It takes a perfect blend of man and machine and an adrenaline rush to get acquainted with the most picturesque places of Himachal Pradesh through the Mountain Goat Expedition.
A week-long winter expedition, the Mountain Goat Expedition is a leisure trip to promote tourism. Organised annually it is a thrilling journey to the remote Lahaul and Spiti of Himachal Pradesh.
Mountain Goat has founded three years ago, as a local start-up by two young entrepreneurs from Shimla, Shashwat and Suraj Tayal. Sashwat completed Masters in Business Administration from Cardiff University, United Kingdom, while Suraj has done his Tourism Management from Auckland University, New Zealand.
They are supported by other core team members, Nakul Chauhan, Akshey Pandit, Shrey Pandit and Dhananjay Singh. Mountain Goat made their maiden trip to Spiti in February 2016 with a handful of adventure lovers, who were ready to take on the expedition to the toughest terrain in Himachal Pradesh.
The lonely planet may have rated Lahaul and Spiti in the world’s top 10 destinations recently, but the place is not new for domestic as well as foreign tourists. However, the rating seems to have helped with a swelling number of enthusiasts participating in the leisure trip this year from across the country.
“The name of our start-up is coined Mountain Goat, as the goats are known to be fearless and concord the toughest terrain in the mountains, which is akin to us as we belong to the mountains,” said Shashwat.
The expedition goes beyond a leisure trip due to the extreme temperatures (-10 to -25 degree celsius), ice, unbeaten snow and high altitude of 9000 ft when one reaches the remotest areas of Lahaul and Spiti district, en-route Kinnaur district, traversing almost 1000 km, through Kalpa, Kaza, Key Gompha, Langza and back to Shimla.
The objective of the Mountain Goat is to not only explore unexplored terrain but also to educate people about the diverse culture of Himachal Pradesh by means of home stays. The tourists freely live and mingle with the locals and learn the local culture, thus in a way promoting rural tourism, Shashwat said.
“All the members born and brought up in the mountains of Himachal, are bound by a common thread, to make possible more and more people, especially tourists, to enjoy nature at its best in Himachal,” he said. The mix of people from diverse states and cultures also helps to foster camaraderie amongst them.
This year during the 6th Mountain Goat Expedition, the number of participants witnessed an increase during the two rounds of expeditions, that were organised in the last week of February and the first week of March.
In the first round there were 50 participants in 20 SUVs, while in the second there were 25 people taking the trip in 9 SUVs.
“The participants had come from as far as Bangalore. There were 9 participants from the place in the first round, some of whom had driven their SUVs all the way from Bangalore to participate in the trip,” said Suraj Thayal.
One of the participants, Shruti Gupta, penned down her thoughts on social media, “The Mountain Goat Expedition gave me the most thrilling spectacular views of Spiti Valley. Every stop throughout the journey was a sight to behold and was made comfortable. Organising a big convoy in such extreme conditions demanded enormous effort and preparation. ” Airing similar views, Pawan Nagpal said, “The Mountain Goats lets you experience the rarest of the rare in its best condition. I got to view Spiti valley in the purest forms. It was white (covered with snow), it was miraculous.”
Shruti like many other participants, has expressed her desire to be part of the trip again as it has given her everlasting memories to look back on.