Feature Story

Confessions of a Software Tester on Her First High-Altitude Himalayan Trek

Delhi-based Software Testing professional and first-time high altitude trekker to the Himalayas, Sonam Samajpati undertook the Pin Parvati Trek in Himachal Pradesh with The Mountain Walker in September 2017. Scared, tired, fearful, unable to go on, elated, exhilarated, tired … this is her story of self-discovery beyond the myth of her self-image, as she faced the ultimate test of her life thus far.

In the midst of the Human Ocean

Surrounded in a Human Sea

I find myself alone, drowned in Misery

But alone in the woods in your Company

Dear Mother Nature I find peace

And I find who is “Me”

I was always fascinated by the stories of my Dida (maternal grandma). Her stories were about her expeditions to Mansarovar, Gangotri, Gomukh, Tapovan and other fascinating places, stories of adventurous treks amidst snow-clad mountains, remotes places that a kid could only imagine.

As a result, I grew up wanting to go on trekking expeditions like her. My brother followed her lead (or maybe it was his own calling) and started trekking – he treks at least twice a year.

My childhood fascination was always bubbling under the surface, but I never had the confidence that I had the endurance and capability to do a trek. So, I found solace in one-day hikes, realising and admitting to myself that if single-day hiking took such a huge toll on me, long trekking expeditions were surely not my cup of tea and that would always remain a dream.

And so, when my brother asked me to be a part of a 7-day Parvati Pin trek, I was plain scared rather than thrilled with the thought. Being a specimen copy of all diseases and sicknesses with no immunity system to fight even a tiny disease, I felt like I would ruin the whole thing for all of them. At the same time however, I didn’t want to show that I was scared so I tried all the spells (excuses) to ward off the evil spirit so that I didn’t have to become a part of the expedition; but my strong headed brother broke all the spells, leaving me with no option but to prepare.

Again, being a lazy soul to the core, only I know what preparation I did – and that secret will be buried deep with me! 🙂

Finally, the trek began and the first two days went pretty well. I felt happy about myself, felt happy that yeah I can walk well, but then I didn’t realise – it was just the trailer.

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Sonam Samajpati on the Pin Parvati Pass Trek September 2017; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

On the third day, there were three rock climbs, with drop-down, steep falls, and the nail in the coffin: the Pandu Bridge crossing. For the first time in my life I realised – yes I’m scared to die too. I learned that I am not the sort of super human that I always thought I was, a heroic person who is not scared of death.

But that day, the fear was overwhelming – it didn’t even give me the chance to put up a brave face.

The day’s challenges just opened up my Pandora’s box of fears – not one, but all at once, at one go, while I was hanging in mid-air, trying not to fall into the gurgling water that seemed so eager to drink me up. The fear of falling was compounded by the few spiders. So there I was grasping rock-holds when out of nowhere comes out this slithering black spider – like pure black magic waiting for me so that it could appear out of thin air and shatter all my braveness.

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The Rock Climbing experience; Photo: Ameen Shaikh

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Scrambling across Pandu Pul with the help of Laxman and Prem, while Abhishek watches over; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

And after all that, I imbibed Lesson One: You never mess with Nature. And as we climbed higher, with the increasing altitude, I started to face breathing problems, nausea and headaches. But The Mountain Walker team members took good care and tried to avoid medications as long as they could, to cure these expected ailments with a natural approach.

Fifth Day – I saw the first snow fall of my life! I was dead-tired, there were many difficulties, and there was very little that was positive … but the snow fall was the prize trophy …

The Best Feeling! I forgot my blisters, aches pains and crying – the dream of catching snow flakes with my mouth was finally fulfilled! Mother Nature – thank you for the gift!

 

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My first experience with snow; Photo: Sonam Samajpati

Sixth Day: Hike for the Pass started, and like a good first timer, I was walking on the snow, walking on glaciers, snow sliding, crying at 5k metres above sea-level, jumping over crevasses, walking and puking on glaciers, getting scolded by brother at 5k metres above sea-level – but it was all worth it! And yes – brother, thanks to you – the sole reason I could make it through is you.

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The various items confirming that it’s the Pin Parvati Pass that I’m standing at; Photo: Sonam Samajpati

Seventh Day was the Day of The Unending Walk to Mudh. I was the slowest that day since my Crawling Partner – Isha – had betrayed me! God knows what potions she gulped that day – she could have beaten Jesse Owens’ running skills just by her walks! I guess she did a pact with the Flash. Even the guide was a kilometre behind her (and I was another kilometre behind the Guide). Ameen helped (TORTURED) me a lot that day. The last two kilometres of the unending walk were made easy by him. Yes he pushed me throughout that day but he realised as well that it was getting difficult for me with each step – I was tired, hungry, my feet were not feet anymore as they felt like watery balloons due to blisters that hurt with each step. Ameen walked the last few kilometres chit-chatting – which helped divert my mind from my problems – thanks to you Ameen I made it to Mudh that day.

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The unending road to Mudh – the small cluster of white houses, above the Pin River, at the base of the mountains ahead; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal

Along the journey from Mudh to Sakya Abode in Kaza, the sudden realisation that it was over made me blank. Something was being left behind – or everything was being left here. I am going back to the concrete jungle – leaving behind my loving mother nature who always finds a way to amaze and teach. I was leaving behind the memories which I never lived – the memories of my Dida exploring the unknowns, memories of my Dida, the first adventurer I ever met.

Back in Manali a day later, the bonfire at the Apple Cedar House brought back all the memories of the trek, what could have been done better, what needed to be improved.

It was then that, for the first time, I realised I had accomplished a trek which is categorised as a ‘difficult’ level trek! Yes I was proud! And yes I AM proud of it!

I had started the trek with the worst of fears – the fear that I would never complete the trek and would ruin it for the rest of the team. I had least-to-none faith in myself. I had never, even in my imagination or wildest dream, thought that I would complete or accomplish the trek. I started with all the negatives or I can say extreme negatives. But… with each and every day of the trek being accomplished, with each little step – the fears felt a bit less scary. I realised there is no turning back as the team pursuades you to push your limits and if you push your limits there is no other option other than finishing the trek. Which was indeed accomplished.

By the time the trek was finished there was a hell lot of a learning and a whole new perception. And so, here is the list of what I leaned from my Pin Parvati Trek:

1. We are limited by our own boundaries; the more we push it, the more we achieve.

2. Trekking is not an individual activity – it is teamwork,  every individual holds the responsibility of the other.

3. You can’t quit- because there is no option called QUIT

4. You can keep your ego at home

The trek gave me my self confidence, made me push my boundaries, showed me how to be more patient, humble.

The effects of the trek still continue (two weeks after the event) – Back in the city, I am behaving like “Shifu” from Kung-fu Panda, I feel at peace with myself. My stress and hyperness is gone. It feels that even if the sky fell or the earth burst open, I would be like – “Bhaiji sab moh maya hai”.

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This painting at the Apple Cedar House in Manali provided a very appropriate end to the amazing journey; Photo: Sonam Samajpati

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