Following the current disastrous events in Nepal, I was left shaken & broken to my core. Having first hand experience of Himalayan hypnotism , it becomes more surreal to ingest the fact that such a beauty comes with periodic devastation. I have my deepest condolences with affected families & friends. And I am glad to read about the helping hand extended by Indian Government & Indian Air force/Army. This blog is dedicated to Nepal & all my friends from Nepal.
While I am planning to re-visit Himalayas pretty soon, I pulled out my old memories to re-instate what beauty lies in the bosoms of Himalayan peaks. The humble call from this unearthly creation is hard to deny when mountaineering is one of core enthusiasm. Many trekkers, explorers & mountaineers flock over to Himalayas to fullfill their dream of touching the untouchable.
1. It all starts with a clap:
It seems like yesterday when I reached the base camp all alone. Cold & shivering in the northern winds, I met with the camp leader. At the very first look,the camp leader shouted “Can I get some hot water here”. So, that’s how my Himalayan experience started – Gulping on my hot canteen, still enjoying the unforgiving Himalayan winds. Bringing me back to senses the camp leader allocated Tent no.11 to me. As a first timer I had no idea these tent-mates will be my family for next 2 weeks. The dimly lit tent no. 11 made friendly noises as I walked towards it. Thinking “Atleast I should have convinced one of my friends to come along with me” I entered the tent with a big invitation noise “There comes our final brother in 11”. I was the last guy to join Tent No. 11 group for the whole journey. May be the fact that living in nature, away from urbane pollution, makes one humble and welcoming but I was glad to be inducted into tent no.11.
Three days of rigorous training, exercise, lifting weights to the top of a small mountain. And at the end of 3 days only the fit ones qualify to continue the journey of snowy mountain. We were glad that all the tentmates were well qualified and acclimatized. We were taught of how to fill our canteen from naturally springing water, conserving food and few worst case scenario drills. We all have also been trained on rock climbing and rappelling. As per the program leader, we were to face few tough rock climbs on top of the mountains. We were taught about breath control as the air at the apex will hold 10% oxygen. Pretty thin but we will manage.
3. Two legs and a hikers stick
We were on schedule as we departed the base camp at morning 7 am. On the books we were to make 5 evening halts at higher camps over next 5 days. The walk definitely grew harder as we scaled higher altitude. Cut off from all possible human civilization, I was mesmerized by the humbling experience one can get when with nature. In negative temperature, the only source of life was my sleeping bag. I kept my camera batteries warm in my trousers for the final climb usage. We walked from lower camp to the higher. We were given with a time schedule of reaching the next camp by evening. Well, that was obvious, if we cant make it to the next camp by evening then we were surely in for some rough night. The night Himalayan winds were unforgiving. And it becomes cruel even at the higher altitudes. With all our fate and luck we could able to reach all 5 camps right about time. Spending nights in the camps were quite interesting. We were a bunch of 25 trekkers. Every camp had their own evening plans. Head count, poop time (Optional), camp fire, camp leader de-brief & few stories, fire side dinner with songs & stories, 8pm – all in tents, final head count & tent close. Mornings had the same drill. But, mornings were the time when the Himalayas looked stunningly awe-inspiring. Every morning around 6 am we all sat quietly looking at the peaks. After an hour around 8am we prepare ourselves for departure.
I found it a bit ironic that the top most camp was named Grahan, the English translation is Moon-less nights. On the contrary of the suggested name I had the best view of moon. Speaking of moon, even I had the best night sky view ever. I had no idea what a night sky looks like when all possible stars are visible. Even though we were dealing with -15 Degree C, I spent a good 2 hours staring at the starry sky. Grahan faces the most terrifying weather in Himalayan mountains. The camp leader had de-briefed us “I am sorry to say that no one in Grahan camp sleeps in the night”. At first I ignored him, but as we all got cozy in our tents we heard the sound of strong stormy winds. Even a monstrous beast would have sounded calm. Without a hint of sleep we all tent no.11 brothers stood on our toes. The first command was “No one must dare to open the tent flaps & peek outside”. Few minutes passed we saw the steel foundation holding the tent was coming off the ground. That was the moment when 11 concurrent chills might have run through the spines of 11 separate human beings. We split into group of 6 and 5, each group holding the foundation down. Bottom line, that was a night to remember. Few funny moments:
5. Friends lost in History
The final climb and crossing the peak was tough but we all tentmates got each others backs. To be honest it was the best experience of my life (It might not be as beautiful as Trolltunga – Read my previous blog, but it looked amazing in its own untouchable sense). We were allowed to expose minimum skin to the sunlight to prevent UV burning. All looking like overgrown fat boys we all made fun of each others appearance. It was unbelievably fun to share such a beautiful location with amazing strangers but friends. It took us 5 more days to descend down to the base camp. The most painful part was bidding goodbye to this temporary family. The ‘first moment friend’ is what I call them. We hardly stayed in contact after that. May be its the Himalayan effect – People tend to make close friends when suspended in harsh environment. Those were my 15 days of pure peace and serenity. There was not a hint of jealously or selfishness.
Himalayas – Crown jewel for mankind yet dangerous to touch.