I was on my way to Nehru Institute Of Mountaineering for my Basic Mountaineering Course when I wrote this journal entry on October 17, 2012:
Left Delhi at 6:50am to Haridwar on Dehradun Shatabdi Express. Amazing service and breakfast is a reminder that not all is bad with Indian Railways.
Had a sleepless, anxious night since I had to get up early. Mom trying to convince me not to go on this trip in my dreams. Too many people have persuaded me not to go on this trip which I'm still not sure is a sign of bad things to come or something natural when it comes to doing something adventurous.
I feel good right now, even though the remaining day is uncertain - how I would reach Uttarkashi. But after reading License To Live, I'm feeling pretty optimistic that I'll find a way.
Been a while I took a trip by myself. It's time to learn, grow, change, test my mental and physical strength. I know whatever the end result, I will come out stronger, wiser and with a better perspective towards life and me.
Bring it on!
I met some amazing people that I'm still friends till this date. Arjun Vajpai and Krushna Patil were our batch celebrities as they had already climbed Mt. Everest. Became good friends with Lt Col Yogesh Dhumal who till recently was the Vice Principal of NIM.
This diary entry from August 2014 was written a few days prior to my first trek - Stok Kangri. I guess, even back then I was obsessed with the mountains and reaching the summit. It all started here. Although we were a large group, I met three amazing brothers that till date climb together - Veeru Paaji, Sam and Laali.
The following year, I planned a trek to Goechala, Sikkim. Took a flight from Nagpur to Kolkata, overnight train to Siliguri and finally a 14 hour taxi ride to Yuksom. Again, out of the 20 some trekkers I really hit it off with a few that have become my brothers - Abhishek, Karan, Sagar and Suhas Dada.
I wrote down some thoughts on the train journey back. You can see I'm beginning to understand the benefits of nature and outdoors.
In case you can't read it, here's a list of lessons learnt:
1. Trekking and life are very similar.
2. Mind and body both need to be strong. It's usually the mind that gives up faster than the body.
3. No point comparing yourself to others. Set your own goals, your own speed and targets. You're competing against yourself, no one else.
4. Be always willing to help others. A little motivation goes a long way.
5. Human body and mind can get used to any circumstances after a few days. It's helpful and strengthening to leave your comfort zone and go do brave and courageous things. That's where the magic is, that's where the real life lessons are.
6. Once you stop believing that the world owes you something, when you realise everyone behaves and loves differently, once you realise that it's better to take actions / decisions without thinking about what others will think, you truly feel alive.
Treks like these makes one confident about their own belief and self-worth. It takes a lot of courage to spend 10 days with strangers, sleeping in bags and fighting it out everyday.
This next trek is where magic truly happened.
I wanted to bring together people I had met in these previous treks who didn't knew each other but knew me. My inclination was that if I get along with two different set of trekkers, there's a good chance they will get along too. Boy, they got along like peanut butter and jelly, like rum and water, like butter chicken and kaali daal.
10 of us did the difficult Pin Parvati Pass trek in Himachal Pradesh and bonded like brothers. This would go down as the most memorable trek in Mountain Men history because we stuck it out together. When someone fell, the other carried his backpack. When one got sick, the rest did everything to make him better. When even the trek operators had lost hope, this group did not and finished the treacherous 110 km long trek.
It was the first time Jayesh and Amit went on a trek and they did really well.
This was also the first time we started making trek merchandise. My experiment of building a small tribe that I could climb mountains with till I die was a reality.
In 2018, a few first time trekkers wanted to climb with us. We decided on Pangarchulla Peak as it is not a rigorous climb as Pin Parvati Pass was.
2019, we got a little ambitious and planned a twin trek expedition - Baralacha Pass in Himachal followed by Stok Kangri in Leh. Since I met Abhishek and Karan in Goechala I kept telling them how amazing Stok is and that we have to do it together.
We made every mistake a trekker shouldn't do while planning for this one. We tried to save money when hiring a trek operator, did not spend enough time training for a 6000m peak, let previous accomplishments get to our heads.
Although we all crossed the Baralacha Pass, only 4 out of 10 team members reached the summit of Stok. From losing our way to damaging ligaments to rupturing blood vessels to borderline AMS, this expedition really kicked our asses. And rightly so.
Let's just say that I was one pissed off camper post expedition.
After 2 year of Covid, we then did the famous Bali Pass trek. It was great to get the gang together on the mountains again. The shift towards fitness had begun, pushing each other to run, lift weights, climb stairs and take summits seriously. We would constantly tell each other that the only thing that will ever come in between us and the summit is weather. Lack of preparation will just not be excusable.
Next we set a challenging target in 2021 to climb Kang Yatse II in a year. During our regular chats on zoom calls on Sundays we would talk about how we needed to start thinking as endurance athletes. From changing our diets to workout routines, we started putting a plan together for the 6223m tall peak.
Preparation started in January for our August climb. I had never seen our team this focused. Junoon, will be the right word to describe what we were going through. In the back of our minds, not reaching the summit of Stok was still fresh. It was time to redeem ourselves. And we did. 7 out of 10 climbers reached the top of KYII. It was a special moment.
I will never forget the day, I was sitting in my office 10 years ago, thinking what hobby I could pursue and continue even in my 60's. Turns out not only did I find a hobby that I am passionate about but a band of brothers that push each other to become better.
This year, Mountain Men have set their eyes on another 6000m peak, Island Peak. We leave next week so I will not be able to write in-depth articles like usual. I have planned something different for you while I'm gone and you will receive the newsletters as usual.
I will be back on the second week of October with tons of stories, experiences and fresh perspective from Nepal to share.