To be honest, I’m guilty of not researching and preparing for my trips thoroughly. I don’t particularly regret it but I’d be lying if I said that my unpreparedness didn’t put me in a situation which could’ve been otherwise avoided.
This was in the year 2014, I was arai year old (half in tamil) in the corporate world. A college friend of mine called up to check if I’d be interested to go on a trek to Himachal in May 2015. I didn’t think for a second and booked it immediately! HOLD ON…just kidding. I had to make my parents’ agree to this first. Fortunately, they agreed after I told them that a fool-proof plan is in place and that I’ll be going with a bunch of folks who I knew well. The former was a lie though, we were just booking a slot for the trek, nothing else was decided.
Fast forward to Q1 2015, we booked our flight tickets and shopped the essentials for the trek. We created a checklist and I packed accordingly. Everything was set. I had the gear, tickets, and enthusiasm but I didn’t know if I was fit enough to do the trek. The trek I went for is one of the most sought after treks in India – Sarpass. Treks are classified based on the difficulty level. There are easy treks, moderate treks, moderate- difficult treks, difficult treks and so on. As a beginner, it is advised to start with easy treks and then move to moderate ones and then to the difficult ones. Trekking is not just about physical fitness, it needs mental strength as well. Though physical fitness is of paramount importance, one needs to be mentally strong to face the adverse weather conditions, low oxygen levels, altitude sickness etc. This is exactly the research and prep that I was lacking.
May 9th 2015, I hopped into a Toyota Innova along with my friends’ to the airport and flew to Chandigarh. We took a bus from Chandigarh to Kullu and I didn’t get a wink of sleep (take the ride and you’ll know why!). After a very thrilling overnight bus journey, we reached Kullu. We went from 28 C (Bengaluru) to 42 C (Chandigarh) to 10 C (Kullu). Since we didn’t get enough adrenaline rush (sarcasm intended), we went river rafting in Kullu and the water was freezing. We later took the bus to Kasol, the base camp for the trek and I had my heart in my throat throughout the bus journey. Finally we made it to Kasol, a beautiful hamlet in Kullu.
Sarpass (elevation 13850 ft) is in Parvati Valley in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh where “Sar” means lake.
Courtesy: Crazy adventures
One of the most important things to do on a high altitude trek is to acclimatize. We stayed in Kasol for the next 2 days, not sleeping of course, but hiking mini trails and exercising (reminded me of PT period in school) so that our body was ready to start the climb.
We started from Kasol on May 12th and made it to different base camps as per plan. The climb was challenging considering I had no prior experience trekking and I had flu and fever from the day we reached the first camp site in Grahan. Something that I was unaware at that time was that I had altitude sickness as well as I was barely eating. With all this, I kept going. It might sound heroic but actually, it was my enthusiasm to see the snow. Also, I was walking(climbing rather) along with a group of folks I met on the trek who were super fun and caring. We devised a way for me to climb efficiently – take ten steps and then take a short break to clear my nose and move ahead. One of the guides doubted if I’d make it to the peak, as I was under the weather but I’m glad I didn’t stop. I made it to the peak and as they say it’s not just about climbing a mountain, it is equally important to come back down.
I have many fond memories of this trek and I feel it is one of the best decisions of my life. I had to show character and strength in many places and learnt that it is absolutely okay to ask for help.
Humans are social beings and when put through a lot of stress (both physical and mental), we’ll definitely come through together helping each other in any way we can. I guess I wrote the previous sentence as I’m writing this during a pandemic.
Here’s my take on my first trek:
1. Research well before a trek
2. Test your physical strength; will power and decent level of fitness might not be the solution always
3. Eat properly during the trek
4. Keep moving; one step in front of another
5. The feeling of “in the moment” for prolonged periods happens during a trek which is very hard otherwise
6. Being in nature feels way more natural, I don’t remember feeling homesick
7. Mountains make you realize that you’re just a small popup for a finite time
I think the most important take-away would be how I felt. It was definitely a shock to my system to go through sudden physical strain apart from the change in the environment, but my mind was surprisingly calm and receptive. I felt very light as the days went by (both mentally and physically). The weather in the mountains change frequently, I felt as though I was prepared to face any unpredictable situation as I knew it’ll all be okay in sometime or I’ll figure a way to handle it. This is quite hard to do in our everyday lives.
Trekking lets you venture into the unknown as the view and the path changes every now and then, and takes you by surprise many a times.