Friday, September 28, 2012

Hell of a time


It was almost a year since my marriage. I was working in day and night shifts as a Designer and had moved to a new apartment. 
It was a challenging  time as I barely managed to make additional investments after paying most of my salary on House loan. We spent the first year in a dimly lit house as the transformer was not in place. 
The TV set often went off due to low voltage. I had to fetch water from 2 stories below due to scarcity of water.

I was away from my climbing circle. I missed my hill runs. But I was in touch with Surendra who worked in R and D. 
When Mr and Mrs Chavan came over to dinner, I projected some of my old slides. A two man expedition was in our mind and we were thinking of climbing Bhagirathi-2 and Kedar Dome east ridge. As Surendra and I looked into details of the Kedar dome slide , Ila and Mrs Chavan had fun laughing at the us trying to establish Bivouac sites along the east ridge.
We started with reducing our diet to bare minimal as we could not afford to carry more food on an alpine ascent.. I trained on the Nibm-Undri road.

The die was cast and we travelled to Delhi by train, caught a overnight bus to Rushikesh. We had minimum equipment hired from Mumbai and the plan was to take one extra porter with us.

We reached Gangotri booked a porter and trekked to Chirbas. It was early may and no one had opened the route to Nandanvan. We were carrying a heavy load and the rest was in a 25 kg kitbag with our porter. At noon on Day 2 we reached Nandanvan.
We pitched the tent and brewed some tea. The Porter bid farewell. He commented that he had not been with such strong guys and he was certain that we would make it through.

On Day 3 we pulled out our Mountain boots . The boots had Yeti gaiters and when I was putting them on I saw a crack in the outer plastic of my boot. 
As I walked around the crack grew and the entire outer was cracked like an old plastic bucket. This  was a grave situation as we were carrying bare minimal equipment and food. Gangotri was a 2 day walk and still less possibility that I get a Size 11 climbing boot as the climbing season was not open.

I tied a string over the gaiter and told Surendra, that I will carry on till it becomes an impasse.
Through a lot of snow we reached the ridge that seemed to be a direct route up Bhagirathi2.
During all the travel the entire boot was now just a sneaker. The stiffness at ankle was lost as plastic was eaten away. 

I spread out a plastic Bivvy sheet that we were carrying and we sat down for a council of war. I mentioned that I would wait for him if he wanted to continue the climb. 

I could see a piece of rope on a patch of granite. I was confident that Surendra would be able to make the climb solo in 24 hours. We knew that the mountain was considerably easy to solo. Surendra started up the slope  I was sitting in a huge bowl of snow and as the sun went high, I got a heavy sunburn even after I protected myself with the sheet. It must have been 2 hours. Surendra came back and mentioned that this route was tough..Perhaps it was a tougher route than we had prepared for.

I recalled that the actual route went to a col and it was  an  easy snow walk from there on. We had gone on a wrong route. We had to get back to camp have some food. We realized that the getting back was not easy. The snow had softened and we were in a boulder field. Feet sank sometimes knee deep..At times , thigh deep snow.
I brewed noodle soup on a gas stove and we planned for Day4. I was in tears as I was fit for the climb and a pair of old boots had destroyed my ambition. I would try to do as much as I could, to support my friend.
We had an early dinner and dozed off. Surendra got up at 4AM dressed up and mentioned that he would try to make the climb alone. I mentioned about the col and a small rock patch where he would need to be careful. He walked away the beam of the head torch vanished.
Unfortunately he was back to the tent in an hour. The night had been warm and the snow from earlier day had not set at all. He had tough time sinking  in the sludge.Progress was pathetic and the condition in the basin till the col would be equally bad. Perhaps between two of us, we could have broken the trail, alternative leading.
The situation was bad. If anything went wrong, I was almost immobile to climb up and set things right OR go down and get help. We decided to call it off.
Few of our friends had helped us through funds and we decided to pay back all that was not utilised. Yet it was a burden to break the news of failure to them who counted on us.
With a heavy heart we wound up camp, Shared the extra 25 kg between us. Perhaps it was the heaviest load that I ever carried down a mountain.

I cursed my boots for the whole mishap. With two climbers it was a calculated risk. It was a pity that tough we were in pretty good in shape mentally and physically , a petty Boot ruined our plans.

The journey back was eventless.At Delhi, we watched “Schindlers List” and the very next day got on a train back to Pune. From Sub Zero to burning hell.