It was in high school that CEO of Dr Lal PathLabs, Om Prakash Manchanda, discovered that he could passionately appreciate a sport like trekking. At Haryana Agricultural University (HAU), Hisar, he became part of the university’s mountaineering club. “I saw these trekkers, who inspired me to join their group,” says Om Prakash Manchanda.
He still remembers his first trek, in 1982, to Milam Glacier, Uttarakhand. It was one of the trails the club had chosen, and Manchanda did not think twice before signing up for it. “That was the first time I was exposed to the beauty of nature. I will never forget the adventures I had with the 20 others who trekked with me,” he says.
Munsiyari was the base from where the trek started, and it took them a week to complete that stretch. Of course it was dangerous and adventurous, but they were also the reasons why Manchanda fell in love with mountain climbing. He recalls going to undiscovered places, where one was surrounded by snow and where there were only camps of army people. “This was 36 years back and I was just 17. But, the memories from it are still fresh in my mind. It was one of the most special treks, and the start of my journey,” Manchanda says.
For the next few years, Manchanda took a break from trekking, since there was studies to attend to. It was only in 2011 that he laced up his boots and set off again. This time, the destination was Panchachuli Glacier – a 40 km trek that starts from Dar. There is a story behind why he took to trekking again.
It was his friend in Uttarakhand, who owned a trekking club, who motivated him to join their group at the Panchachuli Base Camp. The club is a group of 15 to 20 people from all over the world. And this was what Manchanda liked the most about the club, the anonymity it offered him. Few people in the group knew who he was. “Now they of course know me, but initially they did not. I actually used to forget all the worries that I had whenever I went trekking with them,” Manchanda says.
Since then, it has been a yearly ritual for him. Curzon Trail in Kuari Pass was the next he covered in 2012, and after that he has scaled greater and even greater heights. In 2014, Manchanda went on an expedition to Julian Alps in Slovenia, with a company named Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures. “This was a hard trek and I was with strangers again. In fact, I was the only Indian on it, but I accepted it and learnt that I liked it that way,” Manchanda says.
Well, almost four decades is a long period and, over these years, trekking has taught him perseverance and instilled in him a spiritual inclination, by bringing nature closer to his heart. “Trekking is really close to my heart and I do not ever want to stop. It gives me a peace that nothing else can give me. Now I am looking forward to Italian Dolomites trek, planned this year,” Manchanda says.