Times sure does fly when you are having fun.
And we can't nod our heads vigorously enough to agree with that. It's been two years since Beyond The Walls' inception and a whirlwind of an experience. Yes, we started right in the middle of a peak Covid season in 2020 and the journey continues to be an adventurous one!
So, allow us to take you through the ups and downs of a start-up. We've been through covid lockdowns, unending monsoons, cloud bursts, and broken ankles and backs, but we couldn't be more grateful for the two years that have gone by.
Sunset on the Everest base camp trail
Since our first-ever climbing workshop which took place in march 2021, it has been a steady uphill on the number of participants and how we conduct the workshops. When we started we had a few inquiries, mostly from youngsters looking to try something new.
Then as we slowly started putting up posters all around town, working on our Instagram and even putting up exhibitions in Dehradun displaying our activities, we are happy to share that before the monsoons took over this year, we had participants from the age of 6 to 60!
Most of our weekends this summer were busy, and enquirers kept coming. From beginner workshops to lead climbing and rappelling, we got bust conducting them all. We had to get some of our ex-participants to come back and volunteer to help guide these workshops. That led to an immersive experience where we had new climbers, old ones and us in between, from where the climbing community emerged. Now those participants go climb on their own, borrowing our ropes and are slowly buying their gear.
We even had a session with Decathlon, where its employees came for a workshop which was fun. During the lockdown, Yash even conducted an online course, titled introduction to rock climbing, where he gave a talk about the sport, climbing in India and its feasibility. We are glad to slowly be growing to a place where people trust and think about us for rock climbing in Dehradun.
We have developed a wonderful bouldering area near our office in Purkul Village, Dehradun. The location is right next to a flowing river, with impressive boulders on either side making for a challenging climb for all sorts of climbers. From beginners to experienced climbers, this location has a boulder for everyone.
The development of this area also became a community activity with our top rope climbers coming down to remove the plants, scrub off the soil and cut shrubs to clear the way for the boulders. We have had many successful bouldering workshops here and are looking forward to developing this spot exclusively for bouldering even more.
We conducted some courses for people who wanted to learn climbing by spending a week or so. We are very happy to see the rock climbing community growing so well in Dehradun and hope it continues to flourish.
We also explored Dhanaulti and are looking forward to conducting specialized rappelling, camping and rock climbing sessions there. These two-day sessions will include participants camping on the mountainside, rappelling down a 100 feet rock, rock climbing and enjoying a mesmerizing sunset. We even get to see the twinkling lights of Dehradun at night, completing this beautiful experience.
While we are always excited about the dry seasons, during the monsoon since we can't climb in outdoors it becomes a dull indoor season for us. So, we are now looking forward to building a climbing gym in Dehrdaun and are looking at crowdfunding for it. Hopefully, by next year, we will have the money and a gym as well.
We also met the CM of Uttarakhand!
Yes. We took part in the Uttrakhand adventure fest in Dehradun in 2021 where we set up a stall which the Chief minister visited. Apart from that, it was a good opportunity for us to get exposure to a bigger audience. We displayed our activities, conducted an interactive session with school kids, answered various camping-related queries and had a gala time.
When we started the Nepal treks, we wanted people to experience trekking with the tea house culture. To show them that trekking to high altitudes can be fun and not too tiring. And we have kind of succeeded. Our Everest Base camp batches were so full that we had to say no to enquirers this October. But that was just the Everest Base camp, we still have a long way to go in promoting the other hidden gems of Nepal, like the Manaslu circuit and even the famous Annapurna circuit.
Our trip leader Himanshu, went and explored the Manaslu circuit last year, helping us open this beautiful trek for everyone.
We are flexible with the way we conduct these batches, we change routes, adjust days depending on the climate and ensure the trekkers get the best experience. This became the main reason trekkers kept recommending and coming back to us.
In the last batch, which was to be an EBC via Gokyo batch with two brothers, one brother didn't feel too good, so we changed the route and went via the main trail to make it easier. In the Summer batch, with a family of four, when the son suffered from AMS, our Trip leader Yash stayed back with him, leading him to a lower altitude, while the other three went up to the base camp the next morning with the guide and then came down. We then arranged for helicopters to pave the way for a smooth transition.
We ensure our trekkers got warm water in all the tea houses, we taught them navigational and map reading, we showed them documentaries, and most importantly we listened.
All these small conveniences make our trekkers recommend us to many others, ensuring a steady number of enquirers on the EBC trail. We hope to reach the same level in the Annapurna and Manaslu circuit by the next year as well.
Visual content creation/Boutique offerings:
We were lucky enough to end up creating content for a gin company called Nao Spirits, in particular for their dry Gin called Hapusa in the Himalayas. On our first batch of Everest Base Camp and Annapurna Base Camp trekkers in 2021, we also had the opportunity to click photographs and create content for a bottle of Hapusa! Yes, we carried two bottles on the trail and helped it get some Instagram-able photos. Jokes apart, what started then has continued to date, with us leading the Hapusa team on their first Himalayan journey in Himachal in February 2022 and now in October.
These trips revolve around experiencing local culture, creating some amazing Himalayan-related content, and of course, sipping some delicious Gin. These kinds of boutique experiences are our pride and joy and we are looking forward to expanding our collaboration with Nao Spirits and also coming up with more such boutique offerings.
We also did a project with Waste Warriors this September showcasing one of their solid waste management project in the Uttarkashi area and hopefully, it's a start of a long and interesting collaboration. With all of this, we are slowly entering the world of content creation in the outdoors.
Meanwhile, our in-house photographer Ayush had his first exhibition in cafe greek orchid in Dehradun. The joy on his face was evident to see various photos of his as prints, and not on a phone or a laptop. The A1-sized photos looked mind-blowing. You can have a look at his photographs here
This monsoon, we spent time displaying his photographs in various cafes in Dehradun and Mussoorie. This was our small attempt in trying to get the outdoors, indoors. By buying such fine prints of the mighty Himalayas and keeping them at your home, you can enjoy their beauty every day.
Ayush says - the final form of a photograph should always be a print, something physical, something that exists on the same plane as you, the viewer. Unless you like to think of yourself as strings of 1's and 0's. Try as much as I could but I cannot explain what changes from digital to print other than blabbering about the same old argument about being able to touch and feel. Or that instead of emitting its own light it's reflecting the existing light and therefore making it more of this world. I guess you just got to experience a fine art print in person.
It was in the early 2000s when as a kid Himanshu missed being in a camp or tent, close to the wilderness. At that age, he looked forward to having a mentor who could guide him and have fun with him through outdoors. So, we decided to fulfil that dream, for other kids out there who might have the same wish.
We are delighted to introduce something close to our hearts - outdoor education. Himanshu spent this monsoon in the US, working with Sanborn Western Camps and has come up with amazing leads and ideas. We will be conducting our first batch of outdoor education this November for the kids from GGIS, Ahmedabad and we hope that this will be the start of a never-ending association with kids.
"Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountains and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach us more than we can ever learn from books." We believe that taking the kids into the outdoors during their schooling days is one of the most important forms of education we can give them. We have designed a curriculum based on this, and want to enrich young minds and mould them into capable, problem-solving, independent youth.
While this was not a part of the agenda anywhere, the hard-working outdoor boys were forced to work hands-on in helping me build my mud house in Wan. And while Yash came over to help build physically for almost three weeks, Ayush came over to click photographs of the almost completed house. So, it is now almost ready to be rented out as a homestay!
And last but not the least, I am happy they completed two years as I finally got my first paycheck for writing all their blogs, their website content and well, for being the boss of the bosses!