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Because It's There

- Nikhil Goyal, Sonal Kansra, Manish Bansal
from Spandan 1997

Third Year at MAMC - reportedly the coolest time of your life. Taking this suggestion quite literally, we decided to scale the himalayan peaks as in the summer hols. Besides us three, Brar, Deepak, Jatin,Sandhu and Sunil decided to come along.

Some of our seniors told us that the Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) organized such trekking expeditions every year, and they were safe, cheap and loads of fun. So on the 13th of May, 1996, we boarded the bus to Manali, with our eventual destination being - Chandrakhani Pass. Here are some rather disjointed excerpts from my diary...

14th May: To Babeli Base Camp (2,000 ft) - Most of today was spent on the bus. The Camp Leaders issues us identity cards, allotted us tents and briefed us on the rules. First impression - this is going to be tough! Tents aren't exactly five-star. Evening at Manali, optimistic start.

15th May: Day 1 at Babeli - Early Rise. Bad weather. Trekking practice goes off easily enough, despite the rain. Get introduced to the others in our trekking group - people from Bombay, Gujarat, Bangalore... There are people from all walks of life, people of all ages. Dreams of daily baths gone. Camp rules strict, life hard.

16th: Getting used to camp life - Sunny Day! We do rock climbing and river crossing practice - These will make some great photos to show at home! Mentally and physically prepare for tomorrow's trek. Pack luggage. Have to leave most of our stuff behind, won't be taking much after all. All I want for the next two weeks has to be in a tiny (but heavy: 4 kg) rucksack.

17th: Trekking! - 12 km long, . Tiring initially, But OK once I got the balance funda figured out. Easier than I thought. The scenery is obviously heavenly. Our rest spots are crystal clear, ice-cold waterfalls. Eventually reach Larikot (7,500 ft). Our first campfire, everybody shows what they’re good at. The food is tolerable - just like the hostel mess...

18th: Pinni (8000 ft) - A short downhill trek to Pinni after reaching the Bringhta Top (10,000 ft). The path was slippery and dangerous, sometimes only a foot wide. Scary. Our ‘Medical Student’ label makes us the official caretakers for the entire group’s blisters.

19th: Challal (5,200 ft) - Longest trek: 16 km. In a record time of 5:30 hrs. Rains all the way, but it doesn’t bother us anymore. Food getting worse. It's still fun. The camp is next to a waterfall - the most comfortable camp till now. We’re to spend two nights here, one day being a rest day.

20th: Manikaran - Manikaran’s just a bus ride away (this camp was closer to civilization). BATH DAY! The famous hot bath was quite stuffy but we needed it so bad! Ride on top of bus was great. Not much of a Rest day, but enjoyed it fully. Prepare for trek phase 2

21st: Rasol (8,500 ft) - Very High camp! We’re in the middle of a cloud - which happens to be raining. A difficult, steep trek. Friendly hill people. 4 of us form a makeshift band - to provide entertainment at subsequent campfires.

22nd: Malana (8,700 ft) - Worst trek to date - longest, wettest, most frustrating, most slippery, most dangerous, slowest and most boring. Cross Rasol Jot (10,892 ft) - our highest pass so far. The Malanians reportedly fine you 1000 bucks for touching them or their village. Weird people! Water seeps into our tent, We’re miserable and mad. Think about going back home. Few of us slip in mud and are covered with filth. Still, miles to go before we sleep. Nagruni beckons.

23rd: Nagruni (10,100 ft) - Beautiful. Clean. Difficult trek. Our first snow fight. But nice place to sit and write here. Far from the madding crowd, VERY peaceful. Is it my imagination or is the air getting thinner...?

24th: To Chandrakhani - and Beyond! - Clear day, thank god. Got up at 3:00 am, full of hope. Chandrakhani Pass (13,000 ft!) is crescent shaped, covered with snow perennially. Great time in snow. Had too much fun, couldn't describe it. Did just about everything. Payback time for all the hard work - with interest!. But then a long 24 km trek through snow. A huge slide down the mountain slope as a shortcut. The sun feels weird - our feet are freezing while our bodies perspire. Spend the night at Rumsu.

25th: Back to Babeli: We are the champions, dancing all the way back to camp. Walking like experienced pahadis. No worries in the world. Back to civilization. The Babeli camp looks like heaven compared to what we've been staying in. Emotional farewell to some group members who leave today. At night, we tell stories of our achievements to the next group about to start. For tomorrow we part.

26th: Shopping: The final farewell, then to Manali - re-learning how to live with concrete and crowds. But I'm too much in a hurry to get home. I’ve had the time of my life. Nothing could compare to this.

Deepak, Brar, Nikhil, Manish, Sunil, Sonal and Sandhu - We Made It!

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Copyright (c) 2004, Nikhil Goyal. All rights reserved.