Recently, I met a couple who have mountaineering as their passion.
Divyesh Muni is a Chartered Accountant by profession. But instead of getting lost in numbers, he would rather prefer to loose himself in the deep ravines of the
Himalayas. One month every year, Divyesh takes time off from his busy schedule and heads off to the Himalayas for a dose of trekking and mountain climbing. He has trekked extensively in Garhwal, Kumaon and Ladakh, even going further up north to the Siachen Glacier. Till date, Divyesh has participated in 19 Himalayan expeditions and climbed 25 peaks, several of them more than 20,000 feet above sea level. Not surprisingly, he is a winner of several awards, such as Best Mountaineering Expedition of the year 2005 and the Best Mountaineer of the Year 2009-10.
Trekking is not an easy hobby. You need an extraordinary amount of mental and physical fitness to undertake such treks. Only one who is very passionate about it can do it. The trekking gear is heavy and expensive. You need to learn atleast the basics of first aid. And yes, you need to learn to cook as well! Be ready to trek for days at a stretch, with a loadful of necessities on your back, in a hostile environment. The climate can change suddenly, and without a warning. Last year when there was a cloudburst at Ladakh, Divyesh was there. Hundreds were killed. Anything can happen. You may lose your way in the middle of nowhere. Or after trekking for days, you may face a peak that seems almost impossible to surmount. How do you respond? You need an extraordinary amount of mental and physical fitness to overcome the situation.
But the returns are awesome! At times, you are literally at the top of the world. You get to see the true beauty of this planet – stunning mountains, astonishing peaks, breathtaking views from the top. See sights that no tourist has seen before!
A trip begins when you start planning for it. You ready the gear. Plan the route. Often, there are permits to be taken, as peaks in the
Himalayas are under military control. Proper maps are either not available, or not shared due to security reasons. Many a times, you have to take local villagers as guides and they become a part of your trekking entourage. Incidentally, Divyesh says, some of the best peaks for mountain climbing are available closer home in the Sahyadris. Here, the trips are easier to plan and execute, and yet all the challenges are still there. On one such trip, Divyesh met Vineeta, and in an instant, they knew they were made for each other.
Vineeta is an accomplished mountain climber in her own right, and has several Himalayan expeditions to her credit. She was one of the first women in the world to have trekked the entire length of the
Himalayas in 1997. She walked over 4500 kms. across the Himalayas, crossing 39 passes over 10000 ft in altitude, covering the entire Himalayas from Arunachal Pradesh in the East to Jammu & Kashmir in the West, going across Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, Garhwal, Kumaon, Spiti and Ladakh. The trip took more than a year to plan, and seven months to complete! She has also visited the Siachen Glacier and trekked its entire length (72 kms. in all!) to the head of the glacier and reached “Indira Saddle”, at the Northern most point of India. Closer home, Vineeta has been trekking & rock climbing in the Sahyadris for more than 30 years, and has visited almost every Fort in Maharashtra.
When the Munis are not climbing mountains, they are busy doing other good things. Divyesh conducts adventure camps for the children, and has been an instructor for rock climbing. He has given several presentations on various Himalayan expeditions, conducted seminars & workshops. Vineeta has been an award winning painter and a long distance swimmer too! She guides groups to the Manasarovar and Kailash, and is currently writing a book on her experiences in the
The Munis are excellent photographers too, something that seems almost a ‘sine qua non’ for someone with such a passion! Thankfully, their love for the planet and its people doesn’t end with their treks. They are active with The Himalayan Club, an 83 years old organization that has adopted two villages in the Ladakh region which were destroyed in last year’s cloudburst. The villages are being rebuilt with funds collected from charity. As part of this, Vineeta and Divyesh organized a photography exhibition recently at NCPA in Mumbai. Funds collected from the sale of photographs would go to rebuild the houses of the villages adopted by them and to a children’s hostel that was destroyed in the calamity. Those of you who may be interested in buying their photographs can get in touch with me for their contact details.