After working for almost 24 years as a bank manager, Smita Chatterjee decided to quit her job to pursue her passion for trekking and traveling. The 45-year-old recently became one of the few women to successfully complete the extremely challenging Lamkhaga Pass Expedition.
The Lamkhaga Pass, at a height of approximately 17,300 ft, is one of the toughest passes to trek. It connects Kinnaur District of Himachal Pradesh with Uttarkashi District of Uttrakhand. The trek starts from Chitkul in Himachal Pradesh and ends in Harshil, Uttaranchal.
In an interview with TNM, Smita, who resides in Basheerbagh, Hyderabad, describes herself as an avid trekker and traveler who leads a simple lifestyle and spends money only on the two things she lovesâ€”travelling and trekking.
â€śI quit my job last year. It didnâ€™t allow me travel and trek as much I would love to. They gave me leave just twice a year. So, after saving enough money, I quit it, and have been following my passion since,â€ť she shares happily.
Smita's seven-day expedition was no cake-walk. They had to endure harsh weather conditions and face avalanches, making the feat extremely challenging.
â€śOne of the days, we had to stop our trek and take shelter at a place due to heavy snow. We formed a circle and stacked rocks around us and spread a rain cover sheet atop the rocks and took shelter under it. The weather is extremely harsh and we desperately needed fire for survival. Luckily, we had one match box. For fire, we used chocolate wrappers. As we couldnâ€™t light the fire, I used a deodorant as fuel and lit it up,â€ť she recalls.
The nine-member team crossed frozen rivers, crevices, and glaciers. She says that it was snowing almost on all days during the expedition and they had to walk through the knee-level snow.
â€śI have been trekking the Himalayas for nearly 15 years now, but the Lamkhaga expedition was the most challenging one. We saw 5-6 avalanches. Can you imagine witnessing one-side of the mountain collapsing? We scaled the highest point--5,285 meter which is a distance of 80 to 90 kmâ€ť.
Despite having to traverse a treacherous landscape Smita is thrilled to be among a few women to have successfully completed the trek.
â€śI have been told by my local guide, that I was one of only 4-5 women to have successfully completed the trek. In 1960, apparently, a Russian woman who had scaled this part. I feel proud and happy that I completed the task,â€ť she says.
Smita says besides her love for traveling and trekking she also loves yoga.
Smita recounts, â€śAfter quitting my job, now I am trekking almost three times a year, as opposed to my trekking once a year while working. I want to travel in south India and explore the Western Ghats.â€ť