By Naresh and Krsana Asnani
Before The Trip
Didn’t know what to expect! I didn’t think it would be very difficult. After all it was designed for 10 to 13 yr olds and it did specify easy to moderate hiking. All I was looking forward to was spending quality time with my daughter, Krsana.
I was really nervous because it was hiking and I was scared I would not make it up the mountain. A bit afraid about what they expected from us because I wasn’t too sure what to expect myself. They did not give so much detail on what you would be doing so I did not know what they were going to make us do. Even by reading the schedule I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was about to do.
We arrived in Chamonix. Krsana and I spent the day together. We played mini Golf, had lunch together and then rented bicycles to explore the town. Got lost, but found our way eventually. In the evening we met up with the rest of the group for dinner.
Though I was enjoying time with Krsana, I was missing Sabina and the others. It was a little different being just the two of us as I am used to having everyone around. Hope we don’t run out of conversation in the next few days that we are going to be together. Also whilst I am used to meeting new people all the time, I hope Krsana will be comfortable with all these kids and make friends easily.
When we first arrived we got in to the car and met two other people who were going to be on the trip with us. The first thing we did after check-in was have lunch. We enjoyed the delicious crepes; played a game of mini golf and then rented bikes a few hours later and rode around the town. Though we got lost we were both ready for the adventure and managed to find our way back. I wasn’t used to spending quality time with my dad, but hoped we would get along better than usual. He was great and we never ran out of anything to talk about. At dinner we met some nice people and enjoyed a relaxed evening in the hotel.
We climbed the Mer de Glace (a Glacier).
This was a very difficult climb. We had to use pick axes and crampons attached to our boots to grip onto the ice. Slipped and fell a few times and gathered a few bruises. I was wondering, what the heck have I gotten us into. We are not cut out for this! I was expecting a hike not a difficult climb. On the climb down I find myself getting better. I focus on simple advice given by the guide trust your shoes to hold you; don’t take large or fast steps; focus on the moment and don’t think about what lies ahead. I start to feel like a climber. Once we return I feel an incredible sense of accomplishment. I would never have thought us capable of the climb we just made. This trip is going to be about us conquering our personal barriers. Krsana has impressed me along this climb. She has not cried or complained like many other kids. She has overcome her fear and learnt well. The guide jokes how she has become semi professional during the climb. I realize that she might be better at this stuff than me. After the climb Krsana and I treat ourselves to racquelette. I am really enjoying her company. Whilst eating we find out about Father Miles (one of the members of our party) who had broken his leg and had to be taken to hospital by helicopter. He needs an operation. It sinks in how hazardous this climb is.
Before we left we were told by Father Miles that we should collect one object during this climb and describe why we chose it. Later we walked to a store where I had to change my boots and adjust my crampons that were half a size tight. We then boarded a train that took us up to the glacier. When we got off the train we walked through a path. While I was walking I thought to myself: This isn’t too bad and it shouldn’t get much harder. It is easy and simple.
We walked into a cave and saw many different ice carvings. It was only when we got out of the cave that the guide showed us what we would be climbing up to. I looked at it and thought I was going to die. I was not fit enough to do such a climb. It looked extremely hard. I couldn’t help but think this was impossible.
It was my dad who reminded me of the story Father Miles had told us. ‘Think of the present and not the future,’ he told me. He gave me the encouragement to only think about what I was doing now instead of what I was about to do.
On the way up I fell quite often and found myself covered with a few cuts and bruises. We did not climb all the way up as we were meant to. We walked halfway and stopped for lunch. We then walked the whole way back. The main plan was to walk towards some ladders where you would climb down and walk on the pure ice. Our group turned out to be all beginners though we still walked on a glacier that was covered with rocks.
On the way down I found myself much better. I was one of the fastest and just speeded going down. When we got to the bottom, I looked at what we had just climbed and felt a huge accomplishment. I had just climbed up a glacier that looked like a hike for professionals.
By the end of the day I had made many friends. We had great times hanging around by the pool table together. It was sad to find out that Father Miles had broken his femur during the climb. I really enjoyed his talks that he had with the group.
Morning : We did gorging/canyoning down a waterfall.
Afternoon : We climbed up the mountain
Evening : We spent the night on the mountain.
I didn’t know what canyoning or gorging meant but I found out soon enough. It involves climbing down a waterfall whilst being harnessed, jumping twenty feet from a ledge onto a pool of water, being harnessed down a tree. I was reminded that this involves swimming in icy waters from the glacier and was asked if I wanted to skip this. After yesterday I had already decided that we were here as adventurers and therefore would be trying everything.
The wet suits did offer some protection from the icy water but I think I was too distracted by the jumping and sliding down waterfalls to worry about the cold. Krsana was in front of me and seemed to love the adventure so I couldn’t afford to be afraid. How can I be nervous when you’ve just seen your kid make the same jump? At every stage she would ask me “Daddy are you ok ?” Even though I was the parent and she was the child we were both concerned about and looking after each other. She showed the same signs last night when she did all the packing and made sure we packed everything. Since Sabina wasn’t there she was filling in the blanks. Once again when this was over I was in awe over what we had just done.
After a leisurely picnic lunch we began the steep climb up the mountain. After the first half hour, I thought I was going to collapse. The climb was very steep; our backpacks were quite heavy and I was wondering how I would make the remainder three hours. Somehow I got more used to it. Taking smaller steps and convincing myself that this was another task within my reach. Halfway through the climb Krsana found it very tough. She needed to stop constantly and was getting discouraged. Slowly but surely we made it to the summit in 3½ hrs. At the top we were treated to spectacular views of the Mount Blanc and the rest of the Alps. We witnessed a wonderful sunset and an even more, a beautiful moonrise. We all enjoyed the delicious meal provided, everyone knowing that they had worked hard and fully deserved this treat. The cramped barrack style overnight accommodation and poor excuse for toilets did not bother me because now we were adventurers and had left our luxury dependant lifestyle behind. In spite of the orchestra of snoring that took place in the boy’s room, I slept like a baby.
We started our day going canyoning. We had to stop on the way to get our wet suits. While getting into my wetsuit I kind of needed to think twice before doing this. The wetsuits were so tight and no one would agree to let us have a bigger size. They were tough to walk in and you could barely move. To reach to the place where canyoning would be, we had to walk quite a while in order to get to the waterfalls. When we got there they first dunked our heads in water so that we got used to the cold water. It was really cold but sooner or later the water seemed normal. While canyoning we had loads of fun sliding down the waterfall. There was one part where we had to do jump into the waterfall from high above. I slipped while trying to get to one of the big rocks and was so scared I would fall that I couldn’t let go. I had forgotten we were attached on a rope. When I finally slipped completely I was actually fine because I was attached to the ropes. I was perfectly fine like anyone else. I was so fine that I was able to do the jump like everyone else. It was one of the best experiences ever.
After lunch we started our hike to the top of the mountain where we would be staying the night. It was a really tough hike. We had to take breaks every 15 or 20 minutes. I used my asthma pump twice. It took us about 3 hours and 20 minutes. When we finally got to the top we sat down and had a coke to relax.
That night we had racquelette for dinner. Then later on in the night we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows and had loads of fun. I slept in the girls’ cabin. When 2 girls weren’t feeling too well, my friend Katie and I took them to their fathers. Katie and I were not so tired so we walked around for about 15 minutes. Then we went back to the room and fell asleep. Our room was so cold that I slept with 2 blankets, a sleeping liner and my fleece but I still felt cold. Because I was so tired I slept like I never had before.
Hiked to Switzerland.
Like true adventurers, we got ready by brushing our teeth and splashing water on our faces. No showers here. We began our hike to Switzerland. To start with this was not as enduring as yesterdays hike as this was undulating with more downhill. We were progressing with fewer breaks than yesterday. However it got incredibly tough in the second half and even though we could visibly spot the dam in Switzerland it seemed like a herculean task to reach there. At many points we had to walk across ledges that were narrower than my feet, grasping onto chains that had been attached. Some of the downhills were so steep that the guides had to show us how. The hiking poles were my best friends in this trek as they supported my weight and helped me keep balance.
Krsana fared much better in this hike. Clearly for her, an adventurous climb proved much easier than a strenuous hike. One of our fellow hikers commented on how Krsana seemed so balanced and focused. She referred to her as an old soul who would be able to achieve whatever she put her mind to. It’s amazing how ones character comes out in a challenging hike.
When we reached our destination, my body gave in. My foot ached; I was worried how blue my toes would be. My legs refused to walk without the assistance of my hiking sticks even in flat ground and my shoulders hurt so bad that I could not lift my hand above my waist. I had pushed my body to the limit and could do no more.
Anyway at the hotel I got just the cure I needed. Our simple three star room proved to be more inviting than any luxurious suite I have stayed in. A shower and a balm massage (by Krsana) on my shoulders had me back to almost normal, just sore from the last three days.
In the evening when we had our farewell dinner I enjoyed the time with my companions from the last few days. I also was pleased to see the close friendship Krsana had formed with the other kids. However what amazed me the most was how she made sure she balanced the time spent with her new friends and with me. “Will you be ok if I spend some time with my friends?” was the question she asked prior to leaving me.
When I got up in the morning I went straight outside and had breakfast with my dad. Then both of us got our backpacks ready for our hikes. When I was done with the packing and all of that, we headed off on our hike. This hike started off easier than the one before. It was not going down hill or uphill it did both and it wasn’t that steep. I thought to myself that this was going to be an easy hike and I would be able to make it all the way without getting tired a lot. It got harder as I started thinking this thought. Now there were parts were you had to give your sticks to your guides so you could hold on to the chains and get across a pile of dangerous rocks. It seemed hard at first but as we got doing it, it was kind of fun. We walked for about 3 hours before we stopped for lunch. We had a nice picnic. But by that time my dad had a lot of cramps. We had a choice to go for another 2 hour hike or just walk on the dam to cross the border. But by then we were all so tired that we just decided to get across the dam. When we got across, we took a bus back to Chamonix where we had to decide if we wanted to go to the cow bell factory or up to the Agui de Midi (a mountain top where you can see Italy, France and Switzerland). Our original plan was to go to the mountain top but the queue for the cable cars was a two hour wait so we just went back to the hotel, showered and went down to town for a bit of souvenir shopping.
For our farewell dinner we were at a nice restaurant. It had a garden, which was where all the kids hung out. After dinner we walked back to the hotel. The adults went up to the rooms and all us kids played pool downstairs until midnight. We traded email addresses and said our good byes because lots of people were leaving early in the morning.
This was meant to be a relaxing day for us to recoup from our adventures. However being new adventurers that we had become, this was also not going to be a normal day. We rented a small speed boat and cruised around Lake Geneva stopping for the occasional swim in the lake.
In the evening we went out for dinner together and recounted our last few days together. Strolling back from dinner, with her holding my hand and chatting away seemed like the most natural thing in the world. Apart from everything else we had become best friends in the last few days.
This was the day we had no plans at all. We left our hotel in the morning and took a car to another hotel in Geneva. After we checked in we went out for a nice lunch. There was a carnival going on so we walked around the carnival and I enjoyed some rides. As we were walking around we found a place where we could rent boats and swim in the lake. So we walked back to the hotel and changed to our swimsuits then spent one and a half hours in the lake. As we walked back we rode a few more rides then went and got ready for dinner. We went out for a nice fondue dinner and when we got back to the hotel we fell asleep watching a comedy movie.
Beyond spending some quality time with my daughter I had not much expectations from the trip but it turned out that aside from that, we both overcame our own limitations that we would have never have thought ourselves capable of, a week ago. We both watched each other face and overcome obstacles and a parent child relationship doubled up into one of two great friends.
We experienced a once in a lifetime experience. We overcame many obstacles and some fears too. It was a great experience and my dad and I gained a closer bond. I did something I would have thought was impossible before I went on the trip. It was an experience I will remember forever.