mountain tales

A young mountaineer brings the pristine beauty of the world's peaks to her Instagram feed

Saachi Soni has gone climbing across continents, including to the tallest mountains in North America and Europe.

Saachi Soni has already scaled greater heights than most people do in a lifetime. At 23, she has summited peaks across continents, including Mount Elbrus in Europe, and North America's Mount McKinley, which is considered among the most dangerous in the world. In India, Soni has gone climbing in Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Spiti. She plans to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa next.

Soni started mountaineering, hiking and skiing with her father when she was seven.

“My soul belongs to the mountains," she said, "and I am glad that they called me early."

Her Instagram account is an ode to the mountains, their desolateness, their pristine beauty, and their people.

#widlife #himalayan #bluesheep #bharals #leh

A photo posted by Saachi (@saachi_soni) on

“This picture was taken at the Mankaro camp at Stok, Leh. I saw a pack of blue sheep trying to cross the river. They were hesitant at first but this one took the lead and jumped over the river then all the blue sheep followed it. Their movement was synchronised; they waited for their turn, unlike humans didn’t jump the queue.”

Soni alternates between using a smartphone, Clickpro and digital cameras. The images are stored away until she finds network to post them online.

When in the plains, Soni spends time in Delhi, or in Jaipur, where she was born. A recent journalism graduate, Soni plans to join a sports channel as a reporter.

"As a student I had time to spare and would go trekking every other month, but I might not have the same freedom when my career begins," she said. "Let's hope my bosses are as understanding of my passion as my professors have been."

:)

A photo posted by Saachi (@saachi_soni) on

“It was a breathtaking view of the Karakoram ranges. I clicked it from my Clickpro camera. It was bliss. We had climbed above the glacier point to reach upto the shoulder of Stok Kangri peak."

Climbing mountains, scaling precipices, buying mountaineering gear does not come cheap. Sometimes, Soni finds sponsors, but quite often, she funds her own travel.

"I saved up money I received from giving talks and spent it all on my travelling," she said.

A photo posted by Saachi (@saachi_soni) on

“This one is the skull of a blue sheep. It was placed in a very interesting way on the way to the base camp hike. I loved this skull. I wanted to bring it along with me but these principles that we trekkers and climbers follow did not allow me. The principles of 'Leave no trace, plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly (Pack it in, pack it out), leave what you find where you find it, minimise campfire impacts, respect wildlife and be considerate to other visitors.'”

Soni has a gruelling exercise regimen to stay fit for climbing. She runs an average 20 to 25 km every day at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's campus, plays soccer, swims and also trains in a gym.

Himalayan marmot. #wildlife

A photo posted by Saachi (@saachi_soni) on

“That is a cute little Himalyan marmot on the way to base camp. After a tiring hike when you see these creatures they bring smiles on your face and you forget about your long tiring journey.”

One of Soni's favourite moments from any climb, is when she reaches the glacier point where she can remove her heavy climbing boots (each weighs at least 3 kilograms), and change into lighter trekking shoes.

Recently, she scaled the highest mountain in the Stok Range of the Himalayas, Stok Kangri. The formidable snow-capped mountain, towering over Leh, was like a homecoming of sorts for her.

Throwing up river.

A photo posted by Saachi (@saachi_soni) on

“This horse was yawning, so I clicked it in such a way that it looked like it there is a river emerging from its mouth.”

The trek offered Soni a glimpse of the cold desert in all its beauty.

“I was lucky to spot a pack of Himalayan blue sheep, Himalayan marmots, and some pretty chameleons on my way,” she said.

"Meet the coolest one, a goat which can beat the chill in its own way in the icy cold locales of Ladakh. That's the true art of living - grin and bear it."

On her next climb to Mount Baljuri in Uttaranchal, Soni plans to climb alpine style – without any guides, porters or support.

December.

A photo posted by Saachi (@saachi_soni) on

“That's from Chadrashila, Uttrakhand. We had gone there for winter trekking. It was beautiful. That's my friend Alex in yellow wind proof jacket.”
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