The muscles in his legs ache and the sound of people unable to catch their breath fills the air. Makarand Joshi can hear that he’s not the only one exhausted.
It’s been days since Makarand, who goes by Raj, began his first hike up Hemkund. But the first-time hiker takes a deep inhale before reminding himself of his goal: get to the top of the mountain.
Connecting with nature
Raj has been lacing up his hiking boots for about fifty years. But whenever the veteran hiker is asked about his first climb, he retells the story about the 15,210 foot ascend like it was yesterday. “I went to a military prep school in India and our high school would go on expeditions,” Raj says, explaining that his very first climb was up Hemkund during an organized class trip. “It was, long, hard, strenuous. But it was amazingly beautiful. I loved it and have been doing it ever since.”
Raj isn’t exaggerating. Since 1967, he’s climbed dozens of mountains, including Mt. Slievenamon in Ireland, Whistler Mountain in Canada and Mt. Whitney in California, which is the highest peak in the contiguous United States. But the nature lover doesn’t wander out into the wilderness alone. His son, Rohit, is by his side every time he reaches a peak.
“My son became interested in hiking because I was interested in hiking,” he says, explaining how the duo came to be climbing companions. “When he was growing up, we would hike as a family. We’d climb the trail and then look out at the view.” According to Raj, that’s what kept both him and his son motivated during their hikes — the view. “It’s nature. It’s beautiful,” he says before realizing that he’s gushing. “My wife thinks that when I’m near a mountain my whole attitude changes.”
Raj notes that he always gets asked this question by fellow hikers: “Can you help us send a photo to our friends? Because we can’t get service up here.”
As Raj and his son would gaze out and admire each and every scenic overlook, they’d often find themselves wanting to share their accomplishment — and, of course, their view — with loved ones back home. And they aren’t the only ones with that mindset. Raj notes that he always gets asked this question by fellow hikers: “Can you help us send a photo to our friends? Because we can’t get service up here.”
Raj, who has Verizon, explains that he has coverage when he goes on his favorite hikes. This keeps him connected to family and friends, allowing him to keep them update on his safety status. Raj, who works at Verizon as a Manager, Process in Excellence and Innovation, recalls a terrifying story that bolsters the importance of connectivity — even when you’re trying to escape from it in the great outdoors.
“We had a friend who hiked Mt. Whitney by himself and while coming down, he slipped,” Raj says, noting that not only did his friend lose consciousness from the fall but he also lost his mobile device. “He was trapped for two days without a phone,” he says. According to Raj, his friend’s family knew something was wrong when they hadn’t been contacted by the hiker to let them know that he had reached the bottom. A search party was sent to find him and although it was difficult to locate the lost hiker, rescuers eventually did.
“You want to be connected to the people who are waiting [for you]. Sending a picture is part of that to let family know you’re safe,” Raj says, adding that whenever he prepares for his hiking trip, he makes sure his phone is carefully tucked away in his backpack.
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