Monday, August 4, 2008

Training Days

15th July - 19th July

The going was not very good. All of us were battling the altitude and the terrain. The type of terrain was a little new to me. This place was extremely windy, extremely sunny and extremely dry. The first few days, Sandeep and I both had headaches so couldn’t sleep through out the night. Typically we used to wake up at 4 in the morning (we used to wait for the mornings eagerly), take a small walk for acclimatization, then try and come back to the tent and sleep. Invariably, we never used to get sleep again.

Today’s plan was to start around 8.30 for a walk till the glacier. We had our breakfast and started for the acclimatization walk. There was a small glacier about 250 to 300 meters above our camp and the plan was to go and spend the day on the lower part of the glacier. The terrain was full of boulders; different kinds of boulders and I do not like boulders. It took us around one and half hours to reach the lower part of the glacier. Rinku and Kaushal went further ahead to explore the area. I was talking to Sushma ji, Rinku’s wife for sometime. She herself is a climber and told me about her different expeditions and it was indeed nice talking to her. She is really a tough lady.

We explored the glacier for some time, recce-ed the area, spent some time exploring the surroundings and then decided to turn back. This whole area was to be our training ground.
Today we were going to learn about different types of climbing knots. So after lunch, we all met in the dining tent for the knots sessions where we spent time learning about different kinds of knots which are used while climbing and descending. It was fun and I actually forgot about my headache for sometime. After the knots session, in the evening, learnt a new game called “Wolf”, played it for sometime and spent the evening talking about AMS.


I could get some sleep last night. A daily routing in the morning; when we came out of the tent and met each other in the morning, instead of saying good morning, the first thing we used to ask “hey how are you feeling today?” And the answer was invariably always the “hmmm better then yesterday.”

Today we were going to start the actual training on snow. We had breakfast and started at around 8.30. Today we were carrying our mountaineering shoes and seat harnesses. We reached near the glacier and put on our shoes.

Rinku first showed different techniques on how to walk on the snow. The walking techniques were good. I didn’t know them earlier. We did lot of practice of each of the walking techniques. After that he showed how to do self-arrest while falling down in snow and then finally fast descending techniques on snow. The whole session was very good learning experience and by the time it was over, it was already 2 PM.

Everyone was tired because doing all such physical activity at close to 5000mts was not an easy task. After lunch at around 3.30, Kaushal took a test on the knots session. Both Sandeep and I failed :-) As the evening progressed, it was getting cold and I started to feel feverish. I was hoping to feel alright next day.


Today’s training was about different belaying and rappelling techniques. Everyday before starting, I used to think that today I would not exert much, as I was conscious of the fact that we were on high altitudes and did not want to expend my energy. But after starting the practice session, I used to feel energetic and did not want to stop. Infact looking at all the other members practicing used to give some kind of an impetus to me as well.

Belaying techniques are used while ascending and fixing the ropes. We divided ourselves in two groups with Chris, JP and I in one group and the rest of the members in the other group. We had selected an ice wall with a decent gradient on the glacier and we climbed around few meters using these techniques. While we were climbing, suddenly Rinku pushed one of the members and everyone started falling. This was a test for the self arrest techniques that we had learnt earlier. We spent a lot of time understanding and then practicing these techniques.

Rappelling was the one which I really wanted to learn because this is a very basic technique and I know that even normal trekkers like me should know about these techniques. Rappelling is used to descend down from a slope. We did this climbing and then rappelling down for quite some time. It was indeed very tiring but all of us were kind of enjoying the experience.

We came down to our camp late in the afternoon. Harsh was not feeling very well all this while. Although, all of us were still showing signs of AMS, Harsh was feeling it the most. One of the reasons was he had not eaten properly for the last two days because of the nauseating feelings. He wanted to try and have a change in taste; so decided to go down to the road and have something at one of the dhabas at Bharatpur. All of us decided to accompany him till there.
We had tea at the dhaba and after sometime, we decided it was time to head back. However Harsh, JP and Moiz decided to stay over at the dhaba itself, hoping it would give some relief. So Sandeep and I headed back to our camp along with Dan and Chris.
We didn't have much to do, so just whiled away the time at the campsite. Dan had a
board game and we spent some time playing that as well. We called it an early night today.


For me at least, todays was the toughest part of the training. In the morning, I was excited because we would be learning cramponing techniques today. As part of this, we would be climbing some ice walls as well..

While climbing towards the glacier, I felt I wasn't able to get sufficient oxygen and was breathing hard. The initial climb was quite irritating because of this. Everyday we used to leave our mountaineering boots behind some boulders near the glacier and then we used to put them on along with the harness. Today we had to climb much further up in the glacier, nearly at 5100 mts because we wanted a bigger ice wall for the training session. We had put on our crampons also. The first sessions were on ascending and descending on ice using crampons. For the next sessions, we went further up for learning the climbing techniques on ice wall using crampons and ice ax. This was real fun. Everybody was tired but performed like mountaineering pros.

This was the last day of training on glaciers. We were all extremely tired today as I felt we had done a lot of aerobic exercises at more that 5000 mts.
When we were having our lunch, JP told us that Harsh was planning to leave the next day. This was a sad news as I felt that when you go as a group, everybody’s presence is equally important and is required for the motivation of the team. We tried to convince Harsh but he had already made up his mind.


When we woke up in the morning, we got another bad news. JP was also planning to leave along with Harsh. JP was having chest pain for some time and he said he did not want to take any further chances. After Harsh's and JP’s departure, we were now only 5 people in the group.

Today's training was crevasse rescue, rock climbing, first aid and attending to a casualty. For a change, instead of walking towards the glacier, we walked down from the camp and then further up the road towards an area which was suitable for rock climbing. We might have walked around 3 kms from the camp.

Bhagwandas ji showed us how to do a crevasse rescue.

Some of us also attempted to do a mock rescue.

After this there was a training on rock climbing where the boys attempted to climb several of the rock walls around. I did not try my hands at this.

While coming back to the camp, we stopped over at Bharatpur where I finally tried the salted tea. The last thing, which was left as part of the training, was first-aid and attending to a casualty which we started to do post lunch.
Rinku showed us how to carry casualty in the mountains using ropes and sleeping mats. Chris and I happily became the mock casualty.

We also learnt how to make a stretcher using ropes. During the first-aid session, everybody asked lot of questions about edema and how people die because of edema. I thought, this was not a right time for these questions because tomorrow we would be starting for the summit.


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