Where do I begin? This particular blog would be the toughest for me to share as all my emotions are invested in it. As most of us trekkers keep saying, how do you express what you experienced in the mountains? Words seem very few and trivial.. Initially I hesitated writing about this trek as I felt it belittled everything I experienced. Just by talking about it meant I was diluting it all..
At 3.45 am when we set out in the dark with our helmets on, our head lamps showing us the next perilous step, with our packed lunches, micro spikes, gaiters in our backpacks, and yes also our nervous hearts pulsating like never before, all we firmly held onto was each other. Step after step, move after move, not looking back, not looking way ahead just one perilous rock fall filled rough and a very and I reiterate this strongly, very steep slope. There was no path, just the guide leading us, stopping us then checking if any rockfall was in sight and getting us moving.
Breathlessness, sheer breathlessness along with the biting cold teaching us lessons after lessons and let me tell you no one stopped, no one. We only stopped when the guides told us too. No thoughts happen, no whys, no how’s, even the nervousness that happened the day before seems like it never existed. The tenacity of the human spirit takes over completely. You don’t have time to THINK, it’s sheer emptiness. Maybe this was it, and maybe this is IT. The great sages experience it, Nothingness, emptiness, a complete void. You take one step after the other, pause for 2 seconds, then move again. In a single file, 12 crazy people along with their trek lead and technical team were silently making their way through the super rough unforgiving terrain. Now when I think about it, how? How did that happen? There can never be one word, one sentence, nothing magical that can encapsulate what we were doing. It felt like we were preparing for this trek for years. All those years of our ups and downs, experiences, good, bad and the worst, when life kept hurling one obstacle after the other, sometimes we failed more than succeeded, then we shook the dust off our shoulders and kept moving, it all boiled down to this one, NOW.
Prerana and I call her a brave heart, carrying her heavy backpack and making a decision to see it through showed us what human spirit is capable of. She paused, she rested when she had to, she didn’t worry anymore of being in the front, that constant pressure she put on herself all her life disappeared… She was coming on her own, she had to push her limits but this time with a lot of self care. It broke her positively inside out to became a new person, to be the person who she truly was meant to become.
The terrain was punishing, brutal and if I had any other word I remember I would add to it. Very steep, rocks sliding as one stepped forward, going on paths from zig zag to semi climbing.. It was brutal and we were continuing it for almost 3 hours.. All our spirits were intertwined with each other. Shantanu was pushing himself to be in the front and then Himalayas taught him when he suddenly stopped and sat. Santoshbhai gently told him it’s fine let others go ahead, he can be at the last and there is nothing wrong about it. Thats the beauty of the Himalayas, it breaks you when you need it most.
Shantanu subconsciously or consciously had a baggage I think. A mountaineer at heart, he was a big guy of 90 kgs and he himself said he was over weight by 20 kgs so in all the previous days I would see him rushing to the front, to be in the front, to prove a point to himself that he could still do it at his weight. BUT he didn’t need to, really, he had his own strength, so much strength. And that summit day, the Himalayas told him gently it’s ok, don’t rush, you are what you are, you don’t need to prove anything and he heeded. To me, this is one of the most exhilarating memories before the pass. I haven’t shared this with anyone in the group until now.
Slowly it happened, night became dawn and Akshay told us to look back 70% into our back breaking rock fall filled slope, as the entire team looked at the sunrise seeping out, and the mighty divine Himalayas rose like a Phoenix among the clouds, it answered all our doubts, our fears, everything. We had a long way to go and we just started, both towards the summit and in our respective lives, and that view warmed our hearts in every way.
After almost 3 hours we finished that nerve wracking ascent and as we took a break, we put on our gaiters and micro spikes to what we looked ahead was endless snow capped landscapes, it would be endless all the way through till we entered Spiti, and this was just the beginning. I was filled with gratitude about yesterday’s lesson of walking in the old ice, kms and kms of snow, ice seeming endless as we found our footing. We paused, we took in our breaths and kept moving on. I would say that this summit day combined Rupin and Roopkund together in terms of the landscapes. And after the pass, we still had to descend through moraine, scree and huge punishing rocks towards Spiti. That would be much much and so much later!
Right now we were crunching our way over ascent and descent on and on in what looked like forever. Remember that the sun was glaring and over snow filled landscapes it was hitting harder until there we saw.. As Vipinji pointed us not too far ahead, the flags.. Pin Bhabha pass..
We had to traverse through 3 passes to reach that point. On and on and on. And we paused and looked. So this is it, the pass. There was a timelessness to it, I felt like we were suspended in it, there was ‘kala’( time) in a loop we were here like we always were before.. I don’t know how to explain what was going through inside me.. I don’t, it’s like being in this trance dance where time vanishes and you are in this endless loop..
We decided then and there all of us would go together to the pass. That’s it. This moment had to be that way only. As we stood and waited for Shantanu, we unanimously decided that he should go first, he should lead the way and be at the top. Not the technical team, no one. And as Shantanu made that first step into the pass, we followed cheering each other on.
What can I tell you now? As I write this, tears are rolling down, my body is heated up with the glow of that moment, that very moment where we all went together, 16 of us only physically but one soul together. I have never felt that in my entire life. Never. ♥️♥️♥️
As we stood at the pass it happened, not one single dry eye, not one. Tears rolling down, breaking down unabashedly, we were free from the world with its compartments and categories, telling us, judging us, comparing us all our lives, do that, don’t do that. But here, only the Himalayas stood in its magnificence, power, strength, and also a womb, her children accepting us totally. ‘Her grace’ letting us be with her. How many lives will it take for us to thank her for what she was doing to us.. No parent, no family nor friend was like her. We were all blessed by her grace and benevolence ♥️
We each took our space and cried, looking around us, within ourselves, cried and cried, pure joy, the pain washing away, god knows how many years of pain, an inner strength reverberating. As we huddled together in a circle tightly holding onto each other crying. Akshay said, ‘ Because it’s there’ ♥️ It was not about we made it, we did it. We?? We are nothing folks, nothing. The Himalayas did it for us, that’s all I can say.
I remember Aritra crying out loud as Prerana hugged him and Akshay comforted him. Throughout the trek Aritra would say he was a very emotional person but he could never express himself and here he was expressing beautifully, this was him, this was the real him and nothing else.
As we wrote on our postcards addressed to our future self, we all realised there is no going back now, the only way was to move ahead.
We were still covered by snow landscapes, which meant ascent and descent followed by sliding, and lots of snow slides btw, more than Rupin pass snow slides. But first we had to say our goodbye to Vipinji who had to go back to Phutsirang to accompany Rajiv Senior back to Kafnu, the base camp. I would come back to that bit in another blog. Giving him a heartfelt thank you we moved ahead. Sliding hard and fast when Pawan our guide would tell us to, and sometimes not listening to anyone and just sliding 😁 Siddhant lead the way totally, plonk he would go right down and the rest followed.
Sometimes the descents were almost 80% angle and the only way was sliding, and we did aplenty burning our bums and backs! 😊
The sun was beating hard, super hard on us, the exhaustion was showing up, in a gist let me tell you the sequence without further ado. Snow, boulders, ice, snow, boulders, ice on repeat endlessly, this went on for another few hours and then we saw, Spiti. The colours were dramatic! Pink, blue, purple, bare harsh breathtaking landscape. How many hours has it been since we woke up? We didn’t even want to think about it anymore. Just keep going.
The landscape was like a drama Queen, from green Kinnaur to barren Spiti. Filled with punishing boulders and rocks with water crossings our legs were protesting loud, screaming in fact but walk we must. There was no choice. The sun was charring our skin plus there were still slippery ice and old snow crossings, followed by rocks, then again water then again snow! This would continue till we reach Mangrutse, the campsite.
Under the scorching sun with no shelter we took a lunch break, now we had the Pin river flowing along with us. The water was not drinkable but Aritra being a complete outdoor guy, took his bottle and filled it up. After sometime not many cared. Our water bottles were empty and we had a few more hours to go, yes few more hours. After some time all of us took a rock each and dozed off big time. We had time now. The kitchen team was behind and we were waiting for them to go ahead and they did finally.
After a good break we got up with our sore aching bodies and started moving again. Up and down, ice, water and boulders like a rhythmic pattern! Now it was only the barest bare landscape with not one sign of green except a patch here and there. It was dusty, very dusty, Rocky and the constant walking on trails filled with rocks were killing us. Deepanshu had a bad knee, Prerana hit her toes several times on the rocks, her ankle was facing the brunt, but what could one do but keep going.
Finally we saw the campsite all the way below. Instead of taking the trail, we descended all the way down where we were, straight out, like complete downward descend! There was no more fear, the campsite was right down and we didn’t want to waste any more time. We just wanted to collapse on the grass that’s it.
And so it was, almost 12 hours since we woke up we were here, completely changed inside out.
To be continued.. 🏔🏔🏔
Pics courtesy- Ravi Patel, Deepanshu and Rajeevji