All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
My story starts from when I was forced to live in a small town due to my family’s situation, and I always wanted to fly high among the gigantic buildings of metro cities. Gradually I learnt to love life in India’s small towns – the rain, the birds, the sceneries all around me.
I started trekking, and started to climb small mountains. Like every amateur mountaineer, I also dreamt of climbing Mt. Everest. Even though it seemed like something of a pipe dream to most people, I was determined to achieve this goal.
The million dollar question was – how do I get started?
First things first, I decided to make myself as fit as possible. I started a strict regimen of walking several miles a day, along with running, and cycling. A healthy diet (with some cheat days, of course!) was of the utmost importance to build my strength.
The second phase of my journey was all about contacting various organisations, and experienced mountaineers so I could break into the field. After many setbacks, I finally got a wonderful opportunity to climb Mt. Friendship Peak (at Solang near Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India) as part of a group of climbers.
I was on cloud nine, with butterflies in my stomach every time I thought of my impending adventure.
That’s when life played a joke – like any commonplace movie with twists and turns. I’d suddenly caught the coronavirus that had been going all around.
Do I laugh, or do I cry? It felt as if my world was falling apart.
It certainly wasn’t the first time when my hopes had been dashed. The recovery phase wasn’t easy at all. I was constantly cold, weak, and most of all – alone. It felt like being in a jail at times. Oh, how I wished I could go home!
After what felt like ages, I completed my 10 day stay at the government hospital. The real challenge started when I had to stay isolated at home for a further 14 days. My relatives, and neighbours treated me as if I was some sort of an outcast, and had ostracised my family over this as well.
Covid-19 hadn’t just weakened my lungs, it had also shaken my confidence. The unwelcome behaviour of people around me had also taken its toll on my mental health.
I had started to experience anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. As if this wan’t enough,…my mother fell sick again. Seeing her unable to get up felt like another nail in my coffin. I don’t think I had ever faced tougher days ever.
After what seemed like an eternity, my mother’s condition started to improve again and we slowly nursed her back to health. My mother encouraged me to continue with the expedition.
I had to act fast – there was only a week to go before we left. Once again, I began my fitness regimen wholeheartedly. My fitness wasn’t the only problem, though. My mother’s medical care had rung up some serious bills. I didn’t have enough funds to go on my expedition.
I soon discovered that raising funds wasn’t an easy job. I kept on facing several rejections, from my work department, to MLAs and to many more people I approached during this time.
I felt that people were trying to discourage me and break me mentally. Somehow, I managed to scoop up some funds with the help of my district administration, The Women and Child Development cell, and Atal Sena. This allowed me to leave for Manali just in time for the expedition.
Our team had approximately 20 people across 6 states. Being a complete newcomer, I was subject to many doubts and was not trusted easily.
I felt lonely, especially when no one bothered to help me out despite knowing that i was a beginner.
People thought that I was weak, and better suited to a different vocation. Some went as far as to place bets on how much I’d be able to climb.
I wasn’t going to give up before we’d even begun – especially when it had been so hard to get here in the first place. With my hard work and dedication, I was slowly able to keep up with my team members in all our activites before the actual climb started.
We started off our climb successfully, and soon enough, the entire team had reached the base camp, Lady Leg, safely. I could not imagine feeling any happier than I had ever been – it seemed like a great reward to me. It certainly boosted my confidence very well and made me look forward to the rest of the climb.
The next part of our expedition consisted of acclimatising ourselves to the new altitude and starting various load ferrying trips to the Advanced Base Camp. After an exhausting couple of days, we spent a night at the Advanced Base Camp and retired early in order to be ready for the next leg of our journey.
The next day, we started moving to the base of the mountain col. It was very difficult, with many hours of climbing until we reached and yet many more ahead. My boots made it extra difficult to walk on the glacier, and I had to be extra careful so I wouldn’t hurt myself or anyone else.
Upon reaching that milestone, we were treated to the best sunrise I’d seen in my young life. It felt and looked like the heaven that I always dreamt of in my imagination.
The sun rose higher and higher and once we were done basking in its glow, we realised that nearly half our team was feeling ill. Seeing as how mountains aren’t a place to take any serious risks, they turned to go back down to our camps and rest.
Only 8 of us were still healthy enough to attempt the summit that day – and believe it or not – I was one of them!
I was completely amazed at myself and my resilience. I had not expected to come this far on my very first expedition. It had been a tough climb, but the day wasn’t over. I continued along with the rest of my team, and slowly but surely, we started progressing towards the summit of the mountain.
The summit itself wasn’t easy to achieve, but once we’d reached it, I felt a rush of energy like no other. To achieve something like this as part of a team – was an immensely proud moment for all of us, and this feeling continued all the way back to our camp and more.
Upon reaching home, I was surprised to see the very warm welcome given by many, many people who’d heard about our expedition.
The icing on the cake was my achievement earning a special mention by the Indian Minister for Health, Dr Harsh Vardhan.
Looking back, this has humbled me to a great degree, and has strengthened my resolve to achieve higher and more tougher goals in the coming months. I hope to train harder and look forward to adding more feathers to my cap in this journey.