KNOCK KNOCK: Who’s there ?
Discovering self is a continuous process and I did realise this every few years at different stages of life.
Preferences, people perception, materialistic importance, value for love everything changes.
Let’s find with Sandhya Chaitanya who is Founder Partner & Chef, Snaksamaya, in her travelogue about her transformation.
I am a 39 year old, madly in love with the Himalayas, whose life could be summed as Before Himalayas and After Himalayas. At the age of 33 when my son was 5 and relatively independent, career was smooth sailing, the sudden void to find something missing or lost occurred. I assumed a Holiday or a getaway would fix it.
A friend and I decided on a trip to Nepal and little that I realised, I found the missing part of the puzzle. I came back to India but left a piece of me back in the Himalayas. Chaitanya, my husband, advised me to get up a little closer to my new found love and to attempt a trek to the Himalayas of Nepal & the rest, as they say, is history.
Now my life can be chaptered between treks. Annapurna Circuit trek (Nepal), Kilimanjaro (Africa), back to the very popular Everest Base camp (Nepal) made my admiration and LOVE for Himalayas and mountains just grow.
New age obsession of any passion is social media driven and that’s where I bumped into Boots & Crampons ( B&C). A random chat and a few phone calls on treks with Romil helped me gain confidence in choosing this trekking company. Following his Instagram LIVE discussions with Bharath and few who trekked with B&C gave a clarity of genuineness of the organisers. Bharath’s narration of the treks got me completely sold on UT and B&C.
6 individuals with varied trekking experience and personal backgrounds were teamed up by Boots & Crampons for an 8 days expedition to a newly discovered peak “UT Kangri” in eastern Ladakh.
Even the name is very uncertain. While we are calling it UT named after Ladakh being a new Union Territory, the locals are also calling it “Yukti Kangri” meaning “highest seat of the priest”.
The altitude is also uncertain varying between 6150-6038 but one thing was certain, it’s a scalable mountain with a planned ascent.
Adapting to Leh
6 very different dreamers and capabilities were united by B&C who laughed their way out from the second we met. Banters set the ground and heart was reaching out for each other’s struggles and journeys so far. United by Bharath’s simplicity we bonded the very first evening over fresh apricots and apples from the hotel’s orchards. Clicking pictures of each other in the Leh market, our day winded up with some fantastic walk and bonding.
Next morning saw a new hope, new friendship and settled comfort-zone.. a day trip that took us to beautiful parts of Leh. Rigzin, our guide passionately explained the culture and artistic values and minds of the Ladakhi, something we valued more than just the places we visited. Some-of us who had been there already saw these places with new understanding. The team moved from relishing the culture to savouring some good hospitality at the hotel we were put up.
Many trekkers believe in saving a number of days or cost and never end up giving their own body the time to adjust to the altitude. A well informed and experienced team like B&C was very specific on that. The entire team had to be together to settle down as a team and also to adjust to the Leh altitude.
Finding New FEET !
We are different enthusiasts from various parts of our Country. Each pursuing this passion and a profession to pay for that. I was an entrepreneur from Bangalore while Mayur and Krishna were from Hyderabad. Technically B&C’s Bharath is also from Hyderabad, but he practically lives more on the mountains and occasionally in his Hyderabad residence. Pooja mam, Mayur and Lalith sir were from Delhi and this meant everyone needed to settle down comfortably at Leh’s altitude.
We were welcomed by Bharath and Rigzin and little did we know their job was already ON with keeping a TAB on each of us. Observing us, their plan to get us back safe was already in motion.
Boots trial gave us a heads up on what’s planned ahead.. excited about the graduation from trekking shoes to snow boots or Koflach, the team laced up and set ahead for the expedition.
The journey begins
The ever-changing sceneries of Eastern Ladakh, accompanied by gushing music of Indus led us to our first camp site. The journey from our Hotel in Leh to the day 1 campsite was approximately 4-5 hours. Krishna and I were in awe of the varied colours of Ladakh. We saw purple mountains, a rugged face of mountains which suddenly on the curve of the route turned into a lush green mountain. That’s my first impression of this part of the Himalayas. I kept observing more and more and for someone crazy about the Himalayas and mountains this was already a treat. Remembering the words I read and podcasts I heard from great mountaineers we moved ahead to our campsite.
Slowly gaining altitude and experience, the team was ready to meet the altitude. Day 1 was just about reaching the Camp 1. Day 2 saw a little altitude gain and eventually we started scaling up. A certain discomfort and the heart to give way for team success realigned the 6 member team to a pack of 4. We now had to summit for even the 2 who stepped away for our safety.
The 4 days of moving up to basecamp grouped us mentally and physically too. We made our mistakes and we learned the importance of following suggestions from Bharath and Rigzin. Zigmat and Wanchok were assisting Rigzin. Personally, I was amazed at how they would multitask, plan ahead and yet maintain their own swag. We don’t get a chance to interact much but we were all observing them and so did they. Almost every morning, Musafir and I would spend some time in the cleanest Kitchen tent I had ever been in.
Weather was COLD for someone from Chennai! It was bone chilling cold. Takes you a while to settle in your senses too. The Warmth from the tent and the heart-warming hospitality of the crew and the chef was always a good start. Food they served was fresh. Bharath was very clear about that. Only “junk” food we got was popcorn. Fresh Papaya, watermelon, boiled eggs, amazing thin aloo parathas, they kept us eating and healthy.
The night was prepped for our summit push and we left our tents with good wishes from the crew and lots of motivation from the support team who took us ahead.
B&C’s strength was in details. Bharath and Rigzin teamed up to arrange our snow boots to be placed right below the glacier. Which means, the first 2-3hours the team could trek the patch with trekking boots, which for us was a GIFT.
Glacier Point welcomed us with some bright sun and nice warm snow boots. We laced up and lined up roped to each other. 500 metres into the summit push , we were faced with a sudden change in the mountain. An eventuality that only most experienced & stable minds could handle. Bharath and Rigzin decided to take a diversion.. a more difficult and longer path but safety was ensured.
The 4 of the organisers however were confident about their plan and kept pushing and encouraging us to move ahead. We weren’t in the best of spirits but together each pulled the other. The weakest link also clinched along because of the spirit of togetherness. That’s what mountains do. Camaraderie.
Struggling every step of the steep ascent, disheartened by false summits, raged by the fear of not being able to make it together, thriving on the idea of summit push-ups (a B&C ritual) we took 1 step at a time and piled our faith on each other. At the summit point we saw a new height. Pooja mam’s slowing down to summit with Musafir, Mayur’s calmness and my complete breakdown culminated in all 4 of us renewing our passion for mountains at 6038 meters. We were officially the FIRST summit, a commercial expedition recorded on UT and from B&C.
Celebrations and pictures clicking began and at the Summit push-up witnessed the very FIT team and crew. I captured a few scenes on the 360 degree view. To those who have seen greater heights and to those have never seen anything like this.. here is my observation.
I feel god created The Himalayas seated at Ladakh,
The scattered, unfinished and messy work area while painting a beautiful canvas is my analogy. It’s a child’s play area building a dream castle with all the props around.
Ladakh to me was the rough work of the Himalayas.
It’s the creator’s high seat. YUKTI IT IS.
Within minutes the organisers were ready with a descend plan. The rough route paved the way for us to descend through the opposite and longer route. A complete Rocky descend wasn’t something anyone in the team wanted to face after a 10 hour ascent. The team got split up.
There came a point where I realised the goal is just to get down.. I couldn’t possibly walk down so I sat my way down. Sitting stone after stone, scraping through the route I descended the 1000 meters approximately completely tearing my 3 layers of clothing and exposing my skin. I had no better plan. Mayur and pooja mam call this “pyjama phad trek”.
The constant provocation and concern for our safety from Rigzin eventually got us all down. Rigzin knew we needed more support. He called over his team to bring us our trekking boots that we left that morning at 4.30am before glacier point. In an unprecedented way the team regained its strength and support and moved ahead in the dark. 17 hours of exhaustion and another few hours of road ahead to our tents demanded a lot more than mental strength. The very thoughtful leader Rigzin organised some hot tea and the entire crew came over to cheer us up. It was a true homecoming moment. And finally, after a 19 hour ordeal, Rigzin and Bharath had all 4 of us and the entire crew safe to the tents.
This wasn’t a summit by us, it was a summit even for our support team. The mule driver, including the support team, walked us holding us the last two hours. Welcomes us with a CAKE. Yes .. we cut a freshly baked CAKE at 5200 metres.
Reassured & Endowed
A sound sleep and snowy morning bid us goodbye from the high camp. Now the silent monk Bharath wished each of us a hearty congratulations on the successful expedition as he believes it’s only complete when the next day is all normal.
While I gaped at his integrity and professionalism, we respected both his and Rigzin’s approach to safety. Our safety was their summit.
UT or YUKTI Kangri, with organisers like Boots and Crampons for whom every detail matters it is possible to aim high. High altitude trekking or endurance treks, B&C knows how to prepare. Their selection process, their attention to detail and their personality is what made this experience complete. Romil’s defence backed discipline and trained mind to always ensure safety for everyone with him, Bharath’s pure and clean heart that just beats only for mountains and love for mountains is the YIN & YANG that makes team B&C a highly recommended organiser.
Cheers to my UT team. All 6 of us deserved a toast but we raised ours to Team B&C.
I reached home to Bangalore as a person who out-did my fear and capabilities, an entrepreneur who gained the faith that it’s absolutely normal to fear, fret & fail but the journey is for those who stay on. Passion can only be backed by overcoming the struggles that come along with it.
The adventure enthusiasts, Romil and Bharath can be contacted at
Article & Photographs Credit : Sandhya Chaitanya , Founder Partner & Chef, Snaksamaya