As small people, my brother and I listened to a lot of tales from tall mountains. My Dad has been to the most mountainous area of the world too many times. Every year for thirty years he has guided a trek or peak. The Himalayas, the Karakoram, Ladakh, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal; all these names had such a powerful mystery to us. Little wooden boxes, stones, shells, flags, cards, clothes; colourful and beautifully strange handmade gifts from remote villages made by people who didn’t look like us. It wasn’t the heroic stories of being cold and tired, summits bagged, that got me, but these little tressures and the wonder of where they’d come from that stole my imagination.
Rock climbing took me at a young age and has continued to take me all over the world. I became passionate for the feeling of rock biting my skin and the crunch of snow under crampons has never compared. You don’t go to the big mountains for rock climbing and my only trip to India took me to the boulders of Hampi, many hours south of the top of the world. So many trips, so many adventures, so much travel and yet I still hadn’t been to those places he’d spoke so much about.
I knew for a while I was going to have a shoulder operation and so I had some time to think about how best to use my recovery period. Traveling to that non-rock climbing destination I’d always wanted to go to was on the top of my list. For me, that place has always been Northern India. Of all the big mountainous regions of the Himalayas and Karakoram - Ladakh isn’t effected by the monsoon so would be a good choice.
I am not the most ambitious person in the world and at times I’m pretty happy to be lazy, but one thing I’m good at is when I decide to do something - actually doing it. Where most people spend at least a few weeks trying to decide whether to do something (‘it’s too expensive’, ‘not the right time’, ‘I’ll just wait and see’) in my case the flights are already booked and the bags packed. In all too many situations I find myself somewhere completely bewildered as to how I actually ended up there.
‘So hear I am, I really came to India on my own without my rock shoes.’ This feeling was so strong on my first day in Leh. Big, dry, snow capped mountains. Horns! Every person in a vehicle beeping their horn. Dusty unfinished streets, stray dogs, small shop fronts, people asking you where you’re from, fierce smells of rotten food, harsh light, prayer flags, strange faces everywhere and absolutely no order to speak of… After two months in Sheffield nursing my shoulder, not even able to run, my senses were blunt and straight off the plane, the sights, sounds and smells of India were like a much appreciated punch in the face.
The other thing I wanted to do with my recovery time is use my mind. If you can’t use your arms and legs to take you on adventures then what else is there to do but go on a mental trip? So I spent the first ten days of my trip doing a Vipassana course. Hopefully I will get round to writing something about that experience at some point (watch this space)