Date : 7th Aug 2016
It all started when we were about to start making our setup at 10:45am at Vihigaon when, the forest department officials appeared from nowhere and asked us to stop the activity since the place was part of the forest reserve and conducting such activities without appropriate approvals was an offense. When continuous attempts of requesting them fell on deaf ears, we had to turn back.
The next immediate viable place was Bekre and Naneghat. Since Bekre was comparatively farther than Naneghat, we decided to change our course towards Naneghat which was approximately 110km from Vihigaon. We reached the Naneghat base village at around 12:45 pm and immediately marched towards the summit. We knew this would take time but didn't anticipate that it would take us that long.
The rapid climb took us less than 2 hrs to make it to the summit and the patch looked brilliant, tempting and gave us an adrenaline rush. The landing zone which we anticipated was at hardly any distance from the railing of the cave, from where one has to do an exposed traverse of 25 to 30 feet. Shubham was posted at the base for photography and for other assistance. On the summit there was a different dilemma, the guard of Naneghat fort was reluctant to allow has to do this and insisted Sunny ( The Hotel Guide) to show us the patch of the 'Nose'. We did not anticipate the exact height of this point and thought this would be the same as the rappel route which was 25 ft away from the railing of the cave.
By 3 pm Ashu, Pravin , Nikhil & myself where on the summit and Subbu was asked to be close to the landing zone along with Shubham. The rope was uncoiled, the gears where removed, winds blew with great speed, fog reduced our visibility, a huge crowd gathered around us and thus the setup was ready for action. The rope was thrown many times but was blown away to an off route by the heavy winds. So finally the huge coil remained on the top was decided to be fed along with the rappeller. The decided sequence to rappel was Nikhil, Pravin , Subham and if time permits then the rest of us.
Then moment of reckoning arrived. Our heart beats were faster than usual. I asked Nikhil twice " Do you wanna do it latter, shall I proceed first?". Taking a silent breathe Nikhil replied slowly but confidently, " Im ready to go ". I still remember such a situation arising between myself and Harshad. It was the same moment. I was confident by now that Nikhil had evolved as a sensible mountaineer who was ready for such actions that required a lions heart!
At 16:45 hrs, the rappel started!!! Slowly we saw Nikhil going towards the void and soon he disappeared. Everything went good. We received constant updates from Nikhil through the walkie about the patch. Few minutes later the overhang started, the descend got faster. The 10 mm green rope which was of 300 ft long was left with less than 15 feet with us, by which we realized, this is not that patch which we had planned of but, was the "Nose" of Naneghat which was close to 280+ ft. Quickly we attached 10mm 150 ft rope to the belay rope to avoid any starvation to the belay and immediately created a second belay station to avoid the rope getting stuck at the first belay station and did the changeover quickly.
" Hurray!!! I have landed at the base" a voice came from the walkie. And it was a happy, victorious moment for us.This however did not last much since the way to reach the railing was no where visible by now. Ashu replied - " Nikhil will you to able to move safely and start the traverse". 'Yes I will try " said Nikhil and started. We warned Nikhil to take sufficient slag with him before making any move to avoid a pull back by the rope,causing him imbalance. Every step of the traverse was nerve racking due to the extreme exposed traverse with wet and slippery rocks and heavy winds where anyone could easily lose balance. Nikhil very well knew about the gravity of this situation and he moved very patiently. After 15 mins he replied back that he had found the bolts placed horizontally which, confirmed that this was the right traverse route. But Nikhil did not have any rope to secure the traverse using the bolts, so the bolts proved to be of negligible benefit for his situation.
By now it was 17:15 hrs and the weather deteriorated further. We were finding it difficult to stay on the summit and do nothing to help our guy who was at a critical situation and that too "ALL ALONE". I said to Ashish " Bro, I am leaving towards the landing zone and will start my traverse towards Nikhil " Ashish and Pravin agreed to this and I left. The heavy wind were pushing me along with the slope into the blinding fog and at two intervals my route took me towards the dead end of the valley. Quickly I maintained my calm and found my orientation with the help of the voice coming from a motor bike few fee down the summit. I reached Subhu and Shubham who were curiously and cluelessly waiting at the end of the railing looking towards Nikhil. He was only audible and not Visible. I found a 6mm 60 feet balck rope with Subhu which I took along and started the climb of the traverse.
Yes,the route was damn slippery, the rock was inclined and the traverse was highly exposed. I could feel what Nikhil was going through. I could have stayed longer halting for every single step but, I quickly anchored the 6 mm rope to a nearby bolt and started my traverse further. 60 ft later the rope to which I was anchored confessed its non-willingness to continue further due to its short length to meet the further length of the traverse. I just laughed at my situation, left the rope there and went ahead. Amidst heavy fog, by now I could see Nikhil. I was desperate to just get hold of him and reply that he is secured. The patch was so small that one could have literally crawled to reach him.
Finally we both met each other at 17:45 hrs. Nikhil explained his situations in bits and pieces and now the big task was to release and recover all the ropes - 600 ft white rope, 300 ft green rope and the 150ft white rope. With a huge spirit of team work and coordination from the summit team we untangled all the ropes and coiled it sitting, crawling and struggling below a 'C' shaped traverse. Every time while I used get the rope stuck, Nikhil would go all the away to find the trouble fix it and would say to me on the walkie " Dada try now" to which I would say " OK Bro, its fixed " This continued till 19:00 hrs and all the ropes where secured and coiled. By now the summit team made it to the railing point and was waiting for our sight. By 19:00 hrs carrying the huge coiled ropes we traversed the 60 ft traverse and made it to the railing point and it was a moment of relief and happiness for all of us. Quickly we had chapatti, all thanks to Subhu for arranging it,removed our head lamps (Sadly we had only 4 lamps) for 6 of us. We started our descend at 19:25 hrs. Hitting against the hard surfaces here and there in the darkness with cramped legs finally we made it to the base village at 21:00 hrs where the poor driver was awaiting for us. Quickly we got into the vehicle and started our journey back home.
Honestly we were enjoying and learning every single moment. "Altitude brings Attitude" Nikhil reminded me of a whatsapp status of Harshad, minutes after I met him. Its true...mountains teach you many things, apart from the mental and physical fitness, it teaches some core values of working as a team, values of belonging and last but not the least - "No matter whatever is the situation...NO man shall be left behind " I started my trekking journey as a boy and these mountains made me a Man and thus I am proud to be a mountaineer.
A True Story written by Sharath Raj
Content Edit Courtesy - Amruta Deshmukh