Scaling new heights
Sixteen-year-old Saatvik Kher shares his trekking experiences — how it all started and how he also collects litter on trails to keep nature clean
Saatvik Kher, a 16-year-old from Mumbai who studies at Dhirubhai Ambani International School, is an adventure buff. An outdoor enthusiast, Kher is extremely fond of trekking. Telling us how it all started, he says he was just eight when his parents first took him to the Sahyadris for a weekend trek. He felt he was just stuck there, drenched in the rain and tired from the gruesome trek.
“It was my very first trek and it felt like a punishment because I had no knowledge about the sport back then, but the experience did give me something that stayed with me for long,” says he, adding that the trek to the Sahyadris changed his life since he felt closer to nature.
That was just the beginning. Soon, he started accompanying his parents for treks at higher terrains and conquered four high-altitude Himalayan treks. “The Himalayan experience was something that simply cannot be explained in words. One really has to see the mighty Himalayas and experience oneness with it,” says Kher adding that it is one of the toughest treks he has undertaken and seen something new every time he’s climbed the mighty mountains. “One can explore the ‘untouched beauty’ of the southern side of the trail as there are fewer trekkers and tourists there,” he says.
Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) is one of his recent treks, and memorable too. “Having trekked across three countries in nine days is marvelous,” says Kher adding, “TMB is a classic alpine route that circles the Mont Blanc massif, through enchanting valleys, tranquil forests, meadows, and lakes. One walks a total of 170km through the Alpines in three different countries: France, Switzerland and Italy.”
The trek began in Chamonix, which is a ski town in Eastern France. “Most hikers prefer to circle the massif in an anti-clockwise direction, but being zealous Himalayan trekkers, we took the unconventional clockwise route: an Alpine parikrama!” he exclaims.
At 4,810m, Mont Blanc is the tallest peak in the Alps but its height is relatively small compared to the Himalayas. The landscape, however, is equally picturesque. “Throughout the trek, we completed cumulative ascents and descents totaling to 10,000m, that’s as much as climbing Mount Everest (without the altitude, of course),” says Kher adding that they would walk anywhere between 25-30 km every day, ascending approximately 1000m daily.
In in the evenings, they would arrive exhausted at an auberge (inn), near a small village, which was an opportunity to talk to trekkers from around the world and listen to their stories. “I tried practising some of the French I’d learnt in school, impressing the locals with an accent they thought was authentic,” says the youngster. Right from staying at the auberge and tasting French cheeses during their picnic lunches on the trail, to meeting passionate adventurists, TMB was an indelible experience for Kher.
In Mumbai, he is surrounded by tonnes of concrete. “To escape from the stress of city life and digitisation, trekking has become important to me,” he says. Nature saves him from everyday stress and helps him rejuvenate. “But it is heartbreaking to see litter around when you are trekking on a particular trail,” Kher points out. To curb litter on the mountains, Kher and his parents now carry a bag to collect the waste that trekkers dump anywhere, get it back and dispose it off at designated places. “Nature gives so much, so we ought to keep it clean and protect it from human degradation,” he says.