A Journey Beyond Limits: My Trek To Roopkund
One of my many beliefs is that fear wanes if you experience whatever causes that fear. Further, I have always felt that one of the purposes of life is to die as fearless as is possible. To answer the obvious question that is in your head right now, which is, the reason behind me sharing my beliefs, I need to lead you into my past. As any Indian banker s son, I have had umpteen opportunities to travel, and to travel far and wide. On both of my earlier trips to the cold north, altitude sickness hit me that lead to my fright from the mighty mountains; an acute fear of dying breathless and cold. And, given my beliefs, I wanted to fight it once and for all. So, this is how it happened! One of my friends was planning a trekking trip to the great lakes of heavenly Kashmir and was open to friends going with her. As my fate would have it, she sent me a link which astonishingly was Trek-the-Himalayas brochure of the renowned trek to Roopkund. And, I knew I had to do it the moment I saw it. So, to give you a perspective, one fine morning, I had suddenly decided to go on a trek and the destination my fate chose for me as a first time trekker was Roopkund, the mysterious glacial lake at a height of sixteen thousand four hundred and ninety nine feet (16,499 feet). And obviously, I understood what I had got myself into not until I had reached Loharjung, the base camp, after a two day blissful and relaxing retreat in the beautiful Nainital. The six days that followed were without doubt, the deepest and most grueling test I have ever given and also the most effective and diverse learning experience I have ever had. Away from the shell of my life and in the hands of nature, literally, I got to know and feel what life is, and how much we take it for granted. From being friends with those who were total strangers, to playing UNO at each intermediate camp (one of my most vivid memories is all ten of us in that small trekking camp at the height of 14,750 feet playing UNO in night using the light of our torches), to waking each day and seeing the world changing the hues and compositions at that great a pace (it changed from dense and lush green to sparse but pure white), to feeling that utter proximity with nature, to eating that boiled potato en-route a camp, to picking up fresh snow for the first time in life, to experiencing the first snow-fall and also the first hail-storm, to appreciating the relevance of every meager resource we had (including a small box of salt), to those silent times when each pushed himself to trek that extra mile, to sitting at the edge of the grasslands overlooking the valley that we had climbed up, to appreciating and encouraging each other of the heights we were conquering, to moving forward with others foot-steps as the only guide, to making path for those behind, to feeling that utter nothingness, to seeing the momentary state of it all, I saw my fear retreating gradually. But they say it is never that hale and hearty, and they say it right. On the day of summit, in deep fresh snow that had stacked up layer on layer all through the night, we set out for the final excursion. Given that it had snowed heavily we were facing a tough time. The soft snow was a mirage of sorts and at times we would be deep into snow if it was a vertical stack of many feet of snow and nothing underneath. Balancing oneself was turning out to be a big test. I suddenly found my leg stuck in snow really deep. It was so deep that I was unable to move even a bit. To come out of it, I had to have some base on which I could put my body-weight and pull myself out but all around it was soft snow. And, the fear was back in its full-fledged form. I somehow managed to pull myself out a bit but my balance ditched me and I fell. And this time it was a fall on my back and I laid there on snow with a possibility of sliding down a ridge and into a valley if I made a wrong move. I was unable to stand as the snow around refused to take my weight and I kept sliding as and when I moved. My guide was around and he rushed. There was another team summiting and they were on a path a few meters down. They were all deliberating on what to do next. At times like these when you know you are out-of-control you are either extremely nervous or you are perfectly calm. I transitioned from being on my nerves to being utterly calm the next moment and that transition was an unforgettable experience. I recollected myself and tried to get up. In that effort I sled down a few meters. As I sled, the snow gathered and it gave me a strong enough support and I got up finally, thanks also to the trek leader and guide who without worrying about their own life assisted me. The onward journey was one of contemplation. Now, I am a man from mountains, although relatively much small, the Aravalis of Rajasthan, and I appreciate what these huge stone-hearted mountains seek. They just seek respect for who they are and they expect that you do not forget who you are. Moreover, they are great teachers to enlighten you with this knowledge if you don’t already know or if you have forgotten these two important bits. So if I am asked today is my fear gone? I would put it this way: my fear of going up north has gone, yes, but the mighty mountains are not something to take lightly and I will always be cautious. We were the first team of the season to have reached the summit in toto. It felt as if we were in a different world. When we reached there, the lake was frozen and so the end of the journey wasn’t what we had expected it to be. At that moment, my thoughts were in sync with the saying that it is the journey that matters and not the destination. I had learnt so much in those eight days, about myself, about human nature, about the power of nature, about my powers, about what all I can do, about what others can do, about the illogical limits we put on ourselves. It was my journey beyond limits, a journey that engraved the power of me and the power of us on my heart. It was a journey that gave me perspectives. It has widened the set of my cognitive elements and has made me even more positive. This journey will remain vivid in my memories for eternity for, it will be my source of encouragement to set out for goals I think impossible for myself, and to attain them.
Written By: Bhavya Singhvi