Getting High- 2016 at 12,500 feet

Tripoto
6th Jan 2016

I refuse to have a mundane existence. I believe in tasting the air that I breathe as it knocks the wind out of my lungs. I choose not to succumb to routine which I have seen far more closely than I would have liked to. Change is the master I respect, whose path I follow. And when I notice a pattern forming, a cycle taking shape, I realise that it is time I take a lesson from my master again.

So, coming to the cliché introspective paragraph on 2015- here goes. Honestly, 2015 turned out to be far better than I expected. I conquered one of my greatest fears by travelling alone to the other side of the world, breaking out of my shell and talking to a bunch of interesting and amazing people (lets ignore the 'oh my god what if my host is an axe murderer' moment which made me want to turn my flight back around- sorry, Lorri. I love you). I started paying more heed to whom and what I love and learnt to accept the inevitable. I'm pleased, to say the least. But somewhere in between all this, I found routine creeping in again. Routine has a way of making you grow restless, especially when there is a paucity of challenges. I knew it was time to put myself to test once again. So I decided to do my first high altitude trek.

Photo of Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11

Kedarkantha is a peak in the Garhwal Himalayas at an altitude of 12,500 feet. You cover a distance of 18 kilometres over 4 days with an altitude again of nearly 6000 feet, starting from the village of Sankri in Uttarkhand. The weather can be unpredictable with rain and snowfall. The temperatures at night can fall to -15 degrees. Oxygen levels dip steadily. Now, a little about myself- I absolutely loathe the rain and cold. I find anything more than a Bombay winter unbearable and avoid traveling in the rains like the plague. And that's exactly why I chose this trek. There was no better way for me to end the year than by attempting to overcome my fears. Was I disappointed? In me, maybe a little bit. But by nature? Not even in the slightest. I saw that the wet cold was home to a world of beauty I had never known.

Photo of Sankri, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11

The view from the peak was magnificent and the stelliferous skies from the camps at night were worth every shiver and sneeze. But I'd be lying if I said that it was an easy climb to the camps and the peak. The views were easy on the eyes but hard on the feet. And the rest of my body, too. I got into the trek quite confidently if I may say so myself. I exercise six days a week ensuring a good mix of strength and cardio vascular training. The trek was graded easy. I met all their fitness requirements. I could do this, right? Well. Wrong. Fifteen minutes into the initial ascent I had the first of my many falls. A high, steep rock, a pair of short legs and the usual over packed backpack wasn't exactly the ideal combination. So much for all those months of exercise. Of course, after cringing with embarrassment and dusting my knees, I was back on my feet, making my way, undeterred. However, that 'undeterred' phase only lasted as long as the ground beneath by feet was dry. Come ice and I fell flat on my nose twice, each only within a few seconds of the other. Gingerly, I made the rest of my way to the first camp, Juda ka Talab, grabbing onto every branch, rock and person on the way.

Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Juda Ka Talab, Supin Range, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11

The Juda ka Talab campsite was a dazzler in itself with two lakes having frozen together. Being a rather vociferous group of thirty, it was hard to take in the ethereal beauty in silence but nevertheless, it did not fail to amaze. If it hadn't been all that cold and we weren't camping on a blanket of snow, I would've enjoyed dragging my sleeping bag out of the tent to gaze at the stars which are normally hidden behind the city lights and smog. Or maybe I'm being preposterous. But the few moments I spent with gloved hands and covered ears, gazing up at the sky were worth more than words can describe.

The next day's trek was much, much easier thanks to the micro-spikes we were provided with. Those things latched onto the snow and ice like magic. I can proudly say I didn't even fall once, though I did have a couple of close calls. And after a mere two hours, there we were at the Kedarkantha (KK) Base Camp. Through the trees we could see the peak looming in the background, distant and calm. The rest of the day was spent having snowball fights and enjoying the sun, wind and cold. These three elements were a spectacle to be felt when they were in harmony and a wrath to be feared when one overpowered the other. Nature's nature is strong.

Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
Photo of Kedarnath, Uttarakhand, India by ananyamody11
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