A few days back I got a mail from Nachiket gauging interest in a short hike. Nachiket is one of those supermen hikers and the lowest end of his 'short hike' just about intersects with the highest end of my 'killer record length hike'. Normally I would have run for dear life after seeing such an email but I really wanted to do a hike. I had been active and about and all that recently. I could feel the stamina coursing through my veins. The problem was that whenever I hear or see the name Nachiket I remember Prajakt's story of black mountain. Prajakt did black mountain with Nachiket. He did his best. Ran up, ran down. Stopped very little. Almost lost his lungs with all that heavy breathing. And he still had to suffer the humiliation of having Nachiket go up and down, get tired waiting, and then go up and down again before Prajakt could get back. Suddenly I had one of my brilliant ideas. I responded with interest after adding a few more slowpokes like me in the list and, after much wrangling and bargaining, we pulled Nachiket down to a reasonable altitude 7 miler called Corte Madera.
The night before the hike I did my last check. Water - check. Snacks - check. Spare shirt - check. Sunscreen - check. Electrolyte - check. whistle - check. compass - check. I was totally, completely, supremely prepared. I had thought of every minor detail. I had even gone to the extent of freezing my water overnight so that I could have cold water during a hot hike. I was a pro.
The morning of the hike I was up early and rushed to the starting point. That's where I had my first jolt. My two snails had backed out. They had pitilessly left me to the wolves. As our car approached the trail head I nervously eyed Nachiket and Parag (another superhuman).
"I .. er .. um .. if it's OK with you guys, I'll take it a little slow. You know .. um .. my .. er .. knees are not what they used to be and all that"
"Sure .. no problem", said Nachiket. "Hope you got your poncho."
"A .. what .. oh! .. that .. um .. no. "
A poncho is used to protect from rain. I remembered that all my hikes had been nice hot summer hikes. A winter hike is probably a different beast. Why! .. oh why! do I get myself into these scrapes. We got out of the car and the cold hit me. It was single digit degrees above zero degree centigrade and I had a thin sweatshirt. I glanced over towards Parag and Nachiket and smiled. They dint seem to be taking it much better. A poncho is just plastic. It stops water, not the cold. We had a small discussion and decided that it was OK to carry on since it should get warmer as the day progressed. We started off and I realised I could comfortably keep pace with Parag and Nachiket. The cold had frozen my joints. I felt no pain. It was a liberating feeling. "Maybe these winter hikes are not such a big deal", I thought to myself as my mojo slowly returned. I even dared to strike up a conversation with Nachiket on the intricacies of pro level hiking. I was looking for an opening to start off on my badminton glory days but he dint take the bait. I think he had been warned. We were at this stalemate when the hail started. It killed us. There was no respite. The temperature dropped to below zero. The ice melted into little streams and drenched our feet. It melted on my cap, backpack, sweatshirt and drenched all of that too. Soon I was a shivering shaking mess. Meanwhile, that block of ice that I had labouriously frozen in the freezer last night stayed the same. Like a fool I was lugging along 2 kg of ice and had no water to drink. So much for preparation. Comfortably ensconced in their ponchos, Nachiket and Parag looked at me with pity. We reached some sort of a plateau. "This is the peak" I begged .. but they plodded on. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, we reached the true peak. I spent exactly 30 seconds there. Then this chilly cold wind also started. I shot down the mountain and reached the car in record time. Parag and Nachiket were awestruck by my stamina. They had never seen anyone climb down so fast. It was a good half hour before the shivering abated and I could start the car. We wasted no time in rushing off to soup plantation for hot soup and more hot soup. Note to self: The next time I have a brilliant idea, get the largest stick I can find and beat myself on the head hard and long until that, and future brilliant ideas, don't dare come anywhere near me again.