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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

I am 15 and a sophomore at my average suburban San Francisco/Bay Area high school. However, April this year I was provided an opportunity that was more than average–to go on a climbing trip in the treacherous mountains of the Himalayas. Ruthless Himalayan mountains allow for very few months of clear and predictable weather, which happens to be during spring or fall; school sessions would be in full swing during any of those times. I knew that missing school for two and half weeks would equal countless extra hours of work and sleepless nights, but I had to go. I had to go see and touch the tallest mountain range in the world for myself. Thankfully, my teachers were supportive of my crazy idea and gave me the green light! 

I think one universally popular opinion is that no one actually wants to wake up for school at 7 in the morning; the thought of leaving your familiar room and getting out of your soft, warm bed so early… just to enter a classroom for 7 hours. Seven hours of having a teacher talk about a topic they may know little to nothing about. And then end up resorting to learning from a textbook like a robot. Never to learn from experience. The Himalayas provided me with a different, new classroom; it was outdoors, breathable, and rewarding in an unimaginable number of ways.

Similar to a school day, hiking in the serene mountains of Nepal required waking up very early in the morning. As the days passed, it seemed much less like a task and it found it rewarding. It was not only comforting but also beautiful to wake up to the culture in Nepal. The amount of determination and zeal that my sherpas, Babu and Yuvraj, had for their job was incomparable to any other occupation I’ve seen. Not only did their hiking skillset help me through climbing the Himalayas, I found friends in them as well. Some days proved to be rather difficult but I knew that I had experienced and genuine sherpas by my side. Their humor and love for the mountains encouraged me to climb right behind them and made me eager to see what was beyond every single boulder. At times when my mom felt altitude sickness or headaches, our sherpas always knew the appropriate remedy. I knew the medicine helped her but I felt Babu and Yuvraj’s compassion and understanding contributed to her healing process. My mother and I could not have completed my trek up the Gokyo Ri, if it was not for out hard-working sherpas.

Just like I had begun to notice Babu and Yuvraj’s work ethic, I began to take account of all Nepalese culture. The work life of people in the Himalayan mountains was quite different than what I knew. They used yaks and donkeys to transport food and other materials, yet managed to preserve the beautiful nature of their landscape. While trekking from village to village, my group and I would often run into herders or even porters who would carry hundreds of pounds for a multitude of miles. In spite of the difficult journey, they would always find ways to accommodate and push forward. This truly made me more open-minded because I realized how hard people in Nepal worked. More than that though, I saw that the indigenous people of that mountain range were passionate about their breathtaking homeland and that they enjoyed a lot of their daily work. Determination is an integral part of the culture in Nepal and is a joy rarely seen in the office jobs that surround me. Societies in urban areas like Silicon Valley are so attached to all their technological advancements and mechanical developments, that they forget that true beauty is found in the falling snow, grazing yaks, and running rivers.

What did this trip mean to me? It meant making new friends and meeting various people. It meant learning new ideas and taking on different perspectives. It meant finding peace in the sound of rushing water. It meant defining beauty as much more than an urban lifestyle. It meant leaving behind a trail of footsteps that I am proud to call my own. With that said, I encourage all those who are capable of traveling to Nepal and climbing the pristine, snowy peaks of Nepal to do so, because it is an astounding experience. I would not trade the two weeks I spent in Nepal for anything else, and my time spent there will never be forgotten.

Jasmine Pannu is a high school sophomore who took a trekking trip to the Nepalese Himalaya with the guides of Extollo Adventures. She hiked to the village of Gokyo, at 4,790 meters (15,720 ft) of elevation over the span of seven days and from there on, climbed a mountain named Gokyo Ri, to reach at 5,483 m (17,989 ft) of elevation. The most challenging factor here was being in the zone where an atmospheric Oxygen is 50% less than at the sea level making it extremely difficult to breathe. With constant snowstorms making conditions even more challenging – including slippery trails, and subzero temperatures, she was able to achieve her goal to successfully conquer the mountain of Gokyo Ri along with her mom.