One of the best things about travelling is that you get to meet new people. February of 2017 we went on an assignment with a group of high school kids who came to the Himalayas for their outdoor learning program. Hiking in snow, climbing up to the world’s highest Shiv temple- Tungnath, reaching the summit of Chandrashila peak at 13,120 feet, camping next to a beautiful alpine lake, rafting on and jumping into the ice-cold waters of a Himalayan river from over 20 feet were just some of the activities that these teenagers did on their first ever trip to the Himalayas and we had to shoot it. Meeting these kids and seeing them enjoy their first trip to the Himalayas so much was amazing for us.
It was a 3-day trip starting with rafting on day 1. People often underestimate the cold in the mountains and they only realise how cold it really is when the water from the rapids hits their skin. After that, not many would voluntarily jump off the raft into the river but every one of these kids did it fearlessly more than just once to give us some excellent footage for our video. And when jumping off the raft got too boring, all of them one by one jumped off of an over 20-feet high cliff right into the river.
The idea of summiting a 4000-meter peak was very exciting for these teenagers
We hiked up 3 kilometres to a lake called Deoria Tal and camped next to it. It is a beautiful place to camp and this lake is known for its legends and myths in the Hindu mythology. There is a story that says the Pandavas from the Indian epic- Mahabharata stopped by to quench their thirst and encountered a water demon named Yaksha who lived in this lake. This short hike was to get the kids ready for the big peak climb that was next.
The idea of summiting a 4000-meter peak was very exciting for these teenagers and they all wanted to do it. The 6-km hike was not too long but it was all ascent with 1400-meters elevation gain! Snow on the mountains melts in the day to become very slippery and hiking up and down in these conditions is no easy thing to do. Everyone woke at 4 in extreme cold and the hike started at 5 when it was still dark. I have spent a lot of time in the mountains but this was literally the coldest I have ever been and the frost felt like iron nails in my fingers even through my warm skiing gloves! I was constantly wondering how the kids were keeping up. Maybe the beauty made up for pain. ‘Chandrashila’ translates to ‘moon rock’ and coincidentally it was a full moon night.
When people don’t have a reaction planned for something overwhelming and unexpected that just happened to them, that is when you see it in their eyes. It was beautiful to be a part of it
The experience of watching the moon set, the sunrise slowly revealing the gorgeous views and finally reaching the peak was very overwhelming for the kids. And for us, we got to interview them all, in the end, one by one and ask them about their experience. Many of them did not have any words to describe it but it was a privilege to see the look on their face when we reminded them of everything they did. Personally, I realised something about real happiness while interviewing these kids. I realised that real happiness is always unplanned. When people don’t have a reaction planned for something overwhelming and unexpected that just happened to them, that is when you see it in their eyes. It was beautiful to be a part of it all.