Guestblog, Travel

One more step [ #Guestpost ]

Saturday, May 6, 2017

4300 m above MSL*

I land on my knees with a faint ‘plop’ sound emanating from the soft snow. I feel faint and dizzy. I fumble with the straps of my backpack to free the bottle of water safely ensconced amidst the garbage inside it. My trouser is getting wet from the snow and a remote corner of my mind registers it, but the rest of it is either too dazed or too scared to do anything about it.

I greedily consume precious few drops of water and return the bottle to its safe haven. The G-Shock watch around my wrist indicates the time as 12:25 PM – I have been walking for six hours straight. I am gasping for breath, feeling claustrophobic in the great white open of the Himalayas. It was Bangalore’s claustrophobic nature that drove me back to these majestic mountains in the first place. I shake my head to rattle my brain into focus.

I lean on my trekking pole and pull myself up. “one, two, three, four, five…”, I count to myself and take a step forward. The first step becomes the second, the second trudges into the third and the third grafts into the fourth. One step at a time. I stop. My eyesight grows bleary. I think of just giving up.

Ok, let me backtrack a bit. You might be thinking ‘why is he making a big fuss out of a little trek?’. Didn’t realize that you were reading about my trek? My bad. With an over the top narration, I might have led you in into thinking that I was climbing the Everest.

It was Jax’s fall which triggered everything, I guess. He slid nearly 300 m down a slope, almost into oblivion, and damaged his ankle ligaments before the timely intervention of Ram Lal – one of our guides. I have acrophobia. That means an irrational fear of heights. But that hasn’t stopped me from skydiving, bungee jumping, or walking on the sky bridge with its transparent floor in Langkawi. I guess I need these adrenaline fixes to counter my fears.

This was my second tryst with the Himalayas. This year, our group of twelve had the honor of breaking trail on the trek through ‘Rupin Pass’. We were a mix of experienced and inexperienced, old and young, calm and brash people united with the single purpose of getting through the rigors of one of the toughest treks in the country. Jax, 58, was the de-facto leader of our group. He is a very seasoned campaigner on these mountaineers and it was a huge surprise when he lost his footing on a slope and went careening down towards the rocks lining up the bottom.

And with that, my acrophobia came roaring back. It was as though someone or something had put their fist inside my throat and was slowly constricting my windpipe. Every step I took from then, I felt like I was slipping.

I look around and notice that Roshan is smoking. He is cracking jokes with one of the porters. Kriti is taking selfies and Shan is lying down on a rock. Far ahead I see Jax limping forward, with a guide in tow. The near vertical Rupin pass smiles down at me. I have another two kilometers to trudge along in the snow before I can  attempt the climb through the pass.

Am I really this scared of heights? I mean, I used to jump off my balcony into the sand below when I was a kid. I think, more than anything, it’s the thought of getting injured or even dying in a remote place that scares me now. I think about my wife – pregnant with our second child and my young son. I suddenly feel extremely selfish for running to the hills. What if I lose my footing like Jax and plummet to my death? Will it be fair to them? I try to push away my fears. I see the porters sliding down Rupin Pass, having already carried our luggage to the top. They are screeching with unbridled joy as they return to the base to assist our climb.

Narendra and Ram Lal come to my side. ‘Don’t worry’, the former says. ‘I won’t let you fall’.

‘You better not’, I reply mock-threatening. ‘Otherwise, I will come back as a ghost and haunt your whole village.’       

They both laugh. I shake my head smiling, accept a drag from Ram Lal’s cigarette, pick my backpack and start trudging.  

*MSL – Mean Sea Level

Howdy folks! This december starts with a bang on my blog as I run a unique bloghop with 28 bloggers to write guestposts for me and each other all this month. I hope my readers will catch all the action and support this drive with their comments and feedback to encourage the writing. To know more about this blog hop in detail, you could catch this post here.

 About Varad

step-travel-holiday-guestpost-shalzmojo-december-mountain35 years old businessman, husband to a beautiful wife and father two awesome boys. Used to play cricket at the district leagues level a long time back. Recent fixes are tennis and trekking the Himalayas. Love to tell stories – genre no bar. Hopefully, I would like to write something that is worth publishing.
 A post he would like some love shown to is here
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19 thoughts on “One more step [ #Guestpost ]

  1. You are courageous to actually climb mountains jump off cliffs and do all the adventurous things you do Varad . I too am scared of heights and steel myself to climb up but bungee jumping …. I doubt I’d be able to do that!

    1. Bungee and Sky Diving are easy. The fear will fester only until the moment you start falling. After that, adrenaline will take care of everything. On the other hand, high altitude trekking and parasailing/gliding are slow tortures. I read a great couple of lines in ‘Walking the Himalayas’ by Levison Wood, which aptly describes my relationship with the majestic mountains – ‘A Mountain – like a seductress – though irresistible, had to be treated with caution; it was wise to know when to walk away, even if deep down, you knew one day you’ll return.’

      Thanks for the kind comment. I still would request you to give trekking in the Himalayas a try. It’s truly life changing.

  2. Whoa! Just reading this account of your trek gave me the goosebumps, Varad! I, too, am scared of heights – I find it tough, at times, to stand on the balcony of my 7th floor apartment! I really can’t imagine how you completed the almost vertical pass!

    1. Crossing the actual pass was only a half an hour of strenuous climbing, but reaching the base of the pass takes five days of hardcore trekking. Rupin pass is one of the, if not the toughest trek in our country. I’m glad I completed it without breaking anything (sunburnt face aside). Thanks for the comment, Shilpa. As I’m gonna keep repeating this along the comment section, you should give the Himalayas a try.

    1. Thank you for the kind comment Rupa. Fear is real but it is just a state of mind. Once you start fighting it, the experience is truly exhilarating.

  3. Wow, that was such a vivid narration! I am not so fond of heights myself and I can very well identify with the fear! Yet, you chose to take on this daunting trail and I am sure you made it despite your fears! Way to go Varad! Loving this bloghop idea Shalzz, great initiative!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Kala. I might have waxed lyrical in my narrative, but ask any of my trekking buddies they will tell stories of them laughing at my fears. Indeed, I’m glad that we managed to complete the trek with minimum of damages (maximum damage to ego though)

    1. Nonsense! You of all people should know how real my acrophobia is 😛 BTW, I should have been planning for my Dayra Bugyal trek next week. Wonder who threw a spanner in the works 😀 😀

  4. Great narration! One can feel the exhilaration. I am a lamb when it comes to anything adventurous but good to see you conquering your fear of heights. Would love to read more of your travails.

  5. Himalayan passes are treacherous for sure. This post gave me goose bumps Varad! I froze when you reflected about the pregnant wife and kiddo back at home. I feel, the love and the pull of the family gave u courage to complete it successfully!

  6. Well, It was only after reading the 2nd or 3rd paragraph I realized you were actually narrating a travel story of yours! (If i am not wrong! :-P). That is very interesting narration. A lethal combination of travel story and narration style resembling fiction!

  7. Wow! This made for a very exhilarating and fascinating read and a remote corner of my mind is getting excited and awakening the dormant adventure cells!! Thanks for the nudge, Varad. And wishing you some more amazing adventure trips WITH your family 🙂

  8. Amazing narration. I could actually make out reading first couple of lines that this was a story of some himalayan trek. Loved it thoroughly.

    I too am acrophobic and I don’t think I would survive bungee jumping ever. 😀

  9. I started reading and then realised this gotta be you.. thought its fiction first but it was good to know its your story. I have this weird fear of heights which gives me cold feet at times all of a sudden but not always. I am excited to try out adventure sports like the recent paragliding which I absolutely loved but mountaineering is not my thing.

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