Monday, December 20, 2010

In arms of adventure

The travel from Delhi to Andaman took a month. I was glad to have free vacation during the move. Dad had bought me a cycle, only too large. Moreover, someone asked me, how I intended to learn to ride. Port Blair was mountainous.

Port Blair was an interesting place in 1975 for a 5th grade student. My first rides were near the wharf, which was the only nearby flat ground. I climbed on a small boulder and mounted on the seat and gave a heave. Cycling was easy, if I could balance. With a few turns, I was close to the jetty. There was a strange smell of diesel mixed with rotten wood.
Two frigates were lined up and the flag came down at the honk of the bugle. It was sunset and I had to push my bike up the slopes.

Port Blair seemed like a lot more fun than Delhi. I had lost my best friend Bhasu in Delhi and I had to yet make new acquaintances. I decided to write to Bhasu. I was missing the Television serials Fireball XL5 and Robin Hood which but I had new assets; Hilly terrain, a bike, a sea shore.

I had tough time at school to meeting “new” expectations.
The teachers were more strict than the Delhi school. Cane was used freely. The name of “Ram Milan Singh” struck terror in classrooms.
My acquaintance with “Ram” was through my bad handwriting. The change of schools challenged me to use the pen as the weapon instead of the pencil I was much used to.
On receiving the juiciest I found that this was just the name of the cane.
Usually, the class monitor was asked to fetch 'Ram Milan Singh' and I pitied that guy.

Kids in the class were friendly. A mix of different states that gelled very well,a perfect cosmo India. Hindi sounded strange, when the local kids used Karta, Mangta..; no gender bias .

Most of the class toppers were sincere with homework, notebooks beautifully underlined with sketch pen, very colorful; almost to the level of project work.
I could not cope with the level of tidiness, nor the punctuality. My parents unwilling to believe that investment in sketch pens fetched better marks. The beauty of the Andamans filled up the void and frustration at school.

There were unexplored coves, Lakes around my place. A Japanese bunker. Studies took time and I was not moving a notch.
With Asterix and Tintin comics, a whole new world of neat animation opened for me and my interest in Phantom and Mandrake comics died. Treasure island was still a favorite. David Copperfield moved me to tears.
Other kids from Mainland used to talk about Disney movies.
I had never seen a cartoon movie.

Arindam was my best school friend. He was fun loving and adventurous. Quite talkative contrary to me. His elder brother Arvind, was on the serious side, but the trio had splendid times.
Another colleague, Om Prakash, was the local adventurer. His dad worked in the Fire brigade.

At school we could hear explosions. On inquiry, we found that there were mines and bombs left by the Japanese during their occupation during World war 2. The Indian Army was in process of diffusing them. The weather on the islands had corroded the shell.
It was prime talk at school ; apart from recent expeditions by Indian Archaeology attempting to be-friend the Sentinel Tribals. A senior’s dad was shot at by the Sentinels with a poison arrow and had to lose an arm.

I thought of exploring the Japanese bunker someday. I talked about it with Om, Arvind and Arindam, who were very keen.
On a Sunday I was trying rant my Sanskrit , the school colleagues dropped by my house. We sneaked out, climbed down the rocky shore.

The sea water was at high tide and had cut away several places, that were usually accessible. I had not given a thought to the tide.
We waded to the bunker. The bunker had two compartments we crawled into the outer one. The floor was caked with dust, deserted for a long time.
The inner compartment was locked by a door. Om pulled out a pocket knife and struggled with the lock.
As the door opened in front of them lay a heap of Earth, some wires and overwhelming rotten smell.

If the bunker was indeed mined, a step would blow us off. We discussed the consequences. 

No one knew what lay beneath the grit. There were Indian Oil fuel tanks a hill. We decided to pull away, satisfied by our desire to break into a bunker. Next day at school was interesting as the class listened to the details of the ‘expolit’.

The jungle in the tropics was dense. The vines twisted to form tunnels. I often ventured into deeper forests.
My encounters with snakes were rare. It was one creature I detested for its slimy form and unpredictable course. The Cashew fruit was available in plenty and the kids used to feast, eventually staining the shirts.

There were few Guava trees around the colony and it gave me immense pleasure to climb up a tree unnoticed and steal ripe fruit that was out of reach. On one unfortunate venture I was bee stung in the eye, as the bee guarding the guava disagreed with my selfish motive.

The jungle had unknown creatures. At home, we used to breed chicken for eggs. Somehow, the tribe was reducing every day. Mom showed me a Ghorpad that lay underneath the bushes. The hen eater, slithered off into the dense foliage, at the blink of the eye.

Centipedes, as thick as a finger, were common. Local name Kan-khajura meant, it could crawl into the ear at night. Sleeping on ground was avoided. My toddler brother was and expert in smashing them with slippers.

We had a small garden for vegetables.
The vegetables from the ship were a week old and poor quality. Fish was available cheap and plenty.
The common pest in the garden was snails. The snail conch was as large as my fist. There was a rumor that the Japanese had bred them as a delicacy.

The snails had to be collected in a bucket. They melted into a soupy liquid, as salt was sprinkled over them.

A Krait had made itself comfortable in the Water valve pit, till it met its usual fate with a human encounter.

My trips to the Rock shore were not a secret. Someone had informed my parents.
A few friends had an idea to build a raft. There were plywood planks that were tied together.
The entire 'ship building' process had to go unnoticed, if the news of the newer exploits leaked, the venture would sink.

The raft was complete and could seat two kids at a time. As we launched our first trip across the local pond, the raft  sank almost immediately. The trips to the beach had improved swimming. Through the shipbuilding venture, we found a new pass time. Swim in the pond. The slip out procedure was simple; mostly at afternoon in holiday season. Wrap a towel and undergarments, hide it under arm and slip out of the house at scheduled time. It was all boy’s effort for complete secrecy.

I was waiting for others to join and they had not been punctual on that particular day.
I desperately hoped that no one was caught or had spilled the beans. I walked to the pond alone. As soon as I began to unbuckle, I saw ripples in the water. A very long black snake slithered over the surface of the water and was rapidly charging towards him.
 It was scary, when I realized, it would have been lurking around all these days probably with other equals.

In the evening meeting, I narrated my experience others and the rafting venture sank three days after it was floated.

The school trip to Mt Harriet was eventful.  The class got on to the ferry boat, went to a plywood factory and later climbed the highest peak near Port Blair.
A senior boy whipped the head of a viper, as it was close to make its strike on another kid.
A Viper bite on top of a mountain was fatal; it would take almost 3 hours to get him to a hospital. The boy became a hero. The Viper ended in Formalin jar in the Biology lab.

The summer vacation started and dad announced his transfer to Pune. It meant that I had no chance to say goodbye to school friends!
This was sudden and unexpected. Hopefully, Pune was another good place too. I recalled few cousins of around my age.
I would miss the sea a lot.

I went back to the rock shore for a last time. I had a last look at the bunker. (It had a new lock.) The tide was ebbing away and I could cross to the rock island with a cave. I sat there alone to hear the last bugle call from the naval ship.
I slept early for the morning flight.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Superman and the Half marathon

The 5AM alarm woke me up. The beer did not have so much of an effect. I hoped it would help me with the run on 5th Dec. 25 years of Pune International Marathon. I remembered my Vow to finish 21 km of run.

Nitin picked me up at 6.45AM and we left the car parked at Dorabjee’s. He was committed to do his 10 km run, despite being on Antibiotics for a week. We met the other PTCites at Peter England showroom and went for a photography session. Then we walked to the Sambhaji bridge. The crowd was not the same as last marathon, I guess it had something to do with the high fees.

I registered for half marathon. There was some announcement going on and everyone was eager to make a start. The presenters were making a late start with the traditional Indian mumbo jumbo. The participants were on the verge of outrage.

The half marathon was flagged off at around 8.50AM. As I passed the Laxmi road, I saw couple of participants disappear into a public loo for a long awaited leak. I joined in as well, wondering the fate of female participants.

The first km I felt my limbs rebel from lethargy, to the sudden pace I subjected them to.

They felt heavy and cramped. I wondered about their fate after 10 kms, but kept going. At 3 kms the body was warmed up and the heaviness disappeared. Good motivation was ahead of me, as females raced by, along with veterans. I decided to maintain my pace unruffled by the overtaking crowd.

At timber market junction I grasped a bottle from the cheering crowd and emptied it over my head. Wow! This felt real good! The slow climb after the 5km stretch started and I felt pretty good. I was maintaining my pace at the Rhythm of my snapping fingers. Soon I was on the Main street. School children held their arms stretched to cheer and I waved back. Almost as if they lent me power to continue.

I felt myself reeling into a transcendental state, separating myself above the crowd. Man and superman. Thoughts come and go. I am different. So are few select. I am doing well as I deserve to. There are better candidates of course. I should look at them and not look back. Few are dropping of into a walk. I should not think of them. It is easy to give-up..Nearing 10 kms... The Koregaon park bend.

It is so easy to run.. why should it take so much more time in my car.. 10 kms done. This is just half of it and I can surely do more. I curse my decision to tie the shoe laces tight. I got painful blisters on both feet and they are giving me a bad pain. I look around for waterspots but there are none. I arrive at the bridge. Is Sujit around? I remember his accident. I pass by my office take the left turn and continue on the Kalyaninagar road. Yes. A water spot. Another empty bottle to dissipate the heat. Feels fine. Is the “Wall” another myth? That does not apply to a superman? A “gori” races ahead of me. Another “Motivation”. As I cross the Nagar road, I see Sujit waiting with his camera. Feel so good to see him, so bad that he cannot run this time.

I hit the Jail road, at around 16 kms a strange thing happens. I have never encountered anything like this before. Strange feeling of dizziness. The world spins around slowly as if I downed 5-6 pegs of hard liquor in single go. Body shivers as if I have a fever. There is a strange sensation as if someone has hard gripped my wrists. I slow down my pace to a fast walk. Fill my lungs with air. Feels better and the feeling passes. The body rebels and the superman vanishes from my thoughts.

The painful blisters remind me that all is not well. The sun is scorching and I start feeling all the agony I subjected my body to. I am comparing this with my Himalayan expeditions and I tell myself, there is no load on my back. I start into a slow run. I have passed the “Wall”.

I reach the Finis point and I see an older dude. We nod to each other. First among equals?
I consider my ill training and the only 2, 8 km runs with Zero physical activity for several months.

The Superman in me returns.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dzongri and Ghost Stories

The trek to Dzongri was a nice walk through Rhododendron forests. There was a lake that was covered by mist. It was almost  like a dream. I walked by. My Right knee had started cribbing. The old German guy was keeping pace with me, occasionally waving his ski pole at me.

All of the climbers had already reached Dzongri and were sipping tea. It was very cold. Mangesh pointed to a room in the Log hut to place my sack. The mist was getting dense. I pulled out my watercolor kit and started sketching. Shantanu joined me as well.

The watercolor came out good, but would not dry as it was very cold. As a drizzle started, we retreated to the log hut. Our cook was arranging for a dinner.

We had few rounds of a card game as we discussed the next day’s plan. The Dzongri top would give us the first view of Mt Kangchenzonga and the other tall peaks in Sikkim.
The mist was thick and we could not see them.

The dark room was soon lit up with a gas lantern. Post dinner, we had time to kill, before the night set in. Sada was interested in ghost stories. He wanted each of us to narrate one.

Shantanu’s story was about his lonely trek. Ghosts that the village folk talked about. He was indeed spinning an interesting story, that ended up with an objective explanation of the Ghosts actually being monkeys. Few thieves, who used the fear factor to steal things from the village.
I like prefer palatable Ghost stories.

It was my turn and I said, “I do not believe in ghosts. Yet, there is one strange story, when my great grandmother was on her deathbed.”
She often used to tell us about a woman used to sit besides her close to her feet in the middle of the night. They used to engage in common talk.

She talked about it so often, that one of my cousins interrupted her once, to suggest.."You already have good company. Why don’t you ask her to give you a foot massage, as you talk?”

This was not interesting enough to Sada. It was Mangesh’s turn.
Mangesh expressed an opinion, that ghosts were not real and he did not believe in them either.
Yet, he would like to narrate a strange experience, that might interest us.

Mangesh had been to a small trek and the group decided to seek shelter in a village school.
The guard had no objection, yet, he mentioned  that villagers had strange experiences at night in the school premises. He did not give details.

The driver was scared and wanted to sleep in the Jeep.
Few guys in the team chose the school veranda, while Mangesh and his friend slept in the open ground.
At around one o’clock in the night strange things did happen.

As Mangesh woke up, he saw his friend sitting right next to him staring at him with his eyes in a trance. As he slapped him on the cheek, the friend recoiled back to sleep.
In the group that was sleeping on the veranda, one of the guys, 6ft tall, was pulled out of the line by 3 feet. He started a commotion waking up the rest.

The driver woke up at around 1 o’clock as he was slapped around by someone. He was dead scared as he had locked himself in the Jeep.

Mangesh ended the story by saying, he did not think that ghosts had anything to do with it.
It must have been the initial narration from village folk, which might have left a fear factor that eventually started the commotion.
It did not explain the shifting of the 6 ft guy or the driver getting slapped.

Mangesh had delivered the best story that was asked.
Sada was petrified and he talked of moving his sleeping bag next to my place to the opposite end of the room.
Perhaps Sada was terrified by the gaze Mangesh gave him as he spun the tale.

It was a story well told. Mangesh indeed had a nice way of engaging everyone.

I recoiled in my sleeping bag hungry for warmth.

Friday night 26 Nov 2010.

I am sleeping on the ground. An aged woman sits besides me.
She looks familiar, but I cannot place her.

I do not remember, why she is here, but both of us are waiting for someone, we know well.Did I ask her for this experience regardless of my belief?
The wait is long almost like 'Waiting for Godou'.

She wakes me up at night, shifts her eyes to the corner of the room. The gaze means.
“He is here and looking at you, please do not look.”
She is caring and does not want me to go through an unpleasant experience. 

Should it be unpleasant? We used to know each other so well. Buddy!
Am I not here just because I want to talk to him again?

I look upwards, but the space is empty.

I wake up and its almost 6AM.
Ghost stories! What Larks!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life after a two day death

We were to meet at the Police Station at Yuksum. Sada's uncle was at the station. He was in tears.
It must have abeen a bad shock for him, as he saw me alive. This only confirmed Sada's death.
I tried to comfort him as he begged for a last look at his nephew.
He mentioned that he was completely confused. He had recieved confirmation message that had declared Sada alive. My family must have recieved the opposite news i.e. a confirmation of my death.

I asked him to believe in us as we were present in person.
A rumor can be so destructive.
He had travelled all the way to confirm the death.

It struck me that my existence could have pained another bereaved.
It is a situation, where I am a pawn unable to do much; other than confirm a rumor as wrong.

We had also written to the police of the high level of co-operation, we had recieved from Rinzing.He was cleared.
After the lunch, Rajesh asked us to leave for the Bagdogra airport. He would stay for a day or two to clear the formalities.
I made a call to PTC office and confirmed the news.
Had a call from Prasad that went on for a long time.It was good to talk to the friend I had started my adventures with.
He must have been worried. Not to mention my other batchmates in Austraila.
On our way back, Shantanu struck an interesting conversation that set me thinking.
This had been going on now and then in my mind. The collage of my thought formed the portrait of Explorer.
People who continue to climb are different from the rest. We need challenges outside our regular job.
We are passionate about nature. We tend to try to outperform. We take calculated risks.
What may seem logical to us might be illogical to others. We want to be super human.

I wondered the stress the rumors might have put on my family, my friends and my team.
Though I had not stepped beyond my limit, this would perhaps never be understood by those, who think unlike me.
If I care about them, does the climber have to die?

There is excess energy that needs to be channelised. I could deep dive into art and develop my creativity. Buy a nice mountain bike and hit the road. Perhaps run the marathon.

The "rebirth" was well celebrated as old friends poured in. I was energised as  I felt the expanse of my friend circle. Why should someone die for me to realise it?

I feel that no one should go through the same pain as me to realise his or her importance.

As the climber dies in me, I recollect an old episode.
I was on my way back from Mt Satopanth and the expedition had not gone well with me.On my way back I fell on my face as I tripped on a slope. This had never happened to me before and it was a shock.
How could I fall? I had often stayed in balance in past. I knew I crossed my limit and thought of retiring.

I recall the words a foreign tourist had said to me, then.

She said, "Give up climbing? You must be kidding. A climber never retires."

Monday, October 11, 2010


The walk to Tshokha took 4 hours. Anju cast a last look at Tinchinkhang, through the clouds.
She was covering the distance, a lot better than me. The pain in my right knee was worse and I limped using my ski poles.
The route from Kokchurang to Tshokha was through dense vegetation, mostly Rhododendron bushes and it was nice to be back at the tree line. I munched on the Apple that Daman had given me for the short trek. There were other trek groups at Bakhim where the track merged into our old route to Thansing.

The sunburn gave us away as the members of Tinchinkhang expedition and there were more questions from the porters. We had enough on our plate and were getting more impatient, as people dug into details that we wanted to erase from our mind.

A Mountaineer from Siliguri mentioned of a massive avalanche from Tinchinkhang when he was doing some research on the mountain. We agreed that this was not a easy trekking peak as mentioned by the Sikkim Government. There was no way to know till one gets closer to the crux of the climb and there is need to increase awareness.

My knee was giving me bad time as the descent steepened. I could see the monastery where the four of us had splendid time.My spirit was low. I was anxious to learn from Shantanu on further communication, including Ang's fate.

The clang of the Yak bells could be heard. We were close to civilization. We stepped inside the chalet where we were supposed to meet Shantanu.
My immediate thought was to buy a sprain liniment. We sat outside, sipping tea. There were too many questions inside the chalet. The atmosphere was too stuffy.

Shantanu approached me with a serious face. He mentioned that Ang and Mingma were put on the helicopter and shifted to Siliguri hospital, placed in I.C.U.
He also mentioned that Our L.O. was airlifted with some serious charges of mishandling the expedition. I was agitated and felt that we would do everything we could to clear him. Considering his age, he had been good at his duties and supportive.

Then Shantanu said,"There is a gochi.(Problem!) I want you to listen carefully and patiently. Somehow, your name was conveyed in the list of the deceased in place of Sada"

Hell broke loose as I thought of the consequences of this miscommunication. I wept. What would Ila have gone through for last two days.My kids, Family.

When I mourned for Mangesh and Sada, I had never realized consequences to my family.

Shantanu: The news is about an avalanche that hit us. There is a different story in every newspaper and on websites.
Though none spell your name, it is obvious that Mangesh and you would have gone for summit attempt. Your family was reached.

During our call the static and wind has changed "Sadaa" to read as "Parag". This had confused Rinzing.
I recovered slowly as I understood the means of the confusion and the logical fallouts well. I asked for a phone to call my wife.

We discussed and we thought it was better that we reach ground zero, before making any communication to outer world.

We were still in the mountains and the rumors were aplenty. We needed to get to Tshokha as fast as we could and prove that we were "phyisically intact".

Shantanu: Are you ok to walk? We may reach Tshokha by 9PM.

Without this extra piece of news, I had planned a good rest to relax my knee. I knew that the only choice was to climb down without further delay. It was near sunset.

Roger Payne (Switzerland) was on an expedition to Mt. Jopuno. He had heard of the tragedy, and he having made a successful ascent on Tinchinkhang, was better aware of the situation. As we talked we found common acquaintances like Paul Prichard and Johnny Dawes. I mentioned of the Meru Shark fin Expedition.

With my expedition sack on a Dzo, I carried my light sack with some food. My Head torch was with Mingma. Anju and I walked back with few Policemen, who were sent to "rescue" us. Shantanu was following our pack.

Shantanu had mentioned that few people from Chakram were already at Yuksom, including my old friend Rajesh Gadgil.
I remembered the night at Meade's col on Kamet.It was almost 16 years that we had met last on 19 Oct 1994, the day of my marriage.

I was overwhelmed by the quick reaction from Chakram Hikers. Most of the members had left in the midst of the Diwali. I limped like Long John Silver in the night trying to catch pace with others. I forgot about the accident, more keen to meet the people from Mumbai and to talk with Ila.

The lights of Yuksom could be seen. They seemed so bright. There were flashes of torch on the way below..perhaps people expecting us.

We decided among ourselves that we would not say anything to the press. Our Club would send a response.

As we approached the village the spotlights dazzled us. We were back on a tar road after weeks. A lady police escorted Aju and me to a Jeep.
We sat waiting for Shantanu to join.

A guy started talking to Anju. I guessed, he was from the club. As I looked into his eyes, there was a flicker of recognition and lo! It was none other than Rajesh Gadgil in person.

Both of us were not the same old lanky climbers anymore. We embraced and I wept again.
I mentioned our night at Meade's col @ 23000 feet in the storm. We had shared a very rough patch. We talked of Prasad.
Rajesh mentioned that Prasad had kept calling in from Australia, trying to get abreast with the situation.

I thought of Moreshwar, Girish, Milind and almost, all buddies I had climbed with.
Neelam, my sister in law was on line (early morning in USA). There were too many people who wanted me to be safe.
Rajesh was handling the situation magnificently. He must have faced numerous calls. A friend that I could count on.

I made the only call I wanted to. I talked to Ila and told her that I was intact. That she should not worry any more. I would be back only after the necessary police work was through.

The police wanted to do some medical examination from the party they had rescued.
Anju wanted to get through it  fast ; she had a hell of a day.
I got my Blood pressure checked. The result was normal.

The three of us joined Bhau Padhye (a veteran Climberfrom Mumbai) and Rajesh for dinner.

Although I was tired from the long march, a two day descent that we managed in a day, the anxiety kept me awake.
We were to meet with the police officials. The Superintendent of police was at Yuksom to meet us.

Our thought was focused on clearing Rinzing.
I dreamed of an explorer making way back to his home.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


We woke up just as Daman was getting the morning tea. I realized the huge task that lay ahead of us.

Shantanu went to check Ang. No response. Same chant.Ang had probably used all the strength to get back to Advance Base camp.

Mingma felt better. He could walk on his own.

The team of Sherpas came up. They consoled me for the loss. I was moved.

I went back to out tent to pack up. Anju was feeling low. Shantanu was trying to steer the conversation to other subjects.

Ang was carried down by the Sherpas. I took a last look at Mt Tinchinkhang.

Tears welled in my eyes and I broke down. I cursed myself for being objective at all times. I felt inhuman.

I cried out loud, not at the mountain, but at my own behavior.

"The Ghosts" were returning. (See Blog 'Point of no return' for my definition of Ghost.)

It must have been a shock to others who had only seen the impassive side of me for the two days.

I gave in only after we were out of the critical situation.

They tried to comfort me with words.

I was back in control as my reasoning returned.
It could not have been done differently. If I were fit, I would have gone up in the summit team.
Not in the rescue team... perhaps, we could even have arrested the fall together.

Or perhaps I would have been lost too.
Ifs and buts do not mean much. I had not climbed for few reasons, which I should reveal...
The reason for which I climb would be lost, if I was too dependent on the Sherpas. I was sure that at some point I would be weak and I did not want to be a burden.

Heights made me uneasy. I was not as comfortable or carefree in mountains as before. There was a confidence that I had had in my past expeditions. A feeling that nothing will go wrong with me in the mountains.

I did not have that feeling during Tinchinkhang.
The most important reason was 19 Oct, my marriage anniversary.
I did not want to betray the trust Ila had in me, when she permitted me to go on the expedition.

I withdrew when I felt that the risks indeed exceeded my expectation.

Success or failure did not seem important. Mountaineering for me is about testing the limit, to enjoy the adventure and ensure safe return.

As a mountaineer, after finding my limit, I did not budge from my decision. The limit is dictated by a person's fitness level.

The walk to base was easy. Rinzing had made arrangements to help us for a rapid withdrawal from the mountain.

The Helicopter had not shown up. It meant that Ang had to be carried upto Thansing. Easier to land the helicopter.

We walked to Thansing. There were trekking teams who looked at us strangely. Perhaps the news had spread.
The chief of the Thansing site was polite and softspoken.
He understood our feelings well.
The Heli did not arrive till late afternoon. Ang's immediate evacuation was necessary.

The lead sherpa was using different methods to secure Ang. He was huge and in one attempt he put Ang in a basket and lifted on his own.

Finally they decided that a stretcher carried by four would be the easiest. These four could be replaced. Shantanu decided to go down with the porters the same night. He would then be within the cell range and could call Yuksom and the club. Anju and I were to descend, the next morning.

An hour after the team left, I heard the copter. It was so late. So useless!
I laughed at the situation, as we saw the copter shoot ahead of Tinchinkhang, well beyond Mt. Pandim. I hoped it would land at Tshokha on its return.
I had another sleepless night. It was extremely cold. An ordeal lay ahead of us.

Would the police understand? Would they ask for proof? Insurance claim....
The news must have traveled to the family, colleagues and friends. They would know about Mangesh.
My thoughts returned to his family.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Dark Diwali

Post Tinchinkhang acident:

It was 4pm and at Camp1 (18000 ft) we started debating about the condition below the summit. What was Mangesh's condition? Perhaps, he would wake up.
He had a strong will and it will help him to get back to camp with assistance of the sherpas.
But they had said he was unconscious. I wished that it wasnt so and it may be the fright of the fall that made him dumb. Then Mingma spoke of the details..
All of them slipped into a crevasse.
For 15 mins they all were Unconcious.
Ang was the first to recover.

He pulled out Mingma then Mangesh and Poor Sada was already dead and stuck inside.
Then he called us on the walkie talkie at 3PM (prescheduled call.)
He tried hard to wake up Mangesh but he could not. (Mangesh was breathing).

He held the mouthpiece and all we heard was rasped breathing.
We pleaded to Mangesh to say something but he was completely blank.

There was no moaning. No sign of pain. No whisper.

Mingma mentioned; they were descending the slope and someone slipped pulling them off the face. Mingma tried to arrest twice but slipped each time. The ice must be very hard. They slipped into a Crevasse (probably the bergschrund that seperates the face from the top basin.).

We had an hourly call with Ang and Mingma, The last call made at around 5PM, but there was no responce from Mangesh. he had passed into a state where he could not feel anything.
Shantanu and Anju thought of going up the fixed rope.I debated that the snow gets softer adding to more risk If it took them more than 12 hours to climb the summit, it would take us, the weaker team, a lot more time.

(Means climb through the night and reach the accident spot next morning.)

I debated that if we were strong enough to climb up the slope, we would have been in the attempt team and
would not have stayed back. What if one of the rescuers themself met a casuality by a falling rock? We would end up with more casuality.

Rinzing had asked us to stay at camp. He must have been very thoughtful. He would not like to pose more risk to the team.

The three of us agreed that we could not do anything other than reducing risk.

Shantanu searched for a number in Mumbai where we could send the message of the accident.

At the 5PM call, he asked Rinzing to go to the village of Tshokha which was in mobile range. Convey the news of accident. Get Heli rescue immediately. Rinzing left base immediately after the call.

My immediate response was ; if Mangesh was still unconscious, the Sherpa's should try to get down to the camp. This would at least save 2 people in 4. My mind was focused on reducing casuality. It was only people numbers. Faces did not matter.

The handset battery was getting low. With no battery, we were at a bigger risk.

The set rang again. "Saab! Kuch to karo Saab! (Sir! Do something!)" Followed by sobbing. He wanted Mangesh to speak into the handset. We could hear his breath.

How cruel could I be! Perhaps God was testing us. I asked Shantanu to switch off the set.
We could do nothing. If we listened to the cries, we might set false hope.

Eventually the battery would die.
I hoped ; the Sherpas would try to take care of themselves at the right moment and descend.
I preyed to god as never before, to give the Sherpas the power to decide,what was appropriate.

The night was haunting. We had to eat to stay warm. The upma was unpalatable. The boiled water tasted of upma and I nearly puked.

It must be 8pm and we noticed a torch shine behind our tent. A figure collapsed outside the tent.
It was Mingma. 1 saved. I was elated to see him back, alive.

Shantanu helped him with his boots and Anju opened up a sleeping bag.  Mingma was mumbling about going up with a sleeping bag.

Ang was with Mangesh at the accident spot. Mangesh was alive, but unconscious when Mingma left. He must have climbed down since we did not reply on the radio set.
Ang's arm had taken a beating and he was unable to move it.

Shantanu inspected Mingma for broken bones/ribs.
There was a bad swell on his leg, perhaps caused by rope burn, when he tried to stop the fall.
Mingma was back only to go up again. Certain that a heli will come for rescue.

Shantanu gave him a sedative to ease the pain, which he swallowed reluctantly.
We did not ask him anything about the fall. He had come a long way and we did not want him to remember anything unpleasant. We jollied him into a sleeping bag and asked him to rest for an hour.
I was relieved that we got back one person at least. Would Ang make it through?

From the talk with Mingma we could gather, that Mangesh was in a state where he could not feel pain.
Where would be Rinzing? The poor guy must be heading to Tshoka. Would we get a Heli rescue?

I felt that a rescue will take a very long time. Perhaps too late. At least for sake of Ang? Perhaps Mingma
was right in taking the sleeping bags up.
Mingma woke up late. We assured him that he should not feel pressurized to go up again.

But he was thinking of poor Ang, his nephew. He packed the sleeping bags, wore his boots and gaiters.Strapped the crampons on the boots and hung the haversack.

He took few steps and collapsed in the snow.

We brought him inside the tent. I was stern and said, we did not want to lose more. This was no time to take risks. He was back in his sleeping bag.

It is almost impossible to convey to the reader what we had gone through that night. I thought of Mangesh's wife and daughter. If this had happened to me what would be my family reaction. After all I had told them we were going for a easy peak.

I can just say this should never happen to any person who loves an adventure.
The pressure was tremendous. We were thinking of numerous tasks that would follow. We could not afford negativity of any kind. Personal feelings have no place when we attempt to manage a disaster.

The mishap had brought the three of us  close. I was fortunate to have exceptional people around me. It only made me very strong.

My cough was getting bad. The torch cell was dying. We were wide awake apart from Mingma.

Suddenly in the middle of the night, must have been around 2AM we saw another torch light. Mingma?

I did not hide my pleasure when I saw him walk to the door and fall down into the snow.

Again we asked no questions. I remember taking his head on my lap. He was such a kid. I tried to warm him up and he groaned. I apologised, as I had forgotten his injured arm.

Again, we asked no questions. We wanted him to focus on recovery.

I tried to make him drink water, but he kept coughing. Shantanu did his check.
Shantanu was worried that there might be rib damage. Ang was in a very bad state.

Would we need a stretcher to rescue him? We had no rope.
With the sherpas asleep, we held a council of war in our tent. We had less food. We were running out of battery.

If we could somehow talk them into a slow descend back to Advance base, they could be moved further down by a rescue team. Entirely depended on their morale.

As the sun rose, the gloom at our camp reduced.
We went into the sherpa tent to check. Ang was talkable. He told us that Mangesh stopped breathing at 1AM. He then started his long descent.These sherpas had been on few expeditions with Mangesh and the risk they took was commendable.
I could gauge the respect they had for Mangesh.

Though they knew of the fatality , they stuck with him to the last breath.
I gently opened the subject of going down.Could they walk?

Mingma: 'Lets wait for helicopter.'
Parag: 'What if there is no helicopter. What if its is delayed by 2 days?'
I turned to Ang and said, "You have a Wife and a Kid.You want to return for their sake."

I left the matter with them for discussion.

It worked. In an hour both were ready to go down.
We hurriedly packed one of the tents. Collapsed the other and buried it in the snow.

Shantanu attached the slings and rope pieces to make a moving rope and the 3 of us attached ourselves to it.

We were on a very short leash of around 10 feet between climbers.The Sherpas did not want to rope up.

The sherpas followed us closely at the start of the crevasse zone started.
I had become overly cautious for each step I took. No more accident.
The clouds moved up the valley. Visibility was reduced to 20 ft. The descent seemed very long to me.

We could see the massive rock around which we had set camp. There was no one at camp. Where was Daman?

The Sherpas got into one tent and immediately fell asleep. We occupied the other tent, put our carrymats and stuff for the night.

Daman was back in the camp. He was carrying some food from base. He expressed his condolence politely.

He mentioned that he had seen a small avalanche on the peak but it was much away from the climbing route.

Ang was sinking into delirium. He was chanting.Not responsive. Mingma was better.

With Daman around, we were at home. A pack of 10 Sherpas was coming to Advance base to evacuate our injured.

This was a big relief. I slept well that night.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Long Walk

The swim refreshed him. It had become a habit, no matter which season, he would religiously take a plunge in the pool and swim for an hour. To quench the hunger he walked with Prasad to NN. Munching on a cream roll they talked about another crazy idea. The cycle trip sounded too simple and what could be more impressive than walking to Mumbai.

The idea was set and they planned the walk. Food to carry, medicine etc. Girish handed a bottle of Sloan’s linment balm.

He was working in a design department as inpart trainee. He had a chip conveyor design to finish but the anxiety of starting the walk kept the thoughts off the design. He sneaked out of the office at 3PM and Prasad was all ready. They quickly packed the food and one set of extra clothes and started to walk.

They debated about the actual distance. Was it 175 kms or more. They walked nonstop to Nigadi from Pimpri hostel. Soon found their pace to be 6kms and hour.

They crossed Dehu road and the slow climb to Talegoan . He could feel the strain of the walk.

They crossed Kamshet. He sank into a heap of construction sand completely exhausted. They took of the shoes and applied the liniment on their aching feet. It was now very dark and they had to shine their torches. The only sound was that of the wind and the roaring trucks.

Something glistened under the fading beam. Oh! It’s just a squashed snake. Lucky, he didn’t step on it. At the thought he shone the torch further. There was another long one, alive wriggling on the road, October heat perhaps.

It dawned on them that they had never considered snakes. With a dim torch it there was big chance of stepping on one. They were at the outskirts of Lonavla. They had walked 50 kms and were very tired. They decided to take a long rest.

Prasad was in deep sleep soon and he shivered as wind grew and the sweat cooled.
He could not sleep at all.

After an hour he woke up Prasad. They realized that it was better, if they got a ride to Khopoli. They could always continue early morning. Trucks rolled by, unwavered to their waving hands. It was almost 4AM. Finally one driver took mercy. As they clambered into the warm cabin, they immediately dozed off in deep slumber.



“How long are you going”


He discussed with Prasad. Both weighed if they should rather drop off at Panvel?

Most of the ill decisions are taken when half awake or improper rest.

The driver was OK. They dosed off again.

They got off at the goa highway crossing. As the sun rose higher, the pains from the past day elevated. The liniment had done damage. It caused bad blisters on his feet and the friction with the canvas shoes made the walk more painful. They moved along the creek near Panvel and the heat was unbearable. They poured water inside their shoes. Squeaked at every step but effectively cooled down.

He could see butterflies flutter by and collapse on the road due to the heat.

By noon, they reached the London Pilsner factory near Juinagar and there they decided to call it off.

Since the last evening, they had covered a distance of 70 kms by walk. Well some achievement at age of 17.

Disaster strikes

Mt Tinchenkhang- Camp1 @ 17000'

The wake up alarm seemed like a call from another world. I rolled my sleeping bag; shifting body weight from the left shoulder to the right. It had been a long day and the night was over; already at 1AM.

He woke up and switched on the head torch. I turned away from the beam. I was dead sure that I was not going to join the rush for the summit. I had been very vocal about my thought .

Moreover, my dear friend had been very persuasive last evening. If I woke up the talk may start again. It is easy to get lured.

I knew my limitations, well and slept on.

I could hear Anju help him get ready. Soon he was out in the night with the other knights. I heard Shantanu’s voice. He was dropping off too.

I dozed off. This was not my arena, for sure. Every man for himself. My Sleeping bag for myself.

I felt the warm sunlight hit my side of the tent. Decided to wake up for a pee call. Meant that I need to enter those cold outer boots and clamber past the guy ropes to the latrine pit. The laces were already wired with ice. I looked up the gully above the whale head. Mingma was leading. Then another climber, probably Ang. Slowly, someone climbed up, probably Mangesh, from behind the rock. I yelled and tried to cheer. Progress seemed slow, if they planned to turn back at 9AM.

Shantanu was back in his tent. I had taken a strange dislike for our Camp 1site. It did not look safe woith our tents perched on the tiny mound a crevasse on one side and a drop on the other. Perhaps, I had lost the sense of being in precarious places. It did not seem to bother other climbers.

The pyramid of Makalu looked close behind a ridge. Mountains can be deceptive.

As the sun rose higher I shot a movie of the climbers, who disappeared over an icy mound. We got into Shantanu’s tent. Tried to munch some food. I forget what it was. Probably Upma. Well! Everything tasted like sawdust to me.
We chatted about things we would enjoy after going down. Luxury unlimited. A lobster party.

It was getting late. No sign of the climbers as we were close to a steep face.

At around 1.30 in the noon, the Motorola set beeped. Mangesh and others were on the top of the mountain. They had gone up a steeper, but shorter route. This set up cheer in Camp-1. We decided to re-contact at 3PM.

I took a stock of food. Not much left, but we could spend a night at Camp-1, if the summit team was late.

Shantanu started the Gas and we started the slow process to liquefy ice. It was as windy as it should be in a col at 18000 feet. Tinchinkhang does get the first blast of high winds and cols are wind tunnels.
The news of success made me feel; I should have at least given a try, than a complete resignation.

At 2.55PM the set beeped again. We were eager to know the progress.

Through the wind and the flapping tent we barely heard a voice crying in Nepalese. I made out that some sack has fallen off. "There goes the summit evidence", I thought. There was another sharp static. It was Rinzing our Liaison Officer calling from base. We couldn’t make out the jargon as most was in Nepalese dialect.

It was Mingma I guess. ‘Sab khatam ho gaya. Chota saab to gaya. ‘

The world stood silent. We craned over the set to hear.
The blow was stunning. Chota saab would be none other than Poor Sada. ‘Gaya’ means for some reason he is dead. In our little tent, I sobbed internally with a dry impassive face. It was hard to believe.

‘Mangesh saab kuch nahi bol raha hai.’ What the hell! Something was wrong with Mangesh too? We were desperate. Anju started crying. It was definitely some piece of news that would haunt us forever.

Rinzing barked few orders. He asked the sherpas not to move from the accident site and be with Mangesh and get him down. The wind , the beating tent flaps seemed to freeze, as I desperately tried to make sense of the situation. Something was terribly wrong.

I remembered one of my snaps. Kangchenzonga had its summit severed by a cloud bank.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Point of no return?

Ambiguity encountered in a situation, wherein an individual decides to retreat from a set goal often, fades with memory.
At a later point, the decision might be looked as callous or imprudent by humans around oneself.

After a failure to climb a mountain, at a later date, I have been troubled by “Ghosts”. I attribute a “Ghost”, as a thought invoked by a fading memory of the dire situation. One cannot precisely remember each and everything that happened, when the decision was made.

It is critical to physically log the details of the circumstances. An individual’s record is often a rapid description of his/her point of view that has gaps, sometimes as best as he recollects.
But lethargy rules at times and the report, has wide gaps that cannot be remembered and back filled.

There is always a third person to point these out OR himself, when he wanders into the haunted past.
Haunted? I feel; the “Gaps” are the “Ghosts” that trouble the conscience later, however objective a human can be in a situation.

It is not easy for a third person judge a situation, when he is absent and has not endured. He may not be a physical or mental equivalent. His own personal beliefs would play into judgment, so would his values.

It is important for young climbers to understand this, so that they don’t flay them self for failure.

The real judge that one faces is his own conscience. If everything went as planned, would there be any learning for future?

The success is in terms of Photographs on the Summit of the mountain and a safe return is a priority.
The resource is not so important to a layman. He tries to make the news easy for himself. Climbed, Not climbed. Further an interest in Number of porters, Duration, length of rope and equipment carried.

I often felt that the journey and the resource as more important aspect to truly respect the experience. Norton’s world record on Everest with his primitive equipment has a lot more value to me.
Lack of knowledge of the mountain, no exposure to high altitude, may have been the factors and I think he may have thoroughly enjoyed his adventure.

With the world so explored and the knowledge available on web, Contour maps..
As the real taste of adventure gets bland and the real climber now tries to make ascents on tough routes and face seasonal challenges solo.
There is a growing “market” where a layman pays to get to the top of the world with a guided tour, something that I personally detest for the values I follow. Causality due to lack of knowledge or climbing experience are heard of now and then.

I feel ; drawing the line for every individual pursuing a goal and deciding the point of return is extremely important.
Does one have courage to face the world? How does one define success? Is reaching the top everything?

My thoughts return to the Matri attempt and our team.

The team crawled up the Matri basin. The packed snow made the climb easy, though I felt the rarity of Oxygen. The bivouac on the earlier night had not allowed me a good sleep.

We soon came to a larger bergschrund. This One started on the Rock face on left and ended up in a ridge almost a kilometer long.
We nicknamed the “ridge” as Gyani ridge.

We traversed to the right after crossing a few easy crevasses.
The wind and occasional clangs of Axes on the shoe crampons to remove the Snowball, my occasional cough and the rasp heavy breathing cracked the otherwise silent world around us.

A huge hanging glacier loomed 500 ft above us and we tried to move as fast as we could, to get away from its path.

Soon we came to the edge of the ridge. Unfortunately the Bergschrund gap was even higher than my Arms could reach. The axe sank in a conglomerate of icicles which clinked and broke off as I tried to pull myself up the gap.
I soon was completely exhausted and dropped off.
Girish took the lead and crossed over to the end of the ridge.

The ridge un-mountable, as its hidden face was at 60-70 degree. The face dropped a 1000-1500 ft into the glacier and I tasted fear for the first time during the expedition.

Below us the glacier lay in Pink and Blue colours marred with numerous crevasses as the glacier steered towards Mt Sudarshan.

With Girish back after his quick recee , we decided that we had to stay on this hump till one of us found a route.

The hump was sloped and had large wide open crevasses.

Anand: Can you climb down into the crevasse? Let's camp inside.
Parag: No point in spending another night in Bivvy. Its useless. I plan to camp outside.
Anand: This is your second expedition and you don’t know of the avalanche risks. Please climb down and test the bed.

Anand was offended.
I decided to get into the crevasse without further arguments with a experienced climber (a lot older too).

As I got down, the crevasse was full of snow and I sank to my thighs. It was not the same cosy little cave, we spent our earlier night.
This was an icy world and we were aliens. I came back to announce it as not habitable. After further fireworks, we hacked platforms in the snow for our tent.

I chose to stay with Girish The other tent was occupied by Milind with Hemant and Anand.

The sky burned red as the sun set. It was a beautiful scape with vivid colors.

The only colors we saw throughout the day were wite and blue.
Even a glance at the Ochre rock was soothing, though not much skin was bared by the mountain.

Next morning, the Matri face ensured that we got the sunrays the last. We were on the west face. Milind took over lead climbing.
He did an excellent job by crossing over the face to hammer in the first piton. Anand and Hemya were at Belay.

Girish and I were on our task to heat water and prepare food. The spirit fumes burned my eyes and the heated exchanges had spoiled my mood and I felt worse at
18500’. I started calculating.

We had overall 500’ rope. The face looked ~ 1000+ ft, without any ledges to camp. The highest we could go was 500’ with fair chance of a ledge to stand might climb another 500’.
This meant that we had no bottom rope, which was risky as we were 5 days away from civilization in a terrain known to very few climbers.

Milind was back after fixing the rope. Anand jollied me to jummar up and take a look.
I rose (to the occasion). I had taken my decision though hadn’t voiced it yet.
I slid up the rope on the other face. I returned as I neared the rock patch.
With my personal ambition to climb further satisfied, I declared that I wasn’t fit enough to go up.
The thought of 5 team members on a sheer face with a 500 ft of rope reminded me of the failed Khada Parsi pinnacle climb prior to Matri expedition.

Girish had decided to turn back with me. Anand, Hemant and Milind were going to try another go the next day.

As the two of us descended into the basin, we could hear hollering on the face; mostly Anand’s . I was glad to have escaped the waiting period between each move, but was sad at Milind, who had lost the last chance to continue to the limit of his ambition. The team is as strong as the weakest link.

Back at the glacier we saw many crevasses, newly yawning. So we walked towards the right of the glacier.

As I moved ahead crossing one crevasse and other I saw a red cloth. Yelled to Girish as I found it was a feather cap of a Feather jacket. Pleased with my new win, I bent to pick it up.
Suddenly, I had a uneasy feeling.

Was there more underneath the cap. Perhaps the dead Bengali climber? I voiced my doubt to Girish as I walked back. No. The cap wasn’t worth it and we carried on busy in our thoughts.

Over the tea, at Advance base we chalked plans for the next day.

We were to help the other three as they descended to Camp1.
Ranjana was keen to camp near the glacier camp (C1), having been at Advance base moraine for 5 days.

We walked up early morning to C1 and were amazed to see the rest of the team already descended to C1. They wanted to retract from the mountain ASAP.

The team was soon back at Advance base making further plans to descend, packing equipment.
Ranjana was unaware of the gruels of the climb, and was perhaps sulky as she had been deprived of her personal height gain target.

I thought; All well that ends well. For the equipment we carried we had reach a pretty high point of almost 20000 ft on a mountain that we were completely unaware of.

It was a true reconnaissance that had allowed us the pleasure of discovery and exploration. Perhaps the climb that I shall always cherish.
The Matri face attempted by us in 1987 is still Virgin.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Bivouac

Benightment in climbing jargon means spending an uncomfortable night for survival in odd conditions. There are few interesting stories around miraculous survival under odd conditions and my own experiences seem pretty cozy in comparison.

Yet, it seems appropriate to keep a log of the worst nights before memory fades.

I had survived my first Bivouac at Mount Matri at around 18000 ft in a crevasse during 1987 Expedition to the unclimbed mountain.

We were midway up the snow basin and the weather turned pretty bad ,midway.
The slope of the towering Matri wall had runnels.
It seemed prone to avalanches, so camping in the basin seemed ridiculous thought to which all agreed.

We sought shelter, in a shallow bergschrund (Crevasse between face and basin)that separated the basin from the hump.
It was spacious to accommodate all of us.
The only catch was a chandelier of Icicles (few were extremely sharp) loomed above us. The first few attempts to break the chandelier failed as it was too high for us to reach.
Finally we pulled over a tent cover and tried to disengage from the thought that it existed.

Hemya pehelwan had an acute headache. He mentioned it to the leader, who addressed his need from the emergency med kit. Hemya with a cowboy attitude spit the pill with a mention that meds are no use. It was a very cold night but he was reluctant to wear his sweater. His attitude was getting on my nerves. I waited patiently as this was certainly a character to observe when we had all the time to kill.

All of us had army sweaters and the only other layer of insulation was a Single layer Windcheater. Milind was worse dressed of the occasion, as he donned a thin Raincoat top over his sweater. I coughed a lot which others had nicknamed a TB cough. I couldn’t get worse after having sucked icicles for 3 days.
I took my usual nightly dose of a capful Brandy and others joined merrily to empty the bottle.

The clouds covered the valley. We were in an inhospitable terrain, where no human had set foot. Matri was one of the few tallest virgin mountains in Gangotri Glacier.

The temp was around zero, which is quite warm in a snow basin. But it foretold us that the weather was not going to get any better that night. The benightment meant a day less than our schedule. And we were carrying on Alpine style, with no load ferries.

We talked of known Bivvies under ruthless conditions. Narrations from books. With the talk we felt we were in better surroundings. Cramped conditions helped to retain heat. We had the Snow boot inners on inside the sleeping bags as we didn’t want to risk any frost "claims".

The Icicles were slowly melting on the sprit stove. We gazed into the flame and it made us feel warm.
The night was cold as I peeked outside the flap into a clear starry night. The milky way was a bright band. The face had a eerie glow under the soft moonlight. Fortunately we heard no avalanche rumbles.

The stories died and the climbers settled in their own private worlds sipping warm Tomato soup and munching the ruru chapatis.
I wondered what lay ahead. The route was unknown. Was this the best route? Was this the right team? Were we equipped well? I thought of the report from the Bengal team. Did they carry their dead down after the fall or were they still around somewhere in the glacier. Slowly the cacophony of thoughts numbed, as I slipped into slumber no longer able to focus on the candle flame.

The night was over and it was a cold day. Cold is good. Secure steps and no sinking.

The negativity of the night vanished as early sun rays hit the basin. We would unravel more mystery about the route, as we would climb higher.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The corporate story

The flock on the beach was fighting it out, to claim remains of the fish.

In a group of seagulls there was young one who felt he was stronger than the rest.
He flew higher, experimented with gulls, his ambition was to lead the flock.
Too many elderly restrictions and he felt things ought to change.

The Leader of the flock, was an old beak, with feathers that had weathered with age. He wanted to keep the gulls together, grow a strong bond, so that they survive longer, together.

He had noticed that this Youth was different. He fancied Dido for his work and attitude.
Dido was sensitive, but he would be more numb with time, perhaps?
He could count on him, so he nurtured him by showing him ways to get fresh fish,with ease.

Dido felt that he was the right leader!
There was no way to get to lead this flock, when there were many good gulls.
So he took a risk.

He left for a different seashore, where some outcasts had gone.
They had lured him to get fresher catch.. Soon he realized the terrain was terrible and he had to prove a lot in newer skills to stand the situation.

No place was better than where he was bred. The new shore sucked.
Other feathers were more competent. Life had been so easy, he wondered why he moved away from his flock.
Dido gathered courage and on his return asked the Old leader, if he could re-join the flock.
Anger/ desperation had made him blind. He forgot all the reasons why he had chosen to leave.

With consideration, the old one saw a possibility. He would have liked to get Dido back.
"Love is blind."

Past experience told him that, it would not be easy on the flock.
Outcasts develop cracks. What about the promises to few oldies who had stayed and were proving their mettle?
How would they treat Dido. Would it be a repeat of past, whence one had joined and few others left.

The gain was worth it in old days, but with time his flock was stronger.
He did see a possibility, which might ease out the strain and not impact others who had proven their devotion. Yet, it was a gamble, and he counted on the maturity of the young one and felt that birds of one feather would fly together.

Dido came back, with more promise.
Survival instinct! He would have to prove himself again, to get to a level of more seniority. He would need to get more visibility than just an old position he was promised.

Dido's comeback was not easy, as expected. His peers hated the old Gull. Was this NOT favoritism?
Why should the young outcast get more fish, just because he got the same elsewhere?

The flock dwindled as few flew away at lost hope.
Some had given their own share of work like establishing teams for populating and expanding in shores, elsewhere. They had never considered Dido, as a threat till late.

They still bred on the same share of fish that they did in past, while Dido feasted had bigger share.
Young Dido, trotted around, found few weaker ones and with the support of the old one, got their share of responsibility. He had ability to prove that he was better.
He was happy within his own small world that ambition got him more, than those who did not deserve it.

More flock left. They could have easily poached on the weaker ones, but some ties didn't make them snatch.
Dido felt that it was just their "weakness".

Older gulls watched and felt they should have given the right guidance to their leader. They had always felt that Dido was capable in so many ways of creating more gaps, and they had overlooked the impact. They repented their decision.

The old one knew that the flock was disintegrating and his leadership was in question. He would have to move to an environment on a far away land. Perhaps the young one would help him to develop a new breed.

With a more 'matured' flock, it was bound to happen. It was always a part of his plan.

There was always a place to rule if you had the 'right' gulls.
With a flap of the wing he rose to a higher horizon.
The winds were indeed blowing towards the new land and it was time to migrate, before the winter set in.