Monday 21 April 2014

Climb Every Mountain

After conquering the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro this summer, Alison O'Riordan has the Himalayas firmly in her sights for 2014

My walking boots are well and truly worn in by this stage and I'm still yearning for more. Having already stood on top of Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa, not to mention the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 19,341ft above sea level – this summer, I plan to continue my thrill-seeking escapades and embark on the Indian Himalayas Trek in March.

I have come down with the mountaineering bug, and my last adventure has whetted my appetite to continue taking on similar exciting and unnerving challenges in 2014. Some of the world's most famous climbs are on my bucket list and I will not rest easy until I have them accomplished.

A glutton for punishment I may be as this 12-day expedition includes a punishing six days of trekking in northern India, in the mountains of Uttarakhand.

The hilly state of Uttarakhand, bordering Tibet, contains some of the highest mountain peaks in the world. Apparently, many of them are unclimbed and unnamed.

Before the arduous trek begins, the trip allows participants to explore all India has to offer, including one of Delhi's best markets. And the challenge, organised by Concern, coincides with the Holi Festival, one of the major festivals of India.

This ancient Hindu religious spring festival, also known as festival of colours, and sometimes festival of love, features people dancing and singing in the streets, and each trekker will get a chance to join in the celebrations.

Trekking begins on day four of the trip and one can enjoy six fantastic days of elevating to just under 4,000m, with an average of six hours of walking per day.

Each day on the moderate-level trek offers a new and exciting route, passing some beautiful hamlets, lush forests, icy waterfalls and scenic streams.

Temperatures on the challenge can vary from a balmy 20C to 30C during the day to a chilling -5C to 15C at night.

The highlight of the trek comes on day eight when reaching the Kuari pass (3,840m) from Ghat, where one is rewarded by an impressive eye-shot of high Himalayan giant peaks, including the Chaukhamba Range (7,140m), Nilkantha (6,597m), Kamet (7,756m) and Abigamin (7,355m), extending to the Tibetan border.

With a capacity for 15 to 40 participants on the trek, camping near the source of the Ganges, one of the world's most famous rivers and most culturally significant regions in India, is also promised.

En route, one can mix with the locals and learn about the Himalayan way of life.

As a reward, once trekking is completed there will be a chance to go white-water rafting on class three and four rapids.

There is no set minimum fitness level required to participate in the challenge. The group moves at the pace of the slowest person and nobody is ever left behind.

A training event will take place on the weekend of February 1 and 2 next year. I will be writing about how all the challengers, including myself, get on.

Experts have advised that hillwalking is the best preparation. It is recommended to focus on building endurance fitness by completing long, slow and low-intensity sessions rather than fast and short sessions.

The Indian Himalayas Trek takes place from March 14-25, 2014. For more information or to secure a place on this expedition, you can contact siobhan.oconnor@ or call 01 4178028. By taking part in this challenge, you will be supporting Concern Worldwide's work in Pakistan.

Irish Independent

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