Monday, September 24, 2018

Elusive Mt. Fuji Part 2

There are four trails to reach the top of Mt. Fuji. Yoshida is the most popular and highly congested trail. I heard that one has to stop and give way to oncoming human traffic on this trail. It didn’t sound very different than Japanese train station so I requested Yuriko-san our boss for the trek to find another option. So she chose Subashiri trail.

We were four of us Nitin, Yuriko, Georgia and myself. All of us were from diverse backgrounds. Nitin is my classmate but has spent 25 years in Japan, Yuriko is Japanese looking to study abroad, Georgia is Canadian has studied in China and now doing higher education in Japan and me living in Singapore and travelling to Japan on work and trying to squeeze in a weekend to sumit Mt. Fuji. Sheer diversity of the group was fascinating. I love this aspect of trekking the most. It puts you in unimaginable situations and pairs you with totally unknown souls. I had several such treks in past two and half years. In each and every trek, I have come out more enriched, more accomplished and have formed strong bonds with friends whom I may never see again. Like Harry Potter’s story, activities select people so more often than not they come with similar attitudes and value systems. So four of us from four corners of the world had one aim to see sunrise from top of Mt Fuji next day morning!
Weather plays an important role in any trek and more so in Fuji. One can’t go by what the weather report says, one can’t even believe own eyes. Eternal rule is : Weather will change. If you have clouds, you will get Sun. If its warm it will become cold, eventually. We had to be ready for all 3 seasons - summer - which was where we started, winter - which was waiting for us at the summit and rains/ clouds - which was lurking in there somewhere, held the key whether we see the sunrise or not.
Something inside was telling me that behind the clouds and whistling winds, the Universe was conspiring to get me to summit and show me the festival of colours that the Sun plays with horizon, everyday. 
We offered our prayers at Komitake Shrine, hoped for good weather and started our climb!

Part 1 of this blog can be read in :

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Elusive Mt. Fuji : Part 1

Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan standing tall at 3776 m. The kanji depicting Mt Fuji also means wealth or abundance. I thought it is so befitting as Mt Fuji is as elusive as wealth or abundance is. It is open for climbing for just 68 days in a year. (July 1 - Sep 9). This season also coincides with typhoon season hence climbing Mt. Fuji and catching glimpse of rising sun requires a lot of planning and dash of luck.
I missed the opportunity in 2017. The weather played spoilsport last year and I had to change my plans. So I was determined since then to summit it this year. Planning began since Jan 2018.
There are 2 distinct itineraries for climbing. First type doesn’t involve any stay at the top. One starts at level 5 in late afternoon. Climb all the way to summit to catch the sunrise and descend to reach back. Second type of itinerary starts involves stay at level 8 or below. This requires a lot of planning as the dormitories get sold out 3 months before. We opted for this. My Japanese colleagues did all the planning.
They booked the dorms for every weekend in the season. The plan was we check the weather, choose the weekend and just go.
It worked spectacularly well. I summited Mt. Fuji on 26th August and saw the sunrise.
Plan to write all the stories here. Stay tuned!
Do leave comments about what you would like to hear!

PC: Abhijit Vaidya

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Simulation of Life

Trekking in many ways is short gamified version of life.

We prepare a lot to go for trek. We go to gym, go for hikes, stretch ourselves to simulate trek. In real life we go to school, take degrees and try to prepare ourselves for real life situations.

But soon enough, as we start tiring and breathing gets heavy we realise either we could have prepared better or probably no amount of preparation was enough. Similarly, when we start our career, we realise all skills required to succeed were not taught. Somethings that were taught may be needed to unlearn.

We anticipate almost all kinds of weather situations and carry things that protect ourselves. Sunblock, wind cheater, warm jackets, gloves, ponchos, thermals, fleece jacket etc. But does that guarantee that we won’t feel cold? Does that guarantee we won’t get sunburn? Does that mean we will not get drenched?
No. Just like real life!

We find all kinds of trekkers around. Some carry heavy sacks packed with extra medicines, clothes, jackets... things required in eventualities. Some carry almost nothing... just bare necessities. To me later seem happier as they have less to worry because they worry less. Somehow they manage with what they have and those carrying large sacks remember what they forgot to pack. Just like real life!

Some trekkers are too technical. They wear gadgets that measures their speed, elevation, distance, heart rate...everything. They are conscious about how fast they are moving and whether they are in good form. Some others couldn’t care less. They stop everywhere to take photos. They notice chirping birds, color of the sky, vividly shaped stones. They are in no hurry. They enjoy journey don’t pine for the destination alone.

Those who rush have more statistics, less stories. More knowledge, less memories. More gadgets, less pictures. They are proud, later are happier. Just like real life!!

Why do we trek?
Because it is gamified capsuled version of life, that helps you to live life better.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Limitless human spirit

There were some moments in my trek, when I felt I was someone special to be at right place at right time.

We were slowly coming back from Everest Base Camp. It was very tiring. We ran out of breathe very often. But as soon as we reached the spot, it felt as if the body released some reserve energy. All of were happy, cheerful. Lot of high fives going around, everyone posing for photos. Thirty minutes we spent there was what we we walked for ten days. One important item on the bucket list was ticked. As we started coming back, all the additional efforts started weighing down on us and we started to walk even slower.

Out of blue, we heard a bell ringing softly. Many yaks, cows had crossed us but they didn't have bell around there necks. So this was something different. We saw a a trekker as ringing the bell as he walked. When we saw his fellow trekker we were surprised beyond words. The person following him was completely blind.

Human spirit has no limits.

Road we were walking on was trecherous. We had to be careful about every step. A wrong step could mean twisted ankle or fractured bone. But when we got that right, we were rewarded with great views. View of nice blue sky, contrasted with snow white mountains, green valleys, turquoise green coloured river curved thru the forest made us forget our tiredness. Physical efforts was our investment beautiful views was our reward.

I wonder how it worked for that blind man. I felt humbled. All my problems seemed miniscule. All my fears seemed absurd.

A motivated blind man merrily climbing up to the Everest Base Camp made me feel that I don't really have any right to complain about my life. It opened my eyes to possibilities I had never imagined before.

I love trekking because once in a while, in many unexpected ways, we experience things that might shake us out of our protected lives, set patterns and cosy limited realities, to show us the human spirit that we can never imagine.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Never too late to start your life!

My surprises about remarkable people in trekking was far from over.

After successfully reaching Everest Base Camp, I was on my way back. Literally zipping down the slope, rushing towards higher oxygen, talking loudly. Thats when I noticed a lady walking very slowly, carrying a long stick in her hand and her nepali guide was offering hand at every step and she was refusing to take it. This looked very interesting so I slowed down. I was curious about this lady and wanted to know more.

One remarkable thing when you are on such trails, in a contrast to our urban life is, if you smile at anyone on the trail, you get a smile back. Conversations are easy to start. No introductions nor any ice breaking is required. Color, race, age doesn't matter. If you need a smile you get it, if you need company you get it, if you need a hug you get it.

It wasn't difficult to start conversation with this lady. As luck would have it, she was from India and spoke same language. Conversation started flowing from word go. To my amazement, she was 75 years old. She had successfully reached Everest Base Camp. Looked very satisfied as she was slowly making her way back.

I wanted to know her story. She was an ordinary middle class woman from humble background. She did her first high altitude trek when she was 60 to Badrinath. She liked it very much. So she did a few more treks, Kedarnath, Kailash Manas Sarovar and finally Everest Base Camp. What great spirit! I asked her what was her motivation. From Childhood to early adulthood she did everything her father told her to do. She studied, she learnt to cook, she learnt to do little things at home. Then she got married. Then she did everything her husband asked her to do. She managed the household, raised the kids, made them good human beings. They got married too and then at 60 she was an empty nester with her husband again.

She said, "That's when I asked myself, what do I really want. I had lived my life for all others so far. Never thought of myself. So at age of 60 I had lived a reasonably happy life but I didn't real know what I wanted. So I went for my first trek without thinking too much. I didn't even know whether I will be able to complete it, leave alone liking it. But once I was in nature, I knew that was my calling. I knew this is what I wanted. Since then I never looked back. As soon as I reached back, I would plan my next trek. This makes me really happy and make me forget all the hardships I have faced in my life. At age of 60 I started living my life. I thank god for that."

The simple conversation turned profound. Its never too late to start your own life. Peep in your soul and ask yourself what you really want and start doing it.