Kedanath registered the lowest temperature of the season on 13 January with the pilgrimage centre freezing at minus 13 degrees Celsius. Life in Kedarnath, located in Ruderprayag district, is not boring even after the mercury dips below normal. The Kedarnath reconstruction team is engaged in various activities to keep the members involved and in high spirits. If snowfall is taking place, the indoor activities are mainly limited to self-maintenance and other minor works.
Manoj Semwal, a member of the reconstruction team, said, “With no work taking place outdoors, the reconstruction team members are engaged in washing their clothes, bathing, stitching their torn clothes, etc. If the weather clears, we play music to dance on Nepali, Garhwali, Hindi and Punjabi numbers. We enjoy playing volleyball.”
In winter, the temperature in Kedarnath dips to below zero during the night and early morning. As the day progresses, the weather improves and most of the time touches a maximum of 15 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. Once the work is over, the reconstruction members are engaged in sports and entertainment.
Extremely harsh weather conditions prevail in Kedarnath during winter. Nobody used to stay in the pilgrimage centre in winter before 2014. After the 2013 flashfloods, the reconstruction team was assigned the work to complete infrastructure and other facilities before the start of the pilgrimage season. A team of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (Uttarkashi) took up the challenge in 2014 and now even in the winter the Kedarnath reconstruction team and a police party remain there.
Barring occasional movement of VIPs by chopper, not many visit the holy township in winter. Soban Bisht, another member of the reconstruction team, said, “Ration and other essential materials are moved on mules. We keep adequate supply of rations so that bad weather does not affect our stocks in any way.”
One can spot regular movement of mules carrying reconstruction material on the trek route to Kedarnath. With chily weather prevailing, even having a bath is a major challenge. The reconstruction team is provided hot water. If the weather affects the Kedarnath reconstruction work, the members use the time by washing clothes and having a bath. Bathing at high altitudes with temperatures below 10 degree Celsius! A Bear Grylls-like TV episode.