A First

I blacked out. It was probably shorter than a second, and I am glad it was.


Trekking on terraneous mountains with a path not wider than a metre and a drop of a few hundred feet to your left, you don’t want to black out for more than a second.

It was a close call, it definitely was. Had I blacked out long enough to lose balance and fall over to my left, I wouldn’t have made it out alive.

The trek to Kheerganga, Himachal Pradesh, started early after breakfast on 10th November, 2016. It was my first trip with a bunch of people I hadn’t met before, there were 24 odd new people trekking along with me. Having Sascha alongside, definitely did make a lot of things easier for me. I’ve known her for as long as I can remember.


On the evening of the 9th, post dinner, 26 of us cramped up in the little room of the house we were staying at, in Pulga, Himachal Pradesh. Yes, there were space constraints but more importantly being so close, we kept each other warm. “Prepare for Antarctica”, said Shannon, talking about what we should be expecting for our one night stay at Kheerganga. Shannon, a 24 year old along with his three friends, makes a living by taking people on such treks. He says he has never known what Monday blues at work, feel like. All four of the founders were there in the room, and you could see it in the way they talked, they loved every bit of their ‘work’.


Sascha and I feel cold all the time, irrespective of the season, so we were extremely mindful while packing our backpacks for Kheerganga. We packed everything warm that we had brought along with us, from home. Our backpacks individually weighed around 5 kgs. Trekking with that kind weight on our backs, wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but we didn’t want to die of cold either.


On 10th morning, we started our 6 hour long trek. I bought 4 KitKat biscuits right before exiting the village. I never buy chocolate, I don’t know why I did, I just did.

A couple of hours into the trek we had left the village, Pulga, far behind. Plains weren’t in sight anymore. The climb upward had become very consistent. I love clicking photographs, and that was the main motivation behind doing this trek, even while I was medically unfit. I recently recovered from a back injury and I still have injured knees. So I was always the last of the 26 on the trail, clicking-stumbling-clicking.

“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,”

The lines from my favourite poem, mocked me from their paper-bound abodes, when the burn in my back and knees started to get the better of me. The pain only gradually increased, every step I took felt like halal slaughter. Slow but steady knocking where it already hurt. But I had to do this, I couldn’t keep 25 people waiting for me.

A little further, and the terrain became better, it wasn’t steep anymore. My knees and back eased out. They breathed a little. I breathed a little. Right when I thought it got better - BAAM!


I blacked out. It was probably shorter than a second, and I am glad it was.


Trekking on terraneous mountains with a path not wider than a metre and a drop of a few hundred feet to your left, you don’t want to black out for more a second.

It was a close call, it definitely was. Had I blacked out long enough to lose balance and fall over to my left, I wouldn’t have made it out alive.


I quickly pulled the KitKat out. Those two bars made me feel much better. The lightheadedness vanished in a jiffy. Low blood sugar can be dangerous, even if not in theory, it can be life-threatening, particularly in such long arduous treks.

Every time, thereafter, I felt like I was going to blackout, I pulled out the KitKat. KitKat saved my life, as cliched as it could get and as proud as Nestle would be to hear this. When to consume the last KitKat was a dilemma that kept me company for the rest of the trek.

It was past 5 in the evening, when we reached Kheerganga. My knees and back were screaming in pain but all of that, faded into oblivion, in seconds, at the sight of this.

We were to spend the night in a huge tent. The tent could accommodate close to 40 people at once. So we had our group and a few more strangers under one roof. Came dusk, and it just got colder. The heating system was like a perpetually hungry dog. It required to be fed wood, every now and then. The stone flooring didn’t help with the cold either. Those who were always ahead in the trail, had one thing in common. They barely had any weight on their backs. They travelled light. How did they keep themselves warm? Liquor of their choice or the plant. And that’s pretty much what they carried in their small backpacks.

It was then that Sascha and I understood what Shannon really meant when he said ‘Prepare for Antarctica’. A few hours past midnight, most of the inmates were snoring, the intoxicants were working in their favour, and the lack of it, was working against ours. Sascha and I had close to five layers on us. I could accommodate one more layer on me, but I couldn’t bend my hands to wear it, thanks to the five layers.


We snuggled, expecting body warmth to get through those layers. We prayed for some kind of heat. The stone cold floor, piercing cold wind and a tent made out of thin sheet of cloth wasn’t making anything better. I think at one point, we were close to crying. We thought we heard someone mumble. We had Adil to share the misery with us. He decided to stay true to his upbringing and skip the intoxicants even though he knew what ‘Prepare for Antarctica’ meant.


The three of us sat up, we were in this together. We tried to talk through the night. Sleeping wasn’t an option. The six hour trek, the blackouts, the aching muscles, the thought of doing another six hour trek the following morning didn’t stand a chance with that cold.

It was a slow, slow night.

When we thought we had had enough, we tried waking one of the four founders, after several attempts he woke up from his intoxication. He passed us a bottle of rum. It was obviously a left over. Who would keep quality liquor for last? I had never heard of that brand before. Hangover from cheap alcohol was the last thing I wanted. I decided to skip it. Sascha and Adil took turns. What cheap, neat rum feels like - they would know best.


Sascha and Adil were wide awake even after consuming what they thought could put an end to their misery. We saw our first ray of hope, quite literally, close to 5:45 a.m. when it started getting brighter outside. We ran out and felt the warmth of the sun on our skin. And that was probably the best we had felt in a long, long time. We saw smoke from a chimney from a nearby tent. We were soon in the company of a few local men and women who were enjoying heat from burning wood. They ran a tent business too, but that night they didn’t have too many guests and so they accommodated us.


Sascha and I asked for coffee. Had I been a poet, I would have dedicated a poem to what that warm coffee felt like after that piercing cold night. The warm rays of the sun had never felt more comforting than they did, that morning.

I will never forget that night, neither will Sascha. Never have we, painstakingly, spent six hours waiting for the sun.

Edited By - Tanishq Bhardwaj

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