Climbing the mountain, one step at a time
Is physical preparation all that is needed for a high-altitude trek? You may need just one more ingredient.[Day 8of “One Day, One Blog” — a challenge I set for myself for the month of January 2019.]
It was 4:00 am. Pitch dark at the base camp of Chandrashila when 24 of us along with our guides and trek lead started the 5Km trek to the summit.
It was Day 3 of the “Deorital-Chandrashila” trek. We were cold, tired and excited — all the same time. The light from the headlamps guided us forward in the dark.
A little after 6 am, the silhouette of the mountains ranges lit up. I was witnessing a sunrise in the Himalayas.
The snow-capped mountain tops came ablaze in a golden glow.Splashes of amber, chrome and saffron created a surreal canvas at my eye-level. Months of preparation, days of acute discomfort — all seemed to disappear in those moments. I was being welcomed by something divine.
What I found on the way to the top
I had written about my state of physical health and the preparation I took for the trek yesterday. Reducing weight does not make you fit. While the intensive workout I had done had helped me reach so far, on the last day I found my physical strength depleting one hour into the climb.
The thought of giving up did not enter my mind. Neither did the thought of reaching the summit. My entire being was focused on the present. Putting one step ahead of the other was all that I was concerned with.
It was a surrender. I knew that the powers that be would let me go as much as I was meant to. My role was limited to taking the next step. When I acknowledged that, I found something I thought I had lost a long time ago — WILL POWER.
In the last decade I had become someone who let things happen to me; who allowed others to take decisions that impacted my life. It was easier.
The damage such an attitude does to you is not noticed immediately. It is like a slowly growing cancerous tumor that you do not detect until it is too late.
On that last day of the trek, the haze and miasma created in me shifted. After a long time, I discovered how much strength I truly have.
Why do people trek?
“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” -Greg Child
When I started out I did not know that I was going to re-discover my hidden inner strength. I had even forgotten that such a power existed in me. But why do other people start out on such adventures?
Our team of 5 women who set out on this trek was dubbed the “Mallu Brigade” by Captain Raguram ( an army veteran and a fellow trekker in the group). I was very good friends with two of them. And the other two I knew socially. Each of us had a different reason on why we started out on this journey.
(A)To get out of the comfort zone
Have you ever camped in a forest? If you are an Indian, chances are that the answer is a No. If you are a woman, chances of not being allowed out (especially when you are younger) on such trip are even higher.
As a result, Indian women grow fastidious about their comfort and sense of hygiene.
Now imagine having to do your “business” in a tent with a zipper for a door and barrel for toilet. Flush is coco peat which is used to cover up your contribution to the barrel. Air freshner…well, Shabana ( my fellow traveler) came up with this innovative idea of holding a perfumed tissue just so that you do not throw up while trying to be productive in there.
It seems humorous now but I know for a fact that two out of the five nearly had a nervous break down on the first night of the camp.
One earned herself the nickname of “Piku” ( ref. to an “Amitabh Bachchan” movie where he is obsessed about bowel movement) thanks to a similar “obsession”.
A closet introvert like me had to live for 3 days with strangers. While my friends and family were worried if I would make it down in one piece, Lachu ( my sister and fellow trekker) was more worried if I would break out in hives due to this.
(B) To test their limits/To improve themselves
The motivational factors are different for different people in a trekking group.
Only one among the 5 in our gang had trekked before. The rest of us did not even know what our limits were.
One of the “Mallu Brigade”, Anjana, was not keeping too well during the trek. But when the circumstances got tough, she just pushed that much harder.
Trekking is never a competition of who reaches the top first. If there is a competition, it is with yourself. Can you do better than what you thought you could?
(C) To travel
Trekking is the only way to reach remote and pristine corners of this beautiful place we call home.
A trek is not always about the view on the top. Neither is it always pretty or comfortable. The challenges, the interactions, the moments alone — it all changes you. And that is indeed the true purpose of trekking.
So how do you climb to the top of the mountain?
One step at a time 🙂