Becoming a Mountain

Walking these trails you grow stronger, your pain diminishes, returns, then eases once again. Yet, even before you arrive at an expected point of culmination, when you are finally well again, or when you find yourself at the top of a mountain, the story is just the beginning.

This quote is from the book Becoming a Mountain written by Stephen Alter. I read this book most evenings while overlooking the beautiful mountain scenery. Some days we overlooked green fields with many animals (horses, mules, sheep, and cows), while other days we traversed snow capped mountains and awoke to frosted tents. No matter where I was on the trek, my thoughts always returned to the mountains and their beauty.

It’s hard to articulate ten days packed with valuable experiences and culture rich moments in a short blog post, but I will do my best to summarize. Here are two excerpts from my journal:

Day 6: Sitting among a herd of ‘bahhing’ sheep. Today I decided to stay behind with Steven and Samantha while we waited for help for Steven’s knee. I felt useful when I was able to take my bandana and create an ice pack for him with snow #servantleadership. Also very sunny!

Day 8: Beautiful, sunny, all around perfect day. Our campsite today had a stream nearby allowing us all to wash our dirty clothes. Today my tent overlooks fantastic views of green, as well as snow capped mountains and villages. Today was my birthday and the porters bought a lamb in town and cooked it for everyone at dinner! Not only that but Gaurav (one of our instructors) made me a cake with Nutella and coffee and a birthday candle! It was so special and I will never forget it.

Everyday our team (consisting of seven students, two instructors, and our porters) collaborated to plan the day and make sure everyone was safe and comfortable. After learning a few Hindi words, we as students were able to connect with the porters on a more personal level. It was really cool to throw snowballs and interact with the team who was sustaining our trek. If I could go back in time and change anything, I would have definitely brushed up on my Hindi language skills.

No matter what happened, everyday provided me with a new adventure. Whether it was carving a path through the snow covered mountains, climbing over rocks through the strong currents of the Rupin river, or witnessing a large spider while peeing in the woods in the middle of the night (my own experience), I was always having fun. However some moments did test my limits; in particular the cold days. While I did have sufficient warm layers, I still couldn’t mask the feeling of constant shivering. I missed the indoors and the warmth it provided. At that point, my only hope was caressing my hands over a hot bowl of soup.

Not only that, but I also suffered from severe sun burn on my hands that eventually turned into sun poisoning. Even as I type right now, my hands and fingers are still recovering and look like flaming hot Cheetos.

Looking back as a sit in the luxurious sheltered building that is the Hanifl Center, I know I am going to miss living in the outdoors and co-habituating land with the breathtaking Himalayan scenery and wildlife. I miss un-zipping my tent to be awakened by snow capped mountains. I miss eating a hefty serving of rice and dahl for dinner. I miss pushing myself on a daily basis through the context of the outdoors.

At the end of the day, I am thankful for the struggles I faced on the trek. These struggles were valuable to me as an individual, as I will take their lessons with me for the rest of my journey as a leader.