Today is the second day of the Poon Hill trek. The guidebooks indicate much of the trek would be climbing stone steps. I’m glad the guidebook left out the details none of us really want to know ahead of time. It would ruin all the surprises that may have given us second thoughts about starting out on whatever adventure is being described. “To Glorify and Enroll” should be the mandatory warning on the cover of most guide books. “Reader Beware.”
The stone steps were laid centuries ago to create the most direct route through this part of the Himalayas between major towns. Many of the stones couldn’t be lifted by ten men. I wonder at the unimaginable labor it took to create this endless staircase. I deal in lots of stone at David Alan. This is no exaggeration. The “staircase” averaged six to eight feet wide, wide enough for two mules with loads to pass. The first section, an unrelenting series of 6,000 or 7,000 continuous steps, no landings, no trail, only step after step, climbing 3,000 vertical feet, was astounding.
When building with huge slabs of rock in the hinterland of the Himalayas, the resulting steps are a bit uneven, ranging from two inches to twelve inches high! This wasn’t Egypt and the building of the pyramids! Selecting relatively flat rock was their nod toward engineering.
I climbed stone steps for far longer than I thought possible. My mantra became, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this. These steps go on forever. I’m caught in the ‘Twilight Zone.’” Nothing anyone could ever say could prepare me for the reality of these steps. As a trekker, there were two outstanding features on this route, the High Himalayas and the stone steps. The mountains were both the reason and the backdrop. The steps were the minute by minute, hour by hour, unbelievable, unforgettable reality of life on the trail.