03 Mar A PASSAGE Into The Mountains
By Zachary Conrad, Teacher
There is a small, nag temple just outside the campsite at Deosari. It sits in a forest of Deodar trees, thick and green, with trunks like pillars for the sky. We found all this out later, though. We got there in the dark.
On the first weekend back from winter vacation Mrs Fidler, Mr Titu, and I accompanied eight students out for a weekend of camping and hiking as a part Woodstock’s PASSAGE program for Enrichment. When the school bell rang at 4:20 Friday afternoon, we assembled in the quad and made the short walk up to Hanifl Centre. Here, students were outfitted with backpacks, gaiters, and all the other things needed to stay warm and dry sleeping on the ground and walking through snow. After bags were packed, we piled into jeeps and made the winding drive down through Thatyur and to the road-head. From here, it was only a short hike, under headlamps and stars, to camp.
Talk to any alumni and you begin to understand how important exploring these mountains has always been to the Woodstock experience. It seems like everyone has some story about getting lost on Nag Tibba or walking to Rajpur in the rain. Some tell it as if they spent every weekend climbing one khaad or another (though I suspect it’s more likely these are the only weekends they really remember) and others list not getting out more as their biggest regret.
Going into the mountains gives students a chance to forget about homework and grades, escape the worries, obligations, and frustrations of day-to-day life, and to put these things into perspective. They get the freedom to be goofy, reflective, or a little wild. When we’re out there, students learn about teamwork and leadership, outdoor skills, and the culture and environment of the Gharwal Himalaya. But the real reason we go is for fun.
We came over the top of Lunsu ridge at 2:30—just enough time to have a quick lunch of cheese, crackers, and peanut butter. If you want cheese and crackers to taste really good, spend four or five hours hiking up a steep, snow-covered ridge. We looked back at where we came from, up the river valley through small villages and terraced farms. I pointed out the approximate location of our campsite at the edge of the trees. “I can’t believe we walked that far!” One student said. “Well,” I replied, “we’re about to do it again.”
Zachary is a Math Teacher at Woodstock School, a student advisor, an avid trekker, photographer and baker. He brings his love for adventure to the Pizzaria Club that he heads as part of the Enrichment programme.