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26th August 2002 - Page 2

The experience of a lifetime

This is year I had one of the best summers of my life. I had heard about a camp in Manali from a friend, and my interest in mountaineering and trekking 
made me sign up for it and take up the challenge. I spent a month at the 
'Directorate of mountaineering'.
At the first idea of going away from home for a whole month seemed scary but then I figured that it would be an adventure on its own. On the first day I was quite surprised to find that all the girls were much older than me, so it took me a while to adjust. 
Our day would begin at 5:00 in the morning when we would be taken for exercises for an hour. After breakfast we would leave for rock climbing followed by lectures in the afternoon on various mountaineering topics. After another strenuous exercise routine, we would be let off at 8:00, AT LAST!
After a hectic training of fifteen days which included jummaring, rappelling and safety precautions, we headed out for the real expedition. We started off trekking to Solang, followed by Dhundhi and Bhakarthaj. We somehow managed to reach our destination, carrying knapsacks which weighed about thirteen kilos.
After this we did something known as "height gaining" at 15,000 feet. This was the height that one must be able to climb till if he or she wanted to pass this course. A lot of people dropped out from here onwards. The real excitement was now going to begin: our scheduled
climb to Shittidhar peak was changed to Ladkhai peak. 
Our third base camp was at 16,000 feet, and only 14 girls had managed to make it. Along with us were porters who carried weights of upto seventy kilos; they were unbelievably strong.
Next we had planned to climb the peak, at 4:15 in the morning. Getting dressed for such a climb was quite a pain, especially the boots that we had to wear, weighed one and a half kilos- and along with that all of our required equipment. Out of fourteen of us only ten managed to complete the climb. We were divided into two groups of five each and were roped up. Due to heavy snowfall we were walking in four feet of snow, with the sun glaring very sharply, this made it quite tiring. 
We climbed and climbed, taking each step carefully, because even if one member of our group took a wrong step then the entire team would go down and everybody would be in great danger, as we were now at 17,000 feet. This climb involved walking in snow. Finally we reached the top of the peak by around 12; ten of us had made it.
Once I reached the top I hugged the peak, and looked all around me. I was in the middle of the clouds, it was snowing and I was surrounded by many other peaks. It was the most amazing feeling that I 
have ever had. The peaks
name was "Ladahki", it height 18,350 feet, and this was the first time that a basic girls mountaineering course had made it up here. 

That too, in record time.
Climbing the peak was one of my most meaningful experiences in life. I cannot explain what it feels when you reach up to the top. From this trip I have learnt a lot. I have never been challenged physically to this extent. I met so many great people from all over India and I'm really glad and thankful to all those who supported me, pushed me and wouldn't let me give up.
If there is anyone who has a passion for these activities, loves the mountains, trekking and climbing, I would advise you to go to this place. They have courses the year round. I assure you that you will never forget the experience: it's once in life time.

Sonal Marwah
Class XI

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