A spot of self assessment is always a good idea

A spot of self assessment is always a good idea

Disclosure time.

  • I have been missing in running action these past few weeks.
  • I have been missing in gym action these past few weeks.

BUT, she hastens to add – I haven’t exactly been lazy, dear reader.

For most of June I have been out of Delhi (where I live) and out of connectivity, as I tackled Kedar Dome, a 6800m climbing peak in the Himalayas.

I reviewed my experience, mainly in terms of the company I went with – the wonderful White Magic Adventure Travel – and their service. 100%, in case you were wondering.

But I thought I’d chat here a little more about the physical experience, and the physical pressures/constraints of high-altitude training.

First things first.

Though I was always the slowest in our climbing team, always the last, always, always, always – I actually felt fine.

No aches and pains, no niggles, no sore muscles, all of which is thanks to my trainer (Vijay, take a bow!).

The “investment” in regular workouts and strength training clearly paid off.

I was flexible enough to wriggle in and out of my tent, had enough upper arm strength to jumar my way up the summit, and enough leg strength to scramble over the endless bloody moraine. God, that moraine will haunt me for the rest of my days!

So on that score I was well pleased, to be honest.

Did I mention there was LOTS of moraine…

I was less pleased with my seeming inability to breathe properly – a bunged up, stuffy nose for almost all the climb meant I was always mouth breathing, leading inevitably to a dry throat and noisy, huffy breathing :P

Poor breathing also meant that I felt out of puff quite a bit of the time. So that’s an issue I have to tackle.

We were the only climbing team on the mountain, but there were loads of trekkers and pilgrims, and boy oh boy oh boy, was that a revelation.

Regarding the religious pilgrims heading to Gaumukh, I know faith can make one accomplish many things, but high altitude trekking in the heat (cue global warming – it was damned hot) wearing flip flops, without a hat, without any water – that, to my mind, is just plain stupid.

We saw so many ill-prepared people, that I marvel there aren’t more accidents. On my return to Delhi, my husband asked whether we’d heard about the deaths of 9 trekkers in Uttarakhand at the same time as we were climbing, but we were without connectivity the whole time. I hadn’t heard, but it’s a sad, cautionary tale.

These people were at least properly equipped, one imagines, but the many ill-equipped, out-of-condition people we passed on our hike towards our Base Camp was alarming.

No sooner had I got back to “civilisation” and connectivity, than I read on Instagram of a similar potentially fatal situation on the Hampta Pass trek in Himachal. A young man I follow on Instagram, @princekatara, has a scary – but ultimately reassuring – post about rescuing unfit, under-equipped trekkers who had been all but abandoned by their “guides” – my friend and his team looked after them, gave them food and meds and basically saved lives.

Basically amazing, heroic stuff, but this shouldn’t be happening.

People need to wise up and realise that budget, cut-price outfitters are not, repeat not, the way to go. There is a reason there are so cheap – lack of supplies, lack of tents, lack of guides.

Here’s a link to a story about this near tragedy.

The other thing is…people need to educate themselves.

Yes, you can blame irresponsible outfitters, but hey! The onus is on oneself to research, to be properly equipped and clothed. You cannot expect to head off to the high mountains without any preparation, yet it’s clear many people do.

Common sense is sadly lacking in too many people.

You’d almost thing Google didn’t exist, the way many of the people we passed were dressed.

One day on our climb, I got very short shrift, from the other climber on my Kedar Dome expedition, who – when I remarked on the irresponsible way the majority of people were dressed/shod/ill-equipped – VERY snippily told me that faith is a great thing and carries all those people onwards and upwards to Gaumukh.

I have long since given up trying to argue with people of unshakeable views, especially concerning religion, and especially in the India we now live in, but…as a person of faith myself, I also firmly believe that God helps those who help themselves, and setting out to trek at altitude without water/hat/proper shoes/food…well, I think it is downright stupid.

To quote just one out of many examples, one day we saw 2 men, a 60 something Bengali father and his 30 something year old son, both wearing what I would term office clothes – tight trousers, office-y shirts, normal shoes…no hats, one small bottle of water between them and one packet of biscuits. They were planning on covering a huge distance in one day, but were so knackered, they gave their camera to their local guide and instructed him to go ahead and take photos for them.

Outsourcing their pilgrimage moment, and (in my opinion) really, really stupid, irresponsible behaviour.

Anyway, to use that cliché, it is what it is.

Or, perhaps a more apt cliché might be “stupid is as stupid does.”

So yes, there you have it – I was fairly fit, well-equipped, and super well-looked-after by my fab White Magic mates, but I know there is much to improve on before my next mountain adventure.

And I fully intend to work on my weak points and get fitter. (Watch this space!)

In all honesty, I cannot worry too much about the hundreds of ill-prepared people we met over the course of our expedition.

I can only hope that I’m being a scare-monger and that no more deaths or tragedies happen.


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