8 p.m, Mount Kun (King) base camp, altitude 4500 meters, Ladakh, India .
“I am leaving for that peak tomorrow morning, 6 am sharp, have my packed lunch ready”.
I lifted my head and gazed at the sky; dark with millions of stars and bright cold crescent. The sky was clear at least for now, I hoped it remains the same tomorrow. The wind was swift as usual at Mount. Kun base camp, flattering the national flag.Violent sounds of the water downstream breaking the haunting silence of the valley, echoing back from the tall ice and snow-clad mountains in the surrounding region reflected back from widespread glaciers and snow, it looked brighter and much beautiful in the night. It’s frightening beauty always reminded of the might of nature, especially in the high mountains. As usual, I felt the strength of my soul, stretching my arms closing my eyes and taking a long chilled breath, was one thing needed before finally offering my gratitude to the God and going to my tent where I slid into my sleeping bag. Before finally falling asleep I recalled the faces of my loved ones, my parents, my inspiring rugged friends. Reaching the peak was a matter of uncompromising honor and returning back safe in one piece was of paramount importance. I often disliked the idea of taking too many precautions, it felt like lowering of moral and weakening of intentions to take the required risk to negotiate the same, so I avoided too many precautionary measures.I always preferred to negotiate such high-risk situations with boldness and planning instead. I analysed the possible hazards that might come across and made a mental preparation and plan to overcome them using the available resources and if required without them too. I paid one final attention to the details of the task ahead. It was not the greatest of all but most challenging of my life so far as i had already climbed peaks much more higher than this one before.The highest one being 7135 Mtrs (Mt.Nun) .The task was to climb a technical peak alone with a limited equipment in an alpine style for the first time.
Before 6 a.m. I woke up, freshened myself and had breakfast in the mess tent. I packed my rucksack that carried a pair of boreal climbing shoes, a water bottle containing tang mixed water, a chocolate, a packet of biscuit, and crampons. As per the plan the route was to be traveled with the high ankle trekking shoes as far as possible to keep light weight on my feet and maintain required speed and energy. The plan was to return by the noon time or possibly afternoon. The base camp crew was already lazy though it had been just a few days in the base camp and was well aware that for next 25 days no one is going to visit the base camp.They had already begun to feel lonely and had to be constantly pulled to keep them active. Frequent humour and talk about girls had made them adopt a bit casual approach at times towards the instructions given to them. I went to the kitchen tent and asked for my packed lunch, the crew was surprised to see me ready with my gear as I was about to leave. They had least expected me to go alone. “We haven’t prepared the packed lunch.” I was pissed off at their negligence.Now was not the time to react. To cover up they offered me an apple for the way, which I slid into the side pocket of my rucksack. Taking the grip of my ice axe and wrapping the tape sling of the ice axe across my wrist I covered my half face with a black mask before finally leaving for the climb. There were two reasons I always did that the first was to protect against the direct cold air, the second was to resemble the ancient and modern military special force warriors.
With this done I set off towards my destination carrying my ice axe in a self-arrest position. The route was divided into four sections. The first section was a moderate slope that was negotiated in 30 minutes the finish point had a flat portion, covered with streams of water occupying it. Having negotiated the first section with significant speed as per the plan I decided taking a break. The break was not due to physical exertion but there was some sense of disappointment. I was well aware that I was alone. I, also knew that my other two team mates from the USA were at the base camp. If my life was in danger I will not be able to send any signal to the base camp as there were no radios. Even if I had one, questions like why would anyone come? The cook and helper are not much physically tough, know nothing of rescue they somehow managed to reach base camp, they are useless in such demanding situation, even if they hiked a little up in order to find me they won’t go far, thoughts of their wife and kids will stop them.The cook being a Gurkha was daring but physically not strong enough to meet the need of such situations. Other two men from the USA being remarkable climbers, I still doubted that they would come for any rescue. I took a rest for 5 minutes to get rid of all such thoughts. If I was climbing with a team it would have been great as I would have had a chance to bring my leadership into action, just like I did in my previous mountaineering expeditions.Even as a newcomer in the world of mountaineering I had a natural tendency to take responsibility for everyone safety. This increased my efficiency because I well knew that to take responsibility for others I will have to double my moral, which I did well. Such has always been my proactive responsibility for others without exposing it to them that I prepared myself mentally to take everyone to the summit and bring everyone back to the base. My five minutes were over. The flat portion covered with water had some small boulders half-submerged in water, half exposed outside water. Hopping over these boulders I crossed this region.
Now was the turn off 2nd section. This section was a steeper slope of loosely locked big boulders with small patches of hard snow scattered in the way. This section was to be negotiated quickly and advantage of trekking shoes good sole grip to be exploited quickly.To make the travel quicker and save energy in pushing over to anther rocks I often walked over the snow patches that I came across .Side step technique worked well over these snow patches. After covering these loosely locked rocks the fern line began.A wall of cliffs inclined towards me made the beginning of this section more risky as on the top of these 200 meters tall cliffs were huge hanging boulders.I imagined what destruction they would cause if any one of them fell. If it happened the broken portion of the boulder could shoot towards me and shatter me apart or I could just get crushed beneath one of these. Analyzing the danger I increased my pace to get out of the range of the boulder. The adrenaline that often kicked off in dangerous situations is of great advantage. If one knows how to use it and control it, one can increase his/her efficiency spontaneously. As I kept moving head there were no more loose rocks it was the beginning of the glacier covered with a few inches of powder snow from previous day’s snowfall.This thin layer of powder snow provided good grip even with trekking shoes. As I was at a significant height I turned back to take a look at the world around and behind me from that height, the vastness of the white world with clouds, spine .valleys and glaciers sent a chill down my spine. Such effects were always a boost for me. Analyzing the condition of weather I continued further, there were few clouds approaching from the west.As the journey continued along with my isolation in this beautiful and challenging alien world I could recall glorious moments earned in the past.
It was in December 2012 I went on a short expedition with my experienced friends for the first time, some of them were already soldiers and one of them undergoing a final semester of his training in Indian military academy. Others were experienced in climbing and possessed army background, heart .Those who had no connection with the army were no less as they were already a soldiers at heart.I was just a josh guy with soldier’s heart, warrior soul and fighter mind.I came directly from a desk job that I was doing in Dell internationals in Mohali since the last couple of months.The display of mental and muscle strength both the way up and down without any complain earned me not only respect among my friends accompanying me in the expedition but also ever satisfying words from one of my friend Parmesh (already a soldier in Indian Army)- “khan I am proud of you. Well done! ”, with hand shaken firmly and a brotherly hug, those moments were saved forever in my mind.
It was the will power much in action. Some people live for these proud moments, sometimes one has to wait long for the opportunity to earn these moments again. When they get it, stakes are high.The remaining route was traversed with the zig-zag manner and side steps.Ice axe was the only lifesaving tool I had, apart from my crampons in a rucksack. All the way ice axe was held in self-arrest position tied to the wrist and in the hand towards the mountain side. Towards the end of this 2nd section, here was another danger lingering from the east, the same wall of cliffs with another boulder leaning towards me.This boulder posed much more danger than the previous one. The urge to pass ahead of its impact radius was the same as before but this time it was more time-consuming as the slope was steeper and the surface beneath my feet was not solid. It was a thin layer of snow and ice over a scree and rocks fallen from the cliff wall towards east. Water running below the layer of ice and snow was a problem as the layer was too thin to hold my weight.I had to make a rough analysis and identify the thicker portions of the surface. Anchoring the ice axe would have broken the thin layer, getting wet at this altitude could be disastrous.Maintaining my balance and placing my ice axe softly I managed to cover this section and reached the starting of 3rd section – a cornice
3rd section – a cornice, slope 70 degrees,, altitude 5100 meters.
It was high time for me to wear my boreal along with my crampons.The clouds were approaching and the weather could turn bad anytime I had less time before the weather turned bad and it would be a complete white out. My glory was 400 meters away from me.I wanted it. I wanted it bad and now I wanted it quick. I had to take a call and decided to travel over this cornice with my trekking shoes. The snow layer was knee-deep over a hard layer of snow. I knew I was over a cornice I had less time to finish this 200 meters climb.Wearing boreal would have not saved me from falling down towards north into unknown and lost forever .Traversing the cornice was towards west.it was still a bold and wise decision to carry on fast and light without climbing shoes and crampons .Blood pumping faster, my focus getting narrow, alert and agile I could rely only on myself and my ice axe that provided me needed anchoring. With calm mind and speed maintained I moved step by step anchoring myself with my ice axe. The only trouble was the snow slipping in my shoes through the gaps created by my trousers. I had to pull it out frequently when maintaining balance was already a daunting task on this section that was steep towards both sides of my body.30 minutes of these action moments made me reach at the end of this 3rd section.I was on a much less steep section just below the final section towards the summit.
Section 4 crevasses to the summit. Slope 80 degree.
Analyzing the situation the white out was approaching and I had less time.if I decided to move ahead towards the summit I will have to ascend and descend down quickly, much faster that the speed maintained so far. Descending a 70 -80-degree steep section without a rope and an anchor are far more dangerous and skill demanding than ascending such a section without a rope. Climbing section 4 and coming back all the way through section 4 and section 3 was much more challenging now. Taking a 5 min break was also important.I wanted to see and realize how far I had come. It was refreshing. As it was already a high time I removed my trekking shoes and wore my climbing shoes and attached crampons.Now it was not just final phase of ascending but a difficult descend waiting ahead.Having finished wearing and fixing crampons on my shoes I gave a satisfactory smile at this 5300 meters, realizing how bad ass I could be at times.I said to myself “I just negotiated a cornice that steeps for 30 minutes without a rope and crampons “ not bad! .Though thanks to the snow over hard snow that provided me natural anchor by enabling my feet to go knee-deep in the snow while ascending.Taking a look around I could see the valley from 5300 meters, the only road that leads towards Leh from safat Naala police check post.I could spot the base camp from this height and it was tempting to go back with a victory in hand, safe and sound. It was not an extraordinary moment but it was valid enough to remind myself that at least for these moments at this 5300 meters I was not ordinary and definitely not a part of the crowd.
With this satisfaction and thrill, physical and mental exhaustion could not be felt. But the task was not yet complete over. The final 200 meters were yet to be climbed.Making a rough calculation I analysed that I now had around 20 minutes roughly to reach the summit and come back to the same spot.Another frightening hurdle lay ahead of me at the foot of the summit slope was a widely opened crevasse.There was no way it could be jumped across.There was no ladder. Towards the south was a small bridge where the crevasse was not open.It was a dead end.But the only section that allowed one to move ahead.I had to jump, but jumping could imbalance me and throw me 1000 meters down into unknown and no one would know about it. I had to step across it.A wide step with a support of my ice axe got me through. There was no time to calculate.It was either forward or backwards. I choose forward gathering all my strength I stepped across it, keeping my crampons in position aided by ice axe for anchoring.The remaining 200 meters were climbed maintaining a rhythm of breathing and forward movement. Just reaching the summit it was beginning to get white out.Stopping there to take a selfie or a video was not important it could be done later. Using my heel I ascended down and jumped across the crevasse.Crampons provided me with a good grip to control the fall. I was back to the less steep and flatter section below the slope of the summit.
It was a good time to record this moment in camera. After capturing the images and video was done it was not the end of challenges that awaited. Descending after a summit could be fatal.Most climbers are overwhelmed with their summit and make major mistakes while descending.I had two options to descend the section 3 –the cornice. Either choose the same route over the cornice or choose another route not over the cornice but on the wall stretching towards the south adjoining the cornice. The cornice had high chances of breaking, and if I choose to move down using my heel I would exert too much pressure on the cornice making it more vulnerable to break.If I choose to move down using 4 point technique it would have consumed too much time. Staying on cornice for long was not a good idea, I had to choose another way. The route that was on the adjoining wall.It was solid surface but 80 degrees steep. There was only one way to negotiate this final challenge –to use 4 point technique to descend 200 meters down. It had to be done. I recalled my basic mountaineering training and began to descend.At times like these what counts the most is faith, calm and open mind.Pumping out the strength in me I dug my ice axe and crampons deep and trying to make no mistake kept descending down.There was no time to waste as resting could have consumed more energy.The only way was to descend quickly and safely.The layer of ice was too hard for crampons at some portions.I came across such portion where crampons could not dig in. What I feared was about to happen in a few seconds.I slide down as a part of fall unable to anchor myself till next 10 meters approximately.Crystals of snow scratching off ice axe’s peak began to enter through the gaps of my sunglasses, Obstructing my vision. Realizing that it might slip out of my hand I managed to shatter off the snow crystals in and around my sunglasses and anchored myself back with all the energy I had. Death was at close quarters. With my heart pumping faster I kept descending down. While on the way down I said to myself “you just saved your life”. It increased my josh.With focus intact, I covered this 80-degree slope and was finally at the steeper section.The section 3 was already left behind through this section.This route had brought me much below section 3. I was in section 2.I took a look back and gave a laugh. It was a fall which acted as a remedy to my adventurous soul. Gaining control was a skill assuring moment.I recalled the training days, especially the self-arrest training day that just came into action right now. The remaining route back towards the base camp was to be enjoyed sliding down all alone in the beautiful and dangerous terrain that I had already been through .Where ever the slope offered I did not miss the chance to slide as far as possible.My only remaining task was to reach the base camp in a couple of minutes.I wasn’t in hurry but I was hungry and I knew warm and delicious lunch would have already been cooked.Crossing the loose rocks section, the water streams I was finally on the slope towards base camp. While crossing this last slope I had a satisfaction of having proved something to myself. I was humble and full of self-confidence just the way I was when I decided to make this solo climb. I was proud that the task I took voluntarily was executed as per the plan and with courage.I knew very well that I was not the best climber so far, but I knew myself that if I stand up for something I will do it. Even in the failure, I will learn something major for the future task that I would have come across. A good mountaineer is the one who not only reaches the top but also the one who come back safe and unhurt. This solo climb prepared me more.I became much more than all those experienced climb’s those who never took such a task alone. The most difficult journey is the one that one could make alone.First a leader must prove his mettle alone,he must posses courage and capability to make his way through adversaries own his own .Only then he will be able to influence ,and lead his men. I reached back to base camp. I was welcomed by this small group of four men I had in this vast mountain region.” Glad to see you alive” we exchanged laughter for a while. Someone’s Act of courage could often bring the youth of a man back at a time at least for some time.I could see that on these men faces. I Went to my tent unloaded myself wore fresh new clothes, washed my feet with warm water that crew offered me from mess tent. I went to the mess tent and with all gratitude’s to the God, I took one of the most rewarding bits of “aloo poori”.
While eating food I had one more thing at the back of my mind and that was – the task is not over yet. We were in the base camp of Mount Kun(King) and the swift winds reminded me of the Kun that was yet to be scaled and we had 20 days more remaining. There was a strange silence in my soul, the winds kept flattering the tents and the national flag.
“Sir , I want to talk to you about something ; transparently and emotionally”. “Yes ! tell me” he replied with calmness and expressions that gave assurance of his firm reply from which his actions will not deviate. He removed his sun glass, it appeared to me that I must do the same and looked right into his eyes as he did. “sir, I want to join your team to climb this peak. I have my reasons for that .firstly the time I have spent with you and your team in this base camp so far had brought me emotionally closer to your team ,secondly if I join your team I will have no food concerns to worry about , last and the final thing is that while climbing with you and your team I will be honored to join a team that represents BSF(Border security force). He gave a slight smile and assurance to allow me to join his team with thumbs up and a simple reply “we will climb together, officially you cannot be part of our team but you can stay beside our team and avail for yourself the facilities that we have”. With this he puts back his ray ban and walks away towards his camp. Though officially I was not part of this team but I had a chance to climb with the elite and secure second summit for myself in one year.
K E D A R T A A L
As a liaison officer1 for IMF2 I along with four member from Germany left from New Delhi towards rishikesh3 . Despite of vehicle breakdown in the mid way which was repaired with in an hour we reached Rishikesh by 4 pm and checked in our hotel. In the evening we left for market and attended a famous aarti4 ceremony at the bank of river Ganges. Those couple of hours at the bank of this river which as per hinduism5 has been given title of mother Ganges to honor goddess Ganga were pleasant and filled with the vibrancy. For the Germans it was first time experience .They were amazed to come across a culture where religion was deep rooted and connected to such huge mass of people. Once we returned back from ceremony and were done with dinner it was time to hit our beds and embark on an early morning journey towards Gangotri6.We reached Gangotri by evening next day and after taking a brisk walk in the market ,gathered for dinner. Here for the first time we made a brief plan for tomorrow. I took this as an opportunity to let the leader and the team know that I too wish to climb as that is the sole purpose of my visit even as a liaison officer. We had a brief talk about our mountaineering expeditions so far. I wanted to let them know that I was no amateur .To my fortune this team of German climbers were experience and seasoned mountaineers and understood the values associated with mountaineering. They had also spent considerable time in Navy and Army.They did not resist my plan to join them. We had our dinner and agreed to meet early morning over breakfast. Next morning we met at decided time, had our breakfast and left for a hike on the route towards kedartaal7. It was a recccae8 and acclimatization .My German companions had climbed various peaks of 7000 M and above.However they were quite concerned about the difficulty of the route as they had come across various reviews from various sources. Each source had their own explanation about the route and the terrain. We made it easily till Bhauj kharakh that day by noon and spent an hour at Bhauj kharak10 to get acclimatized as much as possible. With a fare idea of route towards ours next camping destination ie.kedar kharak we returned back to hotel and spent the remaining day well over dining table ,and taking rest.next day along the potters we left for kedarkharakh ,which was to be our one night camp before moving towards base camp in kedartaal .The approach route brought us across a spectacular landscapes colorful meadows , deep gorges, river banks and majestic summit of Mt Thaley sagar (6,904 m)standing tall in the direction of our destination. While on the way to kedarkharakh we came across a successful returning NCC (national cadet corps)11 mountaineering team lead by a colonel and assisted by various mountaineering instructors and soldiers from various army regiments. While Interacting with colonel, I learnt that his team has been the first one to summit Mt Jogin 2.On our arrival at kedarkharakh we were welcomed by bad weather. There was already one team of trekkers who had set up a camp. We setup our camp quickly and began to prepare for dinner and finally leave for base camp –kedartaal tomorrow morning. Trek towards base camp was of approximately 4 hours from kedarkharakh.
Next day it was a beautiful bright morning and we were in no hurry. We planned to reach base camp by noon and for that we winded our camp after breakfast by 8 am and began our trek for base camp. So far the days have been casual for me and I did not feel any adrenaline rush and sense of mission that produced a spark in me, today it was different. I began to feel my purpose of joining the expedition, and possible odds and challenges that I might come across. My vigor ,focus and mental preparation had began to take its right place . I decided to move ahead of everyone i.e. potters and my team. Wasting adrenaline was never a priority for me. The route was to be traversed through a moraine of moderate steepness. I informed my team about my decision to move ahead. Towards my north-east were Mt Brighupanth, and Mt Manda towards my line of travel was Mt.Thaley sagar and towards west was a range of high cliffs. During my travel we came across various blue sheep’s12 who were affected from a disease which made them blind and eyes bleed. As we proceeded ahead at a short distance some men stood on the boulders with walky talky and binoculars. I made no efforts to interact with them. I thought they must be members of another team we met in kedarkharakh. I had learnt that a team of soldiers from BSF13 was present in base camp. I was more eager to join them and have a good climbing time with them. I was expecting men would always behave active and have a sense of team and mountaineering brotherhood. Above all I wanted to be amongst men who have a deep sense of bravery and valor. Amongst men standing on boulders, I saw one of them standing proud with his ray ban staring at me. Neither did I talked or waved at him nor did he. His body language gave me a sense of his dominance in the region. I passed them and reached a point that marked one end of kedar taal. It was a big lake filled with glacier water. I could see camp in the base camp and a temple constructed with a line of Buddhist flags attached to the tip of temple. I entered the camp and passed a man wearing a jacket with BSF written on it. I kept my rucksack at a location were I decided to pitch my tent and returned to meet this man. We introduced ourselves and learnt a little about each other’s teams. While drinking juice offered to me I asked “where is your leader?”
“He has gone a little away from base camp to contact our head quarters. Sometimes we have to go away to get better radio signals. He will be back in a while. ”
I understood who those men with radio sets I came across were.
He further added “His name is Avinash Negi and he is deputy leader for this expedition and he is deputy commandant for BSF .”
When he learnt that I was from Himachal Pradesh14 he said “Negi sir too is from Himachal Pradesh. He hails from kinaur15 and lives in Shimla16”
I realized that deputy leader was a mountaineering leader who was born in the mountains. Being a person born and brought up in the mountains i could predict his personality a little now. I had a gut feeling that said “Shahid a worthy time awaits you”.
I wanted to meet him and learn about him. We setted our camp and our cooking staff began to prepare lunch.
Once we were done with lunch I got informed that deputy leader had arrived. I went in his camp to meet him. He was sitting on a platform in kitchen tent along with his boys. When I entered inside, we greeted each other and he welcomed me to based camp. I sensed that he had already learnt about us from soldier I met on my arrival at BC17. We had a brief talk about each other’s background before I started enquiring about information he had about Mt Jogin. He showed a few pictures of the peak and route. We discussed about the possible route that can be opted to fix ropes. He and his team had been in the base camp since a month. He had no orders to move ahead. There were two more teams on hold ,who were to join his team after flag off ceremony that was awaited. The leader of the expedition was in BSF camp in Dehradoon18 with these two teams. Base camp team gave a daily report of base camp to BSF camp in Dehradoon twice a day over their dedicated VHF radio19 sets. They had plenty of ration piled up, best facilities to survive at that altitude which also included fuel running electricity generator.
Every evening after sunset they gathered in front of temple to pray. The general practice by mountaineers in mountaineering is to eat early and sleep early. It was different with BSF team. After prayer in temple, they lit base camp with electricity bulbs till 9- 10 PM. After dinner they played cards and drank plenty of hot drinks. Lights were switched off after 10 pm when deputy leader finally left for his personal tent followed by his men.
In the middle of the camp they pitched two Swiss tents. One was occupied by men and other had logistics. Kitchen tent was perfect example of improvisation with the help of stones piled up to act as a wall and tent attached on the top to act as a roof. On a elevated portions of the base camp was tent of deputy leader, a location good enough to provide him full view of the camp below. In a short span of time my team and his entire team got well acquainted .We were glad to have neighbors in this wilderness. I was well aware of the help and facilities they could offer us and was hopeful to get the same in times of need if any. Though we kept it as a last option. The daily routine of soldiers was admirable. Their day began at 5 am after which the duty person would prepare tea and hot water point which was placed outside kitchen tent, this water was used by every one for their basic needs. Everyone had a role to play .Most of the time it appeared that deputy leader kept his men engaged in some work. Playing of cards appeared to be mandatory. No one had a right to entertain boredom.3-4 pm remained rest time when soldiers would nap. Radio operator slept in the tent where radio station was setup.
We spent initial two days resting in base camp; its motive was to get acclimatized. Germans needed it more and their reasons were valid. German team comprised of seasoned mountaineers who also trained individuals in German alpine club as mountaineering and ski instructors. Jana a beautiful ,tall and mid 30s blonde was a mechanical engineer by profession and had her own startup she worked with carbon fibers. She also trained people in ski occasionally. Olaf who was a late 30s man worked with Lufthansa and associated with German alpine club as a mountaineering instructor. Karsten was second senior citizen amongst us .Who never missed and chance to laugh and create humor for us. He worked as a software developer and loved climbing. The most senior and experienced one was Hareld ,tall ,quite and fine personality was not just an electrician and an experienced mountaineer but also an individual hardened by life.
I N I T I A L S T R U G G L E S .
Having spent two days resting and walking around the base camp, we all were in a mood to start making some serious efforts. That morning deputy leader gathered his men and we saw them loading themselves with stoves, fuel and food in their rucksacks. As usual I exchanged morning wishes and went closer and asked about their plan. They had just begun with their first major movement since the time they had arrived in base camp. They were leaving towards ABC1 and dump some load. Gathering in front of the temple and seeking blessings of almighty god they left for ABC. They planned to return back by noon. After an hour since they departed Jana and Olaf joined by me became eager to hike as far as possible towards the ABC. With a primary objective of increasing their physical work. Herald and karsten had a little head ache and decided to rest. As we proceeded towards the ABC ,weather turned bad. Wind started blowing ,and light drizzles of dry snow flakes. By the time we had crossed half of the route we could see deputy leader and his men on the last ridge towards ABC, returning back. Weather was turning bad and wind increasing. We decided to hike a little more and climb that last ridge to join deputy leader and hoped to know something about the route and conditions of terrain in and around ABC. We knew that the point where we all stood provided good view of Mt Jogin 2 &1 and the route that lead towards the summit camp but due to clouds gathered above the ABC we couldn’t see it. We returned back together and halted at camp site to eat snacks and drink tea which was carried along in thermos by soldiers.This camp was also used as an intermediate camp by the willing ones;. With a first sip and bite of hand full of snacks I once again realized how important simple things are in life. We learn to value them more in such situations. Together we returned to base camp. lunch was ready to be served and cherished in both the camps. With passing of days my visit to BSF’s camp had become frequent at least once in a day either for a tea or for a hot drink before sleep or just a chat with soldiers. Deputy leader had successfully carried out his first load ferry and we were yet to begin with the same.
Since the time we camped at kedar kharakh we have been making observatory note of weather changes. Every day it turned bad after noon and gave signs of snow or rainfall. As per the weather forecast we expected a bad weather from 23st of September which could last for several days. Unexpected storm was already building up and showing its signs. Deputy leader had been trying to gain precise information about the weather and had also requested for the same from department of metrology. Getting a More precise info was getting delayed. All he could know was that some turbulence is expected in coming days. No one knew when and for how long.
Next morning 15th sep Olaf ,Jana ,Herald and myself began our first load ferry . It was again a bad weather day .When we reached ABC it was high time for us to dump our load in a safe location and return back. We still got no view of the peak but we could see region below the peak. Taking a look in the direction of the peak from ABC their was glacier with number of deep crevasse whose snout marked beginning of a huge field of moraine touching the base of surrounding peaks in the entire region. Proceeding our vision ahead towards Mt Jogin after glacier2 their lies a moderately steep snow field whose beginning point was marked by huge ice wall whose upper portion was not visible due to slope and clouds covering the upper section. We spent some time analyzing the terrain and deciding the possible route that previous teams could had opted and what could have been best in our interest. The nearest water source was small water outlet below a falling glacier wall at a distance of about 100 -150 meters through huge boulders between that point and ABC. We were satisfied that we got to know about the situation in ABC .We could plan our future strategy accordingly .It was already drizzling and we had to rush back to BC by late noon.
It is often said “stay alert when its unusually silent in the high mountains”. when I woke up next morning and unzipped my tent entrance I was startled to see everything covered under thick layer of white blanket 0f snow .When a small chunk of snow fell on my head peeping outside I asked myself “what next?”. Within a short span of time the normal day activities of the base camp started .Preparation of tea , breakfast , hot water , were all under process as usual .We embraced ourselves to clear snow above tents and around it ,make a path to walk by clearing away snow using shovels . As we knew that there is no movement happening away from base camp we it a chance to enjoy the day even if it was difficult to deal with snow fall at an altitude of 4000 meters .We had enough days remaining in our expedition, however i wanted to finish it early .With one feet snowfall in base camp we could easily make out the amount of snowfall at higher camps .We also knew the havocs that could arise from snowfall at this altitude specially when I was October approaching. For now we decided to enjoy ,clicking pictures, helping each other clearing snow around our tents and walking around the camp and dealing with cold. For an instance I felt the difference between a safe and comfortable life where we had room heaters ,dry rooms etc and present situation where the only way to survive was will power ,tolerance and our management to stay dry. My trouble increased when water began to seep in my tent from its roof above my head and feet. Sleeping bags were the only luxury to stay warm which began to get moist had to make efforts to avoid sleeping bag touching the sides of the tent by placing climbing shoes in front of feet and day sack behind my head and other stuff towards one of my body side. It was still not the end of it until I had to sleep in our mess tent to avoid water trickling inside from above .Next day weather cleared but our movement towards ABC was on hold at least for a day as we wanted track to be visible after snow melted to some extent. karsten wasn’t feeling well since the time he managed to reach base camp .According to him it was due to his inability to acclimatize well at this altitude. He decided to spend three days down town in Gangotri ,the first town that hits the road head while going back. As per the plan Olaf left for Gangotri to join him to accompany him in returning back. We expected him back along with karsten next evening. While he was bringing karsten back from Gangotri our team in base camp decided not to waste time and begin with remaining load ferry and utilize clear weather window. So Jana , Herald and I loaded ourselves with necessary items that we would require in the ABC with respect to summit camp and back to base camp .On reaching the last ridge towards ABC as expected we got the first glimpse of Mt. Jogin 1 and beside it Jogin 2. I was ahead of other members so i informed about the visibility of peak and wanted to reach ABC faster before it disappears behind clouds .We reached ABC and analyzed the terrain towards the peak and clicked pictures to study the peak terrain to determine the possible routes and hazards associated with it, later in base camp. Our concern for water supply was solved by available snow in ABC which we stored inside plastic bags and covered it well to be used when required in coming days .Load was covered under sheets and secured well before we returned back to base camp. We concluded the day to be successful as everything was done as per the plan. To add on to it Olaf was already back along with karsten to join us for lunch. Germans unlike most Indians including me did not eat much. They preferred breakfast ,light or no lunch ,tea , and dinner. They had brought along with them enough nuts and meat. They all enjoyed Indian food too except karsten who had no idea what he was eating when Indian food was in his plate .I on the other hand usually consumed plate full of rice ,chapattis, salad and whatever was made available by cooking staff.
What was going on with the concerned officers of deputy leader with respect to this expedition and in deputy leaders mind ,I had no idea. All I knew was that there will be arrival of many big shots in coming days. All I knew about deputy leader so far apart from many things was that he is not a casual personality he will not act in haste and he will lead by an example and decisively .His men had respect for his simplicity and he commanded them well. I have known by now that his men were tough and experienced mountaineers. They had already escaped death from close quarters when they got hit by an avalanche in Mt Gangotri expedition and managed to save their lives. His team included countryside men .Everyone from mountains of Ladakh , Himachal Pradesh ,Uttrakhand and from a humble and village background except one of them from southern most part of India .All of them never spoke of themselves until asked .I never saw any sign of disrespect by anyone towards others, no sign of frustration , anger and resentment. Routine radio contacts between base and Dehradoon often broke silence. It was apparent that soldiers down town and their commanders are eager to swarm in. Both teams in base camp had become like a family, at least this is the outlook I had developed for each other. The effect of new comers along with their commanders was unknown and a matter of no big but definitely of a little concern to me. I always disliked the idea of having too many people in base camps. For me and Germans presence of current number of people in two camps was perfect. Deputy leader often visited our camp and had a brisk talk with Germans. Germans by now were confident that if they needed any help BSF team will lend it. They relied on me for this matter. Germans had already observed my proximity with the soldiers by now.BSF had one of the most important tools with them, which we were devoid of –radio communication. To my observation it was more than that. Their team comprised of humans being that could be relied upon in any difficult situation .I was confident that they will not leave anyone behind and watch someone suffering. Above all they were commanded by someone who had a heart.
We had spent two days surviving cold, moist sleeping bags , waiting for weather to clear .over dining table in mess tent we had plenty time to discuss our plan and strategy. We decided to shift to ABC immediately a day after weather clears. Even if we moved immediately after weather cleared we would be sitting ducks in ABC for one additional day. It was always advisable to make no movement in avalanche prone region after snowfall for next 72 hours. However we decided to wait at least for 24 hours if not for 72 hours. Major portion of our route crossed through avalanche prone region a wall that was of 45 – 60 degree steep where 45 degree is most prone to avalanche. Keeping these details we planned accordingly.
18 October we got ready to leave for ABC. We spent our day till 11 am preparing to leave for ABC. Seeking all the blessing from almighty in my heart we left for ABC .It took us 5 hours to reach ABC. Sunset was approaching and we quickly finished pitching our tents after which wind began to play with our tents. We began to eat dinner around 6 pm and sleep early. So far now one of my major concerns was my eating habits. I had always found it difficult to eat packet foods. I had brought along with me some ration of my choice. This included chinese noodles, honey, chocolates, cornflakes, powder milk, bread and almonds. This was for three days. After which we were to return back to BC for rest and come back again to ABC and shift further up to summit camp. Reaching summit camp required route to be opened with the help of either fixed ropes or alpine style climbing. The major task was to traverse Ice wall and which stood prominently visible towards south of ABC. Reaching this wall itself was not going to be easy. We were required to traverse glacier with numerous crevasses. The entire journey that lay ahead required lot of technical expertise and never to forget stamina which always decreased with gain of height along with appetite. I accompanied Herald in his tent where for the first time I did not worry about moisture in tent. He offered me veg packet food which was to be eaten after adding boiling hot water to packet and eaten after 15 minutes. I couldn’t eat more than two bites of it. Heralds understood that I was not liking it and asked me sympathetically not to eat if am unable to. For some time it was embarrassing and also supportive. As a mountaineer I must be able to eat such food but I had never been able to switch to food other that I was used to eating. I placed that packed away respectfully and pulled out Chinese noodles I had brought and ate it. Recalling faces of my loved ones and god I dozed off .It was comfortable sleep due to exhaustion and nothing to make my sleeping bag wet. Day was clear next morning and we were to reach the ice wall and attempt to fix ropes to open the route. We had our breakfast by 8 am. Distribution of equipment began and we got our self ready with all necessary equipment required for the climb. There was strange exhaustion that I could feel however i was sure I would get distracted from it once we are in the middle of action. The first section was glacier. Traversal route was yet to be discovered .Olaf decided to lead, Jana in second, myself in the middle and herald in the last. We got ourselves roped up after dividing the rope in to three sections, anchoring ourselves to fig of 8 where the remaining rope was coiled around lead man and end mans shoulders. Each of us had multiple slings, two –three ice screw type pitons ice axe ,two to three plane and screw carabineers. After putting crampons to our shoes we began to move ahead. At several locations we came across deep and open crevasses that were negotiated horizontally using peak point technique for ice climb along with screw pitons used to anchor. Taking two rests in middle we reached edge of glacier wall. Here rappelling3 base was required to rappel after which a steep climb was to be made all the way through a vast open slope that was moderately steep, until we reached the major ice wall that lead towards summit camp.
After a short rest Olaf and Herald began to prepare anchoring base. To save the equipment for further use ….. base was prepared as it utilized just two sling ropes and desired amount of rope length. Olaf rappelled first followed by heralds then me and Jana in the end. Another steep climb awaited us. The trail was lost under the snow and we had to guess possible trail and kept moving ahead. While Jana decided to stay and wait for our return ,Heralds ,Olaf and I moved on. As we finished this steep climb we were in the beginning of moderately steep slope. Distance till the ice wall through this steep wall appeared not much from ABC. There is a saying “it’s always higher than it looks ,it’s always difficult than it seems and its always farther than it appears.” We realized that if we kept moving on with our current pace we will have to return back empty handed. Could we make it even to the wall? Was the question now. Fixing the rope on the wall was out of question that day. It was already 1 pm. Herald decided to stop due to fatigue and return back to join Jana. Olaf and I kept moving ahead. As we moved on Olaf too got low in his intentions to make it to the wall even. Even I was using last units of my energy but I had no intentions to return with nothing achieved in a day. When I saw Olaf’s intention weakening I had to take charge. I knew it well that if I insist on going ahead and put forward my plan he will not turn me down easily because for him his status as a leader of expedition, mountaineering instructor in German alpine club, would had mattered. I was youngest member. I knew if I did not give up he too will not give up easily. I asked him if he can climb the wall and fix ropes4 ,it was a straight denial. I had no issue with that because there was no time for it and his energy level was not enough to finish the task and return back to ABC. However I wanted to do at least something with respect to our goals for the day. If not till the wall I insisted to take another 30 minutes and reach a nearest boulder at a distance of 30 meters after which we can at least analyze the different sections of wall, with respect to fixing the rope. He agrees to push himself ahead and we reached the boulder. We analyzed the wall and made few strategies for next attempt. Towards my left was rocky range . I asked for binoculars and studied those rocky cliffs. To my surprise I could see a rope anchored and left to run down till the base of cliff. I pumped Olaf to follow my another plan which was to go to the base of cliff ,reach the anchor point of that rope and study its condition and find out if there could be a shorter route from this side. If we could avoid the ice wall it would save a lot of time and efforts. There was a major risk and that was of loose rock falls from upper reaches of the cliff. Olaf too wanted to take advantage of this rope and agreed to execute the plan. As it required one of us to freely climb the initial pitch of rocky wall and reach the anchor I was not sure if Olaf would like to do it. So I volunteered for this task which I was about to do for the first time in my life. I began to climb that section with my climbing boots on .It was a bad idea but I was confident that I will be able to make it. I made it through more than a half of it and reached the last crux5.last crux was a big rock bulge on which I manage to get foot holds and one hand hold. I needed one more. I suddenly began to feel that centre of gravity of my body going out of place and myself weighing more towards the field and rocks base behind and below me. In a matter of second I realized that If I don’t maintain my centre of gravity I will fall and it would be a fatal fall at this altitude. These 3-5 second were the most crucial ones. I was mentally cool, but my adrenaline pumped and heart beat hitting my chest. I began to find one more hand hold required to hold myself. It was second time in my life that I got reminded of God In this manner and felt tiny in front of something that could be called as death. ”God not today, not here”. Face of my parents and family flashed and that pushed me to fight as quickly as possible for my life. I searched for a hold, stretching my hand as far as possible. I could feel a small loose rock choked in a crack. I tried to pull myself. I found a gap to hold myself with two fingers on my left hand side. It was enough to avoid me from falling. Watching all this Olaf had a strange expression on his face. He too felt the seriousness of the situation but he was in no position to assist. From his face it appeared that he was confident in my finding out a way. I pushed myself upwards trying to stand on my legs and increase my reach. Still holding myself with one hand I stretched my right hand and took hold of anything I could and crossed that crux and reached the anchor point. I cursed myself of being reckless. When I analyzed the anchor I found out that it was made up of snow stag dug in a crack .The stag had broken and rope had decayed. This whole system was of no use. It appeared to me that there wasn’t much distance left ahead of me crossing which could bring us above the first major section of ice wall. I reported Olaf about this and asked him for reconnaissance of the route ahead as he has shoes that were appropriate than my shoes.
Watching my initiative he too had gathered adrenaline and climbed up to me and moved ahead to study the route. He returned back after 10 minutes and reported of a route shorter in distance which take could bring us to the level of first pitch of ice wall. Apart from loose rocks that might fall from the cliff, there was a bergschrund that could be crossed with no much difficulty. At least we found out something. We were sure that this route had been followed by someone in the past. Old anchor and decayed rope was proof of this. This old anchor system was thrown away and we fixed a new rope just in order to rappel down. If we opted to take this route in coming days we planned to do so by sending one of us to the same anchor point by doing free climbing and fixing this rope for other to climb up. For now we returned to the base of cliff and made cash for this rope and some gas stove, and two small tents for summit camp under the boulder where we stood. We returned and reached Herald and Jana where they waited our return . Taking a short rest we jummared6 up the rope used to rappel down and the edge of glacier in the morning. Traversing the glacier in the same fashion like in morning we reached ABC. We all were badly exhausted .I had eaten nothing after breakfast. Now for the dinner I had nothing other than Chinese wi-wi noodles. There was lot to be done yet. Next morning we all wanted to return back to base camp to replenish our energy and come back. I was getting frustrated by this multiple up and down between BC and ABC.I wanted to finish this whole mission for once and all. I wasn’t the leader nor was it my expedition. I was just not denied by Germans to join their mission. More over by now I had already proved to be a helping hand several times. We also hoped to use BSF route on the wall if we failed to do so. Germans relied on me for this purpose because It required taking permission from deputy leader. Keeping me in their team was no harm to them. After breakfast we discussed the plan for the day. Germans decided to go towards the ice wall once again and shift some more required equipment to the cash we created a day before and return back to base camp by evening. Joining in this plan was not required. One look at the entire route from glacier to snow field to ice wall reminded me of my stomach which was empty even with the amount of food I had been eating in ABC.I had to go back to BC and eat well. So Germans left for the wall and I towards base camp all alone. After an hour’s journey towards BC I sat down to rest where I saw two human figures emerging behind the rocks. They looked Nepalese and as guessed they were HAP7 (high altitude potters) one of them was a short man with rough hands and face which signaled to any observant mountaineer of his experience and hard work as a HAP to earn his bread. Second man was tall, slim and quite. I learnt from them that second team of BSF had arrived a day before. I mentioned to them of our work so far in ABC and ahead. Finding out that I was starving they offered me an apple of their share. That was the best they could do. His kind gesture was a symbol of something many mountaineering enthusiasts lack. Sometimes this kindness also comes from death seen in this abode of god. While I was eating that apple three more figures emerged. When the approached us we had a brief intro of ourselves. One of them was assistant commandant from Pauri Garhwal district 8, other was coach from kangra ,Himachal Pradesh and the third was a nursing assistant from Bangalore. Assistant commandant was a man of loud and fast speech unlike deputy leader who spoke with cool and composure. He was old but excited , wore oversized gloves, a rudraksh9 around his neck and sweated from his forehead and around his eyes but he was excited. These guys planned to reach ABC and return back to BC by evening. We left in a while on our own ways was accompanied back by nursing assistant whose primary task was to stay out of trouble. When I reached the base camp new faces who looked very excited to be at base camp were sitting in sun ,eating pop corns drinking tea ,most of them were officers talking loud, passing orders being addressed by soldiers mostly from the previous team under deputy leader –deputy commandant. It had become a noisy place.
C A L L O F M I S S I O N .
With the movement in the base camp on increase and new arrivals it was time for BSF’s first team under the command and leadership of deputy leader to go ahead with the execution of their mission. On the morning of 22 September , it was time for me to recognize some of them with their call signs for the first time .From now on I got familiar to deputy leaders call sign – “DELTA LIMA”. He and his experienced group of mountaineers left for ABC. All of them loaded and high in spirits .It was the time to approach for kissing the victory. With every ones radio sets on same frequency ,rucksacks loaded and shoulder mounted, they all gathered in front of the temple in base camp and offered prayers .This group comprised of soldiers from various religious backgrounds still they all stood together and showed mutual respect and displayed brotherhood. It was emotional movement for me to watch them leaving together. For a moment I felt as if I was in a battle field where I could have charged like lightning and thunderstorm on the target and the enemy. Even if I was not in the arena of guns and heavy shelling I took pleasure in considering myself in the same situation. Watching them leave I was talking to myself and asked myself to stay calm and keep the spark alive, my time will come. I wished them all the best and watched the line of mountaineers disappear behind the ridges. Clouds once again began to appear on the peaks by afternoon. We spent our afternoon talking to other officials from BSF present in the camp. One of them was cousin of deputy leader- Assistant commandant Ravi Negi. Stories of dead mountaineers and accidents is often a favorite topic and it creates a deep impact on listeners involved in mountaineering. For a group of true mountaineers such stories strengthen their moral with elevation in sense of respect for the nature and admitting it’s might. For some individuals its more than that as it is a silent challenge waiting for their acceptance. Those who accept it with preparedness and humble heart, often emerge victorious. One such true story was associated with Mt Thaley Sagar, standing tall and majestic toward the east of base camp. In 1998 a group of mountaineers from Korea sponsored by Mountain Hard wear, were once attempting to summit Mt. Thaley sagar, kedartall being there base camp. Supporting crew in the base camp watched them climbing the vertical west face that unfortunate day. Three climbers had anchored themselves to an anchoring base setup at a distance of about 50 meters below the summit. The snow stag used as an anchor, slips out leading to fall of all three climbers about 700 meters down in to wide field of open crevasse. Their bodies could not be recovered till date. Elder brother of one of these Korean climbers pledged to come to India and summit Mt Thaley Sagar. He failed in his initial three attempts to summit this peak. On the fourth attempt he was successful in summiting Mt. Thaley Sagar in 2003. In memory of his brother and his team he constructed a small memorial temple and bolted a metallic plate with names of dead team to rock.
“DELTA LIMA” and his team reached ABC before evening and already had their camp setup. I Kept myself updated about them through the news received via radio sets. Weather had turned bad as usual by night .We already expected heavy snow fall as per Austrian weather forecast for our location. This forecast was arranged by karsten and Olaf when they descended to Gangotri. Too much silence is often feared in the mountains. Next morning the world outside was once again submerged in thick snow. With the very first glance at amount of snow accumulated I could easily figure out conditions at ABC. I came out of my tent to secure my tent and remove the snow accumulated above it. Once again we all began to remove snow above tents, tapping its inner sides. Folding our sleeping bags, make every effort we could to keep our shoes , clothes, sleeping bags dry. These efforts were going to prove futile. Messages began to be exchanged between BC and ABC. It was clear that “delta lima” and his team are facing hard time with weather. Dramatically swift wind, causing snow storm along with heavily accumulated snow and frequent intervals of rain along with the snow had made conditions worse. Reports began to come that they will have to return to BC if the same conditions were going to prevail. It had become diff for tents to remain pitched. Some of them were torn away by howling wind. “delta lima” and I often discussed our plans ,he knew that I have latest Austrian weather forecast. He wanted to know that apart from Indian weather forecast before returning back. The radio operator came to my tent and asked for weather forecast. I was pleased to be of help in these crucial moments. Forecast details were saved in karstens mobile phone. I was to keep this information ready by next couple of minutes ,when It would be passed to ABC via radio sets. Making a note of the weather forecast on a notepad I was amused and concerned when I got to know that the bad weather is expected for next 3-4 days. When I passed that information to radio operator we both were well aware of the hard times we will have to face in coming days till weather clears.
Their was no emotional reaction except acknowledgement of the details about the weather. Message was passed on the radio mentioning the details of the weather forecast. We learnt that “delta lima’s” and his team are returning back to base camp. They began to wind up the camp, in swift winds, and gush of rain and snow which had already made them wet. Their was no time to ponder over cold. It was all about returning back as soon as possible ,safely. Team had begun its return back to BC .They were already wet. It was not just the snow storm ,in fact they had to figure out the tracks covered under snowfall. This hampered their speed. Step by step gaining strength and moral boost from each other’s company team reached the BC. With water tricking down their drenched gloves and clothes these guys still managed to put on a grin on their face .I admired their calm behavior and tendency to walk with a satisfaction that they had a mate walking behind and so on. They had a silent sense of pride to make it back to BC under such conditions .Even if they knew that they need a quick re warming and changing of clothes they still maintained decorum and did not cause panic in the camp and made their way into their tents to join others .”delta lima’s” being the leader was the last to arrive along with other assistant commandant. By afternoon they all were back in form with warm food ,drinks, dry clothes . Snow was still falling when much awaited big shots had arrived. By 3 am leader of the entire expedition Mr.Loveraj Dharamskantu arrives along with last team .All the teams of the entire expedition were now presence in the base camp .It consisted of many elite climbers. Who climbed challenging peaks including Kanchenjunga and Everest. Most of them hailed from mountain region of India. They all were tough and experienced interacted with many of them on their arrival and found them to be friendly. With so many climbers present and interacting with each other ,”delta lima’s” team was still least seen in among group of talkative individuals. The base camp was occupied with numerous tents pitched. Snow along with drizzling rain continued. Despite of this routine work in the camp did not halt. Their were still prayers held at camp .Bulbs still lit up the camp till 9 pm. Next two days were full of struggle between snow, water and staying dry. Despite of all the odds we still managed to spare sometime and chance for fun. It was on 25th of October when sky cleared for an hour providing sunshine for about an hour during which we managed to dry our sleeping bags, tents, shoes, etc. Every individual in the base camp was busy making the best out of clear weather.
T H E L A S T A R E N A
“DELTA LIMA” often visited my camp to talk for a while. We both knew that if weather remains clear for next 2-3 days it would be our last chance to reach summit as we did not expect too many days of clear weather. October was approaching and it was not a time to have clear sky at this altitude and with weather pattern seen in the past days. I had already made my mind and plan during past three days of struggle. When “DELTA LIMA” visited us that evening of 25th October i shared my plan with him.
“Sir , I want to talk to you about something ; transparently and emotionally”. “Yes ! tell me” he replied with calmness and expressions that gave assurance of his firm reply from which his actions will not deviate. He removed his sun glass,it appeared to me that I must do the same and looked right into his eyes as he did. “sir, I want to join your team to climb this peak. I have my reasons for that .firstly the time I have spent with you and your team in this base camp so far had brought me emotionally closer to your team ,secondly if I join your team I will have no food concerns to worry about , last and the final thing is that while climbing with you and your team I will be honored to join a team that represents BSF. He gave a slight smile and assurance to allow me to join his team with a thumbs up and a simple reply “we will climb together , officially you cannot be part of our team but you can stay beside our team and avail for yourself the facilities that we have ”
I had my fingers crossed and was hope full that success will be ours. We were to leave for ABC one last time next afternoon. I was counting on time and shared my plan to join BSF with my German members. They welcomed my plan and left for the ABC before us. On the 26th of September in the morning one team from BSF left for ABC. Their task was to prepare the camp for the “delta lima” team that was to leave from base camp by afternoon and reach ABC by evening. We utilized this time in preparations of our equipment, packing of ruck sack, enjoying clear sky and bright sunlight. By evening before leaving we all gathered at the temple and said prayers. We all knew this was our last chance. ”delta lima” with his team and myself knew well that we have survived well so far no is the chance to implement all that we learnt so far – keep going .Shaking hands with the leader we all left one by one .While we were in the mid way we were joined by team one that left in the morning. We reached ABC by sunset as planned. Settling down with our allotted tents I realized what “delta lima’s” team had been through when they were present in this place last time. The wind was frightening and cold to an unbearable extent . That evening made it clear that we need to execute our task without a break as this was no place to stay for long. ABC was on a ridge which was highly vulnerable to swift winds. Before having our dinner we understood the plan for coming days till we reach the summit. One team amongst us was to leave for opening the route on the ice wall early morning with some load that would comprise of food and equipment’s we would require for our mission in the summit camp and ahead. Second team was to follow them an hour or two later with load and equipment. Germans who were already present in ABC planed to cross the glacier and camp in the snow field between the wall and the glacier. Their concern to use BSF fixed rope and route opened was solved when “delta lima” expressed no problem with it being used by Germans. Tomorrow was going to be a tough day in fact toughest one so far. After hot served dinner that we had in the wind I made sure that I take enough rest, try to fall asleep quickly and keep myself warmer. As usual I recalled my loved one, my mission gravity and almighty God. Good food, day long fatigue made me fall asleep quickly-something which did not happened easily and often at this altitude. Glory wasn’t far away and I knew that It will not be easy and I will have to earn it. I had joined tough soldiers and mountaineers in this mission common among us. Their was going to be no room for any excuses and poor show or performance. I joined them voluntarily and I wanted to maintain highest decorum among them. I knew it well that I cannot be a reason for anyone of them leaving this mission just to save me or bring me back to base camp or ABC as a rescued individual. I never got a chance to join the battle fields. This mission along with these men in this terrain made me feel that it was no less than a battle field. The only diff is that their are no guns. This whole affair had become a matter of honor for me. And I wanted to earn it desperately and now I had another opportunity.
First team was ready next morning. After having a quick breakfast while getting hit by cruel winds passing across the ABC these men loaded themselves with the equipment and ration and left the camp in a line. This team included some of the most tough and experienced mountaineer. It had summiteers of Mt Kanchenjunga (8611 m) and Mt Everest (8,848 m) ,some of them both. In an hour team two had geared up after breakfast. I was part of it. We all distributed load and equipment amongst ourselves and left from the camp. Following team ones foot marks we reached the edge of glacier, followed by Germans. Preparing a rappel down base we rappelled and began to traverse snow field between glacier and ice wall.
Route setting team was already at the foot of ice wall .By the time we were in the middle of snow field ,first pitch of route was opened. Two route opening climbers were at full pace and at the best of their strength. It was “mike delta”(Manoj Dahal) who had already climbed Mt Everest and Mt Kanchenjunga apart from various other peaks and Asif who too was an vivid climber and a survivor of Mt Gangotri avalanche along with “mike delta” they looked awesome with every hit of double ice axe on the wall and a step forward for a climb. With the sky clear and bright sunlight reflecting from snow we reached at the foot of ice wall. German too appeared at the edge of snow field. At the foot of ice wall it was team two gathered along with “delta lima” and “papa sierra”. It was already after noon and none of the member from team two had begin to climb the ice wall and cover the route pitches1 that had already been opened and climbed by team one. It was a time to take another call by “delta lima” who had met with skie accident and injured his leg couple of months ago. His torn muscle ligament was still healing. Making rough mental calculations he decided to give his load to his buddies and no to climb the wall today. He decided to do it next day when we planned to reach the summit camp in a single go unlike this time when we had to return from as far as possible. Putting his leg at risk today, was not worth. So he decided to wait till every one returns after dumping their load as far as route gets opened. “delta lima” returned back to join German who had approached close by. We were clear that they will camp in a suitable place in snow field. Team two had begun to climb. I decided to begin in the end. It was past 1 pm by now. I could sense that we are running out of time. We must be back to ABC before sunset. One by one every once crossed first and steepest pitch of almost 80 degree. I was still waiting for this pitch to get free of two climbers ahead of me who took lot of time to free it and switch to second pitch. By the time I began and switched on to second pitch after deploying the apex of my strength to cross first pitch it was already 2 pm. The last climber I could see ahead of me had already passed ahead of my line of sight and I was alone on this pitch. I had no idea for how long I will be alone on this pitch, no one to contact ahead and behind me. I analyzed the steepness and distance of the rope till the end of my line of sight and concluded that it was going to take another 45 minutes and till then it would already be 3 pm. I began to make calculations. It seemed to me that it would take me another one hour to reach the last climber and by that time the first team along with the members who had reached their last point of route opened, would return back. I began to ask myself should I go ahead or return. Going ahead seemed futile now because time was running out. Returning back was going to be a decision that would had not earned me respect if no disrespect even. I stopped for a while and could see Germans still dig in the snow in a hope to find their tents and rope. While “DELTA LIMA” talking to herald who had already pitched a tent at a safe place.
Disheartened with the situation and my loneliness, I began to retreat and reached the end of pitch one , to which I had to give 30 minutes when I climbed it. Reaching the bottom of this pitch all I could sense was disgust and aggression. I always hated the idea to make too many calculations. It was due to these calculations that I was at the bottom after climbing so hard and crossing pitch one. I was frustrated and angry at myself. I always like the sense of my aggressions and I knew I have less time. I made one last mental calculation about the time, speed and efforts. I decided to re climb and reach the team, no matter what, and began to climb. With double efforts I crossed pitch one once again. I felt like I was almost talking to the God now. The strength of my arms and drive of my spirit was violent .I kept pushing myself , and reached the middle of the second pitch and saw the world behind me from that steep point ,it was frightening and I was in the middle of this. With my mind alert and well aware of the time remaining I maintained my rhythm and kept climbing till I could see the last member still climbing ahead, as I reached ahead of my previous line of sight. People were still on the move all I had to do was join them. I reached them. Nothing pushes you when you know pushing ahead it the only option and nothing keeps you strong until you know staying strong is the only option. By 4 :30 PM I reached the last climber when I could see load dumping area 50 meters ahead of me. Two climbers from team one i.e. “ mike delta” and “Asif” had returned after handing the task of securing the load and equipment another rugged climber “Anwar Hussain”. When I met them I saw a smile of acknowledgement on their faces and patting on my shoulder they crossed me and went down. On reaching close to Anwar Hussain he appreciated me to finish the mission. We had less time ,sun was about to set so we quickly unloaded ourselves and secured our load in a sack and anchored it to a rope safely. While returning back it was Anwar Hussain , and myself. It was a perfect time to interact with each other. The pride and satisfaction of having the task accomplished successfully made my fatigue unfelt though reaching back to camp was still going to take long time. We kept our pace steady and kept side way rappelling down the wall. He was surprised to know that I returned back and again climbed back to reach them. He was amused but he acknowledged the strength of my will and efforts. When we climbed down the wall all the members had already gathered around “delta lima” and only we and two climbers ahead of us were awaited. On joining them I was given a thumps up by “delta lima”. It was a sign that I met their expectations and earned their faith as a mountaineer. I learnt that Germans had lost their tents that they planned to use for summit camp and rope too was missing. They could not track back their cash2 even with GPS3 trackers. Their cash location was lost under thick snow or probably driven away with avalanche in past few days when we were in base camp during bad weathers. Sun was on the verge of setting and we moved towards the glacier and traversed it happily and reached our camp in ABC. Task was not yet over one last big climb awaited till we reach the summit camp tomorrow. With these thoughts and mental preparations we had our dinner in the same windy night under open sky outside small kitchen that was made inside a trench and covered with a plastic sheet. These winds were not new to us now. Sky was clear and that’s all we needed for two more days. Stepping out of tent had been a herculean task early morning due to chilling swift winds blowing across ABC, though it had to be done. I peeped out of my tent .Team one once again was ready to leave .Today’s task was to reach the summit camp. We all gathered outside to exchange best wishes before they left and we followed them after two hours. Crossing the glacier, passing by German camp in snow field we reached the foot of ice wall and began to climb the wall. “delta lima” along with “papa sierra” went ahead of me and in the end it was Anwar Hussain , Asif Ali , and myself. Taking short breaks ,clicking pictures and refueling ourselves with little eatables we reached point where we dumped our load a day before and redistributed it among ourselves to be carried to summit camp. It was around 4 pm that we reached summit camp. Summit camp was situated on a vast flat plateau with Mt. Jogin 1 and Jogin 2 in the back ground.
Jogin 1 had a huge surface avalanche that appeared to be fresh. With all the tents pitched by team one that reached early we were welcomed by the team members that were already their. We wasted no time to eat , drink and sleep till 11 pm when we were to leave for summit. Days spent so far in this expedition had tested me enough I knew that I was close to my threshold of stamina though my will power was undeterred. Night approached and everything became dead silent and frighteningly cold and dark. “papa sierra” who was second in command after “delta lima” sent an alarm at 11 pm from his tent for everyone to get ready. It was time – 0 hour4. All the men were ready and had gathered outside and I was the last one to step out of the tent. We all got roped up and rechecked each other’s gear and equipment. “delta lima” too was outside and shook hands with all of us one by one. He planned to stay in the summit camp. His presence in the summit camp was enough for his boys to look up to him as a leader. Recalling God- the almighty ,I along with the team set off towards the summit. Summit was right in front of us ,but reaching it was not as easy as it seemed. It was a last easy route to be followed but powder snow made it difficult to step forward. To add on to my problems I was struggling with my dry mouth due to MTR5 food I had in the tent. It became difficult for me to tolerate it beyond words. Sipping water in the breaks was of no help. As I was moving with the team I had to match their pace. Complaining of dry throat was a matter of insult at that time so I couldn’t afford to be an hurdle to anyone until we return back to base camp. Behind me was Anwar Hussain from whom I asked for a toffee so that that it could moist my mouth while I keep it in my mouth. It helped a little until we reached last steep slope to be climbed and reach summit. It was 5 am when we all gathered at the foot of this steep slope and discuss a plan to climb this last section. In order to save time we decided not to fix ropes and sent two best climbers ahead to analyze if rope will be required or not. Cramponing and using peak position of our ice axe we began to climb this last section and finally reached the summit of Mt Jogin 1 (6400 M) at 0600 hrs, 29th September 2017 .Their was a strange silence in my soul ,hands and toes freezing and breaths lighter. Our mission had been accomplished and it was radioed from 6400 M to the base camp -“Bharat mata ki jai” (hail India) “BSF ki jai”(Hail BSF) “Jogin maata ki jai”(Hail Godess Jogin).I had made a mark amongst them by now and was greeted by all team members. They knew it was not easy to keep along with them as they were part of special mountaineering team of BSF.
We gathered at a comfortable place to sip hot tea out of our thermoses and felt first ray of sunlight on our faces. Their were humble smiling faces all around me. We began returning to summit camp and met Olaf and Jana on their way to Jogin 1. They climbed up last night from the snow field where they camped. On reaching summit camp and joining “delta lima” we all were satisfied. Next plan was to leave for ABC in couple of minutes and have lunch in ABC and move towards BC. While I was in the tent packing my ruck sack I heard “delta lima” addressing his men “Today we have accomplished what we were here for since so long, congratulations .I have seen you guys ,just remain the same and keep this unity intact.” I was impressed as a leader was acknowledging the grit and capability of his team. We left for ABC and met Hareld still trying hard to find his lost tent and ropes. I informed him of my latest achievement and plan to be joined by Jana ,Olaf himself after they returned to base camp. Getting congratulated by Herald was another matter of respect as he was the most senior mountaineer amongst BSF and Germans. On reaching glacier, second team was on their way to summit camp .They had shifted to ABC a day before when we left for summit camp. Exchanging the greetings both teams left for their respective destinations. Having lunch in ABC and packing our remaining stuff we left for base camp where we reached by evening. This expedition was over at least for “delta lima’s” team and for me. Team two and three of BSF had shifted to ABC and was yet to summit and return in next two or three days . German members returned next day after a successful summit while I was preparing for a tea party as I had invited “delta lima’s” and his team to my camp for tea. In the best of mountaineering traditions, for tea we were joined by “DELTA LIMA” , his team and other BSF officials present at the base camp. By this time there was an atmosphere of true mountaineering which is rare to be seen these days. Every other climber wants to reach the top of world compromising mountaineering and leadership ethics. “delta lima” and his team had to leave for road head tomorrow morning therefore this was our last evening together. I went to “delta lima” personally and thanked him for his assistance.
“Thank you sir, for your help so far. Although thank you is a small word. But that’s all I can say right now”
Patting my shoulder he said
“You were meant for this peak. I was just a medium .Though we observed you from the beginning, God wanted you to be on the top of his abode. ”
Liaison officer : A liaison officer is a person who liaises between two organizations to communicate and coordinate their activities. Generally, liaison officers are used to achieve the best utilization of resources or employment of services of one organization by another
IMF : Indian Mountaineering Foundation is an apex national body which organize and support, mountaineering and rock climbing expeditions at high altitudes in the Himalayas. The organization also promote and encourage schemes for related adventure activities and environmental protection work in the Indian Himalayas
Rishikesh : Rishikesh is a city, municipal corporation and a tehsil in Dehradun district of the Indian state, Uttarakhand. Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, it is known as the ‘Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas’ and ‘Yoga Capital of the World’.
Aarti : Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities
Hinduism : Hinduism is an Indian Dharma, or a way of life, widely practiced in South Asia. Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, and some practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal tradition,” or the “eternal way,” beyond human history.
Gangotri : Gangotri is a town and a Nagar Panchayat (municipality) in Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. It is a Hindu pilgrim town on the banks of the river Bhagirathi and origin of River Ganges.
Recccae : the process of getting information about enemy forces or positions
Acclimatization : Acclimatisation (also called acclimation or acclimatation) is the process in which an individual organism adjusts to a change in its environment (such as a change in altitude, temperature, humidity, photoperiod, or pH), allowing it to maintain performance across a range of environmental conditions
Kedartaal : Kedartal is a glacial lake situated at an altitude of 4,750 metres (15,580 ft) in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas in India.
Bhauj kharak : Bhoj Kharak perched at altitude if 3,780 metres is a resplendent campsite on the way to Kedar Tal
NCC (national cadet corps) : The National Cadet Corps is the Indian military cadet corps with its Headquarters at New Delhi, Delhi, India. It is open to school and college students on voluntary basis.
Blue sheep’s : The bharal or Himalayan blue sheep or naur (Pseudois nayaur) is a caprid found in the high Himalayas of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and Pakistan. Its native names include bharal, barhal, bharar and bharut in Hindi, na or sna in Ladakh, nabo in Spitian, naur in Nepali and na or gnao in Bhutan.
Himachal Pradesh : Himachal Pradesh is a state of India located in North India. It was carved out of former East Punjab like HarJana, Delhi and Punjab
kinaur : Kinnaur is one of twelve administrative districts in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, India
Shimla : Shimla is the capital of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan foothills. Once the summer capital of British India
BC : Base camp
Dehradoon : Dehradun is the capital of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, near the Himalayan foothills.
VHF radio : VHF radio refers to the radio frequency range between 156.0 and 174 MHz, inclusive. The “VHF” signifies the very high frequency of the range
I N I T I A L S T R U G G L E S .
ABC : Advance base camp. This camp is a set up after base camp.
Glacier : A glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries
Rappelling : An abseil, also called a rappel after its French name, is a controlled descent off a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope
Fixed Ropes : In mountaineering fixed ropes are the ropes that are anchored to a firm base with a help of anchoring equipment. These fixed ropes are used as a support to climb ahead and also as a support while descending.
Crux : Any difficult geographical section.
Jummared : An ascender is a mechanical device used for ascending on a rope. One such device is a Jumar
Pauri Garhwal district : Pauri Garhwal is a district in Uttarakhand state of India, with Pauri town as its headquarters.
Rudraksh : Rudraksha, Sanskrit: rudrākṣa, is a seed traditionally used as prayer beads in Hinduism
T H E L A S T A R E N A
Pitches : A Particular section on any rock or a mountain
GPS : The Global Positioning System, originally Navstar GPS, is a space-based radio navigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force.
Cash : A small enclosed area to keep things.
0 hour : The hour at which a planned military operation is scheduled to start .
MTR : A private company that provides packed food preserved so that it can be eaten anytime within it expiration limit.
Himalayan Trekking and mountaineering were never the way we see it happening today. Since the medieval era tribes and communities have been walking on foot up hill with loads on there back and cattle along. These tribes shifted from lower altitude to higher altitude with their families and cattle seasonally with the aim to sustain their living ,which basically depended on cattle. these groups made temporary camps and settlements before shifting further up. Meadows covered with grass during pre monsoon to autumn attracts these tribes well known as Gujjars , Gadis and Bakarwaals. Even today in 21st century the practice prevails..The way we see it today, trekking was introduced to the world by colonel jimmy Robert , of british army during 1960’s during his stay in Nepal. The demand of the supplies to the troops in the mountains of Nepal was met with the help of Sherpas. Sherpas along with the supplying troops had to walk on rigorous tracks with a planned schedule to drop the supplies. over the time hiking got adopted as a hobby worldwide. Numerous big brand emerged to provide clothing and accessories for trekking to enhance a good experience and meet the growing needs of the trekkers.
Mountaineering on the other hand has always been part of human culture. Himalayan mountaineering is more than just scaling heights, it has religious sentiments and practices involved since centuries. Almost every peak has a religious sentiments ,faiths and stories associated with it be it Mt. Manimahesh , Mt .Shivling ,Mt.Nanda Devi, Mt.Saser kangri etc.
History’s first recorded mountaineer is Antoine de Ville, lord of Domjulien and Beaupré, who climbed Mont Aiguille in 1492.
Mountaineering gained attention when Mount Everest was scaled by
Tenzing Norgay ,Born Namgyal Wangdi in 1914, Tenzing Norgay was a Nepali Indian Sherpa mountaineer who reached the Everest summit just behind Sir Edmund Hillary.
Today mountaineering has dedicated and organized system of Govt organizations that look into the affairs related to Indian mountaineering .These institutes also train civlian’s and defense personnel’s .Special schools like High altitude warfare schools , Siachen Battle Schools, have been set up with strategic ambitions and to train soldiers in high altitude warfare. The training is focused much on mountaineering aspects.
Siachen battle school. High altitude warfare school.
There has been no clear cut line that differentiates trekking and mountaineering. Though both these activities vary in terms of training, preparedness, logistics, time, goals, fitness, scope, exposure to adversaries.
Trekking is a moderate activity that demands moderate fitness level with minimum training.
It involves short duration planning with lesser logistics most of which fits in a single bag .
Trekking in general is confined to altitudes reaching up to 3-4 thousand M.
Mountaineering, on the other hand, requires different stages of training like basic training, advanced training, specialised training focused on search and rescue operations.
The demand of physical strength is quite high maintenance of the same needs base and specific training.
A trained mountaineer is well versed with the rock climbing, ice, snow climbing, rescue tactics.
Mountaineering is M cube – mind ,muscles ,money. Mental application and ability to adapt and meet to the needs in diverse and hostile situations is of paramount importance.
It involves long stretch expeditions . Mountaineers in any expedition could be divided in to number of small teams of HAP(high altitude potters),cooking , route openers , logistics , radio communications .Every expedition has a Leader , deputy leader, quarter master , equipment in charge .
Mountaineering expedition requires involvement of various Govt departments and officials like IMF , police , Liaison officers, weather centre , department of tourism , forest department in special cases, All India radio ,district administration army.
Comparison between trekking and mountaineering on different aspects.
In today’s challenging times where we face global crisis of environment detritions ,global warming , natural hazards , terrorism , economics etc .trained mountaineers have shown the role with huge success.
During the Uttrakhand disaster it were the trained mountaineers who responded to the call of required services to rescue strangled civilians along with the defense and paramilitary and police .
Identifying the need of having such trained individuals Government of Uttarakhand established SDRF (state disaster relief force) these men are trained in mountaineering and search and rescue operations in the mountains and else where. Several expeditions are being sent to various mountains across the nation to clean the mountains. Mountaineering is a holistic training package which involves leadership and management of paramount degree.
Founder & CEO
The Mountain Knights
(Shahid is a mountaineer of wide scale experience of having scaled numerous mountains successfully . Having done his part as a software developer and in various MNC’s he now provides training to the young and old in self sufficiency outdoor courses focused on survival )
“My client is pathetic but he is pushing himself well”.
“Who is he?” pointing out at me visually he asked Tenzing.
“He is a friend, just met him on the way.”
His client reaching closer he resumed his descent along with his client.
We were about 200 meters below the shoulder that lead towards the summit of stock Khangri (6153 meters).
My two teammates from Poland were already on the shoulder of the peak. The third one was ahead of me and the fourth was behind me. I was in no hurry to move ahead. The pace was good and I was enjoying the company of the rugged boys of Ladakh I met on the way with their clients. I was also in no mood to leave Pawel behind although he would have reached the summit without me too, but it was my moral responsibility to keep a vigil on everyone. For now, only he was close to me so there was no point leaving him and running ahead.
15 30 June 2015
Detailing of Liaison Officer (LO) with Foreign Expedition
Reference your letter dated 12.02.2015 for detailment as a LO of Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) with foreign expedition during the year 2015.
You have now been nominated as LO with Polish expedition to peak Nun (7077M) in J&K Himalaya from 07.08.2015 to 06.09.2015.
You are requested to report to IMF, New Delhi on 07.08.2015 between 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. for briefing, filling up of forms tieing up with the leader of the expedition and for other administrative formalities.
(Raj Kumar Yadav )
I applied for LO for Indian mountaineering foundation, having been chosen for the same. I accepted to accompany the team of 4 men from Poland to Mount Nun (7135 meters).On reaching the IMF I was briefed about my duties and responsibilities, handed over the documents to be forwarded to 8 mountain brigade, Superintendent of police, Kargil, department of tourism, and district magistrate in Kargil. On the arrival of the polish climbers. We were introduced to one another and briefed about do’s and don’ts. Polish team left for Leh next morning from IGIA to Leh. I choose to reach Leh by bus all the way through Manali, Rohtang pass and finally to Leh. Coming days were going to ask me to take tasks unplanned and unprepared. I reached my hotel by evening in Leh. When I met my fellow climbers in the hotel. To my surprise, they were all set to leave for Mt.Stok kangri(6,153 m ) next morning.There was no acclimatisation rules to be followed .I wasn’t the leader of the expedition to Mt Nun for which we were here. Stok was going to be the acclimatisation peak before finally moving towards Mount Nun. I was not to take decision for them, my job was to act as a coordinator between them and Government authorities though I had a liberty to climb with them at my own risk. I had already been to mount Stok kangri base camp and climbed Mt Golab kangri(6025 meters ) from the same base camp. I was tuned up with the terrain towards the base camp. The terrain was not an issue for me, moving tomorrow base camp without acclimatisation was also no issue. The issue was something else and it was turning serious now. Before leaving from Delhi I had a fever for which I did not take any medications, hoping it will lower soon. I needed rest and medication to lower my fever, and this was not going to happen now. leaving for Stok will increase the fever.I had a paracetamol hoping it will lower the temperature. It was not enough. I had to keep drinking water in order to lower temperature and to stay fit in terms of acclimatisation. Early next morning we left for Stok kangri base camp. We were taken to the point where the road ended and the trail began towards the Stok base camp. Polish members had breakfast there itself on the road side, raw meat with bread brought from Poland. I ordered a plate of noodles in a small restaurant at the roadside. Porters were to arrive by now, which did not happen. The agency hired to provide base camp services was responsible for this. waiting for porters would have wasted lot of time. Polacy were eager to leave for base camp. I was not sure how good was there team spirit , and how welcoming they were to me in there team. So far I was just an LO eager to climb with them nothing more than that .They had not seen me climbing .Though I was to be seen by them later. I was aware of the route towards the base camp. I could reach the BC without them too. It always felt good taking responsibility, bringing my management and decision making into use. I volunteered to stay behind and wait for the porters and horses. Polacy left their heavy luggage behind with me to be loaded with the mules and horses and left for the BC. When the porters arrived in an hour I helped them in loading their luggage’s and kept my 30 kg rucksack on my back. Fever was still showing its effect on my body, not on my spirit. The potters gave me a grin, thinking that I will give up in middle of the route under the effect of rucksacks wait. I could observe and analyse that. Being young and from mountains, I was physically tough and mentally not weak.Though I was not up to the required level of physical fitness when compared to my other soldier friends and experienced mountaineer’not even. I was an athlete or a sport lover. Though I possessed an athletic physical structure. My motivation always came from my never dying desire to be on the frontline , live the comradeship and lead the men into combat. This desire was not lived yet, and kept me in physical , moral and mental shape. Mountaineering was still easy than facing bullets.
I was two hours behind Polacy and I had no hope to catch them on the way. I was not worried about it I had plenty of time reach base camp before dark if I don’t waste time and maintain my pace. We left towards BC while traversing the route, I could flash back all the events and memories associated with this route. I could see her and myself walking together and resting at different locations , sipping water from the same bottle at different resting locations .I wasn’t missing those days not her. She was not worth it. Often people need a company for short term , we don’t fit in there long term plans. God has his own ways to get us rid of people not meant for us. I learnt in the past that after me she broke with a guy from Navy and got along with a captain from Army. I did my job as a human then , I was going to do it always. Having felt this I had no regrets. I have always been a sentimental person. I found it to be the essence of humanity. Life had taught me that many will come and many people will go. I always welcomed everyone , and did not let them go. With time I realized that if someone wants to leave let them leave. Who is of your worth will stay. It was after noon and I was half way through with porters sometime ahead of me sometimes behind. At sunset, I reached base camp, winds swift and chilling. Stok base camp has always been packed with climbers from all over the world . Polacy spotted me and were happy to see me. May be they were happy to see their luggage arriving safely. When I unloaded myself and began to pitch tent. I was happy to be pointed out at a spot reserved for my tent. When I began to pitch my tent Suchy approached to help me in pitching of the tent. It was the first sign of team work that I wanted to see from them.
Day 2: Acclimatisation.
Having reached at an altitude of 4500 M in two days without following proper acclimatisation schedule that too with fever my days ahead were going to get worse. Fever had taken a hike, my body needed rest, I knew it but I was not going to do it. I relied on another tablet of paracetamol and plenty of water. Day two in ladakh and first in bc was meant for acclimatization. We scrambled the slopes towards the mount stock and gained about 200-500 mtrs . Miraculously I couldn’t feel the effect of fever during the entire height gaining. It was good opportunity to get along with Polacy and get to know each other better as mountaineers .We matched each other’s pace. Before returning back we sat and rested on top of a rocky hill and analyzed the route towards the Mt. Stok which was to be climbed soon. Putting forward individual views we could add to some humor much needed to break the ice. We returned back safe and sound to base camp where we rested until next morning approached. The base camp was packed with beautiful girls most of them were not as a climber but as a tourist and were to stay in BC itself. I was getting tempted.
Day 2: Lucky flirt.
Next morning was again reserved for acclimatisation because Pawel was not feeling well. Effect of the sudden altitude gain made me sick. He had taken medics and was recovering fast. Polacy were unaware of my sickness. They couldn’t see any sign of it so far. We left for height gaining on the same route like previous day and went an hour of extra walk which finished at the starting of the snow line. From here we could see the mount Stok Kangri’s route but the peak was covered behind the clouds. It was a good time to turn around by noon now. Polacy turned around and went ahead .I signaled them to keep moving forward and catch them in a short while. I decided to sit on a rock for couple of minutes and analyze the peak and its route. This provided me some extra time to be just with myself in this vast solitude. While I was about to leave I heard someone urinating behind the rocks , which acted as an obstruction to my vision. I could recognize it to be a female. I felt little lucky as I could walk back while talking to her, or may be flirting. I realized that she was about to get up and in couple of seconds we would be facing each other, that could had embarrassed her. So I quickly went couple of steps backwards to give an impression on her getting up that I was not sitting like a spy but I just reached here. The plan worked when I started approaching in her direction she was already up and trekking down and perceived me to be trekking towards her direction.
I waved a hand and she smiled. My half job was done because it was something more than smile which I noticed. Her 3-secondd gaze in my eyes with smile. I was referred to a book named as “The game”. I came across one of thousands of ways to predict what a females physical gesture say about her mind. The three second technique was something already proven to be correct as I implemented it once when I was in Pushkar in Rajasthan, India where I got along very well with a French blonde before It was time for me to leave for my train in Ajmer.
“So! I guess you are returning back from the summit…”
“Yes I am “ she replied .“Where are your companions?”.
“They just went ahead .”I had already come across some climbers passing by me. “Ok ! lets go back to base…”
“Yes sure” she replied back. I learnt that she was from Germany and climbed a peak of 6000 meters for the first time. She was a swimmer and interior designer. By the time we approached close to BC I learnt she had a Boyfriend and I was also aware she is getting along with me quite well. Before we reached BC we had already exchanged our contact number and email id. She wanted to avoid herself getting noticed with me by her boyfriend and I had a prior understanding of that so we maintained appropriate distance on reaching BC. Even if I got noticed, It did not bother me. Being a male I understood well what could hurt a male’s ego .So I decided to maintain that needed distance. It was a successful day .I patted myself and Polacy enquired about blush on my face .In the base camp next to my tent was a tent of someone with whom once again kept flirting for all the remaining time. She was a beautiful dark complexion south Indian girl working for Google in Singapore. Her boy friend kept calling her, I guess he was insecure with our involvement. It was already evening by now and we slept early after having our dinner.
Day 3 A challenging surprise.
Next morning was fresh as I could feel the effect of fever diminishing .We decided not to do much climbing today. So it was going to be a leisure day. I went to the base camp restaurant-“Mitra” and had my breakfast. It was a restaurant made up of torn up parachute used as shelter with a wall of rocks arranged in a circular manner. Inside, the tent was filled with the smell of kerosene oil the only fuel for cooking. The sitting arrangement was on the mats on the floor with two rows of low height tables keeping eating utensils and a lamp. By now I was well familiar with the owner of the Mitra. He was bossy and sarcastically humorous , his humor was meant to entertain only himself and his boys. He was a local unrecognized boss of the base camp. I liked his bad ass attitude , but it was not going to work on me. As a result of which we had unexposed friendly intentions towards each other. I like the way he was looking after his staff. They were young rough boys. Laughing , cooking, washing, eating, daytime drinking and sleeping. I spend the day hanging around with the staff of Mitra and base camp fellows. I wondered why did the Polacy sleep for the whole day inside their camp, I had no idea. Something was not normal today. I could sense it. The evening approached the German girls and her companions just crossed my tent. They were leaving I did not showed up to them. I was not feeling well by now and the sense of something not normal was making me restless. Germans left the BC .I went in my tent and tore away the paper with her contact number. What is it that was making me uncomfortable ? I had no idea. The sun was down I was passing my time since morning, sometimes inside my tent sometimes outside my tent. I decided to have my dinner around 7 pm as usual in the mountains and go to sleep. My fever was high by now. I was under the impression that we were to leave for summit climb tomorrow after sunset, so I decide to rest appropriately. Time passed, base camp was silent only the sound of winds outside me tent could be heard. I was sleeping fine. So were the Polacy since long time.
12:30 a.m. I could hear the sound of tents unzipping around me. Some fast activity happening, sounds of metal clicking and people talking to one another in low volume. It seemed as if someone is getting ready for something major. Suddenly Pawel tapped my tent hardly. It just alarmed me.
“Are you coming ? we leave in next 10 minutes.” My sleep vanished as if I was never sleeping. Shocked I was .”What ? are we leaving right now?”. I understood that these crazy people were leaving for summit climb tonight itself. I wasn’t prepared for this but it was not the time to clarify the matter and decision.These people were already in their full gear while I was still in my sleeping bag. They were not going to wait for me. Now I realised why were they sleeping since so long.They were taking full rest to explode their energy in climbing. It was time. It was more than a climbing expedition for me now. I could visualise myself in a battle field where the enemy just attacked with heavy artillery and intruded with superior fire power, I could visualize that the life of my troops depends on me now. I need to charge back. In just a matter of a few seconds I replied “ok I am coming give me five minutes”
I decided to leave for climbing , my fever was high. I switched on my head lamp quickly wore my down pant and wind cheater above my warm clothes, gathered my water bottle, ice axe, crampons , boreal climbing shoes. Slid my hands in gloves. I was ready. I felt like I was ready with my battle gear. I was full of spirit but the effect of fever was over whelming and my energy was of concern to me. Polacy were inside Mitra filling there bottles with warm water and eating porridge quickly. I went in and the staff boy who was awake on duty saw my face. He asked me ,“Were you guys not going to leave tomorrow for summit?” “There was misunderstanding , we were supposed to leave tonight ” I replied .”what !were you sleeping ?” ,”yes”.
“Are you sure who want to leave in this condition? You look unwell.”
“Yes, I will climb and see you tomorrow morning. ”
He was also young and tough he knew well what it takes for a person to make the decision I had taken. He offered me warm porridge .I tried to eat as much as possible but could eat only little. Giving a head nod of assurance he said “all the best and stay safe”. I did not smile but I had a serious look and replied ”See you soon”.
The Polacy began to climb , I was in the middle .Two Polacy ahead and two behind me. I covered my half face with the black mask .And with this done I took the first step in the name of the God. My heart pounding fast, muscles feeling the pain , uneasy breath reminded me of the level of efforts I was required to make. Climb was going to be long. We finished 45 degree slope without snow and ice on it and reached the section where the snow line began the same spot where I met the German girl. It was time to change our shoes. we wore our boreal and fixed crampons underneath. It was good to see Tomack keeping and eye on me while I wore the shoes and crampons. He offered two high quality glucose tablets from Poland. They were just to be kept in mouth till It would dissolve itself. By now I was well enough charged because what waited ahead had not room for me to consider my fever and fatigue. I had to let it go. I was still capable of climbing. I just needed to hang on to my will power and mental alertness. The game was on. We began to negotiate the snow line .steepness increasing with every step. We met a few climbers returning unsuccessfully .They had left before us from the base camp. There reviews were of no business to me, I was on the slope and climbing step by step. I knew I had fever, I kept a check on my condition. Its was a green light to carry on .I could still push myself. The closer we reached to the summit farther it was in reality. The higher we reached , higher It was every time. It was dawn and time was around 6 am .I came across a young Ladakhi boy motivating a city lad. This ladakhi was also exhausted as he was not just climbing but also taking care, motivating and helping his client. I reached closer to him and stood to take rest. We exchanged our hello visually and with a head nod. We introduced ourselves and got friendly .His name was Tenzing . I shook hand with his client as he too reached. He was from Gurgaon, surprisingly well mannered and smiling willing to carry on. It was good to be in this challenging times with young boys of my age. Polacy were already ahead of me except one, Pawel. Pawel was climbing slowly so was I as I was in no hurry .I wanted to reach the summit together with him and newly met boys. We decided to continue climbing and stood after sometime when we came across another Ladakhi , who was returning back to his client who was too weak to reach the summit. He was pissed off at his condition and looked relaxed at the same time. He and Tenzing began talking while resting ,they knew each other.
“How is it going Tenzing ?
“ Aah! fine , this boy is too slow, what about you ?
“My client is pathetic but he is pushing himself well” .“ Who is he?” pointing out at me visually he asked tenzing .
”He is a friend , just met him on the way ”.
His client reaching closer he resumed his descend along with his client .