I was the official “@loser” of the trek. Well, my fellow trekkers awarded me with this hashtag because I had lost a glove, a cap, and almost my trekking pole and phone in a matter of four days. But I felt like a “loser” for a different reason:
Sights of such surreal beauty bubbled my amateurish romanticism!
There is a trend amongst urbanites (like me) to do Himalayan trekking to cross off an item from their bucketlist. Well, that may be so…but let me assure you there’s much more to it than just the lure of filling up that bucket of list and of picture-perfect Himalayan landscapes.
Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit lies the answer to the mystery why we climb – Greg Child
The Beas Kund (a glacial lake at 12866 ft from ground level) may be a moderate difficulty trek but the Seven Sisters (the mountain range that encircles it) always has something up their sleeves to make it push your mental limits. For us, it was the fresh snowfall which followed by the sudden rainstorm (enough to cause spindrift avalanches) made our waterbed trails full of gushing waters and the icy patches of the trail that much more slippery to trek on.
Well, if that doesn’t rock your mental boat, try negotiating the steepest, almost verticle parts of the summit climb with a vertigo or a sprained ankle! And for some, braving extreme exhaustion, nausea and fever to make it to the top. Numb hands whenever bared and teeth chills whenever a gulp of water get sipped!
But as our trek leader who kept reminding us, “it’s all in the mind!”…Once we conquer our minds, the mountains, the climb and the rest…all becomes easier to conquer! Eventually, the realization comes that courage is not the absence of fear but the strength to keep going.
This just doesn’t apply to the physical baggage you carry, but more the mental one. An alpine climbing trip can be a crash course in letting go of your inhibitions…whether they be around using the open squatting pit toilets (which btw have a singular focus of testing your already aching glute and hamstring strength!) , or drinking the stream water which at times may smell of cow urine – (but hey, didn’t they claim gaumutra was good for health?!) or wearing the same pants for the nth day since every other pair is wet or surviving the claustrophobia of sleeping in the 6X2 sleeping bags (over pokey rocky surfaces within the 6X6 camping tents along with 2 other trekkies and 3 sets of gear!). Or my personal favorite…stepping over mountain lizards and mules that want to eat from your plate! Due respect to those Decathlon hiking shoes for withstanding muddy slush, slippery waterbeds, icy slopes, verticle heights, and sometimes wriggly beings without complains!
But the brighter side is, you quickly learn to accept reality as it is! – saving you the trouble of spending 10 days meditating in Vipassanna to imbibe this very Buddhist doctrine. 🙂
The sense of liberation you get from embracing your fears/inhibitions seemed akin to the nirvana that Rishi-munis aspire for atop these peaks! 🙂
All the clichéd quotes about self discovery in the mountains are, perhaps true. Let me start with a self-afflicting realization wrt timeliness (a virtue that has somehow eluded my personal value system!). But you quickly realize how important it is, to keep time by your side, when you are faced with the vagaries of the mountain weather. In fact, the same applies to your own energy. “Go at your own pace; take a break when you feel tired.” – Isn’t this basic rule of climbing quite relevant for our non-terrained lifestyle?!, I wondered. But a more spiritually-laced one dawned on me into my third day of heavy backpacked-laden climbing- its about the distinction between our wants and needs (Blame our lifestyles to have created such a blurred line between the two!) It became quite apparent to discern between the two now than ever before…
You can go further, only if you carry what you need!
Btw the mountain corollary to that is…what you need, is what you have to keep dear. (Remember, no power or “backup” on the mountains!)
Also, be assured that there will times you will come face to face with yourself through some of the solo stretches of the trek. It was one such beautiful moment, charged by the hazy-hued zigzagged morning horizon, when I realized that I can be in perfect bliss in solitude as much as I can be, in the company of people and materialistic comforts.
The most endearing part of the trek is that it can turn total strangers (of varying lengths, backgrounds and ages) into close comrades. Something to do with the fact that you connect with your fellow trekkers in a visceral way, no pretense, no distractions(read internet), and one common goal. The realization that we either climb as a team or don’t climb at all, makes us go the extra mile to look out for each other: whether it be sharing lunch when someone forgot to carry theirs, intuitively lending a hand at tricky crevices, reminding each other of the quintessential water breaks, or giving away your own cap or trekking pole because someone needs it more than you. And of course, the endless banter, some soul-seeking conversations, singing old favorites, the snowfights, to keep away the mountain blues.
In a reflective mode, I conclude that humaneness is as uplifting a nature’s creation as the Himalayas itself.
Of all the things you experience, gratitude is the one that sticks. Gratitude for many things – this beautiful life, loved ones, but even more primally, this human form- for its ability to experience this in full glory and emotions, and your own body to have endured through the hardships so that you can enjoy the view from the top.
To have the mountains challenge you in many ways, push you to the breaking point and put you back into one piece. A piece more at peace, more uplifted, more spirited than before. The gratitude to be alive and to have lived each moment of this ethereal journey.
And now for the…..
May this serve as a motivation for all of you to keep fit! 🙂
ps. Yoga and meditation to keep the spirits high on the highlands! 🙂
In a much worth-mentioning addendum, I want to point out about some very interesting self-sustaining, green initiatives by our trekking company #IndiaHikes. They wholeheartedly believe in leaving the mountains in a better shape than they found it. And as a way to ensure that:
1. They require each trekker to bring their own cutlery and lunchware so as to reduce the waste up in the mountains.
2. All the trekkers carry an ecobag in which they are supposed to collect any trash (plastic, wrappers, etc) that they find on their way. At the end of the day, it all gets segregated and brought back down to be properly disposed off.
3. No wipes, no processed food packed in packages allowed during their trekking trips. They compensate by making the yummiest food at the alpine heights.
Kudos to #IndiaHikes for taking care of our precious, most beautiful natural wonder.