The Calling: Back to the Himalayan lap after an hiatus of two years

Once you trek into the Himalayas, it becomes an integral part of your strange awakenings and desires; stirring up now and then in an outrageous moment when your mind is eager to expand the horizon. I have not seen any trekker who hasn’t been affected by this syndrome. It brings them back to the mountains season after season, year after year. But what does a regular trekker want in every new opportunity? The higher and the better vistas. My choices for summer 2018 were to select from Rupin. Hampta and Kuari Pass on Curzon’s trail.


Once you make up your mind where to go by end January; things automatically fall in place. February and March are times to hit the gym religious and April a short trail run to the nearby mountains. Two months of religious exercises for all parts the body and some light sprinting does the trick. It’s wise to rest a full week before the trek begins. The excitement reaches fever pitch until your pack yourself to New Delhi. It all starts happening now.

Rupin Pass Trek with HT in the first week of June 2018:

Rupin Pass trek is an odyssey to the diversity and plurality of India. A moderate plus trek; it straddles two of the North Indian Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in India. Opening up spectacular and diversified vistas like wide open meadows in the beginning to several gushing waterfalls in the middle; it makes you traverse steep ice fields in the end with a final crossing of a pass at 4650 metre.  The trek unfolds along the Rupin river over 5, 6 or 7 days depending on your grit, perseverance and experience over 60 kilometres of mountain madness. This trek is possible in two windows May to June/ July and the post monsoon.  I had chosen HT because of their expertise and excellent camp conditions; with friendly outgoing guides. HIMALAYA TREKKERS shows you to respect the mountains and build an excellent team spirit that keeps the morals high.

Dehradun to Dhaula drive:

A team of HT had done it before us in 5 days. There was no such plan when our motley group of 8 organized by HT hopped into two desires in Dehradun and raced across the 200 Km to our trek base Dhaula.  Having braved the Mussoorie traffic; we had lunch at a roadside dhaba after Kempty Falls. The backside of the dhaba offering a spectacular view of the giant green Himalayan massif of the lower Himalayas to admire while we did a simple ethnic lunch of vegetables, rajma and dal. By the next stops at Purola, Mori and Netwar; the journey gets riveting and you experience the laws of motion an all bends and curves.  Suddenly you are in Govind Vanya Pashu Vihar (Govind National park). The last part of the journey to Dhaula is exciting with valley after valley breaking with the turning and twisting road. Most of this road is now set with crash barriers which makes you think of safety; a primary for any trek. At Dhaula Rupin and Supin meet to forms Tons; an important tributary of Yamunotri. The HT team and supports staff greets us warmly and offer friendly encouraging trivia about our quest. Dhaula is an idyllic Himalayan hamlet with home stay facilities. The last of the luxuries are soon to disappear from our lives.

Sunset at Dhaula

Dhaula to Sewa

The trek begins with a 200 metre steep climb just out of the village; a harbinger of most such things to come. It becomes a scamper alongside river bed over small rivulets and then it breaks into gradual climb soon to put five hundred feet above the river gushing below. A few kilometre into it; you see the Rupin gushing out of a gorge; while we continue trekking over clumps of wild Rhododendrons, ferns and wild flowers. Quaint huts. small eateries and hamlets line up on this stretch. Small school going children wish and smile at you expecting chocolates. The Himalayan Trekkers guide has strict instruction not to encourage this habit. Your heart melts as you absorb the scenery. The going is easy and there are a few short climbs and five to six hours  later you reach Sewa; the first night’s stay. Influenced by culture of both states; Sewa has connectivity for Bsnl and Vodaphone customers. After rest; take a casual stroll for a lesson in architecture. Just half kilometre away from the village is an old wooden temple which shows Kinnauri influence and custom. The home stay is far too comfortable and it’s not that cold but you can listen to the Rupin gushing down at the gorge for the full night.

Sewa – Jiskun- Jhaka

Just out of Sewa; you start trekking across the river bed. The second day’s trek introduces to all the charms of Himalayan trekking; Broken trails, landslides and overhanging cliff hangs.  A little far from the temple is a bridge over a stream of the Rupin demarcating the two states. Step into Himachal without any fan-fare and follow this with a steep ascent to reach the last road head In Himachal Pradesh. This was an easy stretch made more memorable by two eagles who encircled the valley from high above as we made way. Some trekkers from Shimla join the trek from here.  The trek follows the Rupin; and you will soon be crossing rivulets and jumping over the moraine; as you make your way with a merry song. The excitement of the trek now touches higher vistas.  It crosses the Raj Gad; a large stream where we rest for some time and then the trail suddenly changes track; as it bends and winds its way up; as we ascend circuitously towards the village of Jiskun.  It is wise to fill your water canteens just before this climb.  The village is a major resting place for chai and noodles while all the teams can stock on provisions. The huff and puff along the climb is worthy of the spectacular sights to behold; as the Rupin glistens far below all along the climb. The going is tougher than the first day but your body is acclimatising well for the tougher battles ahead.  From Jiskun you get to do a real exciting part of all Himalayan’ trek locally called “Charfootiya” a four feet road broken at many places with a massive overhanging cliff falling into the jungle below. The trail breaks up in places and the colours change deep in the gorge below. The trail just before Jakha can be a little confusing but if you stick to the left and you will finally labour into the last hanging village on this trek. Complete with the Hillary steps (several flight of stairs inside the village); this village curved into the mountain has several charmed home stays. This is the last village and the rest along the way are going to be pure camping sites. While being replenished with nourishment from our HT kitchen; we soaked in the simple and yet powerful sights that the village offered.  As night fell two friendly village dogs came to the house while the HT support team rustles up an excellent dinner in the kitchen below. Theirs is the mandatory team meeting to share experiences after dinner before we retire for the night.

Jhaka- Jhaka Heights- Udakanal- Dhanderas Thatch

A short climb out of Jhaka; it becomes a jungle trek through a deep pine forest. Pine cones are strewn on the floor; dead trees hang precariously on the tracks; and the huge pine forest becomes a sentinel guarding you from the merciless sun above. It is dark and the mood changes. Soon you come across a monstrous decent to the river side which is slippery at places and tests you confidence. As you come in level with the river; you enjoy another of those cascading waterfalls that dot this trek. In winter there is a snow bridge here. In the peak of summer; a simple log bridge will put you on the way to the last standing dhaba on this trek at Jhaka Heights. We had our wrapped breakfast and chai here and experimented with some local cuisine. The first two days of the trek will prepare you for this day as the tracks get slippery and first snow patches appear. The two dogs are making merry of the trail bounding along taking short cuts and sliding in the far snows. A short climb out of Jhaka Heights’ we get caught in the rains. An immediate halt is required while the atmosphere gets threatening and huge rain drops fall.  We quickly try to take shelter while bolts of alarming lightning strike around us. The huge trees looks ominous now and we gear up in rain proof clothes. It’s important to carry a water proof cover for your rucksack. The Guide informed us that there was a wooden hut about half hour later on the trek; but mercifully it petered down to drops and slowly we set out in the rain. Camping grassland Udakanal comes up where some team camp, but we had more to achieve. After resting for few minutes at the hut we started our push. We entered a particularly long boulder strewn valley that requires some hopping and skipping. This is the mouth of U shaped valley and several waterfalls join the Rupin from the towering peaks that close around the valley. A number of snow bridges occur at their bases that are frozen snow bridges which have to negotiate carefully. Suddenly the river that accompanied all along the way tapers to canter cutting across an island broken into tributaries. The first view of the famed Rupin waterfall start appearing and all around are frozen icy crags atop the surrounding peaks. There is another camp site called Suruwas Thatch; our guide points out, but we plod ahead through a colourful meadows of marigold and Rhododendron flowers to another back breaking ascent that hugs the mountain scape. The reward; a grand colourful amphitheatre right in the middle of the entire valley.  This is Dhanderas thatch. Right ahead is the Rupin upper and lower waterfall making a grand spectacle. Nobody is complaining now and we take to the huge Bugyal resting our tired bodies. Colourful tents mark the entire expanse of green and our tent is at the extreme end offering a rare view of the waterfalls. The HT team has the tents ready and we enjoy hot tea snacks and tang. Acclimatisation is very important at heights and  at lunch; we take a decision to spend a day here.  A relaxed evening comes over as the mist moves in keeping us on tender hooks for most of the time. The next day we took it easy. We explored the vast grassland across all sides clicking pictures and stepping on frozen ice sheets. Some went near the waterfall to check the progress of the trek.  Quality time in a campsite vanishes before you know it; but we bonded for lunch and shared our experiences.  It was also selfie time around and the HT support staff show us some basic skills required for walking on ice in the evening.

Dhanderas Thatch (Lower Waterfall) to Ratapheri – High Altitude Sickness (AMS) Problems at Rupin!

We are apprehensive about the climb today as the gain in altitude is going to be close to 1000 metre. We are stepping into the 3500 metre plus zone; where AMS or high altitude sickness is a possibility for many. There are various ways to contour its effects and you will be duly advised by the HT trek guide. I personally feel; if you are reasonably fit; keep yourself well hydrated and; then you won’t need Diamox. However the best solution to high altitude sickness is proper acclimatisation and HT trek guides are the best guys to listen to.


sticking to our 7 am start; we rapidly cover the first kilometre to the base of the waterfall over a number of tributaries. Careful discretion is necessary not to wet shoes at this level. There’s a challenging climb over the moraine as we climb along the 60 degree ice field avoiding the ice and trekking up the moraine. Gradually the upper reaches reveal themselves for the first time and we are in for a lot of surprises. The number of ice fields increase and the process of cutting steps help in the progress. There’s a simple horizontal ice bridge and then we come to the middle water fall level.  Here’s standing on this snow bridge; you watch the Rupin gushing down from top while disappearing under the snow bridge. The greater and higher vistas are opening now; and there are continuous climbing at all three levels of the waterfall; as we reach the top level. The acclimatisation has helped and soon we drop level to the upper waterfall camp after a particularly lengthy and difficult ascent. You are on the top of the world as you have left the entire Rupin valley behind.  The entire green belt of the lower waterfall camp is now a colour of delights. The upper water fall reveals vast camping sites, colourful meadows and a lazy Rupin following from a lake behind a mountain. A number of pit stops are needed now as the going is tough but our whole group is prepared well. HT trek leaders marshal us along the way helping on treacherous slopes. There’s a famed rock point for selfies and you can go right up to the snout of the upper water fall and pose with the Rupin gushing down below several hundred feet in the valley below. This is not recommended for the fainthearted. The weather is clear and the sun beats down on us. It’s fav moment for us; for we have conquered our apprehensions and we plod ahead. The crossing of the upper water fall will have a bearing on us covering the pass the next day. After traversing another bone jarring ascent we suddenly veer into a huge glaciated bowl. This is Ratapheri from where we will cross the pass. The upper alpine ranges of Dhauladhar are now our sole sentinels and form here to the pass is a paradise of snow. We have pitched tent right next to the glacier and we practice our first steps with the micro crampons.

Ratapheri – Rupin Pass – Ronti Gad – Kanda Sangla – WALKING ON THIN ICE

The Ratapheri camp was the perfect step for covering the pass next day. The temperatures are quite low and the thermals come into use at night. Gators could come useful here and some teams had them. Camping in the blustery glaciated bowl; we fortified ourselves for the final push. Mini crampons were strapped and we trudged for practice runs into the ice which stretched just feet away from our tents.  Excellent hot meals replenished our energy levels and our spirits were now high to meet a blustery cold night. Going to the toilet tent at this camp at midnight is no mean achievement.  Walking or balancing on ice sheets is not easy. One small step into the thin ice meant finding ourselves getting suddenly swamped into it. But It was certainly not life threatening; lot of people were enjoying the slides and HT support staff held us to solid moorings. The trick is perfecting the simple techniques fast. Soon after perfecting a few tricks like distinguishing thin ice by the colour, cutting steps and stepping on solid footprints; you gain confidence. The pass was now visible as a thin gateway stretched towards the upper Dhauladhar range. The gradient looked exceedingly challenging; but so had the upper water fall from the valley below. All of us were in high spirits and raring to go. Like all ascents over glaciers of 4000 metre and above; we have to start early before 6am; so that we crossed the better part of the glacier before the sun went high and the made it slippery and unstable. Early next morning we enter the bowl of ice and progress is slow at first.

The Moment of Reckoning has come

There is an initial climb over a broad shoulder of snow; as we heed out towards the gully; keeping the pass in sight. Sometimes a broad muscle of snow on our trail broke off to expose the swirling water below. We trudged on cautiously…  The singularly undulating white paradise stretched on; while the sun gradually rose and came up the horizon. We managed to reach the last flank before the climb to the pass. It’s was a difficult two to three hundred metre climb and you needed a good rest before you attempt. It’s at such times that the ice axe works as a wonder. To reach the pass you have to climb this flank of icy boulders and the HT support staff helps you all way. Ahead other teams were into the main gully. The last climb through the gully is open to loose rocks and mountains. The climb is now sometimes on all fours and you drag yourself through the gully. It’s important to keep gap from the other person and not let loose a cannon of rocks and pebbles down the gully by taking a false step. Voices of other climbers echo in the gully; it is ethereal; but this is what the whole team has been waiting for and suddenly extra energy comes into my arms; as I slither ahead like a tough professional. Halfway up we take stock of the entire team and rest.  It’s wise to let porters and guides lead the way in this stretch. The outer rim is now visible and helping hands of our porters pull some of us to the top. We are now at Rupin pass saddle at a height of 4620 m; there is a unique joy of delight and satisfaction among most of us. There’s a lot of back clapping and handshakes all around. For our descent, we see a vast snowscape and all around us we view the peaks of the Dhauladhar range in spectacular proximity for the first time. People celebrate and take a darshan at a make ship Shiv Mandir. I can vouch that; it’s here that you feel closest to God and nature leaves you in a transcendental meditation. You realise that you have nailed it. After customary photo opps; you step into the descent and the final surprise of the trek hits you.


In early summer beginning to mid may the snow on Rupin pass trail is considerable and covers a larger area. Descending through a series of such sharply inclined snow slopes can take hours. There’s a better way to glissade or slide down these slopes in a few seconds. Some trekkers to Rupin do this at three levels while descending from the pass.  It appears daunting at first; but again there is great fun in this activity once you perfect the finer points. Some of the old porters have seen snowfields right up to Ronti gad; our camp site but this is late summer and we trudge down to from where we have to take the slide.  There is a slide of 300 to four hundred feet with a stopper in the form of a porter at the bottom of the slide; to arrest the slide. We start going down like nine pins. One after one; we let our shrill cries of jubilation as we hurtle down the slope at great speeds to cover this vast snow field. Within minutes the steep saddle of Rupin pass has become a distant speck in the mountain line. We cover the last of the snow fields and open our mini crampons and step into the inviting green meadows. This is Kinnaur and we cross a number of rivulets flowing out from the glacier as we descend. It looks and feels like a different weather system from the other side of the pass. At the back of our minds; is that we are going to have the last of our camps today. Life at HT cap site had become a habit where we enjoyed brotherhood and spirit of the mountains. The upper peaks of the Kinnaur look menacingly close but the Himachali landscape is uniquely different from the Uttarakhand topography of our first day.  This part though looks like vintage Switzerland.  The green meadows of Ronti Gad; another camp site are inviting but we make our tired legs plod on. The decent is very bad on the knees and your body is jarring and the last part to our camp at Kanda Sangla is particularly tough.

On the opposite slope is a huge collection of Bhoj or Birch trees. We stretch out on the inviting turf at the campsite dead tired; while the efficient business of pitching tents goes on. Shepherds come up this trail and we relax and left low our guards for the first time. We reflect that the mountain have been kind enough with good weather and offer our thanks. By evening we drag ourselves to the kitchen tent for a round of celebrations. The trek is now coming to an end and we celebrate our bonds and travels with local folklore from two local villagers at night. The night is long and we retire late under the stars.

The trek to Sangla from Sangla Kanda is through a jungle and has many trails and tracks crisscrossing. There are two ways down and one can take any one of these trails while avoiding going down to the river. There are quaint village houses all the way down and you see villagers working. Sangla is an important town of Himachal and part of the Kinnaur Kailash circuit. The last day walk  through a pine forest takes its toll and you are more than ready to welcome civilisation by the time you cross the steel bridge over Baspa to enter town.

P.C and special thanks to Manmeet for sharing the photos of the trek.

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One Question May Remain Unanswered, Why We Climb Mountains …

Historically it says that Panpatia Col is the connection between Badrinath and Kedarnath . This route is one of the highest passes of Himalayas where one has to walk over the mysterious Panpatia Glacier. Legendary mountaineers Shipton and Tilman first crossed this in 1934, albeit with hardship. Later in 1998 famous mountaineer Martin Moran and team successfully walked on this glacier, almost following the same route of Shipton and Tilman. Those were the legendary mountaineers and many attempts after that by the new age mountaineers. The shorter route that was first attempted was under the leadership of Tapan Pandit from West Bengal in the year 2007.
In our attempt to Panpatia we planned to follow Tapan Da’s (elder brother in Bengali) footsteps. We took logistical support and expedition guide from HIMALAYA TREKKERS. Finally a motley group of five people decided to attempt the Panpatia Col in the beginning of post monsoon, early September 2017. The next few days of our life were like an absolute dream intertwined with scare, which I attempt to chronicle in this blog along with some tips, and tricks that may help the reader be better prepared for this marvellous expedition. Check Panpatia trek details page for more information.

Best Time & challenges and Difficulty level for Panpatia trek:

We attempted this expedition post monsoon and learnt from the locals that this is the best time to experience the serene mountains in solitude. The trek may get easier and little comfortable in summer. However irrespective of summer or monsoon it is indeed a difficult and treacherous trek to attempt.
Heavy snowfall may happen anytime and that has resulted in human casualties in the past. At the time of writing this blog, I received some grave news about the team that started couple of weeks after us, were trapped under heavy snowfall. This resulted in a causality of one of the team member whose body was discovered days later.

  • Shoe is very important, as 80% of the terrain is with boulders (in post monsoon especially). Needless to say three to four months of preparation will surely help
  • Extra ration for additional days is must. So even if we are stuck, we aren’t empty stomach.
    We carried trekking gears like couple of ice-axes, spikes for everyone, 100 meters rope , 5 kilogram filled oxygen cylinder.
  • Generally, a porter in High Altitude will carry 20 kg and we took help of seven person apart from Cook and Guide.
  • Ration planning was nicely done by our support team. It was 9 days camp for 14 people with three triple sharing tents and one kitchen tent. We carried 25 kg rice, 20 kg wheat flour(aata) , 8 kg lentils, 60 pieces eggs, 30 kg fresh vegetables (including 15 Kg of Potato and Onion), 4 L of cooking oil, other ingredients like spices, salt, sugar , ready to eat noodles, tea/coffee/soup etc. Most importantly 40 L kerosene (we had two kerosene stove for cooking purpose). Additionally my incorrigible non veg friends bought a sheep (yes!) from the Shepherd’s (camp) and which served three full meals to the team, leaving me. Haha

Day 0 (6th September’ 2017) – Overnight train from Delhi to Haridwar

We all met at Delhi Airport. Saptarshi Roy, Arunava Patra, Soumitro Das, Rajarshi Sarkar all from Kolkata and myself Anomit Roy joined them from Hyderabad. Old friends’ new venture everyone was excited. Well we were anxious in addition. For sure, it is going to be a hard one and we were not sure if the preparation was enough for us. We boarded the train from New Delhi Railway Station around 23:50 .( 12205 nandadevi exp ). Destination was Haridwar. Before I forget to mention, food is very important to any of our expeditions and as you would see, we will never ignore it. So Five full stomach with ample dose of Hyderabadi Biryani was an apt start to the Panpatia Col Expedition 🙂

Day 1 ( 7th Sep’ 2017 ) – Drive from Haridwar to Joshimath – 270 Km

Reached Haridwar early morning at around 6 AM, thankfully the train was late by only one hour. Our first destination from here was Josimath which is one of the famous hill station in Uttarakhand,India. The distance between Haridwar and Joshimath is aroun 280 km which takes almost 12 hours (including breaks like breakfast, lunch etc ) . We had a pre booked car, which costs around five thousands rupees for us.

We reached Haridwar before sunrise

Enroute We stopped at Devprayag which is one of the Panch(five) Prayag of Alaknanda River where Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers meet and take the name Ganga or Ganges River. Rishikesh to Josimath is very picturesque road overlooking the Alaknanda River on the sides and the great Himalayas on the horizon. We took our lunch break at NandaPrayag. People like seafood can enjoy fresh river fish here.

Devprayag: Confluence of Alaknanda (R) and Bhagirathi (L) forming Ganga

Finally reached Joshimath , just before the sun wished us good night in this beautiful hill station. Friends who aren’t interested in strenuous treks should try Joshimath & Auli as their next holiday destination, Its serene surroundings and virgin beauty can put any other hill stations like Manali or Mussoorie to a tough competition.We directly went to Joshimath GMVN hotel and got a budget friendly dormitory for us. It costs us around 1500 rupees per night for 5 of us.

A views from Joshimath GMVN

Day 2 (8th Sep’ 2017 ) – Acclimatisation walk to Auli and back – 5 hours

Irrespective of you being an experienced trekker or not, thumb rule of any high altitude expedition is proper acclimatisation. We choose this day for a gentle hike from Joshimath to Auli followed by our rationing and logistic preparation in the evening.

Auli , is a place that I would like to revisit again and again . Picture won’t do justice to the spectacular view of mountain ranges stacked one after other that you find here.

At Auli

The evening was kept for our rationing at  Joshimath. It is quite a big town for you to get all the necessary groceries and vegetables that would last the trip.  Now we met our Guide Mr Balwant Singh Panwar, and Assistant Guide Mr Dilip Singh , along with six other support stuff. Mr Pushkar was our designated cook for the trip and we were elated to know that he is equally proficient in churning out vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

Provisioning in the evening, Joshimath

Day 3 (9th Sep’ 2017 ) – Drive to Benkuli 30 Km towards Badrinath – Trek to Khirao – 3/4 hours

Good Food assured, Great Team as company and Awesome Mountain ahead, we already had a great start. Our first destination would be Belenkuli on the way to Badrinath from Josimath (around 22km from Joshimath). On our way we bid good-bye to the comfort of motor vehicle at Benekuli and from there on rely on the most primitive mode of Human transportation-Legs for the rest of the journey. First leg of our journey was to reach Khirao Village, which would also be our first campsite of the trek.

Road head at Benkuli, 30 Km from Joshimath towards Badrinath
Our 5 member “trekking team” nicknamed The Pandavas 😀

Benkuli is around 2300 mtr and is the starting point of this expedition. Initially Terrain was rocky with loose boulders scattered everywhere. This was combined with steep ascent that lasted a good 40-45 mins, which elevated our heart rates to the required level. The steep ascent was followed by a quick descent and later one more ascent. As per the prior information, this was supposed to be an easy 2 hours walk but it was certainly not or maybe we are getting a bit old. Anyways, a walk however difficult when surrounded by the green meadows and the inviting mountains up front gets so much less tiring as we proceed. Tiredness replaces an elation a certain high that can be only achieved in the arms of the great Himalayas.

Climb to Khirao village
Climb to Khirao village

Khirao is a very small village with some handful families living in seemingly harsh conditions. It gets its name from the river Khirao-Ganga that’s flowing right beside it. In fact we  will trackback  this river throughout our journey right  up to it’s source glacier in Panpatia. The first day of camp was set up at the upper part of this village, near to Khirao Temple. Campsite at an altitude of approximately 2755mtr. Team took almost 3 hours to reach here.

First view of Khirao village

Day 4 (10th Sep’ 2017 ) – Trek to Shepherd camp – 5/6 hours

Woke up early to receive the first bad news of the trek – It has been raining from 4 o clock in the morning. With nothing better to do, we continued to enjoy the rain sipping hot tea prepared by Pushkar. Rain started slowing down at around 6:40 AM but this would certainly delay our previous planned start of 7:30 AM. Our next campsite from Khirao is Snout, which is a good 7 to 8 hours of walk. Nobody seemed to be bothered by this delay as Himalayas is the only place where once you are in the zone the time or distance does not matter and you live in the moment while the vastness sinks in.

Morning view at Khirao campsite

At 8:30 am we started our walk after a sumptuous breakfast with Aloo Parantha. Pushkar started living up to his reputation of being the master chef on the mountains. As lifelong foodie, we highly recommend him for your any trek in this region.

Almost an hour and half continuous ascent just after leaving Khirao Camp
Beautiful Bugyal on our way
These flowers resembling Sunflower are my inspiration towards destination

Around 2 pm our expedition guide Balwant Ji stopped us at Shepherd Camp as he sensed heavy rains going forward. He decided to camp here as It would be risky to drench our groceries and supplied at such early days of the trek. Shepherd camp is at 3400 m approximately. The local name of this place is Gaddi Gadira.

Shepherd camp
A local Gaddi (shepherd) trimming and collecting wool

3 pm – Rain started with cold wind around. We came inside tent. Around 4:10 pm – Still inside the tent. Rain has stopped now. The Tent’s was setup to open to this wide thoroughfare of mountain ranges. The wallpaper of Lush Green Mountains, Cloud cover peaks and one small stream flowing in front is as scenic as it can get. . The team bought almost 12 Kg of lamb meat from local shepherds here and looks like it would be our dinner for the next three nights, at least for the non-vegetarians amongst us.

Day 5 (11th Sep’ 2017 ) – Trek to Moraine camp – 7/8 hours

8 am – Leaving camp late . 8:45 am – It was first time ever I saw the Mystic Mt. Neelkanth . Emotions were expressionless except the jaws felt down !!

Mt. Neelkanth from Dan Kharak
Some teams camp here at the snout of the glacier moraine
Beginning of moraine

Reached Moraine Campsite around 4 pm. The altitude is approx. 4000 m here. Everyone was pretty exhausted after walking on rocky terrain for long. A proper trekking shoe is a must if you are to survive this terrain. The path to Moraine seemed like a never ending one. Which personally I have never experienced. Continuing to the 3rd day tradition this day did not go well for me. After lunch at 1 pm, I decided to move with porters to reach to the camp as early as possible and did not want to finish the day under fading sunlight and dropping mercury. Well in retrospect, it was not the wisest of decision. After an hour of a gruelling walk through very harsh terrain I found that, porters took the harder but faster path while the rest took a comparatively easier route. “Always follow your Guide” – Mountain’s Rule number One 🙂

Moraine camp

I travelled with the porters for another 30 mins to finally re-unite with the guide and the rest of my team. By now my body was super exhausted and I had almost finished my water as well. Each minute of the next couple of hours walk was punishing that I pushed through with a zombie like stroll. I was totally dehydrated by the time we reached campsite. This route also had very few water sources so my suggestion would be to carry additional water reserves.  Had plenty of water mixed with salt and lemon, sat still for almost 30 mins with chocolate in my mouth, puked a few times followed by a bowel movement. All these aided to a quicker-than-expected recovery, Sapta Da mentioned that running noses are the signs of better acclimatisation at high altitudes and found some solace in his words.

7:30 PM: Finished today’s diner and back inside sleeping bag. Very cold outside, shivering a lot inside the tent too. Around 8 pm I crashed for a well-deserved sleep.

Day 6 (12th Sep’ 2017 ) – Trek to Parvati rock (below Parvati gully) – 6/7 hours

6:10 pm – “Point of No Return” from here. Another day traversing through the boulders. we were discussing amongst us that it may have been easier before monsoons as walking on ice is much easier than these loose rocks. Of course that would mean we had to setup our camps on snow and icy ground, which may not be a good thing for these many days. The day started with walking on moraine, followed by crossing a glacier and a prompt steep ascent. We reached the campsite at around 2:45 pm and were greeted by steady snowfall. We camped at an altitude of approx 4510 m.

Moraine walk begins
Glacier has opened
First ice field crossing to reach Parvati rock campsite
A tough ascent on the boulders alongside the waterfall awaits for us
Finally on the ridge, a relief!

8:30 pm – Its getting colder, all five us were sitting in a single tent. Outside of tent looks like a white screen with almost zero visibility. Every day the weather goes bad after 12 noon or so . We were contemplating to have an early start from now on. If we start the day earlier, we may be able to avoid such spurts of bad weather enroute to our campsites.

Day 7 (13th Sep’ 2017 ) – Trek to lower Panpatia ice field – 3 hours

8:45 pm – It was more or less a rest day for us. We just walked for 3 hours to reach to the base of Panpatia glacier and ice field. This place is just below our final ascent to reach the Panpatia Ice Field. We reached the campsite by 11:30 am. This was a tricky and risky terrain while crossing the rocky Parvati gully. Several times our guide helped us to cross possible traps we were unaware of. Altitude now is approximately 4800 m with the atmospheric oxygen dropping to around 57% that of sea level. Climbing 300 m took us three hours and I advice every caution while crossing this treacherous terrain. I may not be the most eloquent while describing the beauty of Himalayas hence I leave you with this picture worth of thousand words and hope it does some justice to its unspeakable beauty.

High altitude Life form 🙂
Sunset time

Tomorrow is the day , we all eagerly waiting for  …… The camp on upper Panpatia ice field.

Day 8 (14th Sep’ 2017 ) – Trek to upper Panpatia ice field – 6/7 hours

5:30 pm – We are sitting inside tent on the snowfield. Only two tents today. We five will sleep in a single tent and Kitchen tent will be for rest of the support team. A mixed day . We reached middle of the Panpatia ice filed by morning 9 am. Weather gods had smiled on us with a pleasant sunny day. We spent almost an hour or more on photo sessions in the great Himalayan studio. Around 10:30 am we started towards Panpatia Col. Initially we had the plan to cross the Col on the same day but the mystery land had something else for us !! The route was surrounded by deep crevasses, we had to use rope to cross one of the crevasse. By 12:30pm weather changed all of a sudden and we were engulfed within clouds with reduced visibility. Team moved forward slowly decided to set campsite around very near to Panpatia Col at around 2:30 PM. Guide did not advise us to move forward. This deviated us from our earlier plan to cross the Col by today and now had to settle down here, 300/400 mtrs away from Col.  Pushkar hit his peak form and, we received hot tea , popcorn , hot soup , hot Bournvita energy drinks all in quick succession.

Climbing from Panpatia lower ice field
Mt. Chaukhamba – all four towers
Happy time on the middle of the ice field
More joy, this time a somersault 🙂
Crevasse filled Panpatia ice filed
Weather turned bad on upper Panpatia ice field

The day was eventful  we had one of the porters down with AMS (acute mountain sickness) attack around afternoon.  We were equipped for such events and team made good use of the oxygen cylinder and feet massage to keep him oxygenated and warm. Another porter had not used any sunglasses throughout the day and got severe eyes pain due to the reflected sunlight.(A note to future climbers to double check that the porters that travel with you are equipped with such bare essentials for such treks.)  On top of all this our guide Balwant himself was not doing great and had vomited multiple times on the way up here.

7:15 pm – Have to be active, it is freezing even inside the sleeping bag. Did not dare to go out of the tent, so thought of scribbling a few lines while am awake. Today morning while walking on the ice field, Guide had shown us snow leopard’s tracks on the ice. It was quite fresh and as per him the elusive animal had crossed, the field today early morning (may be 4/5 hours before we reached there). We were discussing that at this point we won’t mind inviting leopard inside the tent to get some warmth out of it’s cosy fur. We hoped it has finished its diner, so it should not mind the warm shelter aided with the cumulative fat of five of us. I always prefer company of people who crack jokes and laugh aloud. You would be surprised how quickly a good laugh can warm your body. Sapta Da asked other porters (who are in the kitchen tent), not to let the AMS sick person completely sleep but to check regularly how he is doing. We were going to live every moment of this night … long night! Good Night.

Day 9 (15th Sep’ 2017 ) – Crossing Panpatia Col  – descent – Sujal Sarovar and further down – 12/13 hours

11 pm – The Magic Day!! Morning 8:30 am we moved forward.  Then comes the famous descent from the Col. We walked almost 20 mins on the snow and then suddenly saw the steep descending path that awaits us. For a while I was taken aback and thought I might not be able to make it. Took a little pause summoned up courage and started my struggle.

Upper Panpatia ice field camp
Very steep descent flattens after 200 m or so

Today we had to release two porters to carry the ill porter in rotation. So in reality, we were 3 porters down. We decided to share the extra loads of the two porters making it a tougher day for all of us. Thankfully, the person with eye pain is doing better now. After reaching the campsite, we asked him to apply sliced cucumber on eyes,  the household trick worked magic for him. The morning, descent was risky and tough, almost 70 degrees of inclination that led you back the dreaded boulder filled terrain. We took a lunch break and Pushkar quickly cooked some noodles for us at around 12:30 pm. We also filled up our bottles and continued our journey to the next destination, Sujal Sarovar. Enroute Crossed a small but very beautiful glacier which was followed by the boulder filled path for . the rest of the days. By now We all were quite irritated with boulders. So far 75%  of the journey was on boulder filled path

Hot lunch enroute
One last time on glacier and ice field
Sujal sarovar

It took us almost three hours to reach Suja Sarovar from the place where we had lunch. Sujal Sarovar had a supreme view , with Mount Chaukhamba’s reflection falling right on the lake. Unfortunately we weren’t able to setup camp here on boulders. May be during pre-monsoon this place remains covered with snow making it possible to camp. We continued to move and had to walk another 3 hours to reach campsite that didn’t really have any names. Camp is approximately at 3900 m. We came down a lot in 9/10 hours of walk today. Just like life going down is always faster than climbing up.

Day 10 (16th Sep’ 2017 ) – trek to Kachni Khal and descent to Madmaheshwar – 8/9 hours

We let our muscles relax a bit and had a late start at around 11 am. Reached Kachni Khal around 2 pm . Nice Bugyal views with Bramha Kamal bloom all around.

Towards Kachni Khal
Brahma Kamal

From Kachni Khal we are supposed to reach Madhyamaheshwar today. We were already late for our destination. This was a proper wide trail except a very few places that still had some of the dreaded boulders. This is very beautiful trail and the icy taverns of past few days being replaced with the dense green vegetation is always a heavenly feeling. We had grossly underestimated the distance and reached Madmaheshwar only by around 8 pm in the evening. It would be at least 8 to 9 Km  away from Kachni Khal as opposed to 5 Km marked on stones.

Walking down to Madhyamaheshwar
Buda Madmaheshwar on the ridge, still quite a bit to walk

Day 11 (17th Sep’ 2017 ) – trek to Ransi – 8/9 hours

Last Day of our trek. Madhyamaheshwar to Ransi  is almost 20 to 22 Km distance though we were in no mood to start early . Last night we reached here by 8 pm and got a room with cosy beds and blankets beside the temple! Guide was busy pushing us with continuous “Chalo bhai ,  chalo chalo” (lets go brother). Ransi to Madhyamaheswar is a beautiful trek too. We reached Ransi just before sunset.

Madmaheshwar temple
Lovely walk to Ransi

Day 12 (18th Sep’ 2017 ) – drive to Haridwar – 9/10 hours

Today we drive back to Haridwar via Ukhimath and Rudraprayag. All well that ends well!

Chaukhamba one last time

P.S. All photos are shared by Author.

Last but not the least:

Don’t take this account for granted. Though we were casual with respect to early morning start but remember that 5 of us knew each other for at least a decade or more. We have done multiple treks together and we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our guide has lead these type of treks for more than 15 years. Mental attitude and understanding matters a lot. Mentally prepare for unfavourable conditions which are beyond your control, simply expect the unexpected. Also we got relatively good weather when required. Carefully select your logistics and support team, in case you are planning independently. Hope you have enjoyed reading and it will help in planning key areas. Your comments are more than welcome 🙂

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Note: This article is a continuation of our simple physical fitness required for trekking and aimed for intermediate and advanced fitness enthusiasts. Consult a certified trainer before taking up any training schedule.

Physicality, training and how these helps in Trekking in the wilderness – Something I have always pondered about!

When it comes to physicality, there is no less number of available gurus to throw light upon workouts with weights, callisthenics, power yoga and so on. When it comes to treks some people associates it with an athletic level of cardio where one is able to withstand a hell lot of panting and still moving up a steep incline, and naturally relates to popular forms of cardio like running cycling etc. You may feel a bit startled when I will say that treks, in reality, require a sort of physical preparation which is not actually any of the above mentioned processes, but a judicious mix of all.

First, let’s understand the requirement of a moderate to difficult trek. Undertaking this requires a good cardio endurance to scale the steeps, moderate strength to handle your scores and do the daily necessities (I recommend that you should possess that strength in wilderness, even if it may be possible that you don’t lift and carry you Rucksack always)

Building a lot of muscles by working out with moderate to heavy weights does not really helps while hiking in a challenging route. I have seen people doing reasonably well in gyms but quickly becoming breathless and struggling on rough terrains. Why? Due to one simple reason. Having too much muscle mass may increases the general oxygen demand of the body and lungs simple may not be able to cope with that, and this situation may get worse in higher altitude, with thinner air.

So, shall I not work with weights at all? You should, do the conventional exercises to a moderate level with light weights, maintaining full range of movement and high number of repetitions(15-20 per set)  to build up the necessary strength and at the same time build up the stamina and endurance to keep you get going, but not adding extra unnecessary muscle mass.

So, as you can see we are more interested in lean muscles and good power to weight ratio, with a little more weightage towards endurance and lower body strengths. After all, it’s your legs which will do most of the staff. This part you can build easily with medium distance running (3- 4 km) coupled with short sprints (once or twice during the running session). Supplement this cardio schedule with body weight workouts like Squats and Lunges, with or without weights. But if you take weight, take it light, so that you can do sufficient no of repetitions per set (15 – 20), which is necessary to build endurance.

Seems fairly straightforward, isn’t it? So, start right on with this basic idea in mind and, one last point, remember rest is as important as training, so do not exceed 4 to 5 days a week in your work schedule. Best of Luck and hope this will help you to perform excellently in your next trekking endeavour!

Elaboration on above outline: The journey from a casual fitness enthusiast to a hard athlete and how this relates to different mountain activities, like High to Medium Altitude trekking, Rock Climbing and Mountaineering


When it comes to fitness and physicality, there are no less number of available gurus to throw light upon workouts with weights, calisthenics, power yoga etc. When it comes to treks some people associates it with an athletic level of cardio where one is able to withstand a hell lot of panting and still moving up a steep incline, and naturally relates to popular forms of cardio like running cycling etc. You may feel a bit startled when I will say that treks, in reality, require a sort of physical preparation which is not actually any of the above mentioned processes, but a typical mix of all, which also depend on the difficulty / Grade of the trek involved (refer to trek Gradings and their meaning page). A relatively easy trek of Grade 2 may have significantly different physical and psychological demand than that of a hard Grade 9/10 trek. And trekking is only a part of the bigger picture, part of a larger range of activities that a person undertakes in the mountain as Mountaineering. Hence in this article we will be focusing on a comprehensive range of activities, starting from casual fitness workouts to intense athletic activities, and will try to relate them to understand how they help us in different mountain activities, like Trekking, climbing and Mountaineering.

As we have outlined the above scope lets quickly take a look at the commonly used parameters like VO2 Max, Resting Heart Rate(RHR) and Body Mass Index(BMI).

Resting Heart Rate: As the name suggests, it is a normal Heart Beat rate per Minute for a Person when he or she is at rest.

VO2max stands for maximal oxygen uptake at maximal exhaustion state and refers to the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilising in one minute. It is a measure of your capacity for aerobic work and can be a predictor of your potential as an endurance athlete. Although there are many factors that affect your VO2max, it is a commonly accepted measure of cardio respiratory fitness. It is also a fairly good index of your overall fitness. Presented below for your reference is the general distribution of VO2max over different age groups of men and women, and their grading.

Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) norms for men (ml/kg/min)


Age (years)

Rating 18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 65+
excellent > 60 > 56 > 51 > 45 > 41 > 37
good 52-60 49-56 43-51 39-45 36-41 33-37
above average 47-51 43-48 39-42 36-38 32-35 29-32
average 42-46 40-42 35-38 32-35 30-31 26-28
below average 37-41 35-39 31-34 29-31 26-29 22-25
poor 30-36 30-34 26-30 25-28 22-25 20-21
very poor < 30 < 30 < 26 < 25 < 22 < 20

Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) norms for women (ml/kg/min)


Age (years)

Rating 18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 65+
excellent > 56 > 52 > 45 > 40 > 37 > 32
good 47-56 45-52 38-45 34-40 32-37 28-32
above average 42-46 39-44 34-37 31-33 28-31 25-27
average 38-41 35-38 31-33 28-30 25-27 22-24
below average 33-37 31-34 27-30 25-27 22-24 19-21
poor 28-32 26-30 22-26 20-24 18-21 17-18
very poor < 28 < 26 < 22 < 20 < 18 < 17


BMI or Body Mass Index:  It is measure of the extent of Body fat in adults. In many occasions, we have seen that people relating this to fitness, and there is a common notion that one with lower BMI will do better on inclines. In my belief, this is too gross an idea, to the extent of a misconception and doesn’t go much far to describe the whole story. What really matters in cross fit training as well as in tough terrain approaches are the person’s strength to weight ratio, endurance to weight ratio, to reduce struggle and to perform adequately. We have seen many people with big mass hauling comfortably in tough routes, as they have adequate strength to weight ratio to do so.  The reverse is also seen, thin skinny people doing well initially, taking advantage of their low body weight, but gets used up in the advanced phase, due to their limited strength and limited fat reserve. So, it is better to see BMI as a fat content index only and not to put primary emphasis on reducing that only! We have to understand when one gets really fitter and stronger; BMI automatically gets into control, not the other way round.

It is a bit surprising fact that though VO2max decreases with the increase of age of an adult male or female, RHR remains more or less constant, i.e. though the VO2max of a 45 yr old person has decreased to 33 from 40, when he was 25 years old, his RHR may remain fixed at 65. So the VO2max is a better indicator of athletic potential than RHR across ages. All these above parameters can be used as an indicator to your position in the fitness scale as you move up through different difficulty zones.

Workout Stages and how some of these meet the demands of specific Mountain activity requirements

As we all have an idea that training processes range from basic light cardio to Extreme Athletes, who pushes their VO2max to astounding levels. Refer to the below flow chart for the basic stages which we will walk through.

 Light Cardio/Low Intensity Workouts.
E.g.:  1 -2 Km Jog, 30 min brisk walking at 12 min per Km

Medium intensity workouts to raise VO2max significantly. E.g.: Running 4-5 km at 5.5 to 6.5 min per km, Working out with Supported machines combined with simple body weight training like Squats/Push-ups/Lunges.

High Intensity workouts/ Power endurance Training

E.g: Working out in circuits using free weights. Complex Body weight circuits like combinations of Pullups/Burpees/Clean and jerk/Box jumps. Boxing. These kind of trainings are very effective to push VO2max, hence useful in mountain circuits.

Very high intensity training/nearing the last phase.

E.g.: Working on Boulder circuits in Rock climbing. Plyometric. In these activities, you should to able to utilise your ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate, a biological energy releasing molecule) in your muscles to generate sudden bursts of power within a short span of time. Marathoning and Martial Arts like Krav Maga.

Extremes. These are very specialised and should only be performed by experts with long term proper training.

E.g: Triathloning, High Altitude trad climbing, Dry Tooling, Competition Boxing.

STEP by STEP: The key is Measure and progress

If you are an healthy and active individual, at any point time in your life you can try out the above steps to move up in the athletic performance ladder. But mind it, it is a step by step process where all the steps has to be covered. One has to be patient and consistent in his/her practices to improve. Starting from the first step:

Step 1: You can take up the first step any fine morning with a glint of motivation. You require only a pair of Running shoes and a nearby road or park or playground(if any available) as your track. Measure the track with you bike or friend’s bike, or you can install any activity and distance tracking app like Strava in your mobile and track the distance.  You don’t need a trainer and your only investment is the shoes, which I recommend to take a good one with sufficient midfoot and heel cushion to avoid minor injuries. Make sure you time your jog/Walk with the stopwatch function of your watch and take a mental record of the progression. The key to improvement is  measuring and subsequently improving your jog, and when you do a 2 km in 15 mins comfortably, you are through to move to the next stage.

Step 2: Running takes perseverance, but by now, you must have got the fun of the improvement process. Your target is now to do a 6 km in 30 mins, though you can even push to 10 – 15 kilometers with proper practice and time.  Run three to four days a week, and try not to push yourself with more than an increment of 5% of your last day’s speed. Speed is important, but more speed also makes you more injury prone, so take care to feel deeply your body’s response, and stop in case of any unusual feeling or pain, especially in the lower back, knees or ankles. Supplement your schedule with body weight trainings like Squats/Pushups/Lunges. They will give you a balanced strength improvement, especially of the lower body/legs. Take help of a local trainer for the correct postures of these workouts.

Takeaway:  These two steps will make you enough strong to undertake medium grade treks with ease. You will feel stronger I the route, an as you feel that, you will become psychologically more stable, and can enjoy the natural bounties of the route better.

Step 3: In the next level, as your capability increases along with your VO2max, you definitely now need a gym and a trainer to help you learn the exercises properly. You need to learn a three very important things to improve as well as to prevent injuries – How to handle free weights, proper posture of each workouts (either using free weights or using your own body weight) and right mix of exercises, to make use of most of your power producing muscles. You will learn techniques like Valsalva Maneuvers when you become moderately proficient in working with weights. Take the help of a good trainer who will guide you at least through the initial phase of your learning process and help you to avoid injuries(remember, injuries can be bad and can not only stop your cycle of improvement abruptly but also can reverse it!!) Take healthy balanced diet with sufficient amount of proteins and drink a lot of water to keep you hydrated throughout your workout sessions. Ample rest is a must and it is enough to work out 3-4 days a week, if you intensity is high.

Step 4:  Very high intensity trainings like Bouldering and plyometrics can be pursued when you have specific interests and you have gone enough strong in the last three phases. Plyometrics are workouts which involve sudden bursts of power for a short period of time. To do this the process uses the energy generating molecules of muscle cells, the ATPs, as well as involves an intense level of cardio.  The exhaust you a lot and takes time to master. They also involve risk of  injury and should be learnt under the supervision of an experienced trainer. The workouts stimulate multiple muscle groups at a time and are very good for improving strength, endurance, agility and co ordinations. All these capabilities are required in amateur to expert level bouldering practices (French Grade 5A – 7A), which involves a lot of plyometric and dynamic movements. As on plyometrics or even more, Bouldering takes even more time to learn and execute, and is an evolved sport in its own discipline. The learning can become a way of life in itself. You require a experienced bouldering trainer to learn the moves and techniques, which will eventually lead you to this new world.

Takeaway: Both the steps contains enough practice to make a mountaineer, from the physicality point of view (we are not discussing the general details and nitty gritties of mountaineering here in this article, anyways, our scope is only to consider these practices from the physicality point of view), who can take extensive expeditions in the high Himalayas. One will be comfortable hiking the steep and arduous approach routes to the base camp carrying a proper load of personals, rations and equipments, and should have enough physical conditioning to start treacherous scrambles/climbs to the higher camps.

As his/her VO2max (which is an indicator of how efficiently you can consume oxygen in your body cells) has risen remarkably from the previous training, it will be definitely be helpful for him/her to work actively in the thin air, which is one prime difficulty the massive altitudes pose in the High Himalayas, apart from terrain and other factors.

Step 5: Finally we step in to the Extremes. Not much relevant in our present day context, as not many people reach this level and try themselves out. Yet, as I am talking about physicality, I thought of touching base of this one last aspect. Extremes deal with very specific sports or activities, each of which requires not only highly developed physicality but also heavily controlled psychology. Some of these activities may  inherently posses certain level of risk, as failure may result to injury, even death.

Here are a few examples of activities which may be considered extremes in my opinion:

Triathlons: These pushes the athlete to his absolute margins of capability by putting him through sequential Swim, Cycling and Run circuits, each of which long enough to exasperate a seasoned athlete, even when taken up isolated. One very known example of Triathlon is Ironman, consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.

Traditional Climbing in High Altitudes: Negotiating climbing pitches on natural routes which has got no pre bolting can become equally difficult. In Trad, the climber has to find cracks and fissures to put temporary holding equipment like nuts, cams or Friends into, to support the protection rope, all af these activities when the climbing is in progress. Not only Climbing gets physically more challenging when one places his own protection but also it becomes  much more riskier to undertake as the placement of protection depends solely on the judgement of the climber in the route, and any wrong choice may result to a gear failure and fall.

Dry Tooling: This involves climbing rock with ice axes and either crampons or rock shoes. It has its origins in mixed climbing, ice climbing and more recently sport climbing. Climbing steep rock faces with these metal equipment not only requires highly developed skills but also very high forearm strength and upper body power, not to mention of the massive endurance to carry the activity on, on an exposed route. This form of climbing activity is relatively recent and still controversial among the climbers.

This is all for now. Hope I have been able to give you a comprehensive overview of how physicality progresses, the steps to train and the takeaways with respect to trekking and mountaineering in its different phases. Hope this helps and feel free to contact in the following email Id for more queries.

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