"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
The day has arrived. Nothing more nothing less. All the effort put forth, all the dreams aspired, all the excitement built up, all the energy built up over the period of last few days, all prayers, all the fight with your family and friends,all those protein bars and dryfruits, all the hours spent in gym will be put to test today, tonight. But at the same time, koi mahan insan ne bola hai (someone great has said) that "you can't conquer nature you can just embrace it".
With this thought I started my day which was a quite one compared to the rest. No acclimitazation climb, no practice sessions, no equipment check. Just the same yummy breakfast and chit chat with the group. We saw lot of other climbers coming back from the summit, some with finished business, some unfinished.
It was noon and it was time for a light lunch. We finished it quickly and checked our gears once again. We did some meditation for about half an hour gazing purple, black and hazy mountains in the distance and bang opposite to them was our own Kangyatse.
Time - 1900 Hrs
The weather since evening was playing a game with bit of snow, up winds and rain visiting the dreaded glacier every now and than. Some of which reached campsite too, that made all of us gloomy, though we had a reserve day in place but the energy level was grounded for all of us.
We just kept staring at the gloomy sky ...in hope......which was taking away the summit view slowly but strongly.
We were told to be ready by 2045 Hrs with all the gears on. When you have to get out at night at 16500 ft you feel the the need to put on all the layers of insulation possible. I borrowed pack of warmees from trek lead rohit.
It took us almost 45 mins to don all the gears we had in our kitty, there we were! Glancing at the summit in starlit sky with some degree of clear weather and a pitch dark path leading to it. The path was layered with scree, moraines, crevasse and a steep climb starting from glaciepoint to never ending summit.
Tamara and arthur were first out. Next to go was vibhakar and me a long with Paul and rudy. Spine chilling winds made us shiver at the first wave of it. Sleepy, a little untidy but super energetic group started the March lead by chomdan followed by Paul, me, rudy, tamara, arthur, vibhakar and trek lead rohit closing the loop.
As you actually start walking up steep slopes, your body heats up, you start sweating, and you keep pausing to take off each of those layers.
Right from the word go, it was climbing and sheer climbing as we will be gaining close to 3500 ft in one night. The body started heating up and I felt like throwing away the layers I had put on but one wave of chilly down wind put my senses back where they belong. We kept climbing in pitch dark for about two hours straight. I had to stop twice to catch my breath. By the time we reached the glacier Point at 18000 ft, I was already toasted. We climbed another few hundred feet up a scree ridge before traversing onto the glacier, as we switched our hiking shoes to heavy, double layered scrapas, I felt like my hands were swollen because of sudden exposure to cold winds. The summit look deceptively closed, it was not.
The night had turned to day after hours of struggle up the glacier. I felt like absolute crap, to put it subtly. I could only breathe out of my mouth as a thick blood clad mucus started forming in my nostrils which I avoided for a while. Meanwhile, rudy started feeling exhaustion and had a fall, which was luckily arrested by tamara and rohit with an ice axe. Like Jack and Jill, we all fell at some point of time. Some near the ridge with a fall as deep as 800m, some on the glacier. I had my heart pounding, but man, was that the view of a lifetime!
Paul started experiencing severe bouts of cough and was completely exhausted and along with him, rudy took the decision to move down to the base camp. They were accompanied by Somu, a cook who had come with us for the summit night for extra support.
We dodged one trail breaking step after the other in our diagonal spanned almost straight up ice axes in hand. I literally found myself struggling with back pain and blood clad mucus flowing untimely, but also exponentially more with how small the world looked below us. It was truly one of the most unfathomable scenes I've ever experienced.
After 4 grueling hours of criss cross walking, trail breaking, moving through moraine and dodging Cravesses, getting dumped in knee deep snow and falling over and over again, we came to a rocky outcropping of the glacier where the summit ridge began. 300m ONLY from the top now.
I parked myself on the slope near the ridge with mucus still flowing and back still aching. After 7 hours of non-stop climbing may be I just need something to munch, I thought to myself. Without any appetite I munched on kitkat and snicker bar, hoping it would take away whatever was hurting and provide me with some energy for the final push. It did not :(
It had taken 4 hours to climb 150 m up the glacier. It was mostly chomdan and rohit breaking the trail and showing some displacement, but the slow pace of movement had gotten to all of us. The sun had risen by now and at 19500 ft it saps all the energy even at 7 am in the morning.
The snowpack along the shoulder was very compact to be walking on and we estimated another two hours to summit. By the way the distance left was mere 200m. I got another bout of blood mucus and I decided to bid a good bye! How unbelievable as it may sound, cruel it may sound, heart-breaking it may sound, sensible it was. One more bout could have made weak to an extent of loosing my balance and have a free fall down the slope. Tamara and arthur started feeling dizzy, loss of vision and a little shaky, they decide to go back to the basecamp. Chomdam accompanied us leaving rohit and vibhakar to their fate.
We made it back to the base camp a few hours later. A bit dejected and extremely exhausted. I noticed I had trouble balancing at times. Normally I am pretty sure-footed but I found myself tripping over easily avoidable stuff while coming back to the base camp. Vibhakar finished the summit and came back along with rohit at around 2 pm, which was praise worthy however we felt they should not have pushed to that extent, because staying exposed at that height anytime after 10am can prove risky. We congratulated vibhakar for the feat. We had lunch and slept again to wake up to see the setting sun over the mountain, painting the sky with every colour that exists.