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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Ahead of Mane Dhank Bridge, Himachal Pradesh, India, 29 January 2017
1405 hours: Just 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.
"All mountain landscapes hold stories: the ones we read, the ones we dream, and the ones we create." - George Michael Sinclair Kennedy CBE, (1926 – 2014), an English biographer, journalist and writer on classical music; extract from his Editor's Note, The Alpinist (April 1, 2010)