Over three years ago, I climbed the Indrahara Pass (4,342 metres /14,245 ft), a part of the Himalayan Mountain range, along with four other travellers I met in my backpacker hostel.
The whole trek lasted three days, and climbing the pass has been the most challenging physical activity I have undertaken in my life.
So, the initial plan was to trek to a spot called Triund (2,800 metres) which was roughly a 3–4 hour trek from the point where we started and head back the same day.
But once we reached Triund by afternoon, my friend and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to go all the way and reach the top. So, what was supposed to be a one-day affair turned out to be a three-day trek.
From Triund, we headed to a spot called Snowline, which took us about two hours.
There was a little hut-like cafe in Snowline, and we sat there covered in thick blankets, drank tea, met other trekkers and had some interesting conversations.
We camped in snowline for the night. We got up early the next day, had some breakfast and left for the Indrahara Pass around 6.45.
The scenery on the way was stunning, and it reminded me of some of the scenic places in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. I loved how silent, tranquil and deserted these places were.
Up till Snowline, the trek was somewhat easy. But 2-3 hours into the second day of the trek, things started to get difficult.
It was raining, hailstones were falling, and the terrain we were trekking through was covered in thick snow and getting steeper. Added to that, the lower amount of oxygen due to the higher altitude made it incredibly exhausting.
I was also wearing casual shoes, which obviously wasn't helpful when my foot was getting stuck almost knee-deep in snow.
Things could have been better if we had taken longer breaks to recover. But we hardly took any breaks longer than ten minutes for several hours.
Our guide said that it was important that we kept a good pace, so he didn’t let us rest much. He said things could get tricky if we didn’t reach Indrahara by noon because the weather could rapidly change and turn hostile in these mountains.
Almost an hour or so away from Indrahara, the guide asked all of us if we really wanted to go all the way as things were going to get riskier from here.
One of the trekkers in my group had second thoughts. He was the only one in our group who had a kid, so he said he didn’t want to risk his life because his kid depended on him.
I on the other hand, had never been more exhausted in my life. I had no clue how I would have the energy to head back if I was going to climb up for another hour. But I didn't want to stop.
I didn’t want to come so close and not go all the way. Anyway, eventually all of us decided to proceed upward together.
We finally reached the Indrahara pass by around 12 pm and it was satisfying to have made it up there using every bit of energy I had in me.
Descending the mountain was the really scary part and there were multiple times during the trek when I could have easily died.
The first couple of occasions happened when I was descending the snow-covered mountain and lost my footing. I slipped and went sliding down. But luckily for me the guide caught hold of me on both occasions.
The next happened on the third day when I was heading back from Snowline. I told my friends to go ahead without me because I didn’t have the energy to keep pace with them.
But an hour later I lost my way. I desperately searched for the way back but the only accessible path I could find was too dangerous. I was stuck and I couldn’t see anyone nearby, so I decided to take the risky path.
A lot of people get a kick out of engaging in life-threatening activities and say that when you’re living on the edge, you feel so alive and become intensely focused on the present moment. Well, that was certainly not the case with me.
As I took the risky and narrow path, what I found puzzling was that I couldn’t get my mind to quieten down, concentrate fully and move carefully even though it was a matter of life and death.
I soon realised that the small branches and twigs I was clinging onto to get to the other side could come off any moment, and I could fall and it would be fatal. And this time, there would be no guide to save me if I slipped.
I prayed for help and searched in vain for another route to head back.
Around 30 minutes after I got lost, I saw a group of trekkers who lost their way just like me. Now I had company.
So, all of us decided to search for a safe route together and to my relief, we eventually succeeded. The rest of the trek thankfully went without any hiccups.
After the trek, one thing was clear to me. I definitely needed to improve my fitness and stamina. Back when I was in school, my stamina was the reason I would win long distance races in athletics. But during the trek I was the one who physically struggled the most, even though three of my fellow trekkers were in their forties.
One of them was only a couple of years older than me, and he never seemed to be exhausted during the entire trek. He credited his fitness level to his habit of doing CrossFit training (a high-intensity form of workout)
The trek was a wake-up call to change my lifestyle and be more physically active, and now each morning, I begin my day by exercising, and I’m sure if I did a trek like that today, I would have a much easier time.
Trekking the Indrahara was a journey of many “firsts” for me. It was my first time seeing snow, experiencing sub-zero temperatures, trekking a mountain and sleeping in a tent.
The trek changed the way I viewed myself and it left me with the feeling that I am much more capable than I think.
Looking back, I feel proud to have fulfilled a dream of mine to trek the Himalayas, but more than anything, I feel grateful to have returned from that trek in one piece. 😅
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