When the Mountains Changed Me

A Hindu pilgrimage. A Sherpa. A 19-year-old Ashima who would someday go on to start Database Sherpa.


"What if I go the wrong way?" I asked my sherpa.

"You can't go the wrong way." He smiled back at me.

My first and only time doing a Hindu pilgrimage was to Amarnath, in Kasmir, India. Being a 19 year old, I had the energy and stamina for a climb. We went in the summer, staying in Srinagar before making the trek.

We hired a private group of Sherpa to take carry our food, clothes and put up tents for us when we reached our stops. This was a multiple day trek, three days up and two days back. We traveled as a family to some degree, but most of the time was spent alone on the rustic paths. As a 19 year old, this journey changed me in a profound way and has continued to mold me and my work as a Sherpa to others, or “wayshower” as my friend so aptly named me.

We started at the base of the mountain and our guides told us to keep walking until we met with them.

“But, how will I know which path to take if I find a fork in the road” I asked, fearful of getting lost in the mountains.

“Don’t worry.” He responded. “Pick one. You will find us.” 

“But how will I know the best way? I want to make sure I won’t get lost.” I was even more anxious. He was not helping.

He loaded his pack onto his back and began walking with flip flops up the mountain “Don’t worry, we will be there.” And he was gone.

I quickly got moving, if I could stay with him, I wouldn’t get lost. 

However, his pace was quick and I was unable to keep up with him. And I was enamored with the beauty surrounding me. The mountains, the animals, the lush green hills. It’s as all just so majestic and beautiful.

I would notice pangs of fear when I realized I was alone. No Sherpa. No Mama. My Bua, my father’s sister, was also no where in sight. My brother clipped ahead as well. I was alone. 

Then, I saw a fork in the road.

Which way should I go?

Left or right?

This was my anxiety coming to me. Fear.

What if I was bitten by a snake?

What if someone kidnapped me?

What if….

Damn, fear is a great list maker!

I could not move from my spot. And I stared at the fork in the road for a few more minutes.

Then, I chose. I picked a path.

I don’t remember which one I picked, but I picked one.

And I walked forward. A few times I stopped and looked back. Should I turn around and go the other way? What if this takes me down the mountain? What else should I consider?

I kept going up. I kept going forward. I looked back a few more time, but kept going.

Finally, I found them. The camp site. It was a sight for sore feet. I was still fearful.

My guide smiled at me as I approached the camp site.

“You made it. Good work.” And he handed me a warm drink and some food.

I sat with my family and we ate together in silence.

I hated sleeping on the ground, but I slept well on this ground in my green tent. The silence surrounding us was something I had gotten comfortable with.

Morning came earlier than normal for that 19-year-old who loved to sleep in. 

We began again.

Fear visited again.

“What if I go the wrong way?” I asked my Sherpa as I shoveled food in my mouth.

“You can’t go the wrong way.” He smiled back at me. Did he notice fear visiting again? Maybe he was just used to the foreigners being afraid, but he knew. Nothing to fear.

“What if I start going back down the mountain?” I asked, remembering my fear list from the day before.

“Don’t do that,” he laughed as he and the other Sherpa’s packed up everything to get going.

What was so funny? I thought.

And another day began and ended in the same way. I found my way each day. To the camp site. Each day was filled with:

The Unknown

The Fear

The Scary

The Freedom

The Beauty

The Excitement

And then, we arrived to see the shivling.

A huge, giant ice penis.

That’s basically this Hindu trek.

We visit a huge giant ice penis that represents the god of destruction and transformation. Who wouldn’t love Hinduism?

I’ll never forget those few steps up to the ice penis.

My breath was short, the air was thinner and I was exhausted. But, it was all worth the journey. Not so much to see a huge ice penis, which was totally cool… but the path itself. 

Witnessing my fear. Being present to the unknown. Embracing the beauty of this place we call home.

I have never forgotten this journey. This trek.

Database Sherpa is a nod to this journey.

We don’t put you on the path. When a fork comes in the path, we ask for your wisdom to find the right solution. When things feel unclear, we teach you how to look for the answers. I love this Sherpa approach. Because, just as in life, there are no hard and fast answers. With databases, it is the same thing. We have some guidelines we can offer to handle the forks in the road, but the decision is up to you.