Well, this started on the third day of the trek and quite unimaginably, the day we were going to summit Pangarchulla peak, right from the Khullara campsite.
We woke up to the harsh shrill of the alarm at 1 a.m. With great difficulty and bearing the chilling cold, I barely managed to get ready by 2.
Having packed my bags the previous night, I was confident I hadn’t left anything behind after the near miss on Day 1.
Obvious to the story, I did. When the Trek Leader enquired,
"Sabne micro-spikes le liye?" Has everyone carried their micro-spikes?
“Shit.” I forgot mine in the tent. Running back to the tent, I yanked off my gloves in the now open tent, through my backpack and found the micro-spikes.
I ran back to the group, micro-spikes in hand, anxious to now start the trek. I was to realise, 15 minutes later that my gloves were left behind back in the tent, as I grabbed the micro-spikes in the last moment.
Regret was instantaneous, as the chilling wind numbed my fingers. The only option, as I saw it, and as Alanis Morissette’s song goes…was to have ‘One hand in my pocket’ while the other held the trekking pole to balance myself on the slippery terrain.
We trudged through the darkness with only the light from our headlamps for direction. The cold bothered me but I knew daylight was round the corner and I banked on the sun to warm my hands for me. Little did I know how wrong my assumptions were going to be.
At 15069 feet, Pangarchulla is not amongst the tallest summitable treks in India. It is not the most difficult mountain around; rather, a pretty straightforward climb up. It is perhaps the closest one can get to an expedition-style climb (especially in winters) at such a relatively low altitude. The peak by itself is not imposing, in fact the other way around. It looks like a gentle climb up a ridge that takes you to the summit. But looks, like the cliché goes, are often deceptive than not.