"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."
~ Edmund Hillary



Ashish Kaul travel writer, landscape and outdoor portrait photographer, trekker and mountaineer, has traversed many trails in the Himalayas as well as in the Nilgiris. He is also Editor, Indian Himalayas at suite101.com. Other than that, he lives in the corporate world.

It isn't as if I have always wondered about this. The thought has just come screaming in today. On the face of it, nothing has sparked it off, much like the deceptive placid views of the high snows as seen in postcards. Where people from the plains, confuse a ferociously blowing snow plume as a cloud flirting with the peak. We climbers know better. It clearly is a warning to us to not push our luck too far. Yet, in a silently strange and subtle sense, something has sparked off these thoughts today.

Why is it that a climbing or trekking trip of just a few days, alters so many things when one returns to the plains? Why is it that a few days in the heights alters the very direction of life? Why is it that the psychological gear shift happens so abruptly after a short tryst with the snows? Why do some close friends vanish after one returns? Why do some new ones appear almost literally rising from the dead, as it were? Why do pictures of the trip paint a strange melancholy? Why does play with the memory of distant drumming sounds of glaciers and rivers, space out the faculties like nothing else on earth? Why do material words sound so empty? And why do dear ones sound so distant?

HMI, Darjeeling
Pass Amidst Clouds

Rock climbing
Scuba Diving

Himalayan Ambitions

En Invariably, a strange impact. Even though on a larger plain, some climbs are uplifting and some leave you unfulfilled, they still create swings in moods of complete confusion. A month after my return from an attempt on a dangerous peak in the Dhauladhars, somehow bad luck and an empty feeling continued to haunt me without any signs of letting up.

Why do the mountains make such a great impact on many lives? Why do they halt time dead in it's tracks, and change the trail so drastically? And so I meander on philosophically. Vivid images seem like fossilized imprints. Yet while the mountains call, they forbid as well. And dear ones, who come in, vanish abruptly leaving you with no choice in the matter. And I can't help reflecting how just a single trip to the Himalayas changes something or the other in ones life.

Photo Credit: Ashish Kaul

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