At The summit of silver years: Nine-day journey of 16 Chennaiites in Himachal Pradesh to explore Yunam peak

“Being out there in the mountains is something that touches your soul, which is why I can’t get enough of it,” expresses Vidya. 

Published: 02nd November 2022 01:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd November 2022 01:26 AM   |  A+A-


The team of 16 Chennaiites, organised by Get Up and Go (a travel agency) explore Yunam peak in Himachal Pradesh.

Express News Service

CHENNAI: A nine-day journey with only 36 significant hours, ascending from 14,000 ft to 20,200 ft to Yunam peak was just another feather in the cap for Vidya Gajapathi Raju Singh. This 69-year-old multi-hyphenate was climbing along with the first group from Chennai to explore Yunam peak in Himachal Pradesh.

Ignoring the low visibility due to the heavy rains, venturing through the destructions created by landslides, and fighting the high altitude problems, the team of 16 Chennaiites, organised by Get Up and Go, a travel agency, marched to reach up and touch the sky.

Initial hurdles
Starting from Chandigarh, the drive through Manali to Solang on August 19, according to Vidya, was terrifying because of the heavy rain.

She recalls, “There were landslides, rocks and boulders falling on the road. We missed one acclimatisation trek as we reached only at 2 am because of the traffic jam on the roads. To compensate, we did another beautiful trek in that same area and to the gorgeous Anjani Mahadev Temple, which was out on the mountainside.”

The next day, the team did a few more acclimatisation treks and travelled through Atal Tunnel, the longest tunnel in the world which stretches 9 km, at the highest altitude. She explains, “It was quite extraordinary to see the difference from one side of the tunnel to the next. As we entered, we came through green forested mountains. As we exited, we saw an entirely different landscape; stark mountains, with no trees at all, only grassy mountainsides and meadows.”

Adjusting to the altitude
From taking Diamox pills to adjust to the altitude to settling with the minimum luggage and sleeping in tents, the group re-wired their daily routines around the mountains. On August 23, during the trek from Bharatpur towards base camp, the team had to pick their way over rocks, boulders and scree, walking and stepping with great care, crisscrossing the muddy river a few times.

Crossing the river formed from the glacial melt coming down the mountain and the Yunam glacier, they climbed to see beautiful shrubs and extraordinary mountain flowers.

Touching the sky
On the most awaited day of the trek, August 25, from base camp to Yunam Peak summit, the team set out to climb at 2 am. Vidya shares, “The summit was our goal and we set off in a single file, led by Raghu. It was so dark that we could not see anything beyond the rocky narrow path that we were on, with the light of our headlamps. In a way, it was a good thing as we may have become intimidated by the mountain that lay ahead of us. I had my guide, Tejram, carrying my bag. The weather was bitterly cold, but we were dressed in many layers to keep warm."

"We climbed slowly a few steps at a time, stopping to catch a breath and to allow the racing heartbeats to slow down. As we climbed, we reached the 4,900 m mark and then suddenly it was daybreak and we could see the mountains all around us. There was a glacier to the left of us and the Raghu and Tejram were delighted with our timing of summiting in 5.40 hours; it took me several minutes to understand that we had done it. A sense of quiet achievement with the greatest respect for this mountain. It was a distance of 6.5 km from the Summit Base Camp."

When other members were troubled by altitude problems, Vidya trekked along with two 27-year-olds. Fighting all the odds, she took pride in her endurance. Her disciplined daily exercising routines and a strict diet of mostly raw food, contribute to her endurance.

She takes her life as it comes, which was why in 2013 when her friend Badri Vijayaraghavan asked to join them for a trek, the answer was an instant yes. From then on, through 13 treks, it was a journey of creating memories at the mountain. After the Yunam Trek, she is excited about Pin Bhaba Pass Trek in April and Kilimanjaro trek in the future.

“Being out there in the mountains is something that touches your soul, which is why I can’t get enough of it,” expresses Vidya. 


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