By Madhu Varma
There was snow. It was everywhere. It was dazzlingly and brilliantly white. And then some more.
The stream water was freezing. It numbed the hands and face when splashed. But it was pure and tasted divine.
The winds were ghostly at night. They howled and kept us up hoping that the tent wouldn’t blow away.
We obviously weren’t in any sort of physical condition to undertake the trek. Also it was impossible to summit the peak at this time of the year, owing to the snow capping of the mountains. The same was communicated and the same was acknowledged. But then, when did such trivialities ever discourage us? Only a misguided overestimation of our capabilities and a gross underestimation of the challenges would convince us to go ahead with it. And there was never any shortage of that.
When we weren’t crossing streams on sketchy tree trunks or hopping up and down boulders, we trekked. We trekked till our muscles ached and our lungs gasped for air. And then we trekked more. And it wasn’t just about the stamina. One’s survival instincts make one ignore the cold biting the fingers as one claws into the snow for the much needed support. One would crawl on all fours when needed to fight gravity and compensate for friction. After all, one does what one can to ensure one doesn’t tumble down into obscurity.
It would have made for a romantic tale, if we had against all odds scaled the peak and planted the flag of victory at the very top. It was not to be. The mini avalanches, the ever increasing gradient of the ridiculous terrain and the sighting of a bear needed us to to pull back at around 11,000 feet. But it didn’t feel disappointing. We had punched way above our weight. It was good enough for now. It was endured. It could/would/should be conquered at a later stage.
Apparently, getting the necessary traction in the soft snow requires a measured approach. The boot needs to be planted into the ice at an angle of as close to 90 degrees as possible to the gradient surface, with the heel playing the role of the anchor. And sledging on your backside on the descent, when done in a controlled, technical manner can be real fun. But it sure as hell doesn’t feel comfortably numb. We can now vouch for it.
We made the final descent from the camp to the pick-up point after saying our goodbyes on the Sunday morning. As we surveyed the valley from the vantage point one final time, there was a sense of satisfaction. The thighs were strained. The knees hurt. The calves ached. The ankles were bruised. But we were standing tall.
Location : Manali
Stage : The Hampta Pass
Cast : Srikanth ‘Snow Leopard’ Reddy, Udayan, Peehu, Madhu and The Captain’s Armband, Mr Bear
Directors : Rohan ‘Ra’s Al Ghul’ Jain, Jai aka Govind aka Meena (Renok Adventures)
Special Thanks To : Kama (Guide), Issu (Cook) and the gang
Acknowledgements : i) Special praise reserved to Peehu for being adamant and having the bottle to do the strenuous trek despite being down with fever and cold. Mrs Singh is now formally and ceremoniously inducted into the group. ii) The good people at Renok Adventures for their support, patience, sucking at Uno and being good sport in general.
Originally written on Madhu’s Blog