If your mind is prepared, everything goes right. Wise words anyone can utter. But when it is delivered by an eighty three year old gentleman who scaled Rupin Pass last year, then the words take on a new meaning. “Age is never the problem, mind is,” says Lele Gopal Vasudev who achieved this remarkable feat without letting his age be an obstacle.
This octogenarian stays in Pune and owns a factory in the industrial area of the city. Though his son manages the factory, Gopal still involves himself actively and visits the factory daily. He does not believe in a sedentary lifestyle and keeps himself fit with a variety of activities. Gopal says,” I am a man of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since my childhood. And fitness was never a problem for me. I never touched a drop of liquor or held a cigarette in my hand. I do yoga exercises and 151 Surya namaskar (sun salutations) at a stretch.”
He is also an avid trekker having trekked to places like Kinner kailash, Kullu Manali etc. And that perhaps maybe the reason, why the difficult moments of Rupin Pass did not come as a surprise to him.
Rupin Pass is a trek of medium difficulty. It is a high altitude trek that starts at 6500 feet and climbs as high as 15,250 feet in five days. So walking can become strenuous as the trek progresses. But this did not pose a problem for Gopal. He says, “I regularly walk 5-6 kilometres in Pune. And I climb a 1,500 feet high mountain, four times a week. This fitness routine acted as a good practise session for me before the trek.” Another surprising thing- whenever he ascends the mountain, he carries a backpack that holds 6-7 litres of water, so as to water the plants in the area.
Acclimatization issues did not hit him. He says nonchalantly,” I never took a single pill or medicine. I had previously trekked to 18000 feet and so acclimatization did not bother me much.”
In fact he recounts how he saved a trekker’s life on the second day of the trek. He says,” We were all walking in a line and a lady near me was talking. Suddenly she stopped talking. I noticed that she was sweating profusely and was about to fall down in the valley. I rushed towards her to save her from falling down.”
The freezing cold of Rupin and the equally cold nights with temperatures bottoming out at 6-7 degrees below zero did not set him back. “Yes, it was icy cold. And it was a different experience. But I am a fit man. I knew I would be able to handle it,” he says confidently.
The snow in Rupin Pass can slow the progress and can make the trek difficult. And slipping, sliding and feet sinking in the snow is a common happening. But Gopal was prepared for all this. He says, “I knew walking in the snow was going to be difficult. But I had the firm belief that I could do it. Besides I had those walking sticks with me.”
His philosophy in life, “Death is certain for everybody. Isn’t it better to do something and then die?” This mind set and his tremendous will power helped him on the trekking journey. Some of the team members did not think he could complete the pass. But on the third day of the trek his trek leader became certain about his abilities, and told Gopal, “Dadaji aapka beda paar ho jayega (Dadaji, you will reach your destination)”.
And when he reached the top, the whole team was excited, hugging and lifting him. “I was running 82nd year of my life then. I think most of the team were doubtful about my fitness, which was obvious! But because of the encouragement from my co participant, team and my own will power I was able to complete it. It was a good experience for all of them who thought age would be a hindrance,” says Gopal.
In the end Gopal says proudly,” I think because of my success of crossing Rupin Pass, I have made a record not only for myself but perhaps for the trek group and inspired other team members as well along the way.”