“The Lahaul region of India’s Himalaya is extremely hard to access. You access it by skiing almost 4000m through the Rohtang Pass that separates this region from the Manali. It’s closed to traffic during the winter months because of deep snow.
In the village of Keylong on the other side, my friends (BC skiers Monte Paynter and Audray Ayotte) and I met two young local skiers named Anchu Paul and Naresh Thakur. When we ran into them in downtown Keylong, they said they were off on a little expedition: to climb 2000m across the valley from Keylong and ski down the other side to a small village. Normally this route is done only in the summertime.
So we met them early the next morning, and started up in the dark. I was surprised to see their setup. Both of them had old ski boots in their packs and climbed the slope in running shoes. One of them didn’t even have liners in his ski boots. They had their old skis attached to their school packs. All they had to eat was a couple of chipatis and an old Coke bottle full of water. Both were wearing only their jeans and little K-Way jackets.
This was quite the contrast to us with our fancy clothes (we were on a clothing shoot for the Norwegian company Norrøna) and modern touring gear with ski crampons, skins, touring boots, and avalanche equipment.
To my surprise these guys were every bit as fast as we were the entire six-hour climb to the pass. And there wasn’t a second either of them didn’t have a smile on their face.
We reached the pass, and after a quick bite, we skied the 2000m run to the village below. Naresh and Anchul’s skiing style wasn’t pretty. More of a half-tuck half-snowplow careen down the mountain on their ancient gear.
But they made it, and were greeted as heroes when they arrived to the village. They were the first skiers to do the traverse in the winter months. In a nutshell, the contrast between our way and theirs was so different in approach. But we both achieved the same goal together, with just as much fun.”