What is your best moment in the trek?
Why do you come to mountains?
What did you take from the mountains and what did you leave in the mountains?
These three questions were posed to us by the camp leader of Patar Nachauni (Uttarakhand) and we were asked to give our own answers without discussion when we returned to Patar after summit. After the questions were asked discussions started and there was a difference to be noticed. The relatively younger ones (recent undergrads) immediately started discussing and words like perseverance, endurance, will power etc could be heard. Most just smiled at each other and didn’t discuss these questions with each other (not in my knowledge atleast). After successfully summiting Roopkund when all of us had returned to the camp of Patar Nachauni, one or two of the camp trek mates randomly asked if we have to answer the three questions and if we have to, when will they be asked. The questions were casually forgotten later maybe even the answers. In my case, one of the questions remained unforgotten and unanswered. I tried finding out the reason but everything seemed shallow, incomplete, dissatisfying or simply not the real reason. Maybe it requires many more treks to be able to realize the answer.
Recently I had successfully completed the Roopkund Trek (15696 ft) which located in the Trishul massif in the state of Uttarakhand. One difference that I observed between Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand is that Himachal looks like most common paintings done of the mountains (soothing) whereas Uttarakhand is rugged and raw. This is due to the flora of the state. Nevertheless it is not the sootiness or the ruggedness of the mountains that brings one to climb it all the way to the top or the destination which requires endurance, patience, will power, perseverance and knowing oneself (partially and atleast physically if not otherwise).
Coming back to the questions, my best moment in the trek was reaching the summit. This time I had poor stamina and had caught a bad cold just before the trek started. This led to intense congestion throughout the trek thus leading to breathlessness while ascend. There were multiple instances while ascending where I had almost planned to give up and come back later but then decided to reach the camp site and then see if the thought still persisted. The last few hundred meters in reaching the summit were the most exhilarating steps I had taken as I was unable to breathe properly and it was a steep snow climb. One big reason why I was able to cover that last distance was due to not letting go at the last moment and the presence of one of the members of the technical team with me throughout the climb. Had Inder Bhaiya who encouraged continuously saying “ तुम अच्छा चल रहे हो |बस थोड़ा सा और ऊपर है | तुम कर लोगे, बस अपनी pace में चलते रहो |”, I might have reached even later than I already did. I am so thankful to the technical team and the guides (Nari Bhaiya and Suraj bhaiya) of TTH for encouraging me to move ahead. Due to improper health , I always walked last which led to longer resting break. For fast walkers such long breaks are annoying as it cools their body down thus reducing efficiency. Even after all this not a single member complained rather all of them encouraged me to keep going. Hence I am thankful to all my trek mates.
My cold had started from home itself and my parents are well aware of congestion at higher altitude. This kept them in constant worry throughout my trek and there wasn’t regular contact as well. After reaching Patar Nachauni the first time, I had called them after a day’s break to inform them about my condition. The relief was clearly evident in their voices and the happiness that I was fit enough to continue though slowly (read very slowly). That relief and happiness in their voices gave me more strength to continue. That moment I realized the importance of parent’s support in a particular endeavor and how it helps to continue regardless of whatever conditions.
Another question was regarding what I had taken from the mountains and what I had left in the mountains. I had packed my bag assuming that I will be carrying it on my own and will not burden the mule with my bag. Also I am not a fast walker but neither am I a very slow walker. Hence walking at the last was the first dent on my ego. Second major dent was giving my bag to the mule on the third walking day of the trek. It was during these moments that I had realized that either it was my ego or me. It was these particular points in time throughout the treks that made me realize that my ego is not what I can do or what I am capable of doing. Thus during the course of the trek I have left some part of my ego in the vast expanse of the mountains. Not only my ego but also some of my weight was lost during the trek 😛
What did I take from the mountains? More patience and perseverance and bliss of an empty mind. Also a lot of memories of Uno and discussions. That is the only thing I can think of right now. A few realizations like why meditation is easier in the Himalayas as compared to any other place and why it is easier to put one’s mind to use than to quiet it down. There were moments of pure relaxation where it was easier to understand and realize these things.
The last question was why I come to the mountains. I do not know the answer to this question. There were a few hypotheses I had thought of but none of them seemed apt or satisfying. I do not even remember them now. As mentioned earlier, I will have to do self-exploration and maybe many more treks to realize the answer to this particular question.
The ‘why’ of most questions are tough to answer with certainty. Either the answer is attributed to age old customs or are ignored and forgotten. What I have understood by going alone on treks to mountains is that not being with someone and walking alone makes one thoughtless. If not completely thoughtless then atleast useless and redundant thoughts don’t occur or bother a person. This calmness gives one the medium to see things as they are than from a pre-informed lens. Such clarity of mind gives a person enough space to grow and work towards improvement of self. This state of empowerment can help a person answer or seek those ‘why’s’ much effectively and properly than with influence of others keeping only the most necessary points in mind. Such de-cluttering of mind which in ideal condition should be possible anywhere, becomes much easier in the mountains. Maybe this is one of the hidden cravings that lead me to the mountains. I believe that the day I achieve such a state of mind without going to the mountains will be a day of lifetime achievement for me. Then going to the mountains will be for a reason not involving self or maybe I become as vast and as accommodating as the mountain itself. Who knows.
My first Himalayan trek was Sar Pass. Roopkund’s beauty is not the same as Sar Pass. Its beauty lies in its ruggedness. We were lucky to have experienced sunny, cloudy, rainy, hailstones and snowfall in a span of six days. Story behind Roopkund and various sites on the way holds religious (Hindu) significance. The campsites were Loharjung-Didna Village-Ali Bugyal-Patar Nachauni-Bugwabasa-Roopkund-Patar Nachauni-Bedni Bugyal-Wan Village. Each of the campsites are named according to some mythological incidents involving Nanda Devi Yatra in the old times when Nanda Devi (Goddess) was going for a yatra through this route. Also some campsites are named after Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati’s journey to Mount Kailash. Besides this Roopkund is one of India’s oldest trek routes. I will not be mentioning the reasons regarding why a certain campsite is named as it will reveal the fun of storytelling beforehand. Some stories and moments are best experienced live and at that particular place for full effect. What I will mention though is the night sky (3AM) sky at Bugwabasa camp. It is the clearest ( hence the most beautiful) night sky I have seen till date! I can totally understand the curiosity night skies must have evoked in the man’s heart and mind which led to important findings and today’s search for extra-terrestrial life.
For me Roopkund was a trek with some old and some new lessons learnt, new understandings and increased clarity. I intend to do many more in the future in the hope of exploring a new place and a new part of self.