The Mountain Walker

It’s not the land, it’s not landscape, it’s not the people, it’s not the wildlife, it’s not the rivers, it’s not the mountains; or the stories, or the tales, or the journeys or the company or the destinations … it’s all of it.

The Mountain Walker is a philosophy of life, of living life as you want to, without infringing upon the way of life of others, of travelling in the Himalayas without wanting to change it, or expecting the comforts of other places, without wanting to judge anything, a philosophy of continuous learning, and of doing your bit for the world, in tiny, little little ways. And sharing what we see, what we learn, as we live learn it, as we see it.

As a private limited company,  The Mountain Walker is not just a start-up, a tech company, a media company or a travel services company – although we are and we do all of that. We are a Social Enterprise, with a goal to be a profitable business but with the intent to share our skills and knowledge and do our bit for the local economies of the Himalayan states.

Personally, am grateful for the blessing to have been walking the Himalayas since the time I learned to walk as a toddler, and am now thankful for the opportunity of being able to continue walking the mountains and learning more from this great land and its people, in the company of a like-minded team- Abhishek Kaushal, Ameen Shaikh, and Abhinav Kaushal (thus far).

Here are some glimpses from the first year of walking the Himalayas with my co-founders and team members.

 

Dust
Wild mountain roads with all their promise, all their risks and danger, with all their raw power is one of the reasons I walk mountains. July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

Colour
Traveling in the remote, high altitude Himalayas of Himachal Pradesh helps one understand that beauty in Nature has different forms and meaning. This splash of colour near Leo village in Kinnaur is an artist’s delight. Shot in July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

Evening
What is peace? What is serenity? Is it sitting by like a lake on a mountain? Or is it sitting by a lake on mountainside after having driven 10 hours and walking 2 to get there? Is it all of it? Nako Lake, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

History
Nako, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

Culture
Nako Monastery, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

Leo
The Spiti river winding its way around Leo village, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

MistyMountains
Misty Mountains seen from atop Shaali Tibba, March 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

MorningAfter
The morning after a snowfall in Kaza, January 2017; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

Nature
The wild Sutlej, March 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

PinSpitiConfluence
Confluence of Pin and Spiti rivers, seen from Dhankar Monastery, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

RemoteRoads
Sutlej keeping pace with the rocky roads of Upper Kinnaur, March 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

RockPillar
Rock Pillars near Shaali Temple, March 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee
StormClouds
Stormy evening sky over Nako, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

SummerMagic
Key Monastery across Spiti River seen from Keurik village, Spiti, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

ThePath
The Sutlej near Pooh, Kinnaur, July 2016

 

Village
Lalung, Spiti, July 2016

 

Water&Ice
Spiti near Mane Dhank, Spiti, 2017

 

Winter
Who would think there is a 12000 feet mountain and a wide river basin in this whitescape? Kaza, edge of Spiti river, January 2017
CEOAtWork
CEO Abhishek Kaushal on a precarious perch in Kinnaur, trying to capture that elusive glimpse of the Spiti river running through a gorge way down below the scissor-paths on the way to Nako, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

COO
Ameen Shaikh discovers his facial muscles in -7 Degrees in Spiti, January 2017; Photo: sanjay mukherjee

 

Kindness
Abhinav Kaushal is born and brought up in Shimla, and has a natural born affinity for all living beings. Strays, birds seem to understand his peace and connection everywhere he goes – they just gravitate to him. Like this lonesome dog in Dhankar, January 2017; Photo: sanjay mukherjee
NoonSnooze
Ameen Shaikh catches a siesta on the Baspa at Chitkul, March 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee
OmBowl
Abhinav Kaushal playing the Om Bowl, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee
Rain
Abhinav Kaushal enjoying the rain on a Nako hilltop, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee
ShaaliTemple
Ameen Shaikh at Shaali Temple, March 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee
TheCEO
Abhishek Kaushal, on the wild mountains near Ka, Kinnaur, July 2016; Photo: sanjay mukherjee
TheWayfarer
Abhinav Kaushal in Spiti, January 2017
WinterCEO
Abhishek Kaushal, Spiti, January 2017
Our sitaution in a glance 02
Kids playing in the market area at Kaza; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal
Spiti Wildlife 08
Yak; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal
Wildlife In Spiti 04
Alpine Chough; Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

Spiti Wildlife 001

Spiti Wildlife 01
Himalayan Blue Sheep; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal
wm-dodra-dogs-01
Photo: Abhinav Kaushal

 

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The Mountain Walker Diaries: Rampur with Sanju

Morang, Himachal Pradesh, India, 1 February 2017, 1708 hours: 

We are passing Morang and we are back with Sanju! He caught up with us in Spillow, so he must have driven at a good pace to make up the two hour head-start we had.

We should be in Rampur by 10. 

The Mountain Walker Diaries: Nako Winter Look

Nako, Himachal Pradesh, India, 1 February 2017, 1441 hours:

We have stopped for chai and packed lunch at Nako. We have made good time and we just heard that Sanju is on his way! 😃

We have saved his boiled egg and Roti-Aloo.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: A Hundred Thoughts @ Sumdo

Sumdo, Himachal Pradesh, India, 1 February 2017, 1318 hours:

We have reached Sumdo. Still no news of Sanju, since his phone seems off.

We are 380 kilometres from Shimla, but we plan to stay the night in Rampur, maybe Sanju will catch up tonight. It feels very odd to not see Sanju in the driver’s seat next to me. Abhishek and I are sitting in the back of the Sumo along with two girls from Lingti. They are going all the way to Kullu- that is a very long journey. Ameen, Suresh and Abhinav are in the middle seat, while there are two girls from Tabo in the front seat. This is how most people from Spiti travel, apart from the state transport bus service that is.

The section ahead is treacherous since it is a zone of shooting rocks and boulders.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: The Unbearable Burden of Tough Decisions

Tabo, Himachal Pradesh, India, 1 February 2017, 1157 hours:



We have crossed the Mane Dhank climb and have reached Tabo. In essence, we now have a great chance of reaching Rampur tonight. We switched to the local cab since the diesel in our car had frozen and I wasn’t sure if it would take us through. Sanju decided to stay back and start the vehicle after the sun had helped it thaw. We were unhappy about leaving Sanju behind – Abhishek and the team are feeling really bad and I could see Sanju was unhappy as well – but I couldn’t take the risk of the whole team getting stuck again due to road closure. This is our third attempt at making it through. Thankfully Sanju had help from the local folk in Lingti, so there were no risks and I made up my mind and hopefully he may be able to catch up by evening. 
Abhishek has been trying to call to check on his progress, but Sanju’s phone seems out of range. 

Sanju had really wanted to take us to the Sun Temple in Nireth, his hometown. I can’t help thinking about him. Some times the mantle of being responsible for others is unbearable. It is a lonely vigil but it is a path that I understand and walk alone. 

The Mountain Walker Diaries: The Dawn

Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India, 1 February 2017, 0636 Hours

We were in the car at the crack of dawn and off to Shimla.

The weather is clear, no clouds, which means today is the coldest day of our entire trip. Sanju figures it was -30 in the early hours and must be around -15 right now. It is freezing!

We are past Shego and Lidang and on our way to Lingti, where a local cab is going to join us to help us through till Reckong Peo.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: All The Parts of Me 

Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India, 30 January 2017, 2144hours:
Back from dinner and the development news is that it has started snowing and at a very fast pace. Which means I have no idea when we will leave from here and when we will reach back.

The good news is that we have had great support from the government bureaucracy in Himachal Pradesh and the ADC in Kaza, in getting the roads open, and great moral support from the local police, Kaza citizens and of course, the entire Sakya Homestay family.

A part of me hopes it snows and snows and snows because the people of Lahaul & Spiti needs. A part of me hopes we make it through before the snowing starts in earnest again.

(A part of me hopes to be stuck here for the next month).

The Mountain Walker Diaries: 2200 Miles

Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India, 30 January 2017, 2035 hours:
We are singing ‘500 Miles’ and that you should give you an idea about how beautiful the world is: a group of 6 stranded 2200 kilometres away from home for the past 7 days, in the care of caring local hosts, preparing for a third attempt to get home a few hours from now in raging snowall, and singing 500 Miles.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: Random Access Thoughts 

Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India, 30 January 2017, 1954 hours:



Experience and the expression of it are not bound by time or space.
Something I feel today can be expressed 25 years from now. 

The trick is to live in the moment.

The Mountain Walker Diaries: A Flurry of Calls

Ahead of Mane Dhank Bridge, Himachal Pradesh, India, 29 January 2017

1405 hoursJust called Abhishek to return to the car since it’s getting onto evening and they are likely to get into difficulties. Instead, we can head back towards Sichling and look for a night halt. 

1422 Hours: Abhishek called back to say they had spoken to Tsering and the expected vehicles had left Tabo. He will let us know the status soon. So, for the moment, we will stay put and take a call once we have a concrete update from the Tabo side.

1435 hours: Tsering just called. There is a bulldozer that is on its way from Tabo. The Gypsy got through to Tabo and they also informed others about our Xylo and that we are likely to be stuck. Meanwhile, Sonam Dolma also seems to have let her people from her village and the general Pin Valley region know that we (her guests) are stuck, so now there is definite possibility of help. Tshering has instructed us to let him know in case nothing happens by 5.15-5.30, then he will come and pick us up.