Journey through risk and reward – Zaid Balwan, a Local adventurer and explorer’s wish to summit Mt. Everest

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The life of an adventurer and explorer can be captivating and inspiring. From uncovering the wild forests in the remote jungles of Chenab Valley, Pir Panjal range and Kashmir to the wilds of unfamiliar cold deserts of Ladakh and the high altitude plains and plateau of Spiti and Lahual of Himachal Pardesh. But who is this adventurer? What drives them to explore the unknown, and why do they risk their lives to do so?

This article will explore the life and legacy of this adventurer and explorer. We will look at their motivations for taking on such daring expeditions, the obstacles they faced, and the unique impact that they have had on local and global communities through their blogs and social media engagement. We will talk about their successes, failures, and the unique lessons we can learn from their endeavors.

One of the adventurer from the small town of Doda (Jammu and Kashmir) that we will look at is Zaid Balwan. Zaid began exploring the world around him at a young age, in 2014. Mountains and their sky-touching heights have always fascinated him from a very young age, and he has had the opportunity to visit some incredible places. Zaid has crossed oceans, breached over nearly twenty-five major Indian passes during his

expedition dubbed “The Pass Raiders,” traversed the deserts of Rajasthan to the cold deserts of Ladakh, and climbed various mountains in pursuit of the unknown. But what motivates them to take such risks and endure such challenges?

Who is Zaid Balwan?

Zaid Balwan is an adventurer from the small town of Doda in Jammu and Kashmir. Since 2014, he has been exploring the world around him, particularly the mountains that have fascinated him since a young age. Zaid has an impressive record of accomplishments, including crossing oceans, traversing nearly twenty-five major Indian passes during his

expedition dubbed “The Pass Raiders,” and climbing various mountains in pursuit of the unknown. He has also explored the deserts of Rajasthan and the cold deserts of Ladakh. Zaid’s motivation for taking such risks and enduring such challenges is a mystery, but his passion for adventure and exploration is clearly evident.

Zaid’s journey began with the idea and question of “Chenab’s Birth.” Being native to Doda, a town located in the Himalayas near the river Chenab, The questionable curiosity of Chenab’s birth ignited the final spark of the hunt. Due to the unavailability of source information, a route map, and a crucial time of study at that time, the pursuit was limited. But at the right time, with proper route knowledge through digital maps, the journey to the daring adventure started. Zaid began his journey in search of a quest in the Himachal Pradesh districts of Lahaul and Spiti. As soon as he crossed Rohtang La Pass, near Manali, he reached Sissu Village. The Chandra River, the first tributary of the mighty Chenab, was visible flowing through the glaciers of Spiti. Heading towards Bara Lach La pass, also known as the “Gateway of Ladakh,” another tributary of the Bhagha river was before the eyes. At Tandi village, the two tributaries merged to form the

Chenab River (called Chandra Bhagha in Himachal). Still, the question of Chenab’s birth

remained, and the journey continued to the Himalayan glacier of Bara Lach La, where the lake responsible for the Bhagha River “Sooraj Tal” formed. Sooraj Tal, also known as Tso Kambi, is the third highest lake in India, standing at an elevation of 16040 feet above sea level. So the place called “Birth of Chenab” was before the eyes of the explorer. On that day, Zaid realised that exploring the unknown was their true passion. Since then, they have devoted a portion of their lives to it.

Zaid has faced numerous challenges during their expeditions, ranging from the physical dangers of extreme terrain, such as visiting the World’s Highest Motorable Pass, Umling La Pass, at an altitude of 19024 feet, to driving through the breathtaking cliffs of Padder, District Kishtwar, which was once the World’s Most Dangerous Road and is not for the faint of heart, but offers a thrilling drive along its winding roads. Along with the mental hurdles of loneliness and fatigue Zaid Balwan has persevered through these obstacles and emerged victorious, with incredible stories and a wealth of knowledge that can be shared with others.

The legacy of Zaid’s exploration is far-reaching, and his self-organized expedition,

named “The Pass Raiders,” claimed a huge success. On the intention of covering all the fascinating mountain passes of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh, The expedition began in the year 2020, following the Lockdown of COVID-19. The majors covered in this expedition were Umlingla, Khardung la, Kunzam Pass, Sach Pass, Rohtang La, Nakeela Pass, Fotu La Pass, Baralach La, Zoji La, Sinthan Pass, Namika Pass, Tangla Pass, Narbula Pass, Banihal Pass, Lachalung La, Niti Pass, Indrahar Pass, Rezang La, Debra Pass, Sela Pass, Hamta Pass, Kahuli Galu Pass, Padri Jot, and many others. The expedition started in 2020, and the adventurer is still looking to cover most of the other passes till date. The lack of sponsorship, the impact on studies, and the management of the business limit the adventure. Zaid Balwan has helped to connect

local and global communities through the stories and experiences shared on their social media accounts.

Zaid’s story of bravery and perseverance has also inspired a new generation of adventurers and explorers. During the expedition, Zaid Balwan interacted with a number of tourists from around the globe who shared their experiences. During his trek to Rohtang La near Manali, the concept of trek adventure sports was introduced to him, and he attended workshops on mountaineering and rock climbing. After that, more than 13 successful land and snow treks have been completed by him in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. Now, the adventurer has enrolled in the Jawarharlal Institute of Mountaineering [JIM] to complete his Basic Mountaineering Course, which will allow him to register his trek club with the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department. The “Chenab Adventure and Trek Club” might be the Chenab Valley’s first registered trek club. He has also chosen the “Siachen Galcier Trek” organised by the Indian Army’s Adventure Wing. The final selection is subject to clearance of medical fitness before leaving. Siachen, being the highest battleground in the world, comes with life- threatening obstacles like hypothermia as the temperature drops to -40 degrees.

After the successful completion of the Basic Mountaineering Course, this adventurer wants to come forward for the Advanced Mountaineering Course. As the ultimate goal of this adventurer from a small town in J&K is to reach Mount Everest, which stands at 8848 meters. Planning a trip to Mount Everest is a thrilling adventure in and of itself. Being aware of the fact that the journey to the peak of Mount Everest is long and arduous and requires careful planning, preparation, and a lot of money It is essential to be well equipped and physically fit for the journey, as it is both dangerous and demanding. If the dream of this adventurer comes true, it will bring laurels to the whole region, state, and India as well. As of now, only 526 Indian nationals and two J&K residents have successfully completed the summit.The summit was completed by these two from Jammu and Kashmir in 2021 with government sponsorship, as the average cost of completing the summit is 50-60 lacs and takes months.

Overall, a trip to Mt. Everest is an incredible, rewarding experience and an adventure of a lifetime. With the right preparation and guidance, you can make your dream of reaching the summit a reality. Ultimately, Zaid Balwan’s life and legacy will continue to inspire others to pursue their dreams and venture into uncharted territories.

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