The Group of 9

So it’s finally happening. It’s on. A year’s wait, planning, scheduling, cajoling and inspiring friends to join in is eventually yielding results. Annapurna 2012 kicks off April 1st with a group of 9. Not bad for a start. It could have been larger, but for obvious reasons which seem to strangely plague us. Annapurna will be the first in the list of 14 8000ers that I want to travel to as part of my14 Base Camp Project. Although I have already knocked off Kanchenjunga and Everest, I may include them in this quest, if I tread different routes. But more of that later.

This project started off as a dream in 2008 and eventually took shape as an ambition only last year. A concrete goal which I’d want to reach over many Himalayan summers. Whether I am successful, only time will tell. But there’s the gumption, focus and the will to see it through.

The last time I visited the home of the gods was in 2008 when I trekked to Base Camp Everest. That experience was genuinely soul changing. It redefined everything there was to redefine. I think the snow clad peaks and the thin air are guilty of that. And I am glad they are. But from 2008 – 2011 life got busy, what with Shayon bursting into our lives with so much energy that it kinda made us forget everything else there was. Everything could just take a back seat. Now that he’s grown up (well a bit), it leaves us (my wife and I) hopefully with that tiny window for reactivating the things in life we’d left off mid-way. I hope as Shayon grows up he will grow to love the mountains and walk the same paths with equal zeal as his father.

So going back to Annapurna, it started off with an email last year to a select few. This gathered momentum, the word spread and the interest grew. The group increased in numbers only towards the end and finally the team that I’ll accompany on trail next month will be those who haven’t visited the Himalayas before. With dreams in their eyes and visions of never seen before landscapes, they wait for the day they board the flight to Kathmandu for what will be their very first Himalayan adventure.

Managing expectations on Himalayan journeys is the toughest. Just being interested isn’t enough. While the destinations are exotic and exciting, they definitely aren’t a walk in the park. Lack of basic amenities and sparse infrastructure while on trail is one bit and one needs to adjust to that; being self reliant and self motivated is the very important other. Without them there are high chances of the experience becoming a struggle. And ofcourse the physical conditioning and toughening regimen which is an important prerequisite is the third. The more time you invest in them before departure, the easier it is when trudging the inclines. Thankfully they’ve listened to what I’ve had to tell them. I wish them every bit of success. (I personally prefer when things get basic while on trail. Luxuries can wait back home).

Finally it’s important for me there’s a team. It gives me a chance to share with them a part of my life that I am so passionate about. By being part of experiences which are larger than life when they go to Annapurna, I hope they too take to walking the rough paths and jagged edges in the years to come. And when that happens, I’ll be the happiest.

Keep Climbing!


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