20th - 21st
We packed our bags and started for the ABC at around 9.30am.. The ABC was at around 5300 mts but the route was longish and was full of boulders. We crossed our first water stream on this “trek”. It was the first time on a trek that I was climbing with a lot of load on my back. Usually it would be just my day pack, but today, I had to carry my entire rucksack The initial climb was alright, but as we climbed more, I started to get tired and dehydrated. The whole climb was on boulders and scree. Earlier we had decided to do the load ferry, establish camp and the attempt the summit. But then Kaushal suggested that we could do it alpine style. We liked the idea, but I had not realized that even then we would need to carry so much of load. The climb would not have been that difficult if I would have had to carry the rucksack. But this was also part of our training.
I was very slowly moving ahead with my rucksack, after sometime my legs started shivering and it was almost getting impossible for me to walk.
It was only about 100m left when I asked Bhagwan Das if he would carry my rucksack. This is something which I did with a very heavy heart..I wanted to reach my destination on my own merit and strength but the altitude was killing and so was the dehydration.
We reached ABC later in the afternoon. The views from the ABC were wonderful.
We could even see Las Vegas of Lahaul, Bharatpur down below.
Saying, this place was windy would be an understatement. It was windy like crazy and after sometime it started to snow lightly as well. Infact, we experienced the four seasons, all in the next few hours. Heavy wind, harsh sun, rain and then snow. This clearly says how unpredictable the weather is at these altitudes.
It took some time for us to adjust to this altitude. We carried our water glasses and our plates and we had to clean them. The water was directly coming from the glacier and touching the water itself was a big mission. No body wanted to think about headache or AMS but we simply couldn't avoid it.
Generally I never play cards in the mountains because I some how feel it is kind of disrespectful to the mountains, however during this trek, we did play cards few times.
In the evening, we didn’t have any thing much to do. Going from one tent to another was a great ordeal in itself, so exploring the surroundings was totally ruled out as everyone wanted to preserve their energy for the summit day.
As the evening progressed, it became extremely cold, We had an early dinner and decided to hit the sacks. Sandeep and I decided to sleep in kitchen tent itself. For quite sometime Sandeep was talking to Tikkam Da, a very senior guide with our group.
Tikkam Da has spent all of his 60+ years in the Himalayas and has done a lot of climbing and trekking. He told quite many stories as well. One of the stories he told was when he was on one of the higher camps on Mt. Kamet, he saw all the Gods of the heavens come down and dance on the mountains, all with mridangs and tablas and other instruments. He also told stories of evil spirits and how they sometimes haunt trekkers and mountaineers. Now this wasn't very comforting.
After sometime we decided to sleep, as we had to wake up around 3.30 in the morning. The night was cold and windy. I was sleeping in the corner of the kitchen tent and could feel the cold air come into the sleeping bag. I couldn’t sleep for a while and waited for the morning.
We woke up at 3AM in the morning and had some tea and oat porridge. Rinku asked Sandeep and me to go ahead, so we started earlier at around 4:10 AM with Sushma ji and Bhagwan Das. It was total dark outside, the sky was totally clear and we could see all the stars. Moiz, Dan and Chris started at around 4.30 AM with Rinku ji.
We were on the South-East face of the mountain. We were making slow progress and enjoying the surroundings (whatever we could see using our head torches). There were some patches of snow, but most of the way was on boulders and scree..
I was feeling very confident and was walking at a good pace, but the altitude was killing. With every few steps one deep breath-resting step was necessary. It was still dark so we couldn’t take any photos. After sometime we met Dan and Chris. Moiz was behind with Rinku ji
Everything was going on well. Till this point I never imagined what would happen in the next 20mins. As the morning progressed, the intensity of wind increased suddenly. The weather also changed and it got very cold suddenly. There was a big rock on the way and everyone decided to rest on a ledge there for sometime and let the weather pass. As soon as I reached there, I thought I was feeling cold and numb. Within minutes, unknown to me why, I started shivering tried to lie down on the rocks. Sandeep tried to make me feel better by rubbing my hands and Dan even gave his spare jacket. But, I just couldnt understand what was goind around me. I started to feel dizzy. I tried to walk, but was not able to see the rocks also properly. My hands and feet were still feeling numb, I wasnt tired or exhausted, but never had this kind of feeling earlier. Whatever it was, it didn't look good, not at this altitude at least.
Rinku ji then told Sandeep to go ahead with the rest of the group. He told him, he would wait here with me for sometime and then come up a little later. It was only a little way ahead; we were about 200-300 mts away from the summit. So everyone went ahead, while Rinku ji and I rested on the rock ledge. My condition was not at all good. Actually there was no sun and I was feeling extremely cold. I don't know, but I started feeling hypothermic. I just couldn't do anything about it. Rinku ji saw me like that and decided that we would have to go down immediately. In that split second I too decided to go down. As I started to go down with Rinkuji, Sandeep saw me from above and he also turned back. I already knew he wouldn’t go ahead without me.
I remember back home one day Sandeep had asked me “Will you go ahead for the summit if I do not feel well at advance base camp”. And I immediately replied “There is no meaning of the summit for me, if it is without you.”. I did not know that this same thing would get repeated except instead of Sandeep, it was me, who decided to abort the summit.
While coming down, when I felt little better, I realized what I had done. After that all the way till the Advanced base camp I couldn't stop crying. I was feeling very very very bad. I was thinking about all the hard work that we had put in for this climb and how excited we were about our first climbing experience..
It was sheer bad luck. In the morning when I started, I never thought it was going to end like this. When we reached ABC and Tikkam ji saw me crying, he told me that Tenzing Norge used to say “A good mountaineer is one who comes back alive.” But I was inconsolable. I still couldn't understand why all this had to happen.
Well, I very well know that mountains will always be there and it is in their hands if they allow you to climb. We could always go back and climb any day if; provided we are alive. But I was still having a very bad feeling
Meanwhile, our other teammates; Moiz, Dan and Chris successfully did the summit. They reached the summit at around 9.30AM and by the time they came back to ABC, it was around already post noon.. After coming back, Moiz told us that even he was not feeling very well and the “mighty” Dan helped him on the last few meters from the summit.
I knew, how difficult it is when you can actually see the Summit, few meters are left but every step that you take is so demanding that you are totally left out of energy. At such high altitudes, it is very difficult to take care of your own self, and it requires great courage to help your teammates as well. It was very heart warming to see Dan and Chris helping us out , not just during this summit attempt, but throughout our adventure. In fact sometimes just few words of motivation are more then sufficient.
Moiz told us, Dan told him, he wouldn't go to the summit without Moiz. Those words meant a lot to Moiz and gave him the energy to go the remaining hundred odd meters.
Well everybody was happy when they came to ABC. We decided to take some rest then decided to go back to the BC. By this time I was feeling completely all right. Everyone one was tired but after the summit the spirits were high. By the time we descended, the level of water in the stream had grown. So instead of crossing the water, we had to take a longer route to get back to BC.
Hot pakodas we were waiting for us when we reached our camp. Everybody laid down in the dinning tent and shared their feelings on how they felt at the summit.
So that was it. It was going to be our last night and last supper on this trek. Chris and Dan prepared pasta for dinner. We celebrated the summit of our friends by gorging on the very delicious pasta.
After sometime we decided to go to sleep.