Read THIS First ..

Read THIS First..
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Born to Climb...


I rolled down the window and half poked my head out, immediately feeling the sharp whip of cold air, making my hair fly out, all over the place. I involuntarily make a gasp and reduce my eyes to tiny slits when I hear that smug voice complaining, ‘Dad, she’s doing it again!’ I pull back in and give a deathly stare to that whiner of a brother. I saw dad smiling knowingly. I smiled too, he was the one who knew what it was all about! It wasn’t as if dad already didn’t know, I was right behind the driver’s seat in the car that was taking me to the place I’d been dreaming about since years!

I don’t know when exactly I decided to do mountain climbing. I don’t even know exactly when I started liking the idea, it just came and then stayed and grew until I went crazy over just the thought of it, read books and stories about mountain expeditions and started working out to get fit enough to not get rejected on health basis. I just got on a what-do-you-call-it, a “high”, thinking and imagining being on the mountains, first just because of the beauty, then I saw myself in proper gear, doing the hard stuff, using a climber’s language and terms! It wasn’t as if I’d been to the mountains many times before. It was just the opposite, rather. Just twice and I didn’t even ‘feel’ that feeling even until August last year when I was on a trip to Shimla. I just enjoyed the freshness and the beauty of the place, nothing more, nothing less.

But now was the time! I couldn’t stop grinning all the way to Uttarkashi, all the way to “the” institute with young girls and boys, super enthusiastic in their greetings, their excitement so contagious, I had a hard time breathing normally. The place was huge and just so... green? I never had seen so many greens together, with solid brown rows of uneven mountains in the background. There were three separate wings, a small one-storey building serving as the library and around 25 small cabins interspersed over the ground! Cabins! Just the kind of thing I'd love! 

“I wish I could pretend to be younger and stay here in this amazing place!” whispered dad, who I knew would have loved it as much as I would, but he was way beyond the age limit.

Xavi looked around with an expression of wonder and curiosity. “Are you sure you wouldn’t freak out and call us at 3am tomorrow and beg us to take you back home? Think about it, you’d be alone. These are all strangers. You don’t know one single person here.” As I gave him an exasperated look, he continued in a surprised tone, “I don’t just get how you act so brave! You want to do all kinds of scary adventure sports, you love horror stories, you’re willing to get lost in these huge mountains with total strangers, miles away from home, you’ll be living in camps, carrying tons of weight and stuff, and you still don’t get nervous? You don’t act like a girl and it’s scary!” He turned his irritated expression to dad to see if he agreed, who in turn, hugged me close.

Dad spoke in my ear so Xavi wouldn’t hear. “You know you’d love it. It’s an altogether different world. It’d be just you, your individuality, your beliefs, and all that love in you that will be sent out to these wonders around you. When you climb, it’d be you and the rocks, the magic will make you keep moving until you reach your destination. You’d feel no fear, no what-if, no scary propositions. Promise me, you’d just live in the here and the now. Don’t think about us, we’d be fine and happy knowing you’re enjoying here.” I again had that feeling of ecstasy just listening to his words. My vision blurred and I didn’t know if the tears were because of the happiness or because of the fact that I’d be seeing them again only after a month! I had never been anywhere without them. I guess it was a mix of both.

It was time. They had helped me register, followed by the verifications and check-in. I hugged them both, giving dad an extra hug for Mom, who stayed back home to overlook the minor construction work we were getting done. Xavi still looked dubious and I gave him my most-cheerful smile, making a last attempt to make him get it. I don’t think it worked, for he seemed to be even more doubtful than before.  I waved them goodbye, watching Xavi sticking his head out in the manner in which I had done. They gradually became a small golden spec that soon disappeared in the wisps of white smog, leaving me on my own, a different individual already, ready to take on the dream.


My roommate was a lean, wheat-complexioned girl who wore a perpetual smile and eyes round with excitement. “Hi, I’m Aamya” she said sticking out her hand with clearly bitten nails and shaking mine with enthusiasm. I was sure we’d be great buddies soon, as I get along well with people who’re just like me. Bitten nails, loose track pants and a casual tee paired with sneakers, mmm.. quite a lot like me.

5 days later

Mr. Raghuvan Veer (or RV, as we called him unoffically) came marching from his office door out into the base field where our group of 50 people stood waiting for our first ever outdoor climb. The ‘real ’one, we called it. We had been learning a lot about mountains, climbing expeditions, the methods, gear, people who’ve made history and all super exciting stuff, only that it had been theory. We’d be on the field in just a few more moments and the enthusiasm was so much there, I could swear I was able to just see it around everyone as a full body halo, just light blue in color. As RV ran an instruction to get organized as planned, we shuffled amongst us and I found myself in the second of three rows, with Aamya right behind me.

The session started and God! It was so much fun! We were bundled up with ropes and a harness, helmets secure, and instructed to work up on the fake rock wall, as high as we could go without the danger of a fall. Aamya and I had made a silent pledge last night that we’d be the ones to scale it the highest. Now as I looked at her squinting at the top, judging the height, I knew we could do it. We learned the different kinds of gear for different cracks and rocks for about an hour, before we were told to ‘let go and just climb’! Even though it was fake rock, gaining height gradually was deeply satisfying. Of course we fulfilled our pledge, the Law of Inevitability at its best.

10 days later

RV smiled and I couldn’t help grinning too, just like the other 49 who I bet, were already on that wonderful “high” I felt all the time in this place. From a book I had borrowed from the institute’s library, I read about this great feeling. It wasn’t just me, I had come to realize. All those amazing guys who’ve ‘been there, done that’ described it perfectly, ‘It’s pure ecstasy. You don’t believe in all the world there can be a feeling better than this. Your heart beats out loud, but it’s at peace. You are just ‘you’ and you can stay like that as long as you want. When you feel the rock under your hands and feet, you connect.’

This ‘connect’ thing seemed to be the only part of those lines that I couldn’t really identify with yet. I wanted to just rush out and start with the climb. It looked insanely beautiful, behind RV, the vast expanse and the majestic look. We’d be out there for 5 days at a stretch. Awesomely brilliant, I thought as we started up the slope in our planned formation.

It was just after lunch that we reached the real part. The trek had been smooth till now, a gradual slope. Now we faced a boulder the size of a multi storey building with many storeys in height and 100 times that in width, a big deal for us first-timers. As I fixed my gear on my backpack, I watched the others getting ready. Aadil and Maya, a couple in their early 30s seemed to be the most excited as they helped each other set up their gear. Their laughter ringed out around, causing others to be bold enough to laugh out loud too, releasing any sort of anxiety we might have had. I returned their thumbs up sign and waited for Aamya to check and recheck everything. “You got the clips?” she asked and I shook my bag in response, which jingled with the sounds of the clips. She smiled, “It’s going to be ah-mayzing! I just know. I can feel it. Can you?” I just adored this girl, she seemed to know the right kind of things to say at the right time and just when I needed them.

“Yes, I feel it too.” I say.


I finally came to understand what those guys meant when they said they could ‘connect’. It was purely, magic. You know, people should definitely encourage kids to read about magic. It’s real, it’s there and we need to keep our minds free enough from the usual clutter we’re surrounded with, to understand what the world is all about, how magic works, what life is all about. I could feel it in the rocks, hard, smooth, soft, damp, that sweet scent, the sense of wonder when you fit the right piece of gear at the right place. There was just me, my mind, my soul intertwined with that of the mountains, unaware of my body. It was just the climb and the rock and the peace about it all that mattered. I was a born climber, I knew it and here I was, living it up, making it true. Proof to the world that wishes do come true, that the greatest thing one can do is to connect with one’s own self, to achieve a sense of spirituality so deep it makes you forget about your physical presence and takes you to a plane you couldn’t have ever imagined.

I felt the edge first with my right hand fingers. Ecstatic, I clipped in the final gear piece in place and used it as a support to heave myself up. My right leg went first, followed by the rest of me. Yeah, I was very well aware of my physical presence now, not to forget the scars running in my right arm, but it was pure joy as I yelled an achiever's victory. I heard celebratory shouts from below, but I was again distracted by the scenes in front of my eyes. Those brown mountains I first saw from a distance was where I stood now, the camp site too far for me to make out more than tiny white dots. The wind was cool, not icy and I felt a slight shiver run through me, more from excitement and the zest of achievement. Here I was, miles away from the materialistic clutter, a real, living being in pure essence, united by my being and.... what is that? Uh.. I forgot, I'm not the only one. Aamya was scrambling up the top and I bent down to help her. "That was one hell of a climb, but I just loved it!" she exclaimed and then turned silent as we stood up and she saw all around. She spoke softly, as if the loud voices would disturb the peace of the place, "It's beautiful, no? I could stay here for ever and ever."

"Yeah" I said and smiled. "And it's only just the beginning." It took one more second to again get into that climber's high. It was too frequent and seemed to be the dominant feeling here. Well, that's the magic of the place, no?

The End

Aah! Now I’m feeling like myself again. This was fun. I mean, I actually had to work today, which was supposedly the only Saturday we got off in this semester (which ended yesterday, by the way. Say yay!). Obviously it made me even grouchier than I usually am. I still have a bit more to do, but I had to write this down. You know how it is, work and stuff can’t stop me from doing what I like! Anyway, I’m not sure how it’ll look like to you, all that I’ve written. I’m actually not qualified enough to write so much about something I’ve never experienced. But I still felt like it, based on how I imagined it could be, how it would feel like. If you know me well, you’d know I’d love to do this kind of mountaineering sometime and I hope I do. And when it does, I really wish it turns out to be even greater than how I expected it to be!

PS- This was also inspired by the book ‘Jump’ by Elisa Carbone that I’m reading currently. It’s about teenagers who’re in absolute love with climbing and about their adventure. I’m loving this book. The terms I used (including ‘gear’, ‘harness’, etc) have been used in this book and that’s how I came to know them! Also, this is sort of rock climbing, not mountain climbing. I fused them both!

PPS- I know the pictures aren't exactly related to climbing, but I wanted to include self-clicked ones only! 


  1. I cannot believe you wrote this without experiencing it in person. It is brilliant. For one moment I thought you had actually gone on such a trip only to remember you mentioning this book on your FB too:)

    Beautiful imagination and magically narrated. You actually had me transformed there. And yes the pictures do add to the beauty ;)

    Reminded Me of your Theandric Thursdays!!

    1. I miss Theandric Thursdays :| Don't know when I'll be able to actually get around to write it. Thank you so much for your as-always-wonderful comment! :D As I haven't been there yet, I use up a lot of my imagination :P

  2. You have an awesome imagination and a splendid way of putting your imagination into words.. Loved every bit of it-the excitement about climbing, the 'connect' and experiencing the 'magic'...Throughout the post,I was thinking-probably you have had experience of mountaineering ...

    Great post,Ashna..And to talk of the pictures, they made me think of the 'connect' you mentioned about in the post..Who wouldn't love to sink in the lap of luxury of bountiful nature :)

    1. Oh that's wonderful. :) I'm so so glad you feel that way. Thanks a lot! It's all imagined and the book 'Jump' made me more aware of a climber's perspective and all that one does! :D

  3. A beautiful post Ashna. It brings about wishful serenity with it. I loved how you described all the things, how you get there and the small white tents and the climb itself. And I have a feeling that when it happens, it'll be really something beyond what we ever imagined, it'll be pure joy, simply. :D

    This post reminded me of my own imaginations of getting there and checking in and the training and other things. Though I imagined instead of a car, a train station. A small, green, old structure with a single platform and a rainy season(I always dream of getting down at such stations, which are characteristic of their dearth of crowd and hustle bustle. They are quiet and lovely and resemble those old country stations/halts you read in books about, where seldom a train stops and which lead to a slow, different walk of life and into discovery of your own self and...). Okay I think I should stop before I write 2-3 pages just diving deep into the details of the station. It's just that any mention of these things brings out some other being out of me. Al-right al-right I'll stop. No further words.

    Thanks for writing this. Made me really cheerful. :D :))

    1. Exactly! Pure joy! :D I imagine it already and I'm sure it'd be even better. Oh.. I just start feeling this amazing feeling just thinking about it :P (by the way, you're very much responsible for this, for you introduced me to that institute and that was when I started this imagination :P).

      That actually sounds like a scene from a book! :D And sounds really nice too. I guess I imagined something contemporary.
      Your awesomely awesome comment made me cheerful times infinity! ;)

  4. You are an amazing writer! Reading it felt so real :)
    You've got me interested in mountaineering :)


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