So, this week I climbed a mountain. Not a bad accomplishment but one that I have few feelings of satisfaction towards. It may be more accurate to say that the mountain climbed me and after we parted ways left me with presents of swollen ice cut hands, achy knees and sore quads. Despite leaving it’s wounds – both on my body and ego – the saving grace of this three-day, two-night trek was the unbelievable vistas and delicious mountain cooking with spicy chai. To be so completley removed from people, pollution and any sounds other than the birds (especially in India!) was blissful.
Bhrigu Lake is a glacier lake that sits at 4,200m in height, craddled between 4 mountain peaks. It is officially the highest in altitude I have been at, and all on my own two feet! Those two feet were stuck into thin socks and Nike free running shoes. If you’re not sure what those are picture light, bendable shoes with mesh sides. Perfect for hot weather traveling and sports; not even close to perfect for alpine trekking! When we first reached the snow line my on-feet performance was comical. I had to splay my feet sideways like a penguine and adopt a ‘waddle-waddle-slip-slide’ method of moving over the snow. In total I landed hard on my butt/hip three times. I slipped and caught myself with my hands hundreds.
It was a slow moving, painful and entertaining process until I saw the steep glacier I had to scale in my slipping and sliding shoes; then it shifted to straight-up terrifying. It was steep, hard packed ice and if you were to fall it woud be a long slide before going over a sharp edged cliff. There was no harnesses, no mountaineering equipment, no ice picks and no good shoes for me. The four of us held hands and were instructed to ‘dig our heels in’ if someone fell. I looked dubiously at Neil (whose hand I was holding) and seriously doubted that I digging my heels in would do shit all if he were to slip and fall (he was also wearing Nike frees). It was a slow process. Our hiking friend and guide spent laburious seconds digging out each foot hold with their hiking boots before we carefully placed our feet in their footprints. Then it was an hour of scaling the mountain’s icy side. Not once did I look up and where we were going or down at where I didn’t want to go – I focused my vertigo-hazy eyes on my shoes, took deep breaths and prayed. I’m not religious and I don’t pray, but I prayed and surrounded my comrades and myself with protective white light and whispered positive affirmations and prayed some more. When we did eventually reach the top of the ridge I squatted on the glacier and cried for a couple seconds before pulling myself together to see Bhrigu Lake.