Imagine walking through high altitude meadows, climbing up barren mountains, braving bone-chilling cold and gusty winds to scale an altitude of over 5,000 metres.
Now, imagine a 65-year-old visually challenged woman and a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy acing this adventure.
That’s precisely what makes the recently concluded Himalayan Ensemble 2019 expedition to Parang La an awe-inspiring feat.
The idea of this expedition was conceived by Grandes Traversées, an association founded in 2009 by a group of like-minded people with a shared love for outdoor adventures and a goal to raise funds for the cause of differently-abled children.
With Himalayan Ensemble 2019, they decided to push the limits by putting together an inter-generational group of 11, ranging from 66 years to 10 years in age, to embark on a trek to Parang La.
The expedition stood out for its inclusion of the boy with cerebral palsy, Hugo, and the visually impaired woman, Juliette Holzinger.
Once the idea took form, the association collaborated with Delhi-based trek organisers, AntHill Adventures.
Years of trekking experience in the Himalayas and months of meticulous planning helped AntHill co-founders Aman Sood and Vivasvat Chauhan pull off this daunting challenge.
The trek started from Spiti and concluded at the Parang La Base Camp at an altitude of 5,200 metres, which is the highest any member of the Himalayan Ensemble 2019 has accomplished so far. Speaking of the preparation that went into this trek, Aman says, “This was the first time that we were trekking with differently-abled people on a Himalayan trail.
This called for a lot of imagination and meticulous planning, especially for Juliette and Hugo.” Vivasvat adds, “I thought to myself that the best possible way to assess how Hugo and Juliette were doing was by looking at their expressions. Body language is a clear indicator of a person’s condition in the mountain.
"Every time I saw that delightful smile on the 10-year-old's face, I knew we were on the right track. It was so infectious that it brought a huge smile on my own face!” Hugo’s father, David, who accompanied him on the trek, says, “The Parang La trek was a completely new experience for both Hugo and I. Not just in terms of the superlative trails and the thrill of scaling new heights but more so for the spirit of the team it took to pull this off. It was everyone behind Hugo and Juliette.”