In less than 30 secs I lost him from sight and there I was all alone on that hostile territory.
Assuming that he was on the overhang patch as the belay rope had got heavier and faster, I started to respond back by providing steady slag for his belay.
There was a rare silence that surrounded me and the only noise that fell on my eardrums was that of the flowing water from the edge. It was an absolute moment of isolation as I silently waited for Ashish to reach the base. After 15 mins of the descend, there were loud hurray calls coming from the base. There was no pressure on the belay rope suggesting that Ashish might have had touched the base. Still as a mountaineering practice I couldn't leave the belay until I had received a confirmation that the rappeler was off the belay. Despite having the threat of the bees I used the RT to confirm whether Ashish was down and that he was off the belay.
"What's the status?" - I radioed to the base.
" Ashish is at the base bro!" Nikhil jubilantly responded back
"Copy. I'm pulling the belay" I responded.
" Roger" Nikhil confirmed.
The news of Ashish reaching the base motivated me to the very nerve. I was so highly charged that I didn't even feel the pain or any load while I was pulling the belay up all by myself.
Once the ropes were up again, I went back to pack my bag with all the pending stuff to be carried along. I was struggling badly to wind up the patch under zero visibility over the edge of the cliff as any use of light would have been a signal enough for the bees to return back. I threw the belay rope down to control it from the base. I lined myself up on the main line and checked whether the belay was ready. I was desperately waiting to start my move when unnaturally my walkie beeped.
"Stand by Sharath.. There is a problem down here" A well-founded voice of Harshad came through my walkie.
I inquired what was the issue, to which Harshad replied "Your belay is entangled somewhere with your main rope and you will choke midway if you make any descend"
"Holy shit..what's going on?" I asked myself.
"You will have to pull back your belay to fix it" Harshad advised me.
"Roger that..Pulling up" I confirmed back. I used my sling to anchor myself back to the bolt and started pulling up my belay. I could clearly hear the buzzing sound of the bees coming closer and then going away again. At that moment I was not at all bothered about the bees but was worried about the belay rope which was making my day stretch even longer. I got the maximum length of the rope, it didn't show any signs of tangles. I coiled the dead end and threw it once again to the base.
"Check the belay" I asked Harshad to check the belay
"Negative...It's the same story" Harshad replied.
"Seems like one coconut to Lord Ganesha was not a fair deal in the bargain" I said to my consciousness.
Pausing for some breathe and thinking for a while I turned my walkie on.
"Harshad...I am removing the belay and leaving it on the base"
I continued "I will rappel on the main rope without my belay"
" It's a huge overhang without any support to transfer your weight onto.. your heavy bag will turn you upside down" Harshad warned me about the possible challenge that I would encounter while negotiating the overhang portion of the descend.
"Copy ...You pull down the main rope to control my descend and with the other hand I'LL keep the rope close to my chest to hold the weight of my bag to avoid being pulled back"
"All the best" Harshad signed off .
I immediately coiled the belay rope and threw it to the base, removed my sling from the bolts and got over my main rope.
"I can do it" I motivated myself and informed Harshad over the walkie that I was starting my descend.
Without the use of the headlamp it was difficult to figure out my leg moves but still the initial patch was doable. After descending for some 30 secs, I started to feel the distance between my toes and the wall widen.
"Yes..there comes the overhang"
As soon as I lost my foothold from the walls, my bag started pulling me back. With my left hand I was firmly holding the rope to keep my upper body straight while I tried to maintain the center of gravity near my waist without it shifting to to my shoulder instead. With every feet that I descended my forearms started pumping badly. I knew I was optimally using my energy and tried to maintain the steadiness of my descend as far as possible. The lights from the base team's headlamps were blinding my eyes but I had no leisure to use my hands to operate the walkie and inform them about the visual disturbance that they were unknowingly causing. The descend continued and when I was less than 80 ft away from the base, my arms started to feel unsteady due to the lack of energy. It is at this moment that my line swinged a bit and my position shifted, now I was directly under millions of droplets of water that were falling from above. The droplets fell all over my face rebooting my dropping energy. It rejuvenated me to fight back for the last battle in which I was only few feet away to win.
I screamed louder to warm myself up. I had just 20ft left to descend, when the hurray calls from the base team started echoing in my ears.
"Take those torch beams off my eyes" I shouted and started to laugh aloud.
"Subhu had a doubt whether it was you or someone else descending down hence we flashed the lights on you" The first stupid joke that I heard that day was cracked by Shashi.
Everyone laughed out loud and I my feet finally touched the ground.
I couldn't make out any faces due to the flashlights blinding my eyes, but my eyes were searching for Ashish. Someone came hugged me and said "Finally we are down". It was Ashish whispering into my ears.
"Yes we are down!" I hugged him tight. The entire team clustered around us to share the joy and it was a perfect moment of celebration!
Its was 20:35 hrs, I immediately checked my watch
"Bro...I am cooking kheer for you" Shashi informed me.
"And bro ..i'm preparing the curry..you take rest" Subhu followed Shashi.
Although it was my KRA to cook, the team decided to spare me from any task for the night.
While the entire team was busy preparing the dinner, I and Ashish were lying on the rocky bed near the shore of the huge pond, gazing at the point far above us where we were immobilized for hours.