I recently visited Grand Canyon and remembered my last trip there 13 years ago. Its a nice story so sharing it
Back in 2003 I was doing a train trip across America. This was before the time I had a cellphone. I started in Chicago, went up north through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Glacier National Park in Montana, Washington. Then from Seattle I headed down through Oregon, California and Arizona. I got off at Flagstaff, AZ, dropped my backpack at the station luggage and since I had some time for my shuttle to the Grand Canyon went out for some breakfast. After breakfast, I noticed that the shuttle was boarding and got on. I started chatting with my neighbor and luckily I found out that the shuttle was actually leaving for Phoenix and got off just before it left. A little later, I got on the right shuttle and reached Grand Canyon around 10.30.
Before leaving, the shuttle driver informed us about the 5pm pick up back to Flagstaff.
The Grand Canyon was an amazing place and since I had the day, I decided to hike down to the colorado river and back. I did a quick review of the hike path and noticed that unlike a normal mountain hike where the return part is easier when downhill, the grand canyon's return path would be tougher as it's uphill.
I figured I should complete the first part of my hike as soon as possible to allow enough time for the return. I started jogging past signs warning hikers not to attempt the trip down to the river and back in one day and listing the number of deaths.
I passed through some water stations and figured (incorrectly) that there would be enough water refueling options along the way. The first part of the hike was uneventful till I reached the rim overlooking the river. Once in the valley, the sun felt hotter especially with the valley walls trapping the heat. I was out of water by now and started feeling dehydrated. I reached the river in about 3 hours and noticed it was a dirty brown color and I wasn't going to try drinking that water. Soon I found a stream emptying into the river and the water looked much more drinkable. I was so thankful I slept in the water drinking as much as I could.
After filling my bottle up, I started back up. By this time, the sun was literally scorching down and I started to feel the effects of dehydration when my legs started cramping up. Half way back up I was literally crawling when I had to rest after every couple of steps. I was so slow that a couple of senior citizens passed me and inquiring if I was okay.Amazingly they took pity on me and sent down another bottle of water and an energy bar through some other hikers. It was almost 5 and I had lost all hope of reaching back in time for the shuttle and concentrated on just getting back. The sun was setting down on the canyon.
Fighting cramps, dehydration, exhaustion and hiking for the last half an hour through darkness guided by starlight, I reached the canyon rim 9 hours later at 7.30 pm.
With no public transportation available and taxis costing around 100$ for a trip down again, I set out to find accommodation. As I should have guessed, all rooms were sold out - with 1 suite available at $255.
I went back outside and tried my hand at hitching a ride. Looking back, I would have been extremely surprised if someone would have stopped for a big scary sweaty guy at night.
I went back to the hotel and was pleading with the hotel check in girl if I could sleep in a closet, basically anything with a roof. I don't know if she took pity on me but she informed me that if I could pay for the gas her sister would drop me to Williams which is the next stop for the train that I was supposed to be on. I had exactly $33 and some change and gave it all to her. She didn't know where the train station was so she dropped me at a hotel. I figured the hotel might have a shuttle to the train station so I walked in asking if I could get on the shuttle. The shuttle had already left so they called it back with the driver apologizing for leaving me behind. Once he saw that I had no bags on me, he figured I wasn't a hotel guest but he still gave me a ride.
Luckily, even after all this, I just made it minutes before the train came in. Since I had given all my money, I spent a sleepless hungry night on the train on the way to Los Angeles.
I reached LA the next morning and made a collect call to my cousin asking him to come pick me up from Union Station. Since my bag was still in Flagstaff, I asked him to get some money to do some emergency clothes shopping. I then made another call to Flagstaff station master explained my adventure, convinced him that the bag belonged to me and he graciously offered to ship the bag to LA on the next train.
Day 0 – Fly to Kathmandu
Day 1 – Kathmandu sightseeing
Day 2 – Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla. Walk to Phakding.
Day 3 – Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Day 4 – Acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar. Walk up to everest view hotel
Day 5 – Namche Bazaar to Debuche.
Day 6 – Debuche to Dingboche
Day 7 – Acclimatization day at Dingboche
Day 8 – Dingboche to Lobuche
Day 9 – Lobuche to Gorakshep. Walk up to Kala Patthar and back to Gorakshep
Day 10 – Walk to everest base camp and back to gorakshep
Day 11 – Gorakshep to Lobuche
Day 12 – Lobuche to Debuche
Day 13 – Debuche to Monju
Day 14 – Monju to Lukla
Day 15 – Stuck at Lukla (flights canceled)
Day 16 – Still no flight from Lukla
Day 17 – Walk from Lukla to Payun
Day 18 – Payun to Numthala
Day 19 – Numthala to Solleri
Day 20 – Jeep ride to Kathmandu
For anyone remotely familiar with me, you’ve noticed (by now hopefully) that I’ve gone off the beaten path in the last couple of years. Now if you are in my parent’s group you will have no idea why I’m doing the things I’ve been doing.
A lot of people remember George Mallory’s quote about why he climbed Everest: ‘Because its there’. Now for those who follow Ben Saunders (Polar Ben), might remember his incredibly inspiring TED talk about ‘Why Bother Leaving the House‘, a topic on which I had blogged earlier. Ben quoted George Mallory’s response to what is the use of climbing Everest.
My answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron.
If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.’
Now I’ve wanted to go checkout Everest for a while but after seeing the Ben Saunders talk, I definitely knew I had to do it. So in the spirit of leaving the house, I’m heading on an everest trek next week. Now I don’t want to climb everest (yet), but I definitely want to go sit on Everest’s footsteps and maybe get a feel of how Mallory felt when he first encountered the mountain. To make things slightly challenging, I’ve scheduled back to back treks. So the day I reach Kathmandu from everest, I’m flying to Himachal to go on the Saar Pass trek. I’ve never gone for a month long trek where I’m walking every single day but hopefully my body holds up and I feel the same joy for life that Mallory once talked about.
After Naneghat, My cousins and I decided to trek to Matheran. The last time I trekked to Matheran was 15 years ago. At that time Neral was basically a train station acting as a base for the Matheran trek.
A lot has changed in 15 years. Neral has joined the ranks of towns where growth has run wild. The road by the train station is filled with shops selling meat, it feels like suddenly neral is filled with a whole lot of meat eaters and all of them shop by the train station.
Once we crossed the town, the air started getting cleaner and the view better.
Every week, I seem to start the trek confident on finishing the trek with no tiredness or soreness. Considering Matheran is basically walking up a paved road and I’ve done this before, I felt confident that this time was different….. But it wasn’t
Once we reached the top, it was time to rest and enjoy the view. Matheran has now started collecting 50 rs per person to maintain the city, so the view comes at a tiny price. But I’m glad that Matheran still does not allow any motorized traffic so you can take in the nice clean air tinged with horse dung.
Naneghat was the old route from Kalyan to Pune and was my first trek after coming back to India. I joined a trekking group from Thane, which had rented a bus to take us towards Vaishakhare. In the olden days, this particular path was a toll road (toll being collected at the top) for traders moving between Kalyan to Pune. There was a landslide at Malshej Ghat and most traffic was closed. Even though Vashakhare and Naneghat wasn’t affected, the “ever helpful” Maharashtra Police tried to stop us from going ahead with an eye for us to bribe them. On getting no money from any of us, they proceeded to check all our bags for alcohol. Being unsuccessful again, they stopped our bus from moving ahead adding another couple of kilometers of walk before our actual trek. Once we got on the trekking path, I assumed since traders with their goods could travel the route, I should be fine. Boy was I wrong as I soon found out my level of fitness level. There was a steady rain which helped keeping us cool but made the walk over wet stones particularly difficult.
Not a waterfall but the actual trek path The rains and felled trees also made for some interesting route obstacles
Once my body got used to the altitude, the trek started getting much easier. We crossed a few small rivers where my trek mates shared an interesting story. In their last trek, a few kids from IIT Bombay joined them. The rivers they crossed were much bigger and fast flowing and one of the girls froze in the middle of the river. Too scared to go either forward or back, she decided to sit in the river. After trying to coax her to keep moving, 3 boys eventually went back into the river and carried her back. I’m kinda glad that I didnt make any long lasting stories in this trek. Half way up the mountain, the view was breathtakingly beautiful, even making me forget the pain for a short while.
The rest of the trek was uneventful other than a few slips by my trek mates, nothing too painful. The top of the mountain was covered by cloud so couldn’t get any pictures from there, but the temperature did feel like someone turned on the A.C. switch.
Top of naneghat It was a wonderful start to the trekking season and as soon as the pain subsides I’m going for some more…