Jon Krakauer said, “In life, it is not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once“. Trekking provides you with that chance for which you don’t need any prior skills. While trekking through the Everest zone (heights over 17000ft), on some days you trek for 12 hours straight and with every passing hour you gain height, and the limited oxygen increases the chance of acute mountain sickness. You feel the seriousness of the challenge when you encounter the numerous ongoing rescue missions. You’re forced to trek in snowfall if you reach the highest point post noon. Our group trekked for 3 days in snowfall. After descending to rocky terrain, your knees hurt. You develop blisters which make trekking more difficult. At night, winds don’t allow you to sleep as the tent flutters and uneven land makes you drift all night. You don’t bathe for more than 10 days, getting down with a cold which aggravates as you trek. All these small challenges coexist with the bigger challenge.
You also face multiple ethical dilemmas. Consider this, for instance, you’re carrying 6 antibiotic tablets for yourself as a precautionary measure, a fellow trekker gets ill in the initial phase of the trek itself and looks to you for help. You know you are susceptible to cold and there is no availability of medicines ahead, and without medicine, your condition only aggravates. Would you part away with your medicine? Would you share someone else’s backpack weight or your water? Such difficulties you’ll face during the trek. These situations help you appreciate critical leadership skills like empathy and pragmatism.
Challenges have their rewards in terms of breath-taking views. You get to see five of the top ten highest peaks including Everest, the largest glacier of the Himalayan region, lakes with crystal clear (blue/ green) water which can be attributed to the sacredness with which Nepali people hold them. From morning to evening lakes take on different colour which has a transfixing effect. Sunset views with peak tops carrying yellowish luminance, it all gets embedded in your consciousness permanently. On average, every 2 days, the scenery changes completely. From lush green forests to walking along the river bed to zones of arid plains to glaciers and finally to the most magnificent peaks of the world. This endlessly changing horizon is a stark contrast to our daily monotonous lives. It ignites multiple flames of joy within you. You get to view a variety of beautiful bird species, hopping alongside you and humming all the way. You also get exposure to Nepali culture via food, language and especially by interacting with your guide. Our guide was from the world-renowned Sherpa community who take a lot of pride in their capabilities, and many of them have a family tradition of guiding summiteers. They relish lentils and rice coined as dal-bhat power! The simple life of mountain people with no complication of city life and their ever smiling face makes you ponder what true happiness is.
Staying in tea houses is also an enriching experience as the Everest highway (as popularly known) is visited by trekkers from many countries – America, Israel, China, Japan etc. In our 17 days of the trek, we got various opportunities to interact with them, sitting around the dining area with much-needed chimneys keeping us all warm. After a day-long trek through the snow, rain and difficult terrain, reaching the next tea house feels like a feat and when you rest near the chimney, you attain a trance-like state for an hour or two. Words fail to describe this feeling. At the base camp, you get to interact with summiteers. We interacted with the ONGC team, and the Australian expedition and learnt about their training, their past adventurous experiences and what drove them to trek the mighty Mount Everest. You can also pair your international trekking experience with the 3rd highest bungee jumping (525 ft.), river rafting and other adventure activities as well in Nepal. One also has to appreciate the cleanliness maintained during the trek by every trekker and the local people. This was a welcome change for us.
I have met a lot of people who initially went on a trek reluctantly because of nudging by peers but their first trek never became the last. The charm of this divine and pristine beauty, the accompanying challenges and the idea of meeting total strangers who give you a fresh look and see you in an entirely new perspective transforms every first-timer into a regular. Most importantly, Simplicity brings clarity at least for a short while and the development of meditative state of mind, you just have to walk and experience.
“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.” – Cheryl Strayed