When we arrive in Manali in the Indian Himalayas, it’s a lovely day, cool with sunshine – a relief after the humidity of Delhi.
Tomorrow we climb a small peak 4,000 metres (13,400ft) – well small in terms of the surrounding mountains that stretch high into clouds. I’ve been in the Alps but the size and number here take a while for my eyes to see, to take in. I’m apprehensive.
Breakfast is at 7 and we leave at eight. We need to be on the top by midday because of the weather. My guide, Ashok is kind, ‘don’t worry, I’ll get you up.’ I tell him I have asthma, well controlled but uphill is hard, and I’m now forty-six.
I set off in good form, remembering to keep a steady pace. My partner has gone ahead with the other guide.
I love the mountains, the physical effort, the beauty, stillness and even the scale. But I am not hell bent on the top; the wonder of where we are is enough for me and I don’t want to die just yet. I smile and say let’s see.
The last 200 metres is rock with a dusting of snow. Big boulders trip my weary legs – lift high Ashok says don’t go in between. I pause for water, look around and the height scares me. I start to cry, blow my nose to cover the tears, sit on the edge of a rough boulder. My shoulders are above my ears, I can hardly speak, I just want to go down.
At the top I can hardly move. There’s no elation yet. My head aches, it feels as if a herd of buffaloes are picky-backing on my chest. I take a careful look, almost overwhelmed by the height and number of the mountains. They are beautiful, majestic and absolutely terrifying.
We make our way down to our camp, weary and spent. Only when the chef brings a plate of pakoras and fried potatoes do I begin to thaw. Next, he brings a big pot of cardamon tea, for my weary chest!
Submitted by Rona Fitzgerald, 66, Glasgow