HIMALAYAS AND EXAGGERATIONS
People love to exaggerate. Especially Indians. And it’s quite apparent when I read the blogs on Himalayan treks and later do them. Of course not all, especially those who have intimate knowledge about the Himalayas, they don’t brag. They would say stuff like, "it’s difficult but you can do it if you’re careful". They would rather encourage you to go for it. But then there are those.
I read a testimonial on a trekking company website. The title was hilarious. "How Rupin pass trek changed my life". I mean WTF, what exactly got changed in your life in a 5 day trek. You saw a glacier and now you’re in a psychiatric ward or something? Or maybe you got the Himalayan enlightenment that sages strive for years in those cold mountains. Maybe you now understand the purpose of your life. Maybe, in a not so far future, the trek companies are going to pay people to write testimonials like this, "How my son became obidient and god fearing after pin-parvati trek" and a link to book a trek for your son and his wayward friends.
Well, I know how it feels to see snow for the first time in your life. I saw it first in Ladakh, laying on the side of a road near khardungLa and it was super exciting. Now that I think about it, it actually sucked. It was all black with the exhaust of vehicles, muddy and didn’t even look beautiful. My first snowfall was in pahalgam, when I was there for my mountaineering course. And I woke up and came out in middle of night when some other over excited fellow screamed snow. We were practically freezing. So it’s understandable when someone from south exaggerates a bit about their first snow treks. After all, most of the people in south know nothing about cold. All we do is climb up ooty or kodikanal and blow our breath and post on FB, "smoke was coming out of my mouth, that cold you know".
But I think after doing a Himalayan trek people want to brag about it. After all they would have paid some 20k to travel there and spend maybe 4 days on trail and more days on the road. So they like to justify that cost I guess. They would say how terribly cold it was, and how lucky that they were to be alive. Facebook status would say “A night at -30C”. Well those temperatures are routine here in the night and almost everyone bears them. It’s not like you’re special or something.
And how tough it was to breath. Well of course its tough to breath. At 5000m I think you only have 50% of air, so it would be difficult. Not just for you but for everyone. And the other thing that annoys me is, when they explain why the air is less. People have this misconception that oxygen is less because there are no trees. Well it would be less at that altitude even if you managed to plant trees there. Someone even told me about a secret army project to enhance oxygen. They had bought pigeons from the plains. Connection kya hai yaar?
Himalayan treks routinely involve passing thru glaciers. Any trek above 4500m and you’ve lot of snow and glacial streams to negotiate. And usually that sight is breathtakingly scary if you’re new. It nothing like you’ve seen. You would’ve already been put in your place by the mountains, struggling for a single breath, frozen fingers and mild headache. And behold the scenery. Its nothing like you had imagined. Hard, lifeless, imposing, majestic and you’re out of place. I know that feeling. But hey, your guide took you across it safely right? I’ve even seen locals walking as if they’re in a park, at above 5000m with an infant in hand. Its what people do as a routine.
But the moment people come back to home, they would write a lengthy post about how it was almost impossible but they did it anyway. How they came out of the jaws of death and all. They would scare some unsuspecting reader and that guy would probably wouldn’t even sleep with his head towards himalayas.
And there are these guides. They would scare you to death. "Oh its so high up, you need an oxygen cylinder. You will get lost up there if you go alone you know. There is a bear there or the snow leapord. They come down hungry you know. Just hire me. We drink together every weekend, me and the bear and play rummy. So you would be safe with me. The bear kids call me uncle ya know. Just 1000rs a day. And we would do that 3day trek in about 7 days. We go easy and nice. Haan?" Or "ooh, it’s snowing there badly, the road is very tough you know, you need a guide. I’m local. I know these roads. I’ll bring you back safe from the hell you know." If you listen to them for 5 min, you would be thinking about death all thru the trail.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It is tough but anyone can trek here in these mighty mountains. All you need is a bit of experience, a bit of guidance from locals, learn how to live here in this cold barren mountains. That’s all. And you can climb over any pass. People have done this endless number of times. You just need to know when to make a retreat as well. That’s even more important.
Just go and enjoy and don’t really listen to people when they say its a moderate or difficult trek and all. Everything is doable. You don’t need special skills for this. Even kids walk on these trails.
P.S. most of this advice corresponds to summer treks, and the passes which locals use to travel between valleys. Winters are harsh and terrain treacherous. Always listen to your instincts.