People take their resolutions on New Year’s Eve but in my case, it happened after I completed my first Himalayan trek in January 2015. From a simple trek to a mission to complete 15 treks in 12 months – the journey has been incredible.
It was the long weekend of Republic day in 2015 and I was really very excited for my trek to Nag Tibba in the Garhwal Himalayas. Well, this was completely self-planned, with a few friends. We packed our stuff (with the very limited knowledge about what to pack for a trek especially when it was a winter trek) and left Delhi on the overnight bus to Dehradun. We reached Dehradun very early in the morning and finally met our trek lead and the organizing team there. We then headed towards the base village of the trek which was almost a 2-3 hour road journey. We started off the trek on a highly energetic note. Little did I know at that point of time that this Himalayan journey was going to be the stepping stone of an ambitious project of my life! Though a small weekend trek but somehow this trip acted like a perfect incubator of the Himalayan bug into me! From adventures to playing in the snow for the first time, it was as though something within me had changed and wanted to experience so much more.
I came back but left my soul wandering in the Himalayas! I had to get back and live that moment again! I started looking out for the next long weekend or any opportunity to leave for the next trek. However, if I look back, I feel that somehow the connect with trekking happened way before this trip; maybe on my first so-called trek to Kumaraparvat in the Western Ghats. It was a 21 kms trek with friends which we actually finished in a day! The breezing wind on top of the mountain never left my soul since then and the sense of achievement after conquering Kumaraparvat was so immense that it made me jump into any opportunity to trek.
So, I consider Nag Tibba as my second innings which embarked the love for the Himalayas in me. As mentioned, I was missing something and this is when I decided to go on a mission, a mission to explore the beauty of the mountain ranges of the world, which luckily happens to be in India.
I wanted to spread this beauty around through my camera lens and also by taking others who are interested along with me in pursuit of mountain-ness. So, I decided to take the leap and cover 15 treks in 2015 and that happened to be my so-called New Year resolution. So, what did I do next? Mission 15 treks in 12 months was initiated. I started planning treks almost every month, invited people to join in and jumped into every opportunity that I got to take leaves (Did I mention that I was working full-time?) or any long weekends to trek the Himalayas.
I started trekking solo, with groups and got into organizing them too! The cherry on the top was self-funding my mission. You feel a kind of adrenaline rush when you take charge of something that you are passionate about.
I came across some wonderful people through this adventure of mine. From the local guides, to the adventure travel tourism industry, to the locals of all the places I trekked to – each one of them added their individual touch to my plan. The added a different perspective to my journey, and when I look back today, the values that I received helped me broaden my perspective. I am what I am due to the amazing choices I made in 2015.
I will be lying if I take the entire credit for this! The huge support that I received from my team and managers back in office was the backbone of this initiative. Working full time in an office along with managing all the 15 treks did turn out to be a challenge. There were times during the year when I was so loaded with work and finding the time for trekking was practically impossible but then again the blessed forces of the mountains kept calling back.
When I talk about my budget for these treks, it was not easy! Going for a holiday once in a while and going for a trek every now and then is a completely different story. The cost saving factor for me was public transport rather than hiring cabs or private vehicles, wherever possible. Also, sharing the ride with travellers en-route really save you a fortune, on the mountains.
Be compassionate to everyone and don’t hesitate in starting a conversation with people, you will definitely learn something from everyone and you might get a free ride or a room or food to share. After experiencing all the ups and downs I feel it’s true that when you wholeheartedly wish for something, the whole eternity conspires to complete your wish.
However, to add the spice, there were scary moments as well. When you are trekking in the mountains, hiking up the steep slopes, traversing the lean patches, you are very likely to face the dangers. From slipping on the snow-covered slopes to climbing the hills, I knew what I had signed in for!
When I was in Prashar Lake and a couple of us tried climbing a pretty high inclined slope, we just couldn’t. Every step of ours came sliding down to the exact position where we started because the soft snow below our legs was so deep that it couldn’t hold our weight and we came down with every attempt. The very first step of mine in that portion where my full leg went completely inside the snow and I can still feel it getting deeper sent the chiller waves inside me. I still recall when my foot slipped while climbing up from a piece of rock which happened to be wet and I slid down around 20-30 meters on a slope which was around 60-70 degrees inclined and if I wouldn’t have turned aside and stopped myself on time, I would have gone straight down the slope into the hard ice glacier or onto the rock moraines lying far away at the bottom. I surely was lucky on that occasion to save myself on time.
15 treks in 12 months was my personal approach towards getting the mountain-ness deep rooted in my veins. Through this, I was learning the ways of trekking; climbing in the Himalayas and getting better at this skill along with photography which is something I was equally passionate about.
Managing all these treks along with a full-time job improved my management skills on the field as well as back at work. It was basically the study phase for me to get prepared for the future endeavours higher up in the Himalayas.
With all the highs and the lows, I managed to complete 15 treks in 12 months. It was finally accomplished on 28th December when I had my last packed lunch of 2015 on the summit of Darwa Peak, 4115 meters above sea level, after making my own way through the knee-deep snow cover till the very top of the peak as no one has gone to summit the peak since the onset of winters.
Hiking up the trail for long duration because of the steeper slopes and finally finding a place to sit with panoramic views of the Garhwal Himalayas, facing the cold winter breeze head on but the clear sky and sun kept me warm even at such a high altitude. The whole journey was long, tiring, challenging and full of learnings.
But the mission is still not accomplished since the motive behind this journey was to inspire people to see and experience the true beauty of the vast landscapes of Himalayas, to inspire them to trek and climb and take this adventure sport to newer heights, and I hope to achieve that by sharing my story – 15 treks in 12 months. During these months, I trekked the mountain ranges of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.
I would urge everyone to keep travelling, explore the new heights, meet wonderful people and experience the life beyond your office chairs and computers, be receptive and considerate towards nature and it will in turn, treat you with utmost surprises. Stay healthy, stay fit and go climb your own Everest, may the mountain forces be with you!
Having hit up some awe-striking locations – why not get started yourself? The Perfect Hiking Locations to Rediscover yourself.
Nitish Waila is into adventure photography and is extremely passionate about trekking. You can follow his latest journey and updates @ NitishWailaPhotography