The Frozen Courage

24th Jan 2017
Photo of The Frozen Courage by Romil Modi

One morning in December, my friend, Sagar Gandhi, woke up with a rough plan of Kedarkantha trek in mid January. I readily agreed with a firm trust on him as he's one of those very few folks who execute their travelling plans, no matter what. Within 7 days he was ready with the dates suitable and accordingly he scheduled the whole itinerary for the trek. We booked the tickets accordingly and day by day our excitement grew to a giant. And finally on 20th January'17, we departed from Ahmadabad. The scheduled itinerary was as follows:

24th : Sankri to Juda Ka Talab

25th : Juda Ka Talab to Kedarkantha base

26th : Kedarkantha base camp to summit and then descent to Juda Ka Talab

Till 25th, the trek went cool and within our comfort zone. The climax took place on the 25th night when all the members had their supper and were gaining the energy as on 26th, we had to wake up at 3 and were supposed to begin the ascent at 4.

The climax goes here when it was around 11 PM and all the people were hidden in their sleeping bags. The climate began to worse and snowfall began. But all the members were sleeping ruthlessly so none of us knew what was going on. The light snowfall turned out to a horrific Blizzard. Around 12:30 AM, 26th January, the helpers and chefs came to individual tents and woke us up and asked us to perform some task. They asked us to hit the tents from inside, periodically from 2-3 minutes, to make the snow roll down the tent so the tent and the members inside stay safe. Following their orders, I woke Sagar up who was dreaming about something and woke up with a freaking scared face. I told him the matter outside the tent and asked him to hit the tent gently. We were constantly trying hard to keep each other awake and were cursing the nature. Soon our innocent alarms rang at 3 AM and reminded us that we're supposed to wake up for the summit. Still we were trying hard to stay awake and roll down the snow. In between, many times the helpers went to each tent and roll down the snow from outer side. After some time, I got the nature's call and I wished Sagar his luck and went to freshen up. When I returned, Sagar was ready with an another horrific incident of depression occurred on our tent due to snow load and how he fixed those depressions by fixing some hooks all alone. We took some videos of the Blizzard using the torch. It was around 5:30 when Blizzard stopped but snowfall was still on. Till 6:30, snowfall also stopped and the weather around us got clear. But still the peak was not visible so we couldn't decide whether to take the way to summit or not. Though we took the decision to do the summit, the trek would be tougher as the trail got lost in the newly fallen snow and it would be tough to prepare the trail to the peak. We waited till 8am and the sky around the peak got clearer and peak became partially visible. But still there was no point of utter confidence that weather wouldn't worsen up. So from total 22 group members, 15 decided to descend down to Sankri while 7 of us decided to try upon the peak and then descent to Sankri. We made a principle that we would start descending exactly at 12, irrespective of however close we may be to the peak. This decision was made to be firm as we need to descend to Sankri via base camp and Juda Ka Talab. Seven of us packed our bags and had some heavy breakfast as we had to climb the mountain and descend back without any lunch. So we started ascending at 8:30am. The trek seemed very tough as we were supposed to prepare the new trail after heavy snowstorm. Each one of us were leading the group and making the trail turn by turn as it was very irksome task. It freaked us out as the slow paced walk was also proving to be wearisome. Anyhow we all encouraged each other. Around 10am, one of us abandoned the summit and was going to wait for six of us till we return from the summit. Each one of us was gasping for breath but none of us got discouraged on the way. We pushed our limits to the infinity just to reach the top. One of us, Dr. Milind Sankhe, neurosurgeon at India's renowned hospital, Hinduja hospital, in Mumbai, was leading the group making the trail. Suddenly he found himself stuck in the snow till waist as the snow beneath him settled down. The scenario itself took us to the horrific world but somehow we gained back our senses and started thinking the ideas to rescue him. We pulled his rucksack from him and then helped him through ropes. The snow around was extremely loose to get a firm support but after 6-8 minutes of hard work, we got him out of that. Still the incident didn't surpass the enthusiasm we had and continued to ascend. The weather in mountains is pretty unpredictable and it was around 10am when the snowstorm began again. Around 10:30am, we found ourselves at the beginning of ridge line of the summit. The summit was few metres away, hidden because of snowstorm. It could take us an hour to reach the summit but due to heavy snowstorm and zero visibility, we were bound to think on further steps. We encouraged other members and decided to ascend till the summit. After few steps, the wind got more harsh, visibility as zero and found ourselves stuck in the Blizzard. We decided to descend to the beginning of ridge line and wait till the weather goes somehow well. We descended and reached the beginning of the ridge line but still the weather was very ruthless. We waited for like 10 minutes but the weather only got worse, literally denying us to take a single step against the nature. So finally we decided to abandon the summit and descend back to Sankri. All 6 of us, unanimously agreed to abandon the summit as we could not go against the nature. Kedarkantha is always going to stay there, but the lives are something that matter the most. As it is said “Jaan he to Jahaan he”, we consoled each other and began to descend. The journey back was feeling tougher as we never thought of abandoning the plan. We were descending with the millions of feelings residing in us, feeling quite proud to be better than others and still failed to do so. We reached Sankri via base camp, Juda Ka Talab and reached Sankri around 6:30 PM. We walked till the hotel and finally found other 15 members eagerly waiting to greet us with hot bhaajis and tea-coffee. We had snacks and dictated the whole incident to them.

After Blizzard

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Romil Modi

High altitude kitchen

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Romil Modi

Camp site

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Romil Modi

Base camp

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Romil Modi

The view

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Romil Modi

Kedarkantha peak

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Romil Modi

Solo traveller

Photo of Kedarkantha Peak, Singtur Range, Uttarakhand, India by Romil Modi
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