Sunday, June 19, 2011

Journey to Everest Base Camp - The dream trek of my life

It was in my school days, when attending an All India Rock climbing camp at Manali in the Himalayas that a dream of climbing the majestic Himalayas was sown.  Way back in 70s, the National Cadet Corps (NCC) was mostly the only way youngsters could experience adventure, camping, trekking and other outdoor activities. Things have changed today you have organisations like Great Hyderabad Adventure Club (GHAC) to help you fulfill your dreams for any kind of adventure.

Sports took centre stage for me when I was young and much later in life when my children grew up, that the passion towards trekking started to rekindle during holiday trips and religious temple treks. As family, we tried to find an organization who could take us on well planned treks, but we could never find one and the desire to enjoy treks was sadly not fulfilled.

In 2009, something wonderful happened when a friend suggested that to look up Hyderabad Adventure club now known as Great Hyderabad Adventure Club was planning a day trek to Bhongir and Yadigirigutta. I joined them and it came out to be an amazing trek and a chance to meet lots of young friends.

It was a great beginning and that dream run has been on since. Then came the first ever outstation trek of GHAC to Masinagudi with Rajan Patel as the organizer. This needs mention because in the lighter moods he commented on knowing my age to be above 50 that "We don’t carry baggages". After 3 years of regular trekking, 30 plus in number some leisure and some difficult I graduated by not being a baggage but becoming Sirji or a Fast not so old Man. I have enjoyed every experience and the growing with GHAC.

Why not? The crowning glory was the successful completion of Everest Base Camp Trek in May 2011, a dream as old as 38 years coming true. I thank GHAC ,for all the wonderful Treks and some very nice friends whom I consider brothers and sisters of the wild. I would love to name many but the list is as big as 5000 or more.

My journey with GHAC from a single day trek to a heroic 14 days trek to EBC has been an amazing experience. It was Growing Physically, Mentally and Emotionally.  After the completion of every trek, it has been the fuel which fired the desire and courage of attempting EBC. Though trained last year also, I was not sure of my confidence in the physical preparedness. I backed off from attempting then.

This year, despite business compulsions and other personal engagements, my family supported me in taking up the challenge. That gave me the will to train seriously and prepare myself, physically and mentally to a good shape. I needed to prepare much more than the other younger members, mostly to overcome the worry of getting altitude sickness which can stop your progress and can only mean a walk back to lower altitudes. The hard work while training paid off. I was one of the very few members who did not suffer altitude sickness or any other problems of exertion or physical pain. Instead I mostly was the first to finish every leg of our daily climbs and remained the pacesetter.  This kept me motivated and charged for all the 14 days and truly enjoyed the luxury of being fit even though age was never in my favour as compared to the other team members. 

The Everest Base Camp (EBC) as per Google is one of the best and the toughest treks. That involves walking and climbing 120 km through the majestic Himalayas to reach a height of 15,600 feet. It is at the foot of the Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world on the North face (Nepal). Reaching EBC was an out of the world experience which cannot be compared to any other happiness in life. The flora and fauna is so mesmerizing and beautiful that at the end of the 10 hour walk and gaining altitudes of 500 meters daily, you still cherish those moments of watching picture perfect nature. The sound of bells on the yaks, the chirping of beautiful birds and the whistling of the chilled hard breeze hitting your face is the only companion you have during those long walks. Though with a group, you are walking or climbing alone because every step of yours has to be measured and placed carefully to avoid any major fall which can be fatal if careless. For me, this journey was one of best space of my life where I could look within with continues chanting of Gayatri mantra and rejuvenate the spiritual bonding of self with the nature.      It was the true experience of Gamana vipasna, a Buddhist meditation meaning gamana (walking) and vipasna (meditation). A meditation I would conduct for others to practice attentive allowing one to be at ease with any external experience in the domain of physical, mental and emotional. 

The night halts were well cherished with the gift of Nepali hospitality in the lodges spaced on the hills as small hamlets with only solar power to support modern day technology. We never missed our phones, television, internet and all the other modern gadgets. Jokes and recalling the day’s experiences would make us laugh our way through the tiredness and pain, if any. Some of the members suffered acute altitude sickness including our group leader a very good friend Ali Razvi, my room partner who vomited more than 9 times and visited the corner for more than 4 times during a single night, but he still had the courage and will to start the climb the next day. Priyanka Singh, a young girl of our team continued to vomit and experienced hallucination, suffered bad appetite but continued the journey and finally succeeded. Few others had the same difficulty, but still went ahead to complete the expedition.   

The icing on the cake was our visit to the camp of Indian Airforce Expedition team attempting Mt. Everest at Khumbu Glacier few km up the EBC. The team consisted of women officers some of whom a few days later climbed the Everest. Ali Razvi, Priyanka, Tanvir and I were the lucky ones who had the honour of presenting the National flag to the leader as a token of respect and good luck and share a sumptuous lunch with them.

The GHAC Team at EBC
Our EBC expedition 2011 was also dedicated towards the fight against corruption as an extension to the walks we had with lots of placards and huge strength during our training at KBR. You can see me displaying the fight against corruption placard at EBC. I thank Diya and the wonderful members for the nice send off and the Heroic reception given on our successful return from the expedition.

I can go on and on, but let me have and treasure some of those wonderful moments as very personal memories to be told to my grandchildren and to friends who may have the patience.

Thank you GHAC for providing me this opportunity which I will cherish all my Life.  

Ranjan Sood.

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