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The Snow Mountain Story …

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“We always talk about the views from the top of mountains, but I’d rather talk about the journey to the top.”

Brahmatal Trek

For you, it’s just another first-timer guy writing about his Brahmatal trek in The Great Himalayas (you have to respect mountains), but for me, it’s the story of a guy who wanted to go to the mountains of the north and probably take a step towards realising how he wants the rest of his life to look.

Brahmatal Trek

One of the best decisions (and risks) I have taken in the last couple of years: a 12000 ft. climb, a 10 kg rucksack, the highest snowfall of the year, inadequate packing and uncertainty at every step—all of it on my first try. But that’s what makes it legendary!

Day 1 :Lohajung, the base camp

Sunrise at Lohajung base camp
Sunrise at Lohajung base camp

We reached the base camp of Trek the Himalayas the night before, and I vividly remember the chills I felt when I got down from the car. I literally felt the cold in my bones, and I was shivering so badly that I could not keep still. All my confidence about facing the cold was swept away in just a couple of minutes after landing my feet here (we Mumbaikars are awfully overconfident).

The next morning here was just soooo blissful (one of the best sunrises I have ever seen in my life), and we forgot that we had a trek to pack for. We were obviously late because of all that sunrise and morning mountains, and as if that weren’t enough, it started snowing—the first snow of the season and probably my life.

Day 2 : A night by the mysterious Bekaltal lake

The first step is always hard, but it gets a lot harder when you have to step into three feet of snow. As majestic as it felt to experience the season’s first snowfall, it made every step equally difficult. I remember that even after the way I felt cold the night earlier, I was telling my friend that what would it be like if it snowed now? and one of the TTH members heard it and told us after a while, “Your prayers have been heard; look, it’s going to snow now!” and it literally felt like the best day of my life. But little did we know that it was not going to stop until the end of the day.

Brahmatal Trek
Not so green woods in 1 hour of snowfall

We started with a lot of enthusiasm and smiles, and why not? The further we walked, the more it felt like heaven: the village and woods gradually merging along the path, the lush greenery in the distance beginning to be covered by layers of snow. A couple of hours into the woods, all I could see now was the blistering white snow, and all I could hear was the crackling sound of snow steps. It was difficult to walk on snow and even more difficult to stay still as the temperature was dipping like anything. After a long day in the woods, when we crossed a hill, we could finally see some colour apart from white, and that was our first day staying beside a beautiful frozen lake. There are literally four bright orange tents and a dinner/kitchen tent. Nothing else. We were the first batch of the season and the only ones. We took a late-evening stroll to the mysterious lake of Bekaltal while heading to the Brahmatal lake. Our trek leader shared some tales of the late afternoon, and I just stood there watching the colours of the sky reflect in the half frozen water of the lake.

Brahmatal base camp - Camp site 1
Camp site 1
Half frozen water of Bekaltal
Camp site 1 Half frozen water of Bekaltal

Day 3 : A night by Brahmatal Lake

One of the hardest nights that I spent in the mountains—so many layers of clothes, padded jackets, and a sleeping bag—all failed in front of the cold waves of the dark night. The temperature had almost reached -15C, and we were so helpless that all we could do was just lie there, feeling nothing but numbness. I still remember talking to my friend when we were both acting dead.

Abhi : “Bro!” zinda hai tu?

Shree : Abhi tak to hoon par lagta hai subah nahi hoga  (followed by paragliding guy’s dialouge)

Abhi: Mumbai ki yaad aa rahi hai bro!

Brahmatal trek - catching my breath mid trek at Jhandi top
Catching my breath in the middle of a tremor at Jhandi top

Every morning in the mountains brings a new and unexpected view. We woke up and did one of the hardest things: get our asses out of the sleeping bag and put the sleeping bag back into the sack. My shoe laces were sticking up like a twig, hot water from last night had frozen in a thermos, and there was a thick layer of ice inside the tent; one could only imagine the cold. But the sun was out, and that was a good sign for all. I started another walking journey into the woods. Every step of the way, it becomes more difficult, challenging, and beautiful. It was a long and tiring day, but campsite 2 was in a beautiful spot. We literally crawled to the camps in the end, and everyone was dead tired. We all congregated in the kitchen tent because it was slightly warmer than the other tents. Some were shivering, and some were checking their legs for frostbite. We didn’t think we could survive another harsh night in the mighty Himalayas. Before my mind could go numb and stop working forever, I came up with the idea to descend from peak to base in a single day to avoid spending one more night in the cold (necessity is the mother of inventions, indeed). Iss idea ka khulli baaho se swagat hua! Our trek leaders were slightly skeptical, but since it was a descent and our desire to get down was stronger than giving up, they took a chance and we were off to the summit.

Brahmatal Trek - campsite2
Campsite 2

Day 4 : The Summit and Submit

The Summit and Submit
The Summit

Another day, another spectacular sunrise, and an amazing breakfast thanks to Mohan (kudos to the TTH team). This morning was slightly better, yet our decision to descend in a single day made me question my ability to carry my heavy rucksack. Will I be able to lift it and still climb up to the summit and get back to the base on my own? I shuffled some of my jackets to offload the luggage of my friends and decided to take the chance, so off we go to the summit.

Reaching the summit was undoubtedly one of the most difficult climbs of the trip, but it confirmed the adage “best views come after the hardest climbs,” and boy, was it beautiful! I sat there talking to Mt. Trisul from afar, as if the mountain asked me, Did you do it ?, and I replied “Yes.” “What did it cost ?” asked the mountain, and I answered “everything with love.”

Brahmatal Trek - the submit
The submit
The moment where I stopped to breathe in the last moment of journey
In the final moments of the journey, I stopped to breathe.

In the end, all that mattered to me were the things I experienced through the Brahmatal trek, and if I could bring you one lesson from the mountains, then it would be

“Keep walking, the summit of your life is yet to come, and when it does, “Stay there and enjoy the moment, because the next summit will be a long way away.”

Stay in the moment and close to the mountains.

PS: A huge shout out to the Trek the Himalayas team for the best trek leaders (Minakshi and Aditya) and Spirit of the Mountain Mr. Mohan for jalebi at 11,000 feet, and to @planned_bagpacker for always backing me up!

Written By
Abhishek Kateliya
@Abhikuchbhi_blog