Contributed By: Karishma Patil and Kishore Balaji Rajan
Edited By: J K Varshika
‘The mountains are calling, and I must go’ is a quote by John Muir, one of America’s most famous and influential outdoor enthusiasts. The urge to be outdoors gives a feeling of being in one with nature. It doesn’t have to be just the mountains. Things like kayaking, hiking in the woods, skiing hills or just sitting in a park – they all give bliss, energy, and joy. It was this urge that made a bunch of us students from IIM Bangalore to sign up for Himalayan Mountain Challenge. But it was more fun than challenge, to be honest. We were set to travel to Dehradun on 28th November and stayed in our respective inns till we all met the next day at Hotel Dhrona at 6 am in the morning.
Day 1 – Dehradun – Raithal
It was a chilly morning and most of us were tucked inside our multi-layered clothing. Batch of 33 got themselves comfortably seated in 3 tempo travelers. We were set to travel to Raithal, the base camp for the Dayara Bugyal trek, through Mussoorie, Uttarkashi, and Batwari, which was a 9-hour drive from Dehradun. As the drive took us through lovely forest stretches, few of us were glued to our seat enjoying the scenic beauty outside while few to their mobile phones texting their beloved ones, friends or family as this was the last stretch through which they will have access to mobile networks. After 100 climbs and falls and 1000 hairpin curves, we reached Raithal where we were camped in a comfortable guest house and were briefed by India hikes. As the day came to an end on that cold evening, we witnessed the brilliant colors of sunset over Mt. Jaonli and Draupadi ka Danda peaks.
Day 2 – Raithal to Gui
This was the first day of trekking. This very moment was the thing a lot of us were waiting for from weeks. Everyone was excited about something beautiful coming their way but not knowing exactly how it’s going to be. The moment when you hit the trail and you know there is no going back for the next 5 days but will be experiencing a disparate life with snow clad peaks in view and a starry sky over your head, is sure to kick in your adrenaline. Post our interaction with the villagers for our project (bringing about a behavior change among the stakeholders for better waste management) we started our journey to Gui. The trail from Raithal to Gui was an ascending one. There were a couple of activities along the way. A small quiz regarding the mountain ranges in the Uttarakhand region. Next was to collect leaves of 5 tree varieties. The path was quite arduous but was an enjoyable one too. Close to 2pm we reached Gui campsite and lay still to catch our breath. We were taught to pitch our tents, how to use sleeping bags, etc. Till about 8pm in the night, the sky was cloudy, and we could barely see any star. Just as the clock touched 9pm, the sky started clearing and a sub-group of us got the dining mat out and did a stargazing session for about half an hour. Stargazing in the mountains is something which is a breathtaking experience but also gives you the realization about how tiny your problems are in the grand scheme of things.
Day 3 – Gui to Barnala
Best lesson you can learn about discipline is from nature and from people staying in the mountains. Hot water for drinking, tea, breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. were served everyday sharp at the given time, not a single minute delay, which created huge respect for the cooks and the backend team. Trek organizers throughout emphasized strongly and consistently on importance of discipline, respect towards nature and people around. They say, and we second that, these things ensure one gets maximum opportunities to experience various wonders, thrown by nature, which are waiting for us to appreciate them. Each trekker started the day with credulous enthusiasm and hopes to meet the snow trails, if not snow mountains. Teams were strategizing and completing with each other for reaching the campsite in shortest time and winning the coveted mountain money while wearing the caps of right trail discoverer. Everyone was trekking with the optimal speed, trying to stick to the team, enjoying the chasing mountains along the trails, looking for clues around and most importantly sinking in the fact that the Summit is just a day away. This campsite was beautiful but daunting. Next task came with huge challenge for some teams – it was a cooking competition. We, who never prepared tea, were asked to cook a four-course meal for 10 people! Impossible was the word. However, we realized it was blessing in disguise. The heat from the stoves was the most desirable thing in that seemingly hyperborean cold. Teams experienced MasterChef scrutiny moment at the end of the task but gelled up quite well over the meal.
Day 4 – Barnala to Dayara to Chillapada
Zeal, excitement, hopes everything was on higher side of the spectrum today. Dayara top was waiting for every one of us. Felt like a yearning desire was going to be completed. Snow started showing its vestige along the trails and teasing us to march to the snow mountains. It was beautiful but equally dangerous to walk along these snow trails. Trek lead and coordinators taught us various tricks on how to walk on such trails, how to identify best routes, how to pump up the energy if you were worn out, how to face the wild animals etc. Watching Prof. Partha and Prof. Hema climbing the mountains with matching, perhaps more vigour, encouraged everyone around. A small steep way led us to a breathtaking view. Large Bugyals (meadows) were surrounded by snow mountains, covered in unstrained clouds and peeking sunshine. This view followed us till we reached a point where the Dayara Summit was visible, and a large snow mountain was standing between us. The exhausted bodies suddenly got charged, within few minutes some of our friends were at the top of the mountain.
The feeling was beyond one can describe in words. Few of us tried to capture it through selfies, pictures and videos while few others were sitting quiet and living the moment. The most meaningful thing all of us experienced as a group though, was to feel that rush of gratitude towards the most important people and things in our lives. A sudden splash of memories started flooding, the most recent being how the nature helped us reach the summit. Spectacular view and sense of accomplishment accompanied by memories of our beloved ones and humility for our existence was an interesting combination indeed.
Due to assigned turnaround time and unpredictable nature, we started whispering a fond adieu to that astonishing but humbling view. Next 2 days were full of activities, biting cold, reflections but one thing kept us warm was that sense of achievement. There was realization of importance of preparation, respect towards the nature, modesty, team work and discipline. This experiential learning about self-management, team management, and relationship management amidst tons of externalities which might not be favorable and are beyond your control, again brought a breeze which was whispering in our ears ‘The mountains are calling, and I must go’.
Karishma and Kishore are PGP 2017-2019 students of IIM Bangalore who successfully completed the Himalayan Mountain Challenge during December 2018.