The journey started from Bangalore where a team of 22 individuals from various walks of life had packed up their bags for an expedition to the mighty Himalayas. It was a train ride to New Delhi and from there we took a long back breaking journey from Delhi to Manali, a beautiful picturesque city located in the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. We halted for the night and for the first time I saw the mighty Himalayas from such close range. Though I have been to Missourie and other hill stations too but had seen the icy peaks through telescopes only. I was very excited that we were going to these and little scared too. This time these mountains were really close and their magnanimity was frightening.
First View Of Himalayas & Bias
We halted at Manali for one day. We had a small acclimatization march up a hill in Manali so that we could breathe easily in the high altitudes. Due to lack of oxygen at high altitudes it takes about 48-72 hours for human body to get acclimated. In this time period new red blood cells and capillaries get generated in the body. Also heart’s capacity to pump and lungs capacity too increases. I was looking forward to get apples from trees as Manali is famous for that and ate a lot of apples.
- Acclimatization in Manali
Next morning we left for a small town named Solang Nala. This place is famous for winter sports but only in winters when it is completely covered with snow. This time of year it was almost vacant with some construction workers building up some ropeway. Solang Nala was the last human habitation that we were about to pass. From Solang Nala we had a 6 km trek down the last motorized road that we were to see while climbing to a place called Dundi. Only military vehicles were allowed in the roads. Dundi has this Central government Avalanche research institute. From Dundi the real trek started through a jungle terrain.
- Moving Around in manali
The first thing that an individual from plains experience is the inability to perceive and understand height and distance. Someone had told us before that height and distances in Himalayas are very deceptive. What may seem very close may be miles away from you and you realize this when you start reaching for that place. In plains I definitely was able to figure out how far the landmark is but in these mountains I started realizing it only by the end of the expedition. Also walking one mile at those heights is equivalent to walking 3-4 in plains as one has to navigate through boulders and terrains and also deal with the shortage of oxygen.
After crossing Dundi we had to cross three more huge ridges and cross the mighty river Vyas river twice to reach our base camp. The tree line comprising of mostly pine tree was not visible after Dundi. Above this altitude it was almost grassland till our base camp. The terrain was covered with beautiful flowers. A sheep dog started following us from Dundi and was with us in the base camp. After crossing the three ridges we reached we reached to a rocky zone named as moraine.
Fron Solang Nala to Dhundi
A moraine is accumulated earth and stones deposited by a glacier. The moraine was part of glacier formation of Hanuman Tibba which helps feed the Vyas river. These huge stone structures provide anchorage to glaciers from flowing fast. It was very difficult to navigate through these moraines. Then we had to cross one more ridge to reach the base camp. The sight of base camp was pleasant after trekking for about 10 hours. A skier in our team said that one German team climbed up the Hanuman Tibba mountain, which is the highest in Himachal Pradesh at around 20000ft , and skied down to Solang Nala in 10 minutes. Obviously it was winter then and these moraines were covered with ice.
View of sSolang Nala fron Dundi
We stopped thrice on way to base camp from Dhundi. The height we achieved for that day was about 4000 ft. We were not acclimatized well and breathing was really difficult and adding to this I was carrying a very heavy luggage. The base camp was near the source of Vyas river names as Vyas Kund.
People were shouting that its getting dark and the whether will become really bad at night. Still the base camp was about 2-3 kms. Somehow I mustered enough strength to come down from the ridge and march straight to the base camp and when I reached there it was almost dark by now and cold has started to come in. The last stretch was like hell and I was about to fall down of exhaustion many times. Somehow I reached the base camp and dropped my luggage and fell down. I was completely wet with sweat but I had started shivering badly because of the cold. One of the seniors asked me to change the clothes or I will suffer from hypothermia pretty soon. But I didn’t had the strength even to change my clothes.
Trekking from Dhundhi to base camp
I was given some soup, drank it and went to one tent and sat on the floor completely exhausted and trying to regain some energy. After 15 minutes I heard that some people are trying to build camp fire from wood they collected while coming up. So I came out to get some heat from the fire but the fire won’t come up and not even K-oil was helping. This was the time when I for the first time I saw what was around me and where I had come.
There first sight of the place sent a chill down my spine. I was covered by huge mountains with shiny white tops all around me. We were in the valley and the sky was darker than what I had ever seen and the starts were twinkling brighter than what I had ever seen. The moon which was almost half at that time had more moonlight than what I had ever seen even if I consider my full moon sights. The snow at the peaks beautifully reflected the moonlight and clouds seemed like getting formed at the peaks and descended to the valleys. With brain almost functioning at half of its potential because of exhaustion and lack of oxygen at those altitudes, the scene looked ghostly as never before. May be if I had seen the mountains in the day time I would have admired the magnanimity and the beauty of the place but I wanted to go to sleep and get inside the tent to prevent myself from the biting cold. I could not even complete my dinner and went to sleep ASAP. But then I realized a very bad fact. You don’t get good sleep at high altitudes because of the lack of Oxygen.
The first Sight of Avalanche in the mighty Himalayas
With brain almost functioning at half of its potential because of exhaustion and lack of oxygen at those altitudes, the scene looked ghostly as never before. May be if I had seen the mountains in the day time I would have admired the magnanimity and the beauty of the place but I wanted to go to sleep and get inside the tent to prevent myself from the biting cold. I could not even complete my dinner and went to sleep ASAP. But then I realized a very bad fact. You don’t get good sleep at high altitudes because of the lack of Oxygen.
May be I was frightened that night because my ego must have got hurt. Looking at these structures make you realize how small you are in front of Mother Nature. How vulnerable are you in front of Mother Nature. I may have subconsciously realized whatever we do we still are kids in front of nature and we should respect them for what they are.
The first Sight of Base Camp from the Last ridge
The mountains that surrounded us were: Friendship Peak, Stitidhari, ladaki, Manali, Hanuman Tibba , Lady Leg and the Seven Sisters. There was also the Tentu Pass which one had to cross to sumit Hanuman Tibba. The name of this pass came from its resemblance to the watch timing of 10:02.
Anyways I had some sleep that night and got up next morning to actually appreciate was around me. The night was really cold. Heard few sounds of avalanches at night but didn’t come out to see them The previous team in this expedition really had a bad time with the whether. It was snowing almost all the time they were there and the area around us was covered with almost 1ft of snow. Only one team could summit the friendship peak but while coming down they were stuck in complete white out when the cloud descended on them. Somehow quick reaction from people near the Advance Base Camp prevented a major disaster and they managed to safely return to the safety of ABC.
The View of Mountains from Base Camp
The previous night in spite of being tired I could not sleep properly and I was dizzy all day long. Also I was using the sleeping bag for the first time and I was not used to sleep all packed and the bad had chocked my maneuver. Anyways I got up at 5:30. The morning I realized the beauty that abhorred me the previous night. May be it was my ego that got hurt the previous day. When you reach to those heights you realize how small you are in front of these massive structures that you unconsciously question your existence. It makes you realize how small you are in front of these massive mountains. When I reached the base camp in the very first day there was a sense of accomplishment but a bitter sense of realization that there is a long way to go and big distances and heights to be covered.
View of the Tent from inside
Anyways the morning was fresh and chilling and I enjoyed being in the mountains. It was like a dream come true. I always wished to see these snow capped mountains. The base camp was near Vyas Kund, the lake from which the mighty Vyas river originates. This place has also got some religious sentiments attached to it.
The target for this day was to get acclimatized to the mountains. We had our first round of acclimatization in Manali at about 8000 ft. This would be second round at 12000 ft without which further ascend would be impossible. So the task was to achieve some heights towards mighty Hanuman Tibba and touch the glaciers and come back.
The View from the Valley
We moved to the glacier mouth of one of the streams which fed the Bias river. While reaching there we witnessed snow leopard droppings. At first glace of glacier I thought that I was looking at an underground river originating from the crevices under the hill. Even one of the seniors in the expedition had told me before also that at the very first sight of the glacier you won’t realize it being the glacier. Later the hill that we imagined was the ice formation of the glaciers but it looked like a brown rock structure because of the layer of mountainous soil settled over the frozen rivers. Somebody removed the soil to show us the ice below it.
Glacier mouth to Bias river
Then we realized that we were actually on a glacier. There we also witnessed some berg falls on the glacier. Berg is the German name for rock and we saw huge boulders rolling down like anything. It was deadly and noisy. But when we were enjoying the scene somebody on the binoculars saw some guys rushing out tent and coming towards us in faster than usual speed. We thought something wrong happened to one guy who got sick while ascending the previous day. He vomited twice the previous day and was sick. We were worried if he was not stuck by high altitude sickness. So all of us rushed to the base camp but then I realized how difficult it to run was. Somehow we reached the base camp and all was well in there.
Frost on The Tent
In mountains high altitude sickness is a major killer and people don’t realize when they got it. There are two major high altitude sicknesses: HAPE & HAZE. HAPE is malfunctioning of heart at these high altitudes and you start vomiting blood and may lead to death. HAZE is something related with lungs where the bronchus expands and one cannot breathe and lack of oxygen can lead to coma and then death. In the same expedition last year one team member died of instant hypothermia. Death was so common and easy in Himalayas. We were to hear lots of stories of these accidents while our stay in the mountains. There were three graves just few hundred meters ahead of us towards the Vyas Kund of mountaineers who died in those mountains.
Six years back when our team leader had came to the same place for expedition, six people died at the summit of Hanuman Tibba when the whole summit exploded. Their only mistake that they were at the top of the summit at about 1 pm in the afternoon. It is always recommended that one must come down from the summit at 11 before the sun is overhead. Once the sun comes up the whether goes deadly and most accidents take place at this time only. In that case because of the melting of glacier a lens type formation must have taken place which boiled the water inside the glaciers. With no place to escape the summit exploded and only two of the eight in the team survived.
Snow Leopard Droppings
In this July four army officers fell down while attempting another peak named Stitidhari and one died We attempted this peak while our stay in the mountains. It is said that there are about 100-150 dead bodies on the way to Mount Everest. We also met one individual who was part of the first Indian civilian team to climb Everest. He hanged to one rope for 16 hours near their advanced base camp with three of his friends hanging there dead. There was complete white out and they could not find out their way. When in morning other team members found them out, they were just 200 meters away from the camp all night searching for the camp. All their radio equipments were seized by the Nepalese government. He survived because he somehow kept himself awake the whole night. If you sleep in these situations you would definitely die, this is what a sherpa had told him and this is how he survived.
There were many such incidents that we were told and many survival tactics when one gets stuck in these situations and how to behave in these mountains. Also tips on how to survive in Avalanches and other places.
Anyways after we came down then we had our lunch which was simple dal-rice. Then we played handball for some time. The whether changes so rapidly in these mountains and the clear weather was followed by clouds coming down the mountains and causing snow fall. I saw the first snow fall in my life from inside our tent. Later by the evening the clouds got clear and beautiful and clear night followed. The sky with so many beautiful starts twinkling looked so dreamy. Then there was the moon which at its quarter was brighter than the full moons I had seen and the way the light enthroned the valley was poetic. There were no fire woods and no camp fire…only simple plain dinner under the moonlight. Then we went back to our tents and had a good night sleep.
The seven sisters mountain was named after the seven girls who summated Mount Everest from India’s first all woman mountaineering expedition. Again I didn’t have a good night sleep that night too and this process will remain the same in the whole expedition. It was also recommended that we sleep late at night so that acclimatization is easier as when one sleeps the oxygen intake reduces. The morning was really cold and the temperature had dropped to -8*C at night. I did realize the cold at night but I was feeling some water dripping all night on my face. The outer tent flap was loose and it was touching the inner flap and the frost in that flap had converted into ice, which caused condensation inside the tent in the region where it was touching. And this zone was above my head and water dripped on my face all night.
Vyas Kund Lake ( Mouth of mighty Bias River)
Dehydration is a major killer in the mountains and I felt dehydrated every morning. You don’t drink much water because either you don’t feel like drinking or the water is too cold to drink. Also the whole skin dries up inspite of applying so much of cold cream. Then in the morning one had to walk for almost 2-3 kms to attend to natural call. Imagine walking for 20 -30 minutes every morning to find a boulder to hide behind it as in the valley it was like the plane extended to infinity. Some also climbed some small hills to find a convenient and quiet place. Even brushing was really a brave maneuver where even touching the water in the morning would render your hands senseless. It was told that in no situation we should not put this water in our head as it may result in melting of the cerebral fluid and instant brain dead.
Streams Feeding the Vyas kund
Our team leader referred the Himalayas as a refrigerator. He said if you want to preserve yourself for few days then go and spend some time in Himalayas. There are very few bacteria and microbes. Even if you don’t brush your mouth won’t smell. Your sweat doesn’t smell too and you can go without bath for many days. I had bath only once when the sun had come up but I completed my expedition with a jeans and a pair of T-shirts.
Anyways this morning in our third round of acclimatization we were asked to climb about 1500-2000 ft and stay at the top for some time and come down. We were to cross the Vyas Kund which I was very excited to see. Legend has it that Maharshi Ved Vyas used to take bath in this lake and then used to write the legendary Mahabharata.
Resting Above the Vyas Kund
This whole valley was prohibited for girls and had a very high stature for religious Hindu people. The previous team could not summit because it snowed the whole week and the base camp was filled with about half feet snow. The shepherds blamed the girls in the team for the bad whether and when the girls went back the whether was clear again. There were also some myths attached to the lake. It is so that whoever had entered the lake had not come out alive and their bodies were never found. Some years back some government officials children got drowned in the lake and even divers could not find their bodies. It is said that there was some monster inside the lake. There were many other stories and people even feared to touch the water of the lake. Master prohibited us from going inside the lake and bath and definitely I was in no mood to have bath in this cold weather.
Hanuman Tibba Summit
Anyways the lake had this mystic green tint and was not much big to be dangerous. Initially we took the ridge near the lake and followed a narrow path formed by the sheep movements in the region and kept climbing up. We were climbing very slow but even then the climbing was very difficult. Anyways we kept moving up and crossed a green patch over the ridge to make it to the next ridge. These green patches distinctly covered the ridges around the lake making a figure of 101 from the top. Then after reaching a height of about 13500 ft we got exhausted and came to rest. We had actually exceeded the mark set by master and had actually taken up a wrong and dangerous route which had some steep slopes and some areas where there were falls of about 500 ft.We all were rounded up later and scolded for this undisciplined behavior and may be we learn what the mountains were and how we should behave in there. The guy who was sick the previous day was the major concern and in absence of oxygen he might have gone unconscious and we were not even carrying oxygen canisters with us. Anyways the concern was necessary as mountaineering causes the maximum deaths among all sports.
Climbing the ridges
Anyways when I reached to the top I thought I should do some meditation. I tried a yogic concentrating technique of Tratak and the feeling was unexplainable. I was concentrating on the tip of Hanuman Tibba. After some time of concentrating the 3D view of the mountain changed to a 2 dimensional view as if the mountain was painted over a canvas. Then after some time the mountain and the sky mingled into a single bluish water color type texture with just the peak clearly visible. After some time it looked like texture mapped images but still the peak was clearly visible. After this point I thought I could not handle it any more and I stopped. When I descended down and asked master about this, he said because of the lack of oxygen at those altitudes your brain showed you those images.
View of Base camp from top
Hallucination is another major killer in these mountains. When Edmond Hilary was climbing Everest, at the very end of the climb there was a straight wall called today as the Hilary climb. At this zone he started pulling a goat and asked it to come up. At the summit he prepared three cups of coffee while there were only two of them.
Well when we descended down to the base camp I saw another amazing scene. The herds of sheep who were grazing around the Vyas Kund and went near the lake would suddenly realize this and jump away from the lake as
From Grassland to snowline
if repelled by the lake. They would never drink water from the lake but would do so from the streams. Then I went near the lake and sat beside the lake. I could see that there were Buddhist ribbons put around the late. I touched the water and it was cold and started imagining the reason for these myths. Getting into the icy cold water was out of question.
Anyways after spending some time near the lake I came down. Master asked me to find some place far away from base camp and try meditating. He said it takes about one tenth of a time to go to trans in these mountains compared to planes. This is the reason why Himalayas are famous with so many holy men. But I could not meditate well as the wind was very fast and there were a lot of disturbance going on in around me. I asked master to teach how to do it.
That evening we sat in the tent and master taught us some how to meditate and uttered some Buddhist mantras. It was amazing experience to do so but still I could not achieve the feeling of being in trans.
The Climb To The Friendship Peak
Today the weather was very clear and master woke up early shouting “Get up and get ready… Today we have a really long way to go”. Day before yesterday it snowed in the mountains and two days of sunlight must have melted most of the snow formed. We were to go towards Friendship peak. It was a really easy peak and the attempt we were trying was called alpine This is tried with small mountains where one starts from the base camp and reach the summit andcome back the same day. Today was the first time we were attempting such a great height. This peak stands at 18500 ft.
The journey was to be long one. We had to climb two big ridges and descend down and then climb again till one reaches the summit. Climbing and crossing the first ridge took my breath away. Only while climbing I realized that I was badly dehydrated and I had cramps in my legs. I was not able to climb well enough and to add to my misery the water bottle I was carrying electrol powder had leaked out. So the initial climb was really disastrous and a very bad start. The sun was really sharp and I could find the effectiveness of my costly Ray-Ban sunglasses at this altitude. I forgot to apply sunscreen lotion that morning and I burnt my nose that day.
There were some stretches from where if one slips then there would be about 5000 ft fall from where there was no return. Anyways I somehow managed to climb the two ridges and then descend down to move to a stream. I filled my
bottle with water and mixed the electrol powder and then my cramps settled down. The descend part was the only easy part of the mountain. Then we were climbing another two ridges and tried to come close to the white snow line. But amazingly I could not recognize the snow at first close encounter. Again I had never seen snow in my life and I was looking forward to this. There were small patches of snow formation between rocks a long way before the major snowline. It seemed like surf foam to me and I thought it may have formed because of churning of water below the rocks. But later I realized it was my first glimpse of snow.
Still we were to cross one more ridge and then we saw snow leopard pug marks. Some team members saw snow leopard cubs from a very long distance but I was not lucky. Master told us that the family of snow leopard lived in these mountains above the altitude of about 15000 ft. They feed on sheep and so come down to pick one of them. This snow line was actually another glacier which belonged to the permanent snow line of the mountain.
Sun glasses were really must or you would suffer from retina burn which would cause snow blindness. The reflection of the sun in glaciers is very deadly. In altitudes of Everest merely looking at the snow without glasses causes blindness.
Walking On Glacier
Climbing on the glacier has its own dangers. Because it is snow deposited over rocks, there are a lot of crevices. If one happens to fall in one of these, his body will be preserved for generations. You have to be very cautious while walking on the glaciers and one has to poke with the ice axe before walking to check for crevices. Also groups walk tied to ropes so that if one falls down then others can pull him up. But walking with ropes is not recommended in avalanche prone zones as in this scenario all would be sucked in.
On The Glaciers
Once we reached the snow line we halted for some photography sessions, Master performed a yogic style called Tumo in which one generates heat from inside the body. He opened his clothes and sat in the glacier in subzero temperatures and started meditating. If I would have done something similar surely I would definitely caught hypothermia as I was shaking with cold even with my clothes on. Master comes every year to perform some yogic kriyas which could be performed only in the high altitudes.
Another of his kriyas is called longham where one moves very fast in the mountains. The individual is in a state of trans and for an outsider who is looking from a very far distance would feel as if the other guy is flying. This is why people say some yogis flying similar to what one sees in Kung-fu movies. Actually this kriya is very dangerous and once the individual comes out of trans, he may collapse and die because of exhaustion.
There was another team had climbed up the mountain the previous day. So their footprints was like a highway on the entire snow line. Because of good sunshine the snow had become strong and it was even possible to walk on the snow without the snow gear. Then most of the people who reached this altitude hosted the national flag and sang national anthem. It was another of the amazing experiences.
Master Performing Tumo
After climbing up we came down with the feeling of achieving something. Descending down is also painful as it hurts the knees badly. But in Himalayas there was no time for pain. I had good night sleep that night but others reported of ghost stories at night.
This One Looked Like Lenin Though
Ghost Stories: Girls in the previous team heard crying sounds of some girl. It scared the hell out of them. Also some guys reported of hearing some movements at night. Even I heard some sounds of something moving around the tents at night. It was actually impossible for some human to get out as the temperature drops down to negative 10 or so. And if clouds come down then the visibility is less than 1 meter. It could have been some animal but foot steps looked more of a human. Anyways animals won’t make so much sound while walking. And sometimes in the night the dogs too start barking. ven the shepherds spoke of ghosts. With so many deaths in the mountains and nights being so ghostly these stories seemed real and frightening.
That night I realized that I had a very bad sun burn and my nose was completely burnt. After that day I never forgot to apply my sunscreen but the damage was done.
Today we would be attempting another peak named Stitidhari which is higher then the friendship peak. Attempting this peak we have to set up an advanced base camp at about 17000ft, spend the night over there and then attempt the summit next morning. The climb will be difficult than yesterday as the climb will be steep and shorter than yesterdays long and dangling path. We were going to pass the Vyas Kund again but this time I drank lots of water in the morning before leaving.
Sheaps Moving Early in The Morning
We were 14 people chosen to go the top. While we were climbing there was another incident of high altitude sickness. After reaching about 16,000 ft one guy complained that he was unable to breathe. It was a really a bad situation and everybody was now on high alert. The individual was an experienced mountaineer but he was stuck by high altitude sickness. He had to be taken down and so another person from the team escorted him.
Big Avalanche At Night
If every thing was fine he would just make it to base camp before it gets dark. Even then we had to pitch our tent and because of this delay two members went ahead to find an area to pitch the tent. We had to pitch the tent much below the desired altitude. So now we were only 12 and it was getting dark now. At those heights the temperature drops rapidly with the sun set. We were shivering but we had to pitch the tent. So we cleared some region to make some level ground for tent and then pitched the tent Some people went forward to fetch water from a nearby stream.
On The Way To ABC
The tent was pitched on a slope. The cold was really biting and pitching the tent was amazingly difficult. Then some people made place for the kitchen and prepare dinner. We took ready to eat stuff and a kerosene stove to that altitude. The evening was chilling but the sight was really amazing. Two days from now it would be full moon and from that altitude we could see the adjacent valley comprising of mountain ranges like IndraQuila and others. We could see that the cloud had descended completely into that valley and it would have been definitely snowing up in there, while our valley was clear. How amazing is the weather in these altitudes and it is so much local.
Base Camp from ABC
Then we had our dinner. It was absolutely impossible to stay out at night. We went inside the test as soon as possible. Sleeping was even difficult in a slanted position but still we managed to sleep for some time. Next morning we had to attempt the summit and so get up early. The temperature went down to -20 * C that night.
Pitching The Tent
At night we saw a snow leopard come near our tent. It was really amazing but those who were awake were scared like hell. Anyways snow leopard is not expected to attack humans but they came there out of curiosity and touched the tent flap and went away. Even at our intermediate camp in Bakra Taj, there was a Himalayan Bear attack. This bear came really dead close to the camp and hit an individual in the back and went away. It was really a scary moment for them as Bears do like to harm humans and Himalayan Bears are huge in size and the biggest in the Bear species.
Next morning we got up at around 5 am and made our way to the summit. Not all of us were healthy enough to move higher. Though summiting the mountain was not in plan as it had a huge wall and it would require some good technical maneuvers which most of us were not prepared for. Anyways we tried to reach to the maximum height possible for us to reach. It was still not sunlight and when the sun came up all the peaks around the region became golden for almost two minutes. This was a marvelous scenery and I don’t have words to explain how beautiful was it.
Clouds Coming Down on US
We crossed the snow line but the cold has taken the excitement out of me. I was cold to my bone and shivers were coming up from my spine. Then we walked for another half an hour when we saw the 500 ft snow wall. So we came back to our advanced base camp. After this we went to search for water to cook breakfast but could not find any. All the water around us had frozen. So we had to go a long distance down to fetch the water and come down. Drinking this was a disater.
The Frozen Rivers
After having noodles for breakfast we noticed that the clouds were beginning to come down. It was a dangerous sign and we risked white out. So we came down fast, packed our tents and started moving down as soon as possible.
This was epected as the weather was open for so many days. It was bound to go bad. Also the other valley was filled up with clouds all the time. So somewhow we started to come down fast. It was as if the clouds were chasing us.
The View of Mountains around me
As we descended a fair amount of height the clouds stopped following us. I had realized that the excitement of the expedition was over now and all the hard work paid off. I just wanted to enjoy being on the hills as long as possible. So I was moving very slowly.
The Pashmina Goats
As we were moving down we saw the herds of sheep and goats were comming up. They reach amazingly high altitudes in search of pastures. Somebody joked that if the grass was to summit these sheaps must have summitted. I also gave them a plan of catching one of the sheeps and shaving it. It could fetch us good as they were the Pashmina sheeps which provide the costliest wool of the world.
I was carrying the stove and my bag and today my knees were paining badly. But that did not stop me enjoying the whether. When we came down we had our lunch and directly went back to sleep.
Moving Towards Hanuman Tibba
The weather was more than amazing for the past 7 days. Usually you do not get such a long period of sunshine. Whatever we needed to work on and accomplish in the expedition was by large over. Tomorrow we had to make our way to the lower regions. So today was our day to explore the near by regions and enjoy. So we planned towards the mighty Hanuman Tibba. The mountain was actually the aim for the expedition but many days of snowfall had ruined our plans. The mountain was also notorious for Avalanches which we had witnessing for so many times now. So we planned to move near the avalanche prone zone and watch the Avalanches from a more closer but safer range. So we moved towards the mighty range.
Waiting for Avalanche
Avalanches are another of the major killers in the mountains. Most of us had seen many views of these avalanches in televisions but the sight of it even form a safe distance is horrifying. The sound is horrifying then the thunder. Getting stuck in the avalanche is a nightmare come true. There were many cases of people getting stuck and die in avalanches. So obviously we were told how to survive when stuck in Avalanche.
The Ice Face of Hanuman Tibba
Avalanches are like fast flowing rivers and the death in avalanche is because of suffocation at major times. So if one gets stuck in the avalanche then he should move his hands and legs as if he is trying to swim and try to come towards the surface. If one gets stuck in avalanche then he should try to come up. There was a case in these mountains when a mountaineer got stuck in the avalanche and then he statred to dig downwars. When his body was found he had dig up a tunnel inside the avalanche. So to protect from these situations we were asked to spit in case one gets stuck. If the spit falls on ur face then move up or move the other way round.
Now a days many mounteneers wear beacons to tell where they are stuck. Another survival technique is to use a special type of cord which is orange in color so that it is visible from far. This cord has the tendency to move up and stay on the surface. It will inform whether somebody is stuck.
The huge Crevaices on ICE
In these Himalayas we saw different type of Avalanches. They are mainly slab avalanche, powder avalanche and wet snow avalanche. Every morning the mountains shed some snow that was collected the previous night which triggers some major avalanches and called powder avalanches. Sometimes a huge slab of ice moves down and causes a deadly avalanche which is a major killer. Some of these slab avalanches are caused bu humans. There was another case in these mountains when a team of 8 mountaineers were killed because of the haversack they were carrying. They were moving up in waist deep snow when someones haversack rolled down which triggered a slab avalanche. So the lesson was to prevent climbing up the avalanche prone areas.
The Base of Huge Avalanche
So we reached to the Avalanche prone zone of the Hanuman Tibba. The time was now around noon and we knew that if we had waited for another half an hour we would definetely see the avalanche. Actually the mountains shed some snow whenever the sun is on the top. So all of us were waiting on the top of ridge which was directly facing the the ice face of the mountain.
Sitting still in the mountains make you feel cold and all the time you must start doing something . So we waited and finished of all the chocolate rations that we had with us because tomorrow was only descend.
In front of Mt hanuman Tibba
And an Avalanche did happen and it was so wild. It was so dangerous. Well I don’t want to be anywhere close to this. It was just an amazing experience. Today we were not climbing and enjoying what the mountains had to show to us. Atleast by now we were all acclimatized. The view was amazing from the ridge.
After staying on the top of the ridge for about another one hour, we moved down, crossed the stream and moved towards the base camp. I didn’t want to go back so fast. So I was moving very slowly and was left at the very back of the pack. I went towards the shepherds and talked to them for some time and then asked them about their life style. That was another amazing experience. Then when I was comming down all alone I saw an animal standing in front of me. I thought it was an wolf and I thought I was now done. There was no escape and obviously you cannot run from there especially when a wild animal chases. But it did something which was not expected from it. It behaved like a dog and paid no heed to my presence. I thought that this really was a dog but a ferocious one. Well I just moved safely back to the base camp.
When back to the base camp there we saw an another team of Indian mountaineers had come up to the valley. There was one amazing personality who was part of the first civilian Mount Everest expedition. He survived in the Everest by hanging to a rope for 16 hours with two of his friends hanging dead on the same rope. I survived because a sherpa had told him before ” If you sleep in the mountains then you are dead”. He kept himself awake all the time. There was a complete white out and when the other team members found them, they were just 20 ft away from the Advanced Base Camp. They were circling round and round the advanced base camp which their footprints told. Their radio equipments were seized by the government of Nepal because it was a rule that all radio equipment had to be bought from Nepal and they had to dump their own radio equipments. Also they did not have enough funds to buy them in Nepal and so the tragedy stuck.
He had come to the mountains because he loved being there. These were some of the mountains that surrounded us in the valley and you can imagine how serene these are.
The Mighty Hanuman Tibba
The Seven Sisters and View of the other range
The Lady Leg
Mt Manali and Ladaki
The Mountain Range Parallel to us
This was the last day for us in the mountains. We packed our stuff and this time some extra luggage had to be carried back. I thought going down would be easy but I think it was actually a mess. Mountaineers have always some ethics on how to behave in the mountains and how to respect the nature. You survival depends on how much you respect the nature. So we cleaned up every last garbage and burnt it. Hope people in the plains, where life’s so easy do follow some ethics to make them a better life.
Burning All Plastics
This time going back was not easy as it was almost afternoon and the stream which we had to cross was a violent one now. I have carrying a K-oil in one hand and a massive luggage carrying the left over food items. The point I went to stream I could realize with this much luggage I cannot cross it. We were three who got stuck in front of stream. One of us who was carrying light jumped over stones and went through. I knew i couldn’t do the same as I couldn’t jump the stream. I went slightly upstream and tried to move to another rock and tried to cross. But the rock moved and I was in the stream struggling to come out. The chilling water had almost made my leg numb but thanks to the other guy behind me, he pulled me out as my maneuver was jammed because of the mass I was carrying.
So we thought that this was a bad idea to cross it this way and we went furthur upstream where we could see other team members crossing. With much effort and lots of assistance we crossed the stream. My one leg was wet from top to bottom and the I realised the K-oil can was also leaking. So by the time I crossed the moraine and reached Bakrataj, I was wet in both legs. One was wet because of water and another because of K-oil.
Backtracking our Paths
Crossing moraines and coming down was difficult and I almost toppled but controlled myself. I have seen the big boulders rolling down and it could have been me rolling but I was saved. So while crossing the moraines one of our team members lost track and went the other way. He could not keep up with the team and was now lost in the ridges. I was the first one to realize this after reaching the camp in Bakra Taj. Getting lost in Himalayas was disastrous. So I ran back to serach this guy. I was just hoping that the worst had not happened and he had not fallen down from somewhere. It would have been a massive search and rescue operation had he not met another mountaineer who was just there by accident and who knew the path. Finally I could find him comming down a hill slope and I ran towards him. He was badly exhausted but the courage was not lost. I took his luggage from him and carried it back to the camp. Thankfully we could find him or it could have been worst.
Then we went down and down, falling many times and hurting our foot badly till we reached Dhundhi. We halted for Dhundhi but somehow three of us had to go ahead to Solang Nala nd then to Manali and then to Delhi and report back to office. Thankfully we got a lift in a military truck and got a bus to Manali. From Manali we had a late night trip to Delhi.
Got A Lift
My Sun Burnt Nose and Face
Reaching Delhi was a disaster for me. Somehow I was not able to handle the temperature change and the pressure change. I halted at my friends place and thought of going to the office the next day. I was now in a very bad shape and somehow I felt sick from the pollution and heat. I didn’t like being inside the room and just wanted to walk as much as possible. My legs were not used to resting now and walking for miles was like fun for me. But I was longing for a good night sleep which had haunted me for a very long time now. I slept early so that I could go to office early in the morning. But somehow I could not wake up in the morning. My entire body was paining like hell and all the exhaustion in the mountains have started to come out. I slept for 18 hours non stop and didnt go to office.
I reached Bangalore one week back and got acquainted with the financial crisis that had stuck the world. It stuck the day when we were attempting Stitidhari peak. For another one month I could not cope up with the pollution and the life in Bangalore. I was stuck by some shock of the way cities are which could not have got if I was not in the mountains. I stopped doing everything for the next month and even didn’t like travelling in buses and going to crowded places. I stopped exercising as I thought I had seen the extreme in that and also stopped playing guitar as I was always depressed by the environment around me. My outlook to my job definately changed and so was my outlook towards life. I am definately become braver and smarter than I was before the expedition. i am a changed man now but now I started hating what is around me. I started hating hypocracy more. I feel people have become more irrational. Hope pretty soon I come out of this state of mind and get aligned with what the world asks.