Does age really matter on a high-altitude trek?

Many of us believe that age is inversely related to our physical fitness and this has a bearing on our decision to trek. This article proves that idea to be wrong. Deeparghya, who trekked to Roopkund with us, recounts his experience of sharing his tent with a 64-year-old and trekking alongside him. 

roopkund

We are talking about a 64 year old man who made it to the summit of the Roopkund Trek braving the tough terrains of the trek route which includes steep climbs through lower levels of air pressure, camping on snow in Bhagwabasa, and then again climbing through dwindling levels of oxygen at sunrise through a tough snow cover in the lap of the mighty Trishul.

Pratap Kumar Roy, an everyday Bengali from Kolkata, with the quintessential bangali bhnuri was our trek mate and my tent mate for the Roopkund Trek. On landing up in the Lohajung Base camp, I was at first astonished to see such a man headed for the peaks. One could easily single him out as the oldest person in the group. He had trekked before but we all wondered how a 64-year-old man would make the climb. For first timers like me, this was a source of encouragement, as I felt, “If he can, there is no reason why I cannot do it at my age”.

Soon, we realised that this man was trekking with a small backpack and a pair of sports shoes and didn’t even carry sunglasses. He was wearing photo chromatic glasses and that was all for his protection from the sun. A thick cane in the name of a trekking pole and all set he was, in his blue vest to start the trek on the first day. On each of the following days, while I gasped for breath after walking a mile or two, he would pep me up with a wonderful smile, “its just another 10 minutes, that’s all. I can see the top.”

He walked on at a steady pace resting whenever he needed to but always remained rock solid and steady. Even when we walked through four feet of snow, he kept up with us on pace and in fact, outdid some of us with ease, going forward. One faced difficult conditions walking through four feet of snow, while the target (Bhagwabasa camp) was far away and a snowfall made everything around disappear in a snow-haze.

When we reached Bhagwabasa amidst heavy snowfall, he quietly declared “Even if I do not make it tomorrow, my journey is a success to have reached here.” Thankfully, for all of us who tried the summit the next morning, we all succeeded. Pratap Uncle sat quietly on reaching the top munching on the raisins and nuts that we were given.

On our return we had to slide down on some stretches as It was easier that way. Once again Pratap Uncle did not disappoint us. Spending many a fun moment throughout the trek which was by no means an easy journey for all of us, we reflected and marvelled at this man’s agility defeating the mental limits set by age. Needless to say, he had outdone many of us in the group which had a median age somewhere in the late twenties.

Back to Lohajung on our final day we ended with a treat of Momos and thums up! Pratap Uncle made the trek a memorable one.

My principal learnings from trekking with this man have been:

1) The spirit matters most,

2) Its not difficult to trek on, if you do it at your speed,

3) One should maintain basic fitness and a positive mind.

These three things are a must to defeat age which will only keep on increasing. One should not allow age to cut out the joys that the earth and especially the Himalayas has to offer.

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