There is some myth and some legend behind this hike. From the time I remember it, I have been intrigued by the lore that surrounds it.
The first time I heard about it was from a colleague at work.
She wanted to hike there with me on a Saturday morning. It was three years ago. Like every early morning plan on a weekend, this one also met with an untimely death.But the plan had begun with a lot of aplomb. My colleague told me of the extremely arduous nature of the hike. She also mentioned that one of her bucket list items was to reach the peak. Not having been there I had no idea what the peak held. Obviously with everything unknown, my imagination ran amok. I imagined the best.
The peak was grand, perhaps with a view unparalleled. Perhaps there were shops, selling 'vada pao' and spiced 'chai'! Greeting all who made it to the top with flower garlands? Maybe there were singers and dancers?
She also said, "Once we reach the peak, we can sit and eat 'paranthas'. I will take them with me, for you too!"
Alas! Our Paranthas-on-the-Peak plan never fructified.
Two years passed and Mission Peak became a long forgotten tale.
Last year, my super hiker friend mentioned it to me. If I were to meet him, we had to hike. His favorite was Mission Peak. He had been to Mission Peak more times than he could remember.
Once he had mentioned, "I go to Mission Peak on every full moon day - to see the moon", he explained.
I thought of telling him, "But the moon is visible from below too, you know..."
This time the hike was scheduled in the evening on a weekday. There was no escape. We met and the hike started.
There are four benches on the way - each of them symbolize one milestone in the hike. It tells you your progress and lets you know how much there is. The distance isn't great but its the elevation change that kills. I realized the best way to the top was to forget the journey. Talking was the way to go. As we kept climbing, I started gulping large breaths of air which prevented me from speaking. My hiker friend continued with his stories nonchalantly. For him it was a cakewalk. For me it was Mount Everest. I had never really hiked anywhere in Kolkata. I walked a tremendous lot but did not climb about. It is tough to climb on a flat terrain. The most I have climbed were stairs to our top floor flat. I have also never heard of a Bengali mountaineer.
It never made it to the top ten Bengali ambition list. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary were names we memorized but never imitated. I always thought that climbing and hiking were unnecessary ways of inflicting self-pain. My views radically changed once I reached Bay Area.
Panting and puffing, I made it the top with several breaks in between. My friend remained patient and resolute beside me. He admired my determination to reach the top. Once there, I hung onto the single pole there was and demanded my photo. It was a proof of my breaking the myth. The Mission to the Peak was finally accomplished.
I went several times post my conquest but only made to the benches. Sitting on the benches, dangling my feet, I chatted away happily with whoever accompanied me there. Reaching the summit was not on my agenda.
Today morning I joined an expedition to Mission Peak. Accompanying me were some pros and some freshers. I was in between.Once we started, two of us was always ahead of the rest. One of them was me. It was a beautifully cloudy day to climb. It was also very crowded. I kept running into familiar faces. It was fun to motivate the newcomers with the idea of benches. Sighting a bench was an occasion for celebration.
On the way, one of us took a restricted short cut. An uncle-ji spotted her.
He saw me watching the law-breaker and said, "She will get a ticket from the police. They are everywhere today. It costs 73 dollars!"
I didn't know what to say. I thought to myself, "What if she can afford it?"
Gazing at the high altitude views of the bay and singing encouraging and out-of-tune Bollywood songs, we made it to the top. As usual, all of us clasped on the pole and demanded photo-proofs of their achievement. There was a queue at the peak! People stood in line to get a mugshot with the pole! We stood enjoying the view and munching our well deserved snacks. It was a moment of greatness for me. Climbing is not in my genes and I feel extra proud when I think of bragging about it to my Bengali clan.
The way back was tougher on the knees but less strenuous. We gossiped our way to the parking lot and rushed to the nearest buffet available.I have a feeling I over-compensated for the calories I burnt.
But the myth has been broken. Mission Peak no longer remains a mysterious zone. But it does retain its charm. It is definitely worth the next hike and some more after that. :)