Experience Travel

If you feel life is just passing you by, go climb a mountain

Three women, over 60 years of age, decide to trek to Annapurna Base Camp

It was on a whim that three of us, all women over 60, decided to trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). At 26,545 feet, Annapurna 1 is the 10th tallest peak on our planet.

She towers over a dozen or so lesser eminences and collectively they are called the Annapurna Range — Annapurna 1, Annapurna South, Gangapurna, Macchapuchhare, Himchuli, etc, most of which are over 8000 metres high. Even seasoned mountaineers hesitate to scale the peak — it has been attempted less than a hundred times. Reaching Annapurna Base Camp is considered even more difficult than the more popular Everest Base Camp trek.

It did not deter us even though none of us had climbed mountains before. We had not even met each other in years, as we lived in different cities. The reason why we wanted to undertake this daunting endeavour was a feeling that life is passing us by and we must do something unusual to redeem our self-esteem.

The ABC trek started off as a vague idea exchange on our emails and soon the threads began to pile up. Distances between San Diego, Bengaluru and Delhi were digitally bridged in an instant. A flurry of emails, frequent Skypes and confabulations later, we were set — almost. Of course, sweating it out in the gym for an hour every day for three months was much less daunting than dealing with the detractors — family and friends.

An upbeat atmosphere at Annapurna Base Camp

An upbeat atmosphere at Annapurna Base Camp  

So, finally, here we were, huffing and puffing up the steep slopes from Nayapul, a village 85 kms away from Pokhara. Our teenaged porters addressed us as Nani and Dadi, but we ignored that and set our rheumy eyes firmly on our goal.

We began our trek from Siwai, a quiet village on the mountainside. The ascent here was gentle, if narrow, along lush alpine forests. By the time we reached New Bridge, another alpine village, it was already dusk and we had to halt there instead of going further to Chumrung. Missing your destination on the very first day leads to pile-ups. But we didn’t mind at all — we had no offices to get back to.

Chumrung, our second camp, was in a picturesque valley on the banks of Modi Khola, one of the tributaries of the magnificent Kali Gandaki. In the next four days, we crossed Dovan, Himalaya, Bamboo and Deorali to reach Macchapuchhare Base Camp (MBC). Of course, our knees rioted especially in the squat toilets, and backs grumbled and refused to host even the lightest backpack, our digestive systems struck work, our noses dripped in high altitudes, but our determination did not waver.

On day six, we left MBC around 4 am and trekked in the dark, a band-torch strapped to our foreheads to reach ABC before sunrise. While it took every ounce of resolve we could muster, it remains the most memorable moment of our entire journey — the sight of hundreds of flickering lamps wending their way up the steep mountainside in an otherwise dark night, inky enough to hide even Macchapuchhare. Of course, the crowning glory was the sight of the golden rays of the rising sun caressing Annapurna and her entourage!

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 2:51:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/peaking-at-60-if-you-feel-life-is-just-passing-you-by-go-climb-a-mountain/article23433086.ece

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