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Since we got hooked to mountaineering 6 years ago, we along with other enthusiasts, have often spoken of the peaks that have yet to be summited by us, a route that has yet to be  conquered, an obstacle that has yet to be cleared, each conversation ending with next year’s target and the next plan.

May 2018,we got to our planned altitude, 3 kms short of the 16,500 feet summit. 

On our way back as our sleeping bags were still wet and stinky, the day bag dirty and shoes with traces of mule dropping and maybe even worse, we realised and accepted something that has made me believe that we definitely are if not ambitious but mature climbers - “We are able to make a decision to NOT go ahead.”

 I have seen that a number of people (myself included a few years ago) cherish only the summit and consider the climb a failure if not completed.  However only you can realise and make a decision to tell the leader that you need to stop, it is true that there are a number of little details out of your control that can go wrong, but the hardest part is knowing that if you turn back or decide not to proceed nobody will judge you

“ Tent jhado-Dust your tents “, yelled Pawan , our very capable guide as he reminded us to wake up and ensure we prevent our tents from caving in .I wake up grumbling pull my hands, out of the finally warmed sleeping bag and moan. 

The irony is that right I was doing exactly what I love the most, but  at the same time all I could think of was that it would end soon.. 3am was our scheduled departure to the summit but the weather was showing no signs of mercy.

Earlier in the day our guide had introduced us to our climbing gear, handed over our individual set of carabiners , snow crampons and harnesses and gave us a serious talk about the final attempt at the push to summit IF weather cleared. He warned us about the dangers we may face keeping in mind that a storm was looming over our heads.

We were at day 5 of this journey and were heading to where we wanted to be , but at that moment we  sat and as we felt the tents sway, we took a well thought moment and agreed,that we were okay with not going ahead if the gods didn’t show mercy. 

I think the fact that we could take an informed decision and not feel upset , gives me  sense of maturity. Yes it is the summit that drives us all , but in this case we chose to enjoy the climb we had experienced so far  and hoped for a safe and healthy 2 days of descent.

"There's no glory in climbing a mountain if all you want to do is to get to the top. It's experiencing the climb itself - in all its moments of revelation, heartbreak, and fatigue - that has to be the goal."

Mount Trishul is a group of three Himalayan mountain peaks with the highest (Trisul I) reaching 7120m. The three peaks resemble a trident - in Hindi/SanskritTrishula, trident, is the weapon of Lord Shiva. 

Bugyals are alpine pasture lands, or meadows, in higher elevation range between 3,300 metres (10,800 ft) and 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) of the Himalayas 

Vast, magnificent and inarguably breathtaking, the Zanskar Canyon is easily the most distinguishable “adventure” landmark – and a natural wonder that you simply have to see to believe.

Stretching 105 kms from end to end, steep rocky walls standing majestically descend into the canyon’s frozen floors and just about a km deep the Chadar invites you with open arms, with the sun sparkling across the frozen river, with the delicate curls of the hidden Zanskar and with the warmth of the porters and the locals.

P.C - Kshitij Rihal

The Chadar has been the ‘easier’ way out of the region for the people of Zanskar. Locals wait for months for the river to freeze so that they can leave their villages swiftly, because although the journey across the Chadar takes between 3-5 days, the alternate route through the high mountain pass is even more herculean.

Unfortunately, today one can witness the agonizingly slow process of blasting and bulldozing along vertical cliffs, triggering constant rockslides but that isn’t stopping the march toward “progress.” With this access will come the dark side of modernisation, of which the people of Zanskar valley have no concept or knowledge of how to deal with.

The truth, and as over confident as I may sound, the extreme surroundings of the Zanskar valley are not impossible to beat. With several layers and sagacious trekking, the Chadar trek is a doable trek, but what makes it apart is its unique experience , the fact that you are so close to danger and the feeling of an intimate brush with destiny.

Everything about it; the  subzero day temperatures, the -30 degree C nights , the scenery, the atmosphere, the sledges, strange camp sites, cozy caves and the ever altering landscape. So unique that it has to be experienced & felt.

Partners in crime : 

Shital and I decided to set out once again and chose the god gifted perfect window of the second week of Jan 2017 to make the dreamiest of all our plans a reality.

As we got into Leh we decided to stay put for the 24 hours to allow our body to acclimatize.

Mountaineering stories all  talk about the sense of glory achieved as one gains altitude , but most forget to note that the basics that we take for granted become difficult, breathing becomes tiring, eating ceases to be enjoyable and sleeping is an effort,but once we had accepted and welcomed our decision of choosing to spend the next few days in a natural freezer, it was time to meet our partners in crime.

Meeting your group and co-trekkers, the people who will over the next few days become family is like ‘blind dating’. You are a hiker, strong and adventurous but aloof and independent, always looking for new projects but take failure pretty hard and you hope the person who walks in through the door into the cold, chilly, frozen yet ‘hospitable’ lobby of the trekking Inn is more like you or just learns to like you for the way you are.

We were super lucky to have found this incredible mix to share our time with them. Trekking with people you learn to trust can be really motivating, they know how to push you to work harder and make it fun in the process.

The Call of the Mountains :

With backpacks efficiently  stuffed and trekking poles out, our modern family of Shital, Kshitij, Samudra,Manish, Piyush, Abhishek, Shruti ,Anu, Suguna , Sushma  ,Ashrita  & myself  are briefed to be led by two company guides and 2 local Ladhaki guides, both who have asserted my belief that the porters are super-human and that the X-men do exist . There were also 3 cooks and 10 porters, our angels who carry the luggage and provisions that cover every basic survival checklist.

We set out with these angels on ice for a 2 hours drive from Leh to get to the part of the river where the trek begins.

Once you cross the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers you lose connectivity and from there,for eight days and eight nights we were sure to be completely cut off from the outside world.

As we reach the end of the dusty dry road at Chilling, we hike the loose slopes right above and along the river. The climb is at first steep, but eases to a gentle slope and descent towards the river. 

I take my first very carefully measured baby step onto the frozen Zanskar, there is a rush of confidence and self-achievement about the fact that it’s happening.

My ‘acceptance speech’ even has a personalised cheer in the background, the zeal and anthems of the porters who  gear up to zip and zoom.

The whole modern family is all set to spend 7 days and 7 nights on the Chadar and make it to Neerak to celebrate the grand finale as a team.

The Chadar trek has been labeled as one of the ‘must do’, but at the same time the trickiest and mind boggling challenges for even the hardened adventure travellers.

It has all the elements you need to be ‘branded’ as a mountaineer and despite the grueling nature of the trek it has become a sort of measure of your capabilities, your mind and self-belief. 

Find your level :

“Don’t turn, don’t stop and keep moving” said young Dorje as I struggle to gather all my limbs and get up from my umpteenth fall on the hard ice.

Just as I think I have mastered my glide through the glassy terrain, the whole topography changes to shards of ice that crackle and crumble at your feet.

With confident co-trekkers walking by ,I stop and share a smile but even that momentary distraction from the rhythm makes me lose, not only my concentration but once again my grip .

Our days are very organized; we set out after a hearty breakfast , stop only for lunch and aim to reach the next Base Camp before sundown.

Each day we set out to walk at least 12-15 km and hope that the river has chosen to be kind to us.

Every single day on the Zanskar is a mystery,until you get to the next turn you have no idea what you will find.

You could be welcomed by a perfect Chadar, a dreamy snowy kingdom , the risen waves, the shardy ice or even icebergs that have chosen to block the path . 

Dark Magic:

No drink on earth can taste better than the local tea handed over to you as you approach base camp,  no meal on earth can taste better than the stove made dinner served lovingly by the angels . 

The dinner tent is nothing short of the feeling of having a warm, cozy fire in your home , full of warmth and love. For the most part of the evening we ‘d sit together like a family , joking, laughing, and eating and talking about our lives rather than just the cold.

The cold is unbearable  and with the icy drop in temparutare you know that the night ahead is not a typical 'rest'.We would all be lying if we said we didn't hope for a miracle to get the number of nights reduced. It has been said "The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up."  and it is something similar that got all of us through our doubts .

As you step out of the tent onto the frozen or even towards melting streams, to stretch out and get some movement into your numb toes and while waiting for the porters to light up a makeshift bonfire, you gaze at the inverted reflection of the sky and realize that you are about the witness ‘Magic’ . 

As the twilight fades to darkness, burning away the fatigue of the day, you look up to be stunned by the view. Every worry, every pain, every person you know and even every moment you have cherished seems so small and insignificant in the vast cosmic arena.

You can do nothing but stare into the seemingly endless empty space, adorned  by the hauntingly unreal cluster of stars, galaxies and more. 

P.C - Kshitij Rihal

Each night we did something I never imagined was possible, we lay down on the cold rocks, sand and stones and followed the movement of the International space station. Visible to the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane only much much much higher.

Bedtime is like another expedition of its own , your hands are cold from the -20 chill and further dropping temperatures and even ‘normal’ jobs like unzipping your bag, or opening the tent or holding a plate feels impossible.

I give up and crawl frozen into my orange tent, that will be my home for the next few days.

With experience we have learnt that we are not very good at ‘tucking’ ourselves into bed , so we keep over half an hour of day light to set and organize the triple layered sleeping bag, the only hope of not ending up like a popsicle in the morning.

Shital and I have now learned to ignore each other’s complaints, the moaning and the groaning through the night as we struggle to keep the sleeping bag chains up and have our own personal workout sessions at a random hour.
We finally give up on the idea of trying to get comfortable and decide to fall asleep.

I suddenly realise I need to pee, the fear has set in, of facing the tedious task of getting out of the bag, of opening the tent to welcome the gust of frozen wind on your face , the walk to a secluded spot and the whole process of starting over. It is at such moment I wish I had an ‘organ’ that would allow me to pee into a bottle , after about half an hour of convincing myself I get out in anger and frustration and curse my luck.

The mornings on the Chadar start at 5:00 am, they begin with warming up the frozen toothpastes and sunscreens and within the hour we are back on the frozen river to head to the next camp and our next stop.

Having spent a number of days on the ice and having witnessed a number not to lucky trekkers on the route, I thanked my stars that none of those numerous nasty falls within the group lead to a broken jaw, a cracked elbow or a bloody nose. The impact with the hard ice surface can cause significant bruising and something as simple as a slip can lead to a backward tumble and can cause the head to strike the ice.

Chandeliers & Dreams:

Today was to be a special day with our team heading together to the ‘trophy’, the end of our first leg , which was basically the end of our Half way point .  
It is a relaxed morning with the group of trekkers and guides and Sherpa with lots of fun and smiles. But at one point as we turn a corner under  the old bridge , the group becomes silent : The Nerak frozen falls came into full view.

The long crystal tubes  creating an illusion of a chandelier lit from within. Towering at about 60 feet the Neerak trophy is crisp, colorful, and forms a perfect winter backdrop
I stood quietly for a moment as our team erupted with cheers at the view combined with gasps and a few tears. As I glanced into my teammates faces, I saw my own. I saw my dreams, my experiences, my emotions. 

We have often wondered how people get through days of meditation and imagine the feeling of de-stress at the end of it, I am today confident after my days on the Zanskar  we have found that feeling.

I have also realised that through multiple high altitude, extreme temperature and long treks, I have found something for myself that allows me to be confident and accountable for my own decisions and allows me to enjoy time with myself something that I wasn’t very good at but have realised now, is essential to my happiness and is like a definite anchor in the real world …

We have always been partial to  the beaches in South Goa ,even though they are definitely sleepier than the north. While the popular tourist spots of Anjuna,Vagator and Calangute beaches join Baga in my folder marked 'overcrowded', a pristine, calm and relaxed beach vibe can still be found in the South.
During this umpteenth visit to the South ,Shital & I were on our regular stroll where we discovered at the end of one of the more popular and bustling beach of Pallolem, a small dirt track and one of the area’s best kept secret – the wild mangroves spread along the fishing villages of Canacona. Home to fish, the white headed eagle, herons, crabs and, on occasion, turtles, the mangroves are teeming with life.

We decided to get our kids out of the sand and even further away from the gadgets and allow them to explore the area with us.
We of course had to survive the the 'whys' and the 'so boring' , but after a bit of fictitious "trail names" and kid-friendly fun facts about the area, we were off.
The ride is peaceful and quiet and you can truly witness the magic of the mangroves and understand how they serve as a buffer zone, a transition from the sea to the land, and act as a coastal defense barrier entangled above-ground root systems, protect shorelines during storms by absorbing wave energy and reducing the velocity of water as it passes through the root barrier.

Once you are deep into the mangrove, surrounded by dense forests, the boatman shuts down the engine to eliminate the noise, goes to one end of the boat with a bag full of chicken skins and starts throwing the pieces into the water.
Within minutes, you see about 10 - 20 white headed eagles circling the beautiful sky, in a sort of magnificent dance. The hovering eagles began screeching and swooping down across the water to grab up the food and try to outwit each other.

We definitely got the kids attention after this part of the ride and little more interest in the beauty of this place.

We turned around and gradually made our way back to the familiar beachy territory. I will definitely go back to the mangroves and try to discover many more in the region

This unplanned tour has once again given us a sense of reassurance to explore the unknown ....

As the religious Gurudwara of Hemkund Sahib officially opens today for the 2016 season, we reminisce about the hike to the region last year. 

When I compare the trek to Valley of Flowers along with Hemkund Sahib with recent Pangarchula summit hike, I understand why the former is considered easy, but I can assure you on its own, no trek is ever easy since all require some degree of effort.

Before climbing the mountain of Hemkund Sahib I was not at all familiar with the Sikh culture.
Yes I am married to someone from Punjab but I have never been exposed to the devotion and magic I witnessed at 15000 ft above sea level.

There are a number of legends associated with the place, narrations from The Ramayana,from Guru Gobind Singh ji’s life stories and from stories associated with Lord Indra, each one only allowing you to make sense of the beauty.
We had already ventured deep into the Valley of Flowers the prior day and chose to utilize one complete day to experience Hemkund Sahib.This is a very popular trail and at any point you will find someone to walk with you.
The trail is virtually all ascent and along the front face of the mountain,without any intervention to distract the eye you get a clear view of your destination all through the route. Its a slow strenuous climb and you slowly gain altitude of just about 1 km over a distance of 6 km.  

We left our base camp at 6:00 am and about 2 hours later I had only covered 10 % of the trail.

There are a lot of people that will glide pass you propped up on their pony and it will make you doubt your decision of climbing to the top as each leg muscle burns.

There were a number of fellow trekkers from our group who had opted out of the climb  and hence there were just about 5 of us scattered through the trail each one at your own pace.

Climbing alone,there is this little voice in your head that asks you if you are sure about wanting to make it to the top and as you start doubting yourself and as you are at your slowest you begin to hear the chants from the Gurudrawa echoing in the wilderness pushing you to get to the top.

The route only gets better from this point on , you not only walk by the mighty glacier that’s key landmark on the route but also witness the magic the altitude offers.

Beyond the 14000 feet mark the hill sides wake up and magnificent blue poppy stems peep through the pea-green grass.

It has been said that early 20th-century Western plant hunters  came to the foothills of the Himalayas in search of the blue poppy as ornamental flowers for European gardens, but never found any believing that it was a myth.

I suddenly began to enjoy my slow pace and my leisurely trek. But as any hiker knows every second of daylight counts and you need to get to  the top if you want to head back in time.

Just as I picked up my pace and finally caught up with fellow trekkers, I was stunned by golden glow and the sugar-frosted coating of dew on the captivating Brahma Kamal blooms,the much talked about flower of the Himalayas.The flower heads I believe are actually purple,but are enclosed in layers of greenish-yellow, papery petals.

Eventually very tired and exhausted we reached a point where I found that I could either climb up steps to the Gurdwara or take the long path around.

I stopped and considered… both were inclined,the steps were steeper but were promising to be the shorter route , but I do not know how and why but  I chose to take the longer route up and I am glad I did ,because after listening to Shitals strenuous description of the step climb, there is no way I would have made it.  

After about 45 minutes of walking the last ½ km, I staggered into the Hemkund Sahib compound at about 1:00 pm, completely out of breath and it was then that I got the first view of the ‘sarovar’. 

A dip in the sacred lake is believed to cleanse sins and in order to pay my respects,I dipped  myself into the ice cold lake and was

astonished to find that I truly felt rejuvenated.

The sense of community at any Gurudrawa is encouraging and to witness it in the middle of the Himalayas was magical. 

Almost immediately, I was partaking of the delicious Khichdi and tea that was being offered to all the pilgrims.

It was time for the pilgrims to leave holy Gurudwara and head downhill .We left feeling a bit subdued and even more convinced that there definitely was some cosmic energy at Hemkund Sahib,because I was fresh and ready to head back down and felt brand new.

Call it an escape from the drudgery of daily life or a desire to experience nature in its most pristine and pure state or simply to bring out the best within, once you are hooked on to trekking it becomes a part of your chore and it keeps drawing you back to the mountains. 

Probably this is why we chose the Kuari pass Pangarchula trek as we would get a shot at scaling the Himalayan peak of over 4,700 meter (15,420 feet), more than half the size of Mt. Everest, experiencing the thrills and chills of high altitude trekking.

So here we were, me and my partner in adventure Maithili,lugging our way through the sweltering Delhi heat, en-route to our third trek this season to the Lower Himalayas. 

Our destination and goal this time was the Kuari Pass and the Pangarchula summit, a challenging climb at the end of beautiful trail hidden in the depths of the Garhwal ranges in Uttarakhand. 

DAY 00: Delhi-Haridwar 
For some mysterious reason, as if to cleanse you off your karmas and give you a fresh start, most of the treks have holy places as its starting point.

This trek too started from Haridwar, the ancient and holy pilgrimage city where river Ganga is worshiped by performing the Ganga aarti every evening on the Ghats of majestic Ganga. We had reached Haridwar well in time to check-in into our budget stay hotel right in the middle of the shops and shanties of the Haridwar bazaar bustling with pilgrims, hawkers and reckless cycle rickshaws. 

We managed to attended the spectacular Ganga aarti which goes on from 6-7 pm along with hundreds of other devotees, some of them even managing to take a dip in the holy Ganga waters amidst the hustle bustle.

The Ghats were generously lit and decorated on the occasion of the ongoing Ardha Kumbh Mela.

Day 01: Haridwar – Auli 

We met our guide and fellow trekkers early morning at Haridwar station and began the long and tedious journey of 280 kms from Haridwar to Auli through the beautiful Garhwali ranges accompanied by the jade green river Alaknanda lazily snaking along the entire route.

This route take your through Devprayag, a confluence of river Alaknanda and Bhagirathi and offers you views of the Rudraprayag as well as the  Vishnuprayag.

We reached Auli and settled into the comfortable Himalayan eco-lodges getting to knowour fellow trekkers, a total of 17 of us, over tea and dinner. 

We had an early start the next day, so we wound up enjoying every bit of the lovely cool Auli night sending our sweater clad pics to the lesser fortunate folks suffering in the Pune heat.

Day 02: Auli – Taali 

We finally began our trek from the Auli ski resort, the next few hours took us through the vast ski slope rang via the forests into the Gurson Meadows.

The vast open spaces, snow clad mountains and the height of the slopes are enough to pump up the adrenaline in any ski enthusiast, however at this time of the year the cables of the 500 meter long ski- lift rest patiently waiting for the next season.

We also came across an artificial lake used to churn out ice for skiing in case of low snowfall during the season. 

After a very long uphill hike , we decided to break for lunch,our first actual stop since we had set out early that morning.

Lunch was at the beautiful Auli meadows whose beauty transported us into the Swiss Alps replete with snowcapped mountains in the background, lush green meadows, grazing sheep and not a soul in sight. We almost had our DDLJ moment…minus SRK of course .

Post lunch the terrain began to get steeper and trickier with lot of narrow crossings and ridges. We treaded cautiously taking each step carefully on the slippery gravel filled path.

Clinging on to the mountain on one side with the deep valley gaping on the other, thus began the thrill and adventure we had secretly sought albeit in varying degree.

Around tea time we finally reached our first camp site Taali cozily nestled between the thick forests and towering mountains.

After the much needed tea and refreshments, we decided to explore the forest and hoped to warm by a bon fire , but the rain gods had other plans. We were caught in a sudden downpour and a mild hailstorm that lasted almost the entire evening and night.

Dinner was hence a rather quick affair though our guides and porters miraculously managed to cook and serve a sumptuous meal in pitch darkness and rain. With nothing much to do we chatted across tents over the sound of lashing rains and thunder lying in our sleeping bags trying to get as cozy and warm as we could.

Day 03: Taali – Kuari pass (3650m) – Khulara (3225 m)

The day began with beautiful sun shine and thus began our journey towards Kuari Pass taking us higher and deeper into the Himalayan ranges at 5:00 am.

We started spotting many well-known peaks like Nanda Devi (7816 m), Dronagiri (7066 m), Haathi Ghoda and Nilgiri as the path became steeper and narrower. 

As we neared the Kuari Pass we were struck with another downpour which translated into a beautiful snowfall.

Since we were navigating a rather treacherous patch our guide advised us to take a break in case the snowfall got converted into a storm.

He managed to find a cave hidden somewhere in the mountain crevices and even lit a nice warm fire. We tried our luck by going deeper into the cave with the crazy hope of bumping into Jon Snow.

Once the weather cleared we continued towards Kuari Pass with the weather growing colder and the peaks getting higher. Kuari Pass offered the most spectacular photo opportunities which we made full use of. We even experienced the first snow patch of the trek and made the most of it. Little did we know what held in store for us the next day!

We reached our second camp site Khulara by tea time and the view from the camp site literally took our breath away. 

I think no amount of words can do justice to what we witnessed and experienced. Having the great Himalayan ranges as our drawing room view aka tent was simply out of this world.

The weather was lovely and we enjoyed the peace and serenity in our own ways, unwinding and giving in to the beauty and serenity around.

Day 04: Khulara – Summit of Pangarchula peak (4700m) & back

Since we were to have a rather early start (3 am) the next day our guides advised us to catch as much rest and sleep so we were hauled into our tents by 9 pm.

The temperature dropped as the night progressed,not only were we cold but the the excitement of the final summit also kept most of us awake all night.

We were ready well before time and stepped out of our tents at 2.30 am for an early cup of tea. The sight that awaited, left us awestruck. The beautiful peaks were bathed in silver and glowing in the full moon light. None of us had seen such beauty studded with a sky full of stars and we witnessed the out of world experience of the entire galaxy laid out in its full glory in front of us.

Soaking in the beauty around us we began what was supposed to be the longest day of our lives, for most of us at least. 

Walking like a caravan with the headlights on we started our journey in the dark towards the Pangarchula summit. The predawn stillness in the air made us feel every breath that we took with each step. 

The early rise was well rewarded with a fantastic sunrise for which we will consider ourselves blessed to witness. No amount of photography can describe fully the beauty of sun god in its full glory bathing the peaks in myriad shades of gold and yellow!

A quick breakfast at 6 am and we continued towards the summit. After couple of hours of steep climbs through many narrow ridges we reached the base of the snow clad peak and thus began our tryst with snow.

Pangarchula at the base itself was rather steep and we had to take each step carefully and slowly following in our guide’s footsteps as the snow was slippery or hollow in most of the patches which we had to avoid.

Though we were guided and supported well most of us had couple of dangerous moments where we slipped and hung on to the ice or went waist deep into the snow till we were pulled back on our feet by the guides.

The journey was painstakingly slow as each one of us trudged along one after another hoping we were landing on safe ice. The slope gradient kept on getting steeper and steeper slowing our steps further. 

As we reached the height of 4200 m also known as mini Pangarchula the effects of high altitude started to set in on some of us.

Typically beyond 3,500 m human body begins to react to high altitude changes and we were already way beyond that mark. Some of the folks began experiencing high altitude effects in various forms like headaches, nausea and nose bleed and decided to stop at this point. 

7 of us along with 2 guides continued towards the final summit which was another 500 meters ahead. It was almost noon and the sun shone high on us. Though this meant we had a good chance of a clear summit attempt, it also posed the danger of snow starting to melt making our journey further difficult. The next couple of hours, as we literally inched towards the summit, the snow began to melt making each step an ordeal.

The incline was more than 70 degree adding to the level of difficulty

Some of the patches of snow were so tricky that we had to literally jump over the rocky patches testing our parkouring skills.

Just as we were 100 odd meters away from the peak one of our fellow trekkers lost his footing on one such tricky patch of snow and went down nearly chest deep. 
As he was being pulled up he hit his foot badly on the rocks hidden inside the snow and that prevented him for going up further. After placing him on a relatively safe place to rest we continued ahead hoping to catch up with him quickly on our way back.

If there was to be a record for the slowest possible 100 meters I think we would have won that hands down that day as it was the most difficult 100 meters journey I would have ever covered in my life.

Call it willpower, inner strength or the sheer perseverance of our guide who kept pushing us to keep moving ahead we finally reached the summit around 1.30 pm exhausted, starved but victorious nonetheless.

My friend and I almost had tears in our eyes as we hugged each other and rejoiced in the simple fact that we were still breathing. We had our share of the summit photo session perched on the narrow peak with little space for movement. Celebration comprised of son papdi as that was the only meal available, our lunch being left behind at mini Pangarchula. 

As the celebrations ended, we began the even trickier journey downwards. By now the snow had started to melt and each step downward at that incline became more and more unpredictable.

Our guide finally suggested us the rather seemingly easy but risky way of sliding down. He slid down first creating a trench and then stood there ready to catch us as we slid down one after another. 

This was definitely difficult and not as fun as it sounds. Maintaining the course was critical but the melting snow and the gravitational forces got most of us off balance as we slid downwards going off-track towards the cliff or head onto the many rocks on the way.

After many such slides and torn pants (yes all of us had torn pants with all the sliding) we reached the mini Pangarchula. We were soaking wet by now with all the ice inside our boots, gloves, pants and everywhere possible. Exhaustion and hunger didn't help our morale and it only began fading and as time flew and as darkness started to set in. 

In this chaos my friend had a mild case of frost nip where your toes become numb and you stop feeling them. This caused her to panic as she started to imagine the movie Revenant and Everest-like extreme frost bite scenarios. The guide finally managed to calm her down and we started to get out of the snow as quickly as possible as it had already become dark. 

I too started to feel the effects of the day’s toil and had my own minor attack of snow blindness stumbling and tripping on every possible slippery snow patch. Finally we were out of the snow and I not only hated snow at that very moment but even managed to hate Jon Snow for a fleeting moment. 

By then it was already pitch dark and we were a good 2 hour walk away from our base camp. The rest of the journey was a test of patience and resilience as we continued to move ahead without food, water and light as all 3 had been exhausted.

Luckily we were greeted mid-way by other guides who had taken back the other batch of trekkers who had stayed back at mini Pangarchula. They had returned for us with piping hot tea that brought the life back into us to complete the rest of the journey. 

As we reached the camp site after 17 hours of walking we were greeted with many congratulations and hugs from our fellow trekkers making us realize that each one of us had indeed achieved a great personal victory that day. At the end of the day all we craved was for some dry clothes and our sleeping bags to rest.

Day 05: Khulara – Dhak – Auli

Still soaking in our experiences and adventures of the day before, we began our downward journey back to Dhak village.

It was a quiet walk down with aching feet due to the ordeals of the days before. We passed through many tiny hamlets on the way admiring the tranquility and simplicity of the lives of the locals.

After many breaks, grunts and groans we managed to reach Dhak around 3 pm and were taken to Auli eco lodge in a short 45 minute drive.

The evening was spent in luxuries like showering, cleaning and other ablutions and we looked forward to spending the night in warm beds after a hearty meal.

Day 06: Auli – Haridwar drive

The long drive back was spent in exchanging photos, mail ids, phone numbers, gossip and reminiscing on the good times spent and the adventures encountered. 

As we neared the end of journey our guide jokingly asked how many of us would come back for another trek.Not surprisingly most of us had already started time lining the next adventure and yearning for another encounter with the mighty mountains.

“Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world”!