Did you know that Earth’s Edge is 10 this year? To celebrate our Birthday, we decided to repeat our first ever trek in the Himalayas. This time 10 years ago, our MD and founder James undertook the first ever Earth’s Edge trek to the Himalayas. His friend Sinéad was on the trek and here is the article she wrote at the time.
The Himalayas Trek, October 2007:
Is there anywhere in India where people don’t live? The second biggest population in the world, yes I knew that! But 3,500m high in the mountains, having just descended from the snow-covered Kuari Pass and with the nearest village a day’s walk away, a scantily-clad shepherd boy stood 8 feet above me, on the lowest branch of a lonely tree staring out at the snow-capped peaks that surrounded us in every direction.
We’d left our tents at 4am guided by the light of our head torches and the stars in the sky, spurred on by words of encouragement from Pankaj, our hilariously entertaining Indian guide, to ascend the final uphill section of the trek. Any preconceived delusions I’d harbored about being sufficiently trained for a week-long high-altitude trek were well laid to rest in the pre-dawn hours of that October morning as I labored up the seemingly endless snowy switchbacks.
While the air temperature was well below freezing, my calf muscles burned explosively with every shuffling step I could muster. My only previous attempt to trek to this height had been foiled by altitude sickness, so unless my previous evening’s banana custard started repeating on me, I was going up. We reached the snow-covered Kuari Pass in time to see the sun rise over the easterly peaks of the north Indian Himalayas, an aspiring photographer’s Mecca – a panoramic view of impressive giant peaks against the soft color of the morning sky. When we started our descent, the snowline came early as a lush green valley unfolded before us. Shamefully, my mind gushed with celebratory scenes from the movie “Alive” as my calves rejoiced in the descent to hot breakfast at our early morning camp. The pass itself was undoubtedly the scenic highlight of the trip. However the days in the lead up – as we climbed and descended through valleys, villages, under waterfalls and across riverbeds both frozen and flowing– were a close runner-up. Each day a new path, new encounters – crossing a towering yet seemingly sturdy footbridge over a deep river gorge, watching locals ploughing their land with rudimentary tools and often inobedient cattle, or elderly women in colorful dress, laden with large parcels of autumnal red crops on their backs. All friendly and curious faces, marked by the lines of life and weather, greeted us with smiles and welcome gestures.
I’d never been one for ‘organised’ adventure holidays, the concept being somewhat of an oxymoron. The Himalayas had always been on the bucket list and when the opportunity arose to travel with a friend’s adventure company, well, it would have been rude not to. I’ll admit the experience changed my mind. Independent travel has its obvious advantages but I can’t argue with the simplicity of having your every need catered for. You can always chip in and help with camp set-up or cooking but when the campfire stories, card games and rum from the previous night have left you a bit worse for wear, you have the option of bringing up the rear, sauntering into camp and tucking into lavish amounts of tasty Indian cuisine. The menu varied as you would never expect. Where they produced the masses of food made with fresh ingredients I still haven’t quite figured out: an array of dahl, curd, chapatti’s, chicken curry, curried potato and cauliflower and of course, the banana custard. I know my campfire delicacies have never tasted that good; neither has my local takeaway’s for that matter.
We were an eclectic mix. Some trekkers I know I would never have elected to travel with and in one instance with hindsight I never would again (there’s always one). But far away from your daily routine, in a place you might never have gone to, with people you might never otherwise encounter, stories are shared, new skills can be gained and you can find yourself changing your mind about lots of preconceived things, not just your fictitious fitness or personal stance on organised adventure holidays.
Over seven days, trekkers and guides from various parts of the globe, together with our local mule guides, cooks and trekking guide, made our way to our final destination. A huge breakfast feast of porridge or pancakes geared us up for nicely paced walking each morning. Arriving in the early afternoon each day at camp offered spectacular views of the surrounding meringue peaked mountains and terraced fields. With a little bit of hail and rain, the sun shone predominantly throughout.
On that last day, we sat and planned to celebrate our endeavours. There was a different type of peace to be felt in the early afternoon sunshine on that grassy plateau so high above the sea. The air was thin and warm. There was a notable absence of twittering birds but the clinking of goat bells disturbed the silence. We packed up our tents to descend to our pick-up point and onwards to our final camp on the banks of the Ganges. I glanced up once again and found myself wishing, bizarrely, that just for now I was that small Indian shepherd boy.
To celebrate our Birthday, we decided to run a trek in the Himalayas again this year from October 11th to 20th. The €2,899 trip cost includes flights from Dublin, all transport, food, an expedition leader & doctor from Ireland, local guides, cooks, support staff, all taxes and park fees. FYI unlike 2007, we no longer provide rum FOC on our Himalayan treks! ? We still have some spaces left for this October for those who fancy a trek in the wilds of the Himalayas! For all the trip details contact us or visit our Himalayas trek page.