World Mountain Day: Gowri Varanashi, Mandip Singh Soin, Rahul Ogra on mountaineering, climate change, etc.

I don’t like the mountains. No, I don’t hate them because a mountain came and stole my favorite toy and told me I suck. It’s just that I live in Siliguri, which is located at the foot of the Eastern Himalayas, and I not only had to spend a good part of my childhood in the hills on every fucking vacation, but I also had to spend my teenage years in Sikkim. , which is part of the Eastern Himalayan region. But I understand their importance in terms of biodiversity and ecosystem. However, as my knowledge of mountains is limited, on this World Mountain Day or International Mountain Day (with the help of Sony BBC Earth), I brought together Gowri Varanashi, Mandip Singh Soin and Rahul Ogra, all mountaineers, to learn about mountains, climate change and more.

What fascinates you most about the mountains?

Gowri Varanashi: “The mountains bring a feeling of deep calm and silence to my mind. The beauty of the mountains always amazes [me], it is nothing like jungles or any other type of ecosystem. The towering peaks and the vastness of space make me feel small and a reminder of how fragile life and this planet are.

Mandip Singh Care: “So really, I think I’ve always been spellbound by the grandeur of the mountains, the imposing shapes, the environment that surrounds them when you get to the mountain, the flora and fauna, the pristine beauty. Even the mood swings of the mountains, be it a storm or a beautiful sunrise or an incredible sunset. It all adds up to an amazing, memorable, immersive experience and I guess once you get to the mountain you always tend to get a little addicted, and I think that’s what happened with me.

Rahul Ogra: “I have known the mountains intimately, almost as friends, guardian spirits and teachers; first, during my formative years as an impressionable child growing up in the mountains of Kashmir, then during a career spanning over two decades as a professional mountaineer. Mountains have always been an anchor for me, keeping me grounded and unwavering through rough seas and the vicissitudes of life. There are many things about the mountains in general and our Himalayas in particular that captivate me… Over the years I have learned that if you enter their sanctuary with humility and with a receptive soul, magic often follows. . They can bestow on you great spiritual truths and epiphanies, without your ego or exaggerated sense of yourself disturbing the pitch. One of the things I’ve always loved about the mountains is the way they cut you at the waist. No matter what kind of self-image you have, mountains can instantly show you exactly who you are, and where you belong, in the vast web of nature.

Can you share one of the memorable escalation incidents?

Gowri Varanashi: “One of my most memorable moments was during a NOLS class in a mountain range in Wyoming, United States. I decided to go exploring on my own one day and as I was walking around a bend on a dry creek bed, I came across a cow moose grazing peacefully! She looked at me and froze. I froze too, then slowly backed away while keeping an eye on her. Then I found a rock nearby to sit and watch for the next 15 minutes. In fact, I cried with happiness watching her graze that day.

Mandip Singh Care: “Regarding a memorable climbing experience, in 1986 I was on an alpine-style ascent of a peak called Mount Meru, which according to Hindu mythology is the center of the universe, and is found in the Gangotri valley. We had the chance to make the first Indian ascent in an alpine style; very fast ascent and we would have really missed the summit because on the last day we were hoping to reach the top we couldn’t due to bad snow conditions so we decide to wait but in doing so we had to do an emergency because that we couldn’t go back to the last camp we built, so we made an emergency one. We had no sleeping bags, no tents, only our mat bags, so what we did was we took out our ropes, we sat on them, and we put our feet, our legs in the carpet bags to stay warm and of course the best thing was not to fall asleep because it would have been wrong, we had to make some really terrible jokes to stay in a good mood and chat and get together warm up otherwise if we had fallen asleep or something like that, given the equipment we had, we might have had frostbite. Despite the bad jokes, the next day we were able to reach the top.

Rahul Ogra: “There have been many memorable incidents, but one compelling incident comes to mind when I was leading a small group of climbers on an expedition to climb Mount Deo Tibba, a magnificent 6001M peak in the Kullu Himalayas. That day we, the instructors and our trainee climbers, were supposed to climb up to Duhangan Pass, our forward base on the shoulder of the mountain, to stock the ABC with supplies for our summit attempt. This involves a difficult climb, where you have to secure the rope and climb through a steep rocky and snowy couloir – technically demanding – to reach the pass. As most of the trainees struggled a bit with their loaded backpacks and the weather that had suddenly deteriorated, a collective decision was made to dump our loads, at a particular place under a rock and come back the next day to finish. work. Somehow, by personal intuition, I decided to advance to the pass and not return to base camp. The grueling one hour and 45 minutes it took me to reach the pass, through the snow and howling winds (with a long drop below me), was nothing less than an experience of deep purification of the soul.

Climate change is increasingly threatening the mountain ecosystem, how to preserve it from negative impacts?

Gowri Varanashi: “Mountain ecosystems are important to our world. They are home to a great diversity of plants and animals, but most importantly, they are one of the greatest sources of fresh water. They are known as the water towers of the world, due to the amount of fresh water they provide. It is a complicated solution to understand how to impact them less because climate change is a larger global problem that affects various ecosystems due to the warming of the earth and the modification of the composition of these delicate spaces. Rising temperatures are melting glaciers in the mountains. So, as humanity, we need to start making major lifestyle changes in order to start reducing our impacts. “

Mandip Singh Care: “I think it’s true that it’s definitely threatening. Its threatening mountain ecosystems, we know the melting of glaciers, there are lakes that form that risk becoming problematic in the future if they burst. In the Himalayas, pollution, AQI level and so on are all indicators that everything is definitely affected. Just this morning I returned to Delhi, even so-called hill station hikes, which are around 7,000ft. I think we could look at two aspects. The boredom of the traveler, or the climber or the hiker, who enters it and this is absolutely essential given the number of people who climb in the Himalayas must not leave any rubbish and they must bring it back, or at least take it to a place where it can be properly disposed of or to a larger town or city where there is municipal landfill due to those Himalayan areas and small towns do not have proper facilities. The second most alarming thing if the government and village communities don’t take it upon themselves to stop burning garbage and stop burning dry leaves and branches which can certainly be turned into manure, and compost and so on. suite and have a highly efficient system of biodegradable recycled or composted waste.

Rahul Ogra: “Without a doubt, climate change is increasingly becoming a powerful threat to the well-being of our mountain ecosystems. As mountaineers and explorers, people like us are often at the forefront when it comes to seeing firsthand its harmful effects. One of the most observable of these is the increased melting and recession of a majority of Himalayan glaciers. Let us not forget that the Himalayan peaks and glaciers are the depositories of most of the drinking water of this subcontinent. If they were to disappear, a large part of the world’s population would be in danger. This situation is further compounded by the explosion of the human population and the increased consumption of fossil fuels, which in turn worsens the perennial snowmelt of the Himalayas and puts invaluable pressure on the forest resources of these mountains. Therefore, it goes without saying that a decrease in the use of fossil fuels and a greater reliance on sustainable energy resources would be the way forward for us. “

Your favorite summit?

Gowri Varanashi: “I haven’t climbed a peak per se, but I love walking for hours with a backpack full of climbing gear up the mountains to get to rocky cliffs in remote places. Then go up to reach the top of the rocky cliff to eventually descend.

Mandip Singh Care: “My favorite mountain spot, I can easily say is Nanda Devi. It’s a very, very impressive peak in the Garwhal, and I was lucky enough to go to Nanda Devi Shrine twice, when it opened in the 1970s. Once on an expedition to Dunagiri, and once on an expedition to Kalanka. I sat in a base camp right under Nanda Devi, and I have to say this has to be one of the prettiest peaks. There is a lot of mountain folklore, there is a lot of mythology.

Rahul Ogra: “Although there are many mountains that have left an indelible imprint on me, my answer would be Mount Kailash in Tibet. Going to this height of 21,778 feet, the jewel of a mountain, was an experience that transformed my life.

Did that motivate you to take a trip to the mountains on this International Mountain Day and become the next Gowri Varanashi or Mandip Singh Soin or Rahul Ogra? Well, please take all the necessary precautions, grab your gear, and go for it. However, if you are still a little anxious because of the coronavirus pandemic, which is only natural because 2020 has been a real bitch, you can virtually experience the feeling of taking a trip to the mountains by taking the special line. World Mountain Day – broadcasts on Sony BBC Earth on December 11 between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m. – Hidden india, Planet Earth 2, Seven worlds, one planet, and Rick Stein’s road to Mexico. And in the rare case that you can’t or don’t want to access your TV or the internet, I think you can at least get a picture of a pic, just watch it and rejoice that you managed to climb the mountain of 2020 without losing your mind. Cheers!

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Cover by Bhavya Poonia / Mashable India