wherever possible. Only use cash when there are no other modes of payment availble. We ran out of cash, but luckily the ATM at Kedarnath was working when we reached there.
- Avoid using the mules to go up/down Kedarnath. It wouldn't save you much time. Hike the trail upto Kedarnath with consistent breaks. If you want to get down quickly, prebook a seat in the helicopter. Bunch of us used the mules to go down, and it didn't sit well with their lower backs.
- Talk to your jeep drivers. They are probably overworked/working double shifts. Our driver was honest and said he was falling asleep at the wheel. We switched jeeps at the next town. Also talking to them would alleviate their boredom.
- Negotiate everywhere. But also consider how much footfall is the region being hit with. Jeep drivers would probably tell you to fuck off if you try to negotiate during peak season. We went at the beginning of Nov, when there is not much footfall. Most of the footfall is between Apr - Oct, when the Kedarnath temple is open.
One of my friends was moving to Canada so we decided to do a farewell trip. We looked for treks in Uttarakhand, since most of the treks in Himachal close in November. We zeroed in to Chandrashila and sandwiched it between two hikes, Sari to Chopta and then the Kedarnath Temple hike from Gaurikund.
We started our trip on Oct 29, and there weren't much crowds on the trails. We didn't meet a single person on the trail from Deorital to Chopta village.
- BOM - DEL flight. You could avoid this and directly fly to Dehradun and get a bus from there. Or ride to Rishikesh and get on one of the taxis that go north. [Day 1]
- Delhi ISBT (Kashmere gate) to Rishikesh Bus Station. We missed the bus to Srinagar, so we got on the bus that goes to Rishikesh. There are plenty of buses that depart for Rishikesh from Delhi in the evening. [Day 1]
- We stopped at Rishikesh, rested at Tapovan for a few hours till early morning, and then departed to Rudraprayag via the jeep. There are jeeps available in all major towns, some of them ply on a sharing basis. It's advantageous to go in a large group like we did (10 people), since you wouldn't have to wait for the jeeps to fill up, and travel costs don't add up much. There are buses that ply to Srinagar and Ukhimath, you could get on them, but they take multiple breaks throughout the whole journey. [Day 2]
- We switched cabs at Ukhimath and made our way to Sari where we dumped extra baggage at a homestay and hiked up towards Deorital in the evening. We reached Deorital in an hour and a half. [Day 2]
- Look for a platform beside the lake facing the mountains. The lake has reflections of the whole mountain range, and if the weather is clear, it looks absolutely stunning.
- We started our hike from Deorital to Chopta village via a trail that goes via the hills and jungles. The trail crosses over 5 hills with lots of ascents and descents. The first ascent is particularly challenging since your body hasn't warmed up yet and you climb a lot during this stage. The trail is also exposed to the sun, and the sun is pretty strong at this altitude even in Autumn. [Day 3]
- After you reach the highest point of the first hill, the trail descends, and you will find yourself hiking through the jungles through the entirety of this trek until you hit the paved road that goes to Chopta. You will probably hit this paved road after hiking 20 kms approximately in the evening. Go down the road to hit Chopta village. [Day 3]
- The trail going through the forests was probably the best part of the trek for me. There was not a single human presence apart from us on the trail. After a while, the forests opens up to a meadow (Rohini Bugyal) where we had our lunch. You can view the surrounding mountains in the meadow, some of them snow clad, if you are as lucky as we were. There are lot of streams that flow through this trail which you can use to fill your bottles up. [Day 3]
- Depart early from Chopta to the trail that goes to Tungnath/Chandrashila. The Tungnath temple closes early November. We went after the temple was closed so there weren't much people on the trail. The trail is paved till the Tungnath temple, but steep at places. I would really recommend you to do some hiking, and work on uphill training before you do this. The trail gains altitude quickly, and people in our group suffered the effects of altitude. We left at 4:30 am and reached the Chandrashila summit at around 7. You want to be at the summit at sunrise since it feels like the sun is literally at the same altitude or below you , and it makes for some incredible photos. [Day 4]
- Climbing down, you will meet a lot more people during daylight, and there are some tea shops open which offer some breakfast as well. Beyond Rishikesh, be prepared to survive only on Aloo parathas, Maggi and parle g. You'll probably be paying 10-20rs over the MRP. [Day 4]
- We got down, took our bags and left for Sonprayag in the afternoon. We reached Sonprayag in a couple of hours. If you can prebook your stays at Sonprayag. Hotel rooms are limited, and there are a lot of people coming here. Some evenings, you can find people frantically trying to find a bed for the night. [Day 4]
- The food at Sonprayag is not something that you'd fancy. Also carry enough cash before you reach Sonprayag. There is an ATM but we didn't find it to be operational. [Day 4]
- We departed early at 0430 hours the next day. Walk up towards the road to Gaurikund, and you will find jeeps offering a seat for 30 bucks. It's a 10-15 mins ride. The trail to Kedarnath starts from Gaurikund. [Day 5]
- The Kedarnath trail is well marked and paved. The official distance from Gaurikund to Kedarnath temple is around 16 kms.
- The summit took us 5 hours. We took a lot of breaks for food and photographs. Carry enough cash + food + water. There is an HDFC ATM at the top but it doesn't work all the time. We were lucky to enough to arrive when it was being fixed.
- I would suggest to hike up the trail towards Kedarnath by foot and then go down via the helicopter. You have to book your seats in advance for the copter rides.
- The last cutoff time for cabs to depart from Sonprayag is 6 pm. So ensure to get down quickly or arrange for an extra night at Sonprayag.
- We spent a couple of days in Rishikesh doing a bit of rafting, visiting the local waterfalls and the cafes. I'd recommend visiting Bistro Nirvana at least once. The food there was amazing. Also A Tavola Con Te for some decent italian pizza. Both of these cafes are in Tapovan.