Lonely Planet Magazine India: All About Altitude Sickness

Article in Lonely Planet Magazine India. June 2014.

Article in Lonely Planet Magazine India. June 2014.

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An Extraordinary Convention by the Ganges

The last time I had visited Rishikesh was in 2004. That time it was again to white water raft the Ganges, having first been there the year before. With catchy names of numerous rapids like the Golf Course, Three Blind Mice, Roller Coaster, Club House, and The Wall, white water rafting in Rishikesh was inviting, was full of adrenalin, and left you longing for more, as you returned to a boring city life. I had rafted with Outdoor Adventures India, managed by Ajay Maira and Pavane Mann. OAI was one of the few professionally managed rafting outfitters in Rishikesh, then.

Ten years later, on March 24th 2014, I returned to Rishikesh. This time to attend the ATOAI Convention at Shivpuri. ATOAI (Adventure Tour Operators Association of India), had for the first time decided to take their annual convention outdoors, by the banks of the Ganges. It was very apt for an outdoor convention to be held at. As I drove past the multiple bends and sand banks of the river, I could see rafting camps had sprouted by the dozen. Not one bank had been left vacant. It seemed to be a mess.

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Lonely Planet Magazine India: Expert Advice ~ YOU ASK US

My article in Lonely Planet Magazine India’s December 2013 issue. To contribute to the magazine is fantastic.

Article in Lonely Planet Magazine India. Dec 2013.

Article in Lonely Planet Magazine India. Dec 2013.

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The gear which got me the summit

Now that the story’s been told of what I went through while reaching the summit of Stok Kangri 6153 mtrs/ 20187 ft, the focus shifts on the core gear which took me to the top. Without them, the summit would have been out of reach. I have always been extremely selective and mindful of the gear I carry and usually veer towards the best available. Having said that here are short reviews on some of them.

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The Stok Kangri Affair Part 2

We started crossing the glacier in a single file, maintaining steady progress. I knew there would be two crevasses we had to navigate. Small ones both were, so they really weren’t a concern. The mountain looked gigantic now and yet seemed halved. We had pretty soon reached the base of the south face we were to ascend. Up and up the trail went and we just kept following it, taking breaks in between whenever we had to. On most of the ascent, the inclines ranged between 40 to 50 degrees. It would have been around 2.15 or 2.30am when Ketan started feeling drowsy and couldn’t keep up with the pace set. He wanted to sit back and sleep, a most dangerous thing to do on a steep face. The immediate risks would be the body cooling down and the cold settling in besides the dangers of loose rocks which could roll off the face. It was dark and if this were to happen, we would have no prior warning. Rocks tumbling down can be a nightmare during an ascent and can knock climbers down a face. Eventually we did halt and Ketan did exactly what we had feared he would. For a handful of seconds which seemed rather long to the rest of us, he sat down, closed his eyes and rocked his head back. He hadn’t slept well for two nights and the exhaustion had finally overtaken him. Kalpak and I kept urging and encouraging him to wake up. The continuous chatter was important to keep the morale high and not let sagging spirits overcome the mind. Chain Singh, meantime offered him tea which he had carried. It made a difference and Ketan soon regained his composure. We were ready to climb again.

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The Stok Kangri Affair: Part 1

“Ok. Debolin. It’s time for you to pack your bags, head to Stok Village and the hotel in Leh. I’ll be sending a porter with you. Be safe and await our return. We won’t be longer than tomorrow evening”. “But I’ve just reached Base Camp. It’s hardly been half an hour. I can’t go down now. Not yet”.

With a heavy heart, I gathered my bags. The world had seemingly crashed around me. I didn’t make eye contact with the rest of the team and trudged out of base camp to the shouts of farewell. I didn’t turn around either to say goodbye. I just kept walking. I wanted to stay back and experience a night at base camp. My summit dreams were over and I wasn’t even asking for that. And yet the team leader’s decision had to be adhered to. I had been viciously hit by altitude during the journey and I suppose he was right. I reached the hotel at Leh just after lunch and waited. From the hotel’s porch I shifted my gaze to the peak in the horizon. I don’t know what came over me that moment but subconsciously I promised myself I would see the world’s highest mountains over the next many years and would come back to summit this peak one day. The year was 2003.

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Merrell and 10 Years in the Himalayas

I have grown into a keen collector of adventure gear. The experience has its own thrills and highs that only a collector of such products can understand. Over the last 10 years, I have been at it, making multiple visits to stores in India and abroad, whenever I’ve had the opportunity. Most of what I’ve purchased continue protecting me well, even now, when I head to the Himalayas. Amongst them, my prized possessions are my shoes and jackets.

This year, as I get ready to embark on yet another journey, I am elated that I have a complete new set of gear which I will be taking along. And well, testing them on the trail! The tests will be for the well known American outdoor brand Merrell (http://www.merrell.com/US/en). It’s a special opportunity this, as also the year/ month that I am doing it in. I complete 10 years in the outdoors and the Himalayas this month. And when I look back, I really didn’t think then, that I would keep going and going and… . These 10 years have been immensely adventurous.

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The Annapurna Diaries Part II: Annapurna, the world’s 10th highest mountain

Contd. from The Two Peaks & the end of the fellowship

The fellowship ceased to exist as the evening and night meandered on amidst the continuing heavy snowfall around us. The helicopter would arrive on time next morning at 6.45 am. Ramnik, Sweta, Ketan and Kalpak had to be ready with their bags and wait at the helipad by 6.30 am. A 10 minute flight into ABC and another 15 minute journey to Pokhara would mean, they were 2-3 days ahead of the scheduled itinerary. This, if the weather improved and it became suitable for the chopper to fly in. This was the biggest variable involved. If it didn’t, the money would be considered sunk. There were no further discussions on the topic. For our four trip-mates the journey was as good as over. For Varun and I, the long walk into ABC was still a possibility and then the descent into Pokhara had to be seen through for us to officially complete the trek. Unless you walked back, it couldn’t be counted as a trek that had been successfully completed. So we waited. All of us. With a common ambition and goal but different ways to achieve and reach it. Continue reading “The Annapurna Diaries Part II: Annapurna, the world’s 10th highest mountain” »

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