By: Ashish Kumar (LTMHPS)
What’s the thing about mountains…I keep mulling. Why I find excuses to visit them often despite the distance and expenses.
Call it serenity, fresh air, virgin terrain, gigantic landscape, quiet surrounding. There’s no dearth of adjectives to glorify them. Imagine the tranquillity and the gazes of unconfined heavenly views good enough to make one submerge in the magnificence.
People have found solace and spirituality there since time immemorial and accepted them as their home in isolation from civilisation. Most of the modern sapiens too crave for taking a break from their lame rat race and visit Mountains to experience the lack of stress and the sheer vastness of the universe on display. There seem like no better place to see so much enormous terrain in one stare. The huge mass has such grandeur and supremacy that it is respected by one and all and it make us humans realise how unimportant and small our existence is, compared to these colossal structures. Well, this is just one way of looking at things, and is a typical human outlook.
But aside from above perspective, there also is a second breed of creatures who are not much impressed by the breath-taking panorama of peaks, nor do the lack of chaotic surroundings score high on their pleasure buds. They rather find the monstrous mountainous enormity challenging and intimidating. All the grandiose of mountains makes them feel the need to conquer them and establish human superiority. It is this very virtue of restlessness and pride that see them take over the mission of winning the mountains by climbing, running over, hiking, jumping from or whatever other way they feel is most unbelievable to reach the top. This way, they apparently prove the hills ordinary.
For such ego trippers, one of the ways to satisfy their conscience, is through endurance sports. Running events are one example. There are many in mountains proclaiming tag lines like ‘world’s most gruelling’ and with all the braggadocio about the difficulties on course. Participation is seen from all kind of loonies seeking to quench adrenaline thirst. Ultramarathon events see people running hundreds of miles crossing most extreme conditions only to finish a seemingly pointless pursuit on feet. But, Howsoever meaningless, there probably is an apparent contentment that comes from surviving the challenges posed by mountains in the form of isolation, connectivity (lack of it), extreme weather, rough topography, vertigo and the continuous physical demands required to defy gravity. The uphill tests your endurance and leave you with only two choices: reach the top or turn around. Reaching the top only requires the perseverance to keep putting one foot in front of the other in tough situations and having the will power to stop yourself from giving up. It’s a life lesson, how not to break in difficult situations which we all face frequently in life.
My personal reasons to embrace mountains are a mix of above reasons.
First, I don’t proclaim to be a very profound expert in climbing, hiking or anything remotely specific to mountains. In fact, I am yet to take a first-hand experience of hiking or backpacking trip – which of course is on my to-do list. But I do respect and admire whatever little I could experience till date and I advocate to preserve the beauty of these pristine lands.
Second, I do not qualify on the scale of lunatic challenges taken by climbers, ultra-runners and other champion combatants who take the nature head on and accomplish impossible looking tasks. My only achievements in the context are running (or jog walking) a few half marathons in hill towns and surviving some semi-long runs whenever I go vacationing these places on a weekend. I have attempted a meekly half marathon at Leh, Ladakh in 2014 and could barely finish it in cut-off time walking all the way 10 km on wards. But, I find pleasure in trying to learn from these humbling experiences, to improve myself and try new and more challenging hilly chores. I think, running the hills pose quite a challenge and it’s satisfying at the finish.
Running exotic races make a good excuse to come to the mountains. It’s meditation. Letting your muscles work while resting your brain from the steady stream of demands modern society brings, a calm that is hard to find in civilisation. I am lucky enough to be living at the Himalayan bottom with some really breath-taking and gruelling terrain to cover.
It’s also healthy. I live in Delhi’s less than optimum air quality, and ‘pollucationing’ (vacations away from pollution:) gives some temporary respite to refreshen your system. So, I frequently take the opportunity to tour places and run them over to soak as much of the mountainous aura inside me as possible.