My Affair with the Mountains! So close to death, So close to living!

Tripoto

It all started when my friend Eeshani said, “Why don’t you go on a trek?” At first the idea seemed a good one to me. I love traveling, going to new places, meeting different people. And all this with adventure was really thrilling. But the problem is I’m one of those people who require an hour to choose from the menu at a McD outlet. So yeah, I started thinking of what could go wrong. And I started to think against it. I told her that all my friends were busy with their exams. But given the person she is, she insisted me on going alone. And I can’t thank her enough for that. Somewhere deep down under I really wanted to go away from this place, alone, and I just needed one push, which Eeshani gave me.

So the next step was to find a suitable trek for a novice like me. Unlike the normal people around me, I’m good with technology, so I googled ‘trek’ and a number of treks for that week popped up on my screen. That was easy. I found this website called the Youth hostels Association of India. The prices for the treks were very ‘cost effective’. So obviously it caught my eye. But unfortunately, all the seats for all the treks were full. I mean there were at least 25 groups of 50 people each at 10 different locations, and there wasn’t a single seat available. Okay. This had to be something really good. So obviously, now I had to get in, by hook or by crook. Ajeeb chull hai mujme. So I called them up, and the lady on the other side of the phone fell prey to my charm and told me that she could arrange one seat for a trek which was leaving in the next 3 days. For the first time in my life,(trust me, there are so many first time yet to come on this trip) without wasting even a single second on thinking, I took my car keys and left for the head office in Chanakyapuri, which was about 50km away from my place. I went there, filled the form, paid the fees, and it was done and done. I was going on a trek to Sar Pass.

I know I’m an idiot. I forgot to ask my parents for their permission. But I knew they wouldn’t say no. Because they knew even if they did, I wouldn’t listen (nothing to brag about). I booked my bus tickets to Bhuntar, whichi is 30km from the base camp, Kasol, for the 4th of May. I packed my bag. Well this is interesting, Just like my parents, I thought this trek would be like a picnic, in a forest or some place(blame Yeh Jawani hai Deewani). So I packed all my fancy t-shirts, beach shorts and jeans, and thankfully some of the basic stuff mentioned on the website like track pants and utensils. I thought they were really stupid (they weren’t , I was).

I told a few friends about this and they were quite amused by the fact that I was going on a trek, alone, for 11 days. It was hard for them to digest it. They just wouldn’t believe me, they thought I was joking. I can’t blame them. They scared me like shit. For 2 days, my so called best friends Kp and Chitti thought of all the bad things that could happen on the trek. They actually made a game out of this. I’ll tell you some of them. I would have to share my tent with an old lady, who would fart all day. I would fall off the cliff (okay, that was mean and uncalled for), I might get lost and become an adhivasi. Yeah. So you got it. Some of them were really scary. So any which way, I decided to ignore them and go on the trek.

4th May 2014. Everything was set. I wanted everything to be perfect on this trip. My dad dropped me off at the bus stop. The bus was 2 hours late, as usual and my bag was heavy (with useless stuff of course). So a bad start basically. And finally, the bus came, which by the way was supposed to be a super luxury Volvo, adding to the bad start, turned out to be a complete khatara. It does not end here. The bus driver played ‘Jai ho’ throughout the 12 hour journey. If I put it gently, the movie was a pain in the ass. Never the less, I believed everything is going to be great once I reach Kasol and slept off with this thought in my head.

5th May 2014, 6 a.m. The conductor woke me up and asked me to get down. (I think he was really rude) I had reached Bhuntar. It was really cold outside and I took out my jacket from my bag. I waited for the local bus to kasol at the same place for half an hour, boarded a really old bus, older than the nearby mountain maybe, which made a loud screeching noise. A foreign couple, who had boarded the bus with me from Delhi, boarded the same bus. The bus driver and conductors were sardars, and charged Rs 45 for the ticket to Kasol. It took me an hour to reach the Kasol Base camp. I was ecstatic to finally reach the camp. There was a sudden rush of blood in my veins. I had imagined this moment a hundred times in my head.

The camp was just like I imagined. It had so many tents and a common place to eat, but there was a common place to charge your phones too, and I could see people fighting to charge their phones. I was soon going to be a part of the race myself. So I completed my registration and other formalities at the camp reception and was escorted to a tent. There I met Vineet, Sandeep, Akhilesh, Rakesh and Ankit bhaiya and Anuj uncle. They were all slightly older than me, but eventually became my companions for the trek. They were all experienced trekkers unlike me, and supported me throughout the trek. I can’t thank them enough for all their love and support. They were all discussing about the trek and I was curiously listening to their conversation and I was looking at them like a clueless baby looks at his mother and has no idea of what is going on. It was only then that I realized that this trek is not a picnic, and we’ll have to climb mountains and that there’s going to be ice too(yes, you can laugh). They were quite surprised, or I should say amused to see my lack of knowledge about the trek. I should have done my homework before coming on the trek. But thank god I didn’t, coz I’m sure I would have never come if I had done some research on what I was getting into.

So we went to Manikaran in the evening. We also had a round of the market and shopped a little bit. At the camp later that evening, there was a sort of camp fire without actual fire though as burning fuel wood is illegal in Himachal Pradesh. It was more like a school assembly with many stupid but funny performances by the camp mates. It started raining and we went back to our tents to sleep. I was really tired and we had to wake up at 6 in the morning for the morning exercise, so I slept off immediately. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, breathless with my nose blocked. It was damn cold and I just couldn’t stop shivering. The floor had become really cold and wet because of rain, which made it difficult for me to sleep on it. I looked for my phone to check what time it was. For the first time in my life, I was praying for my phone to show 6am. I did not wish to sleep anymore on that wet ground. But again for the first time, it wasn’t. It was 1.30 a.m. and I had no option but to go back to sleep. So I took out my jeans and another jacket and wore it over the clothes I was already wearing. I could hardly move by now. But at least now I had a chance of getting up alive tomorrow.

6th May 2014 5.30 a.m. We were woken up by a whistle for morning tea. (That annoying whistle followed us throughout the trek. We are permanently damaged now and we just want to get into a group as as soon as we hear someone whistle) They used to call it ‘bed tea’, but we had to go out with our mugs to get the tea. I don’t appreciate sarcasm in such cases. But the hot tea was a relief in a weather like that and I was glad that I didn’t die in my sleep. Not kidding. So yeah, the day had begun and we went for the 2 hour long morning exercise. It was enough to keep me warm in that weather. We came back, had breakfast and got done with our morning business. The camp had Indian toilets and I’ve hated them all my life. I avoided going to my Nani’s place when I was young because she only had an Indian toilet. But did I have an option here? No. So we got cleaned up and got ready for the acclimatization walk. The camp guide Jagdish took us to the nearby mountain for the same. It was like a trial run for us, to get an idea of what it would be like to climb a mountain. It was just one tenth of what we were going to experience in the next 10 days. We chose Devrath as our group leader. Great guy. Really helpful. Best leader. *salute* *whistles*

Next we had our orientation in the afternoon. The field director, aka Major saab( he was an advocate by profession, but looked like a major saab, no offence) conducted the orientation. He talked to us about the various difficulties we were going to face during the trek. And I was obviously unaware of most of the things that he told us. It got me a little worried though. I wasn’t carrying most of the required stuff, so I made a list of things to buy for the trek. 1st on the list was trekking shoes( yes I went on a trek without proper shoes.) I bought a pair of hunter shoes for Rs300, the cheapest shoes I’ve ever purchased in my life, and yet they proved to be the most useful.

So it was our turn to organise the camp fire that night and everyone started preparing for it. Our group, SP-5 had basically 2 types of people- Marathis and Gujus. So I tried learning Garba from some of the Guju girls there for the camp fire. We performed a few plays and dances and some singing gigs too. It was a decent camp fire. (Nothing to boast about) And Tonight I was ready to face the cold weather. I had bought warmers and woolen socks and gloves from the market in the evening and got ready to sleep (things I should’ve got from home). It was as if I was going on a mission. My tent mates looked at me with amazement, but who cares, it worked and I slept peacefully that night.

7th May 2014 5.30 a.m. Same morning routine. ‘Bed tea’, morning exercise, breakfast, Indian toilets. Today we were supposed to go for our rock climbing sessions. I was a little apprehensive as my previous attempts at rock climbing weren’t very successful and I would end up embarrassing myself. But this time I was determined to complete the climb. I watched everyone else doing it closely. And then decided to try it for myself now. I went ahead, got the harness and was set start my climb. I got a god start, but got stuck in the middle. I was really struggling there and was about to lose the rope. But everyone there started cheering for me and finally I did it. The feeling was just out of the world. That moment taught me that I could achieve anything in this world, I just had to try a little harder than what I usually do. It gave me the confidence that I always wanted. I wasn’t sure if was ready to go on a trek like that, after what everyone had told me. But after this, I believed in myself and was determined to complete the trek. I had to do this one for myself. I even remember singing songs with my pals once I was done with the climb. I realised that happiness is in overcoming the fear of failure. Failure in itself is painful. But the fear of failure is even worse. You either die trying, or you let the fear of failure haunt you for the rest of your life, and die every day.

We returned to our camp for lunch. The sun was shining bright and I thought it was a good time to take a bath. It had been 3 days and I wouldn’t get a chance to take a bath for the next 8 days. So I packed the essentials and decided to go on my mission. I told everyone where I was going, and they would give me a proud smile and wish me luck. I went in, and opened the tap. The water was ice cold. I kept staring at the water for 10 minutes. I just couldn’t go forward. But then, I gathered all my courage and with a click sat under the tap. I felt as if someone had dropped a 100kg stone over my head. I blacked out for a minute and couldn’t feel anything. As soon as I became conscious, I washed myself as swiftly as possible and left, and my mission was accomplished. I felt so good about myself later and it was a big achievement (no I’m not crazy).

We went back the same evening for rappelling but rains spoiled our plans and we had to come back running on our toes. I could feel the time pass by slowly, but the fact that we were finally leaving for our journey the next day wasn’t ready to sink in. I was really nervous. So I did what I usually do in times like this. I ate. The best thing with YHAI was that their food was delicious. But too bad. We had to wash our own utensils with that ice cold water. It still gives me shivers. Anyway, we had to pack all our stuff and deposit the stuff which weren’t taking with us to the next camp. No matter how much I tried, my bag just wouldn’t lose weight. I left out all the useless things. I kept only the most essential things, but the bag was still very heavy. God help me.

8th May, 2014. And the day was here. The day the entire SP-5 was waiting for (SP-5 was the name of our group. Our tag line? Sp 5, Let’s go high! More on the tagline later.) Thankfully we didn’t have to go for the stupid exercise today. We got ready. We got our pack lunch too that day. The camp director, major saab, who is usually found scolding and shouting at people, was comparatively a little sweet today. He called us and gave us his best wishes. We took a group picture and as we formed a line and were leaving the camp, the next 2 groups formed 2 lines on both the sides facing us, and started cheering us. It was a tradition at Yhai and we too had done it for the previous groups. It really pumped us up and I was excited and all set for the trek and was ready to face any challenge that would come my way.

We walked for ten minutes and I couldn’t take the weight of the bag anymore. ( Yeah whatever) It was just too heavy. I just couldn’t deal with the fact that I was already tired. It was embarrassing. So I decided not to think about it, and think of the bag as a part of my body for the next 8 days. And the weight wasn’t a problem anymore. We entered the forest side and were walking along the river. People had got scattered by now. I was alone most of the time. I was walking along the river, alone, and I couldn’t see anyone. People were either way forward or were left behind. But I was liking it. The sound of the river flowing, thrashing against the huge rocks, the wind roaring and flowing past by, breaking down only by the tall trees, standing strong, and the leaves moving and weaker leaves falling down. the birds chirping and flying in all directions, struggling because of the strong wind. And suddenly, the wind would slow down and everything would become so easy, and peaceful. I could feel it all. It sounded a little filmy, but this was real. I could see what I could hear. I kept walking. I did not halt, I did not rest. I wasn’t tired at all. I was in awe of nature and it was a feeling that I had never experienced in my life. I hadn’t touched this side of my mind. It was yet to experience something so pure, so serene, so peaceful.

We walked for hours before we reached the lunch point. The lunch point was on the river side and we had 2 hours to chill and relax there. And we made the most out of it. We sat with our legs inside the ice cold water. It was amazing. We played games, sang songs, clicked at least a hundred selfies and pictures, had lunch and did the usual picnic stuff. We started again at 1pm. We were more tired now because of the break and the heavy lunch( I hate bhindi, who likes bhindi). The best thing about our group was that whenever the energy of the people would be a little low, someone would shout SP5 on the top of his or her voice, and the entire group would suddenly wake up from sleep and shout ‘Let’s go high’ in answer and everyone would be back in form. The slogan which initially sounded so lame to me, actually pumped us up a lot throughout the trek.

We reached Grahan, our next camp, at around 4pm. On our way to the camp, there was a lady who was selling brass juice, a wild flower found in the mountains. We had the juice and were normally talking to the lady. She was a local resident and was more than welcoming. She asked us to visit her place and told us that it was on our way. We decided to visit her village. As we were walking towards her house, she told us about her 4 children, a forest guard, an engineer, a teacher in a primary school and the youngest was still in school. I just couldn’t believe her. There was hardly anything available in their village and her children used to stay in manikaran, away from home to complete their education. She did this all by herself. Her home was beautiful. It wasn’t like the homes we have in our cities. But it was beautiful in its own simple way. Her children were doing well now and we could see that in her kitchen, equipped with all modern appliances. I was just over whelmed to see this lady. There was no need for her to work and sell juice for money, but she used to make that juice only for trekkers like us, and to talk to people like us. You don’t meet such people every day in your life.

So we reached our camp site at Grahan and it was just beautiful.It was surrounded by mountains and magnificently huge trees. The scenery was mesmerizing. The only problem was the washroom. They weren’t pakka toilets, and there was only one for 40 men. It was inhuman. I tried not to think about it. We were enjoying the scenery there, drinking our hot soup, clicking pictures. We had our dinner and lit a small bonfire and we all sat around it. We sat there for hours, singing, laughing, talking among ourselves. It got late and cold too. So we went to our tents and slept like dead logs.

9th may. The whistle blew and we had to go for our ‘bed tea’. We followed the same routine just that using the washrooms was only tougher. We took our pack lunch and left for the higher camp, Padri. The trek got a little tough today. It was steeper and it was difficult moving forward. It was more tiring and exhausting. The 5 minute breaks were more frequent today. But I was still enjoying every minute of it.

Somehow we managed to reach our lunch point. We would always become so relieved to see the lunch points. The lunch point was nothing more than a local guy sitting with a box of Maggi and some biscuits and a boiling pan to make tea. That was all but that was more than enough. While people would hog onto Maggi and their lunches, I would go near the cliff and sit on the edge. I loved looking at the mountains. I could watch them for hours. Today the cliff was quite high and the view today was much better than the previous day. I could see that we had come closer to our destination. The mountains were nearer now. As I was sitting there, looking at the waterfall, I could feel something missing. Someone was missing. Or maybe I was missing someone. I loved listening to the poem by Farhan Akhtar from my all-time favourite movie Zindagi na Milegi Dobara – Dilo me betabiya leke chal rhe ho to zinda ho! The scenery and the poem would take me to some other world, somewhere far, where life is perfect, where life is complete, no voids, no spaces.

So after all the difficulties, we reached our next camp site, Padri. Padri was magnificent. It was beautiful. Simply gorgeous. I hadn’t seen a place like this before. I know I say this about every camp but I just can’t help it. It just keeps getting better. But by far, this was the most beautiful camp site. On one side we had a dense forest, where we came from. On the other side, there were mountains, huge mountains. And there was a waterfall just next to our camp. It was just perfect. We kept roaming around, running here and there like kids. I just couldn’t get enough of the place. I wanted to touch every part of the land’s surface. I was going crazy. Suddenly someone saw the highest camp, 2nd from now, on the hill top through the binoculars. It took me a while before I could make out where the camp was. They looked like small stones to me. But the sight of it scared everyone. It was on the highest mountain, right on the edge. It was difficult for me to accept the fact that we were going to climb that mountain in the next 2 days.

It got dark pretty soon, but the weather was great. It was cold but we were used to it by now. We lit a bon fire again and the usual bonfire affair followed.

10th may. Today we did not have even the kachha toilet, and had the entire forest area on our facility. Let’s not talk about it. After we were done with our morning affair, we left for the next camp. Today the terrain got really tough, and it was steeper than ever. We were literally climbing mountains today. As we marched forward, marched being the wrong word here, we could see patches of snow on our way. Today was a really long trek, and it was tougher than ever. It got really difficult at times. There was a point where we had to walk on ice for the first time. It was a small stretch, but it was really narrow. One wrong step and we would go right down the hill. It was the first time I was scared. Like literally scared. I could feel the fear of death building up in me for the first time on this trek. I had no experience of walking on the ice and did not know how to cover that stretch. I waited and let the people behind me go forward. I saw how they were walking. I saw one of them almost slip. It got even scarier now. I couldn’t wait any longer and decided to go forward. I took small steps forward. I did not move any further, till I was sure that both my legs were firm and that I wouldn’t slip. My expression must have been worth a watch. I kept my right hand on the snow on my side for support. It did not matter how cold it was now. When it comes to survival, you tend to forget the minor obstacles. I took my time, but I completed that stretch. And I was proud and relieved at the same time. I looked back and I was ecstatic to see where I had come from. We went ahead from there. We were now at the last. The group had gone forward and 9 of us were left behind. But we kept on walking. It wasn’t a big deal until it started raining. Our first rain while we were trekking. We took out our rain coats and ponchos and moved forward for a while. But the rain got fierce and it had now taken the shape of hail. There was a stone bulging out of the side of the mountain and some of us decided to stay under it until it got any better. We had no space and were sitting in weird positions, with Shradhha lying behind me, and Monali sitting next to me. It was very low so I couldn’t even raise my head. For the first time in my life I saw hail. It was amazing. And tasty.

As soon as it slowed down a bit, we decided to move forward. It was still raining though. But the weather had become worse now. We were caught in the middle of a hailstorm. The storm was strong, and it was difficult to stand still on our feet. Each of us hugged a tree to get some shelter from the storm. It was scary as we could hardly see anything, but it was exciting as I hadn’t seen anything like this before. We waited there for quite a while but the weather wouldn’t just get better. Infact the storm was becoming fiercer. So we decided to go ahead. We were walking against the direction of the storm and I could feel the wind and hail hit my face. It was as if I was boxing with someone. The poncho was creating difficulty in walking forward too. The toughest part was when we had to climb a mountain in that weather. There was hail everywhere and it had gotten very slippery. It was difficult to climb the mountain with the wind pushing you down. I thought we weren’t gonna make it today. And then someone shouted SP5, and I replied Let’s go high on the top of my voice. I know it sounds filmy again but it helped me move forward.

By the end of the mountain, we could see snow everywhere. I was ecstatic to see the snow. I could see our camp on a distance and I ran like a beggar runs when he sees a coin on the road. It was as if we were saved. I was overwhelmed to reach the camp. It was the most difficult trek so far. This one really got me on my toes.

We had our routine soup but the soup today tasted like never before. It was just amazing. It was so cold outside and the soup was like a blanket. It was really slippery outside because of the fresh snow, and every other person would slip and fall. Luckily one person from the tent brought the dinner for all of us, so we didn’t have to go out. Today we were given khichdi, and we were more than happy with it. A. It was easy to eat. B. Less utensils to wash. C. it was hot. We tried not to drink a lot of water as no one had the guts to go out and take a leak in that weather and also there was a risk of falling. It got dark and we were inside our tents most of the time. The weather wouldn’t just get better. But the bad thing was, I had to take a leak. I tried not to think about it but I knew I had to take that one. I told my tent mates about it, and we were all thinking of a solution. It was funny how nature's call had become such a big problem all of sudden. Our tents were right on the edge of the cliff(I don’t who’s idea was that). So we opened the side of the tent towards the cliff. There was a big stone right in front. I just had to walk a few steps forward without falling, hold on to the stone, do my business and come back, slow and easy. That was the plan. And that is how it exactly happened. I came back and everyone was cheering and did what exactly what I did. We had a found a solution. I had never thought in my life that I would have to take so much risk and put so much thought, only to pee. The next problem was to take the sleeping bags from the other tent. So we all made a chain between the 2 tents and passed the sleeping bags safely, without slipping. It was another major achievement and idea in the same day. We had a tough day today, so we immediately got into our sleeping bags and slept off.

11th may. It was difficult to do our morning business today because of the snow. But somehow, we managed to leave for the next camp. When we were leaving, I realised that I didn’t even look around the entire camp. We were so busy fighting with our routine issues, that we completely forgot to enjoy the scenery. That is something I really regret. Anyway, hoping for a better weather today, we marched forward towards the higher camp. We were now trekking in snow and the terrain was slippery, narrow and steep. We had to walk really slow and had to be very careful with our steps. It was snowing lightly when we left and we were enjoying ourselves, throwing snow balls at each other on the way. We started on a good note today! Today surprisingly everyone was walking together, in a straight line, maybe because we knew today was going to be the toughest trek and we had to stay together. The trek was getting tougher as we were moving upward. It was getting scary now. We had to take each step with extreme precision.

By the time we reached the lunch point, the snowfall had got fiercer. The terrain had got tougher and narrower. There was no space to stand or sit. The group which went the previous day was on their way back. They were returning to the base camp without finishing the trek. They were in a really bad condition and looked tired and exhausted. I could remember their excited faces when they left the camp before us but now I couldn’t tell if they were the same faces. They told us that the trek from here is really difficult and the weather is extremely problematic. They said a lot of other things too but I decided not to listen to them. But most of the people by now were talking about returning and going back to base camp. We were a group of 60 people, and 27 of us decided to return from the lunch point itself. The weather was getting worse. I did not want to wait like the previous day and get caught in the storm. But the problem was all the people who were with me were going back. The others had gone forward. But without thinking any further, I decided to go forward. I couldn’t have gone back. I just couldn’t do it. I hate leaving things halfway. I don’t like lose ends. Something I’m doing right now in life. I did not want another regret in my life. So going forward had now become even more important now. I had to do this for myself. I had to prove a point. And so I went on. The trek after the lunch point was 10 times tougher than what it was before. It was really narrow. There wasn’t enough space to even stand with our feet together. There was space enough only for a small step. 2nd time when I thought I was this close to death. One wrong step and down the hill you go. 1000s of feet, in cold snow. Nowhere to be found. It was really scary so I decided not to look down. The visibility was decreasing with the snowfall becoming stronger. But I kept walking. It would take all my courage and strength to take every single step forward.

There was a point where I had to make a really high climb. I had no option but to take both my legs off the snow for a fraction of second, putting all my weight on my hands and a stick. It took me a while before I decided to take the leap. It took all the courage that I had to take that leap. And soon as I was back on my feet, a sense of relief struck me. I was so relieved and happy at the same time. That was one of the highlights of my journey. I walked further, and I saw the tents from a distance. I was on the top of the peak now and I was safe. Tears trickled down my eyes as I ran towards the camp. I had got out of one of the most difficult situations of my life- both mentally and physically. I was elated.

There was no network in the mountains and I wasn’t able to talk to my parents since I left kasol. But we were told that there was network at this camp, Nagaro. So I immediately called my mom. I got really emotional on hearing her voice. She almost cried when she heard me. She told me she was really worried. I almost cried too, but I somehow managed to not let it show, as I did not want her to worry anymore. I told her I was fine and that I would come back home in a few days and I cut the phone. Frankly, after that, I wasn’t sure if I would reach home( which I did of course :P). I wanted to call some other people too, but then I decided not to.

We were given our lovely soup once we were all dry and settled. But it was still snowing heavily. Yesterday, the weather was similar and a tent collapsed because of the heavy wind and snowfall and the previous group had faced a lot of problems due to 1 less tent. So we were scared about that and we obviously didn’t want our tent to go away with the wind. We were continuously dusting off the snow settled over the tent. Even the thought of the tent collapsing in that weather was scary.

The weather got better in a while and we got our jackets on and decided to go out. The storm had stopped and the visibility was much better now. I had never seen so much snow in my life. Snow was all around. After I was done looking at the snow at my feet, I looked up and I fell in love. I fell in love with God. I fell in love with his creation. What I saw cannot be captured into images. It cannot be seen. It cannot be told. It can just be felt. And I felt it. I felt God around me. I felt his presence. I haven’t been a very strong believer of god, and lost almost all my faith in him recently, but today, he had proved me wrong. He had given me the proof of his existence. It was so beautiful. If there is heaven, I’m sure it looks a lot like this place. It was as if God had painted it himself. I just kept gazing at the scenery there. The sun, the clouds, the mountains, they were all so close, so beautiful. It was so peaceful up there. All the hardships, all the risk, all the difficulties, everything was worth one second of that painting’s view. I forgot about all my problems and worries when I was there. I was smiling like an idiot, staring at the scenery. It was as if I got lost, and I was found at the same time. I’m trying so hard to describe what I felt, but there aren’t enough words to do that. So I shall stop here.

So after I was done admiring the most beautiful place on earth, we got busy with our snow fights. We also made a snow man. My first. Our next point was Sar Pass itself, i.e. we just one step away from summit. But our problems hadn’t ended. We were yet to face our biggest challenge ahead. The weather had been really bad recently, as we all know, and the guide told us that it wasn’t safe to cross Sar Paas in such weather. He advised us to go back like the previous group. But we did not come so far only to go back. We all had to take a decision together. And we decided to go forward. We were ready to take the risk and were determined to go further. We were supposed to leave at 3 in the morning so we went to sleep early.

12th May, 2014. Thee day. And the final day was here. It was 3 in the morning and it was still dark. We packed our bags and left on our journey. We had only 2 pair of clothes, one which we would wear during the day, and the other for the night. And our clothes and shoes were wet throughout the trek. It was snowing lightly, and the guide clearly warned us that we were going ahead at our own risk and he still advised us not go further and that our lives were in our hands now. Trust me. This sentence really made me think twice but in vain. We had no option but go further. We were scared, but we were determined.

With this motivation in our hearts, we marched forward on the thick snow. It was difficult walking on that thick snow and it got thicker as we moved up. So much snow. There was snow all around. All I could see was snow. It was like magic. We were all praying only for a clear weather that day. And god granted our wish. He smiled and opened his arms and the sun was shining bright in the sky. Slowly, steadily, we kept walking and finally reached our destination. SAR PASS. We’re here. The destination, which I saw from our base camp at Kasol through binoculars, I was finally there. I had come so far only for this. I was delighted. I was proud. I was emotional. I was thankful. I was happy. Sar pass was beautiful.

The summit was done, but the journey wasn’t over yet. Yes, there is more to come. We crossed Sar pass. But it wasn’t easy. The snow which I found really amusing before had now become a reason for sickness. I was bored to see so much white around me. It was blinding. Plus walking in such thick snow was really exhausting. We walked for hours, nonstop. It was the longest trek till now. It just wouldn’t get over. The altitude was troubling me too. I could feel the headache becoming a problem for me now. But I kept on walking. After a long struggle, we finally reached the end point of Sar pass.

Now we had to climb the hill and slide from there. I was really excited. After climbing the mountain with great difficulty, we reached the top. That was a scary place to be in. It was really narrow and there were trenches on both side. And now we had to slide from there for 2 kilometres. It seemed really exciting before but in reality it was scary and dangerous. I saw everyone going down with great speed and was getting even more anxious. And it was my turn. I decided to slide alone. Basically you’re supposed to lie down and slide in your sleeping position and control your direction and speed with the help of your legs. As I lied down, I just tilted back to ask the guide how is the slide to be done. But before I could say anything, he pushed me and there I went sliding down in the most dangerous position. I turned 180 degrees and instead of facing forward, I was facing backwards, that is towards the hill top. It was as if I had put the reverse gear and was sliding backward. The surface was uneven obviously, and it threw me in the air, and i was in the air was in the air for at least 10 seconds and then bam, on the ground. I thought I broke my back. From there I don't remember anything. There wasn’t a direction left in which my body hadn’t rolled. I was trolling like a crazy ball. Down up right left. It was crazy, but fun. Strangely, and luckily, I did not break any bone. I was covered with snow, my hair, clothes, shoes, basically everything was filled with snow.But it was crazy fun. Bad crazy, but good fun.

We started our walk towards the lunch point. We were extremely exhausted. And hungry. And Maggi seemed like the best option to us. The Maggi was for 60 bucks, but trust me, it was the best Maggi ever. So after resting for a while, we walked ahead. By now I was frustrated. We had been walking for more than 10 hours now continuously, and the camps were nowhere to be seen. So instead of walking, we all started sliding down the hill. I could hardly feel the back part of my body and we were completely wet, with my shoes and clothes full of snow. So it did not matter anymore. And sliding was too much fun. And finally we reached Biskheri. We were really tired and exhausted by now and just wanted to get back to our homes as soon as possible. We did not want to see any more snow. Not for another year at least. So after we were all settled, we all decided to skip the next camp and directly go the base camp at Kasol.

13th May. We left early in the morning for Kasol. It was the last day of out trek, and it was snowing really heavily since morning. It was as if the Himalayas were bidding us farewell, in its own style. Climbing mountains is tough, but getting down is tougher. You tend to slip and it’s hard to maintain your balance. And as were going down, the snow began to melt, and we were covered in mud. So much mud. Mud was everywhere. And the rain just wouldn’t stop. I could feel the water move to and fro in my shows as I walked forward. We were completely wet. And dirty with mud. I made a promise to myself. I don’t want to see snow, mud, hail, anything for another year. So after another long trek, we finally reached Barseni from where we took a bus to Kasol. We reached our base camp in an hour, and we entered like kings do after winning a battle. We shouted ‘Sp 5- Lets go high’ for one last time. Everyone there was cheering for us, and congratulated us. It was a great feeling to see so many people praising you and giving you so much respect. The first thing on reaching the camp we did was unpacking our bags, we got our toothbrushes out and brushed our teeth. We hadn’t brushed for the past 2 days, because of shortage water. So that was relaxing.

Next day I took the bus for Delhi and got home on the 15th. And with that, came to end a journey full of adventures, snow, hail, mud, rain, storms and all other remaining forces of nature. It was a journey with so many first times. I was able to do things which were out of question for me. Things I thought I would never do. Things I could never imagine. Going alone on an 11 day trip was one of those things. I saw places more beautiful than anything in this world. I saw life and death from an inch. I realised the value of life only when I was this close to death. This trek happened out of nowhere, and there was no logical reason for me to go on this trip, yet it turned out to be the most exciting and the best experience of my life. It made me regain my faith in god, and made my understanding of him better. I don't think I had it in me to do things which I did there. Not one bit. But I felt something special pushing me from inside. I don't think I could have completed the trek otherwise. Plus the weather was pathetic throughout the trip. No other group before us could cross Sar pass. So even we were asked to go back. So the night before the final day, I asked him for help. I almost had tears in my eyes while doing that. And the next day, the weather couldn't have been better. The only single day in the entire month with a clear weather. Frankly, there is no logic behind it. You can just feel such things. And I felt it.This trek gave me the best memories of my life, my greatest achievement, and God’s best gift to me.

My journey has just begun. Many more such treks to come.

1 Comment(s)
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Pranav! That was the best, most original , straight from heart travelogue that I have ever read ( and i read a lot!) Excellent stuff and congratulations on your wins ( physical, mental and spiritual)! May you have many more of those!
Thu 01 05 17, 21:19 · Reply · Report