My second birth
It was about 8am and sun had started melting the snow on the slope of the main climb. We tried standing on the slope to walk down but failed to do so. Anyone who tried walking immediately fell and started sliding. Our half inch long micro spikes were of no use on deep soft snow. So we all started sliding down in sitting position. We were still roped in and were not able to control the sliding speed. The guys at the back of rope used to bump into the guys in front and it got very uncomfortable for the guys in front because of bumping. We approached a rocky section where our guide removed our rope and asked us to walk through it. So I got up first and stood on the outer side of the slope and tried to walk. Since I was still standing on soft snow, I couldn't get enough grip and slipped. Due to gravity my body immediately started sliding down with me trying to stop myself by pushing elbows and heels into snow. Still sliding I approached a section of rocks, toppled over it and fell on a small cliff few meters below rocks. I was facing down and roughly a feet away was the end of cliff. There was a huge drop next to that cliff where I had landed. If I would have gone any further, am sure my life would not have been the same. Team mate Wilmar and a guide came to my rescue at the cliff. I was definitely in shock but all of my body parts were intact. Couple of scratches around knee and legs but the mountain spared me!
Crossed the rocky section and took the slide all the way down to the glacier with few others from team. Walking on glacier was getting a bit tough now as the glacial surface was now brittle due to sun and it used to crack at places where we were walking. Carefully we walked across glacier, reached the advance base camp. Rested some time while looking at the magnificent view of glacier and the Stok Kangri peak. Soon we headed towards the base camp and reached past 11am. Everyone at base camp congratulated the summiters. After a 13 hour long stressful night, base camp felt like heaven. We were all back to the tents safe and sound. I drank water and slept hungry hoping someone would wake me up during lunch. Sadly that did not happen and I woke up in afternoon when everyone had finished lunch and were asleep. I was exhausted, hungry and thirsty. My body had literally no energy, I could barely walk around base camp in search of food. Luckily my teammates Dheeraj and Ketki gave me home made laddoos and those felt like the best thing I had ever eaten.
The evening passed with everyone sharing their summit day experience, not everyone was as lucky as us. Team mates who could not make it to the summit shared their stories how the guides demoralized them and did not allow them to go beyond Advance base camp. We realized how unprofessional and bad our guides had been during this trek. Despite having a very strong team of 18, only 7 made it to the summit.
Day 8 (Base camp to Stok village trek, Stok to Leh drive)
After a night sleep at base camp we headed down towards Stok village next morning. It was going to be 13 km long downhill walk through the same route with which we came up. I was tired from the summit day but my legs were fine. After crossing Manorarma my vision got blurred for about 10 seconds and I did not realize what just happened. I started walking again and my vision got blurred once more. So I stopped to have water and some dry fruits. I was experiencing blurred vision for 10 seconds which repeated after every minute. I couldn't believe what just happened and started laughing. Shared my problem with few of my team mates who were around and we came out to a conclusion that its exhaustion from summit day and lack of energy in body. So I was now paying for my mistake of missed lunch and digging deep into reserves on summit day. Dheeraj, Ketki and Jeet from my team gave me lots of sweets and chocolates making sure I get some instant sugar. Mithilesh took my heavy backpack and we started walking again. Had lunch at Changma camp where another team mate Anuradha who happens to be a doctor gave me few steroid tablets ensuring my smooth walk to Stok village. Everyone reached Stok safely, we loaded our bags in van and headed to Hotel in Leh. In evening we met again and some of us headed to restaurant to have snacks. While eating I again got blurred vision which lasted even for longer duration. I quickly had dinner and rushed to bed. All I needed was sleep now. I got better next day.
Equipment/gear used for summit
Having right gear is very important if you are heading for a high altitude trek. Wearing layers of clothing is more beneficial than wearing thick cloths. Here is the list of gear that I used during summit attempt:
1. Head: Endura cycling ear warmers (good), Decathlon woolen beanie (poor)
2. Neck: Woolen buff purchased from Leh market (Excellent)
3. Upper body: Kipsta base layer (excellent) Quechua SH500 Snow hiking fleece (excellent) Woodland Active Down jacket (average) Quechua Forclaz 100 Hiking rain/wind jacket (good)
4. Lower body Quechua Forclaz 50 Fleece tights (excellent) Quechua Forclaz 900 trekking trousers (good)
5. Socks: Inside dry fit running socks, outside knee high thick Decathlon woolen socks (average)
6. Shoes: Salomon X-Ultra Mid 2 GTX (Waterproof) (excellent)
7. Backpack: Wildcraft Cauvery 60 ltr. Carried only food and water on summit day after leaving luggage at base camp, its a huge backpack. Take a small backpack for summit day
8. Water: 4.5 litres (water freezes in bottles, keep atleast 1 litre flask full of warm water). Guides usually suggest carrying 2 litres water. Carry atleast 4 litres of water, its a long walk!
9. Food: 4 sneakers, a pack of dry fruits.
Do's and Dont's at Stok Kangri:
1. Travel with good guides. They make a lot of difference to your experience.
2. Choose your trekking company wisely. Budget operators may not be the best.
3. Keep sipping water while gaining altitude, its your alternate source of oxygen. Do not over drink.
4. Filter your drinking water if drinking from a stream (use water purification tablets or portable filter bottles). People at higher camps may be contaminating the water before it reaches you.
5. Do not sleep in day time right after gaining altitude no matter how tired you are. You may catch altitude sickness.
6. Acclimatization walks to higher altitude are very important. Do not skip them.
What's next on my list?
1. Early 2018: Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
2. Mid/late 2018: Annapurna Circuit trek, Nepal (or some other trek of similar grade).
3. Sept 2019: 4 weeks Basic Mountaineering Course from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi (NIM).