Surviving the Freezing Himalayas

Surviving the Freezing Himalayas

Most of my trekking experience has been on the Andes in South America. The Andes are muy grandes. But when I trekked to Mt. Kailash in the Tibetan Himalayas early last year, I was blown away. The sheer magnificence of this colossal mountain range was more than impressive. So I wanted to go back to the Himalayas on this trip. And it was supposed to be an even better experience this time because trekking to the snow laden peaks of Himalayas during the winter sounded thrilling. I was pumped!

We decided to tackle the Brahmatal summit in the Indian Himalayas. This was a 4-day trek which was supposed to start at the base camp in Lohajung in Northern India. After a yet another 10-hour long and nauseating drive, we reached the camp. We brought some winter gear with us. They’re no Canada Goose but as a guy who is used to winters in Canada, I told myself, I should be able handle this shit with a couple of fleece jackets. Right after we got to the base camp, it started. The temperature dropped drastically. The snow built up enormously. And we were freezing extremely. A snow and ice storm had hit us. No heating. No power. No escape. Just some minimal winter gear. We couldn’t leave the base camp either because the only road had been cut off from the outside world due to the storm. I’ve had my fair share of cold Canadian winters but this was on a different level. It was one of the toughest/roughest nights of our lives on this trip. The chill could be felt in our bones. We were rubbing and moving our fingers and toes frantically in our flimsy gloves and socks throughout the night to prevent frostbites. We were shivering endlessly hoping for the sun to come up for a little bit of warmth.

Somehow we survived the night. Next day, we were told that the trek had to be cancelled because it was only going to get worse. But we couldn’t leave the base camp either because the roads were still blocked. This meant another frigid night beyond the wall. No dragons here to keep us warm. We were hopeless. This was turning out to be a disaster. We decided to go on a day trek to a shorter summit called Ajan Top. Primarily because we were hoping to warm ourselves up through physical activity and exhaustion. We started to slowly scale up the mountain through 2-3 feet of snow. One heavy step at a time. One, two, and finally three hours later we were at the top. And we were rewarded with some of the most beautiful views of the Himalayas.

Of course, right when we were at the top, the sky started to turn ominous brewing another storm. It was time to get back down. By now, the snow had started to freeze and turn to ice making it very slippery. We managed to return to base falling and hobbling along the way. Now, all we had to look forward to was another night of misery and torture. People love to say, “blah blah will happen when hell freezes over.” I don’t think they realize that it’s a nonsensical phrase because hell does freeze over and we had to spend another night there. Our fingers and toes started to freeze again. Lisa looked like she was going to die. After an eternal night of pain and suffering, the sun eventually came up and we were still alive with functioning appendages. Early in the morning, we were told that we had a very small window to get out of this frozen hell because the roads were clear for the moment until the next storm. We didn’t need to hear another word. We were ready.

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