It was 5 am , the sky was getting light, and we were still a good 45 minutes away from our summit. We weren't going to make it in time.Ghosh da, ever pragmatic, stomped his foot and insisted we break formation, giving the faster of us a chance to witness the sunrise. I increased my pace too, eager to cover the distance. Yet I was aware of my pulse accelerating. When I looked up some minutes laters, I saw the first glimpse of the mountains ahead - and with it the first of the golden peaks. I grew agitated, realising I wouldn't be in time to witness the golden peaks from the view point. Predictably, I had a bout of wheezing, part from the exertion & part from a bitter sense of failure I felt in that moment.
Most of the group had moved on by then, and our rear guide, Dominic seemed to be panicking at the sight of me gasping for air. Ghosh da, again, always bringing up the rear, appeared at my side . He comforted me, and administered his personal medicine to me, which helped me catch my breath and calm down. Vikas too, who had been calmly guiding Astha up ahead, had turned back to keep a check on me.
I was quite distraught by then. I could see the sun's rays touching one peak after the other , and felt the futility of moving ahead. It was then that Ghosh da pointed out, that we didn't really miss the sunrise, just viewed it from where we were. This thought steadied me, and we decided to move ahead anyway.
It took me another 10-15 minutes to get to the view point. And even though I had missed the actual sunrise, the view in front of me was astounding. I shakily sat down in a spot, just gazing around me, taking in the sheer brilliance of what I saw.
The Kanchenjunga range was spread out before me, it seemed, just across a narrow valley. It was as if I could reach out and touch it, if I tried. In the few treks I've done, nothing has come close to the feeling of awe that I felt in that moment.
Soon, we decided to head down, with our toes beginning to freeze inside our boots and woollen socks. I hung back, walking slowly, constantly looking back, trying to imprint as much of what I saw onto my mind forever. I was fortunate to share this part of the journey with Ghosh da, who was equally, if not more, overwhelmed by what we had witnessed.