Monday, December 24, 2012

Small is beautiful

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

― E.F. Schumacher

After the ascent of Khada Parsi and Telbaila pinnacles a long time had lapsed. We longed for action. I was in the final year of Diploma in Mechanical engineering and after the exams I had a slot that could be used for a climb in the Himalayas. It seemed that the previous year had gone a waste and I had not had a glimpse of the towering Himalayan peaks. I had lost touch with The ice, the cold wind and the chill. My Shoulders longed for the loaded Haversack and most importantly I missed the comradeship.

Milind had shifted to Mumbai but we still met once a fortnight. One fine evening in July 1991, we decided to go on an expedition. Gangotri region was an obvious choice due to the close approach and to wrap up an expedition in 25 days. Mt Saifee in the Raktavarna glacier was our first choice. But we felt that we should attempt a peak in a different valley just for the kick of treading in unknown territory. Mt Gangotri-3 (21,500’) seemed like a better proposal. Prasad had suggested the same to me a year ago, a peak perfect for an alpine style climb. It also posed some technical challenges. I gambled for a date that would not clash with my exams and I chose 15 September, arbitrarily. I was glad when my exam dates were declared. My last exam would get over by 9 September.

We decided to hire good equipment from the Kangchenjunga foundation in Mumbai. We could not afford a compromise in Quality of equipment. The hire charges were Rs 4500/- for Goretx suits, Sleeping bags, tent and brand new climbing boots with foot fangs and goretex gaiters. We decided for a third climber and the only person who could fit in was Girish. We had been together on Mt Matri. He had lost touch with climbing but he could be a good person to support. Our team was well knit and we knew the strengths and weaknesses of others and we had been together during tough times.

A 3 man expedition is not easy to propose, especially to our parents. Especially, Girish and Milind were engaged and the marriage date was fixed at 23 November. It was easier for Milind and me to break the news to our parents. Girish had to be more stubborn and he even spun a story. We were to be accompanied by 7 fictitious members who will join us at Delhi.

I met Uday from Kanchenjunga foundation and selected the equipment. Then Milind and I went for a lunch at his fiancées place. This was the first when I met Swati. The three of us went to Churchgate station in a bus. I tried to be inattentive, as the couple as they made the best of their time. I was sure that I would not marry for another five years.

As we said goodbye to Swati, I assured her that we would be back safe and sound. In my mind, I knew that such assurances are feeble as you can never be certain. I felt guilty as I was the only bachelor and perhaps had lesser concern for the other two climbers.

Fund raising was an obstacle. We guesstimated the amount to be Rs 15000/- If we paid shared the amount; we would be spared of the exhaustive paperwork. I did not want to approach the State government as my last visit had left a bad taste. I would not yield to bribery. We were climbing the mountain for our sake. Climbers from other parts of the world had set an example for us. I remembered Joe Tasker worked in a meat factory, his training in ice freezer. The foreigners also had to pay a royalty to climb in India. I felt that our large share to the expedition fund would make us more committed.

The expedition was planned in a short time and we did not apply for permissions in fear that it would already be occupied by another expedition. It also meant that the Indian mountaineering Foundation would not support us in case of an accident. We decided to take this risk. Anyways, we would not need help if we were already dead.

I was doing all that I could for physical fitness. My routine consisted of a daily 8 km hill run. It was effective as my stamina and patience as my run was solitary. I pursued the exercise doggedly even during rains. Anyone who watched me would take me as a nut case. My mind was focused on Gangotri-3. Milind practiced Yoga as he did not get a good place to run at Thane. Girish had not focused on exercise at all. I was irritated by his negligence and I showed no mercy. I would not lose any opportunity of criticizing him, if he showed any weakness in the field.

My exams went very well even though I was more focused on my training. My classmates found it hard to believe and were even shocked when I topped in my class. I maintained, “ It is all about confidence and ..a bit of practice.”

Two days before departure we finished packing the food and equipment into siz Army Kitbags and 3 Haversacks a gross weight of 142 kg. We planned for 5 litre of Kerosine and Solid Fuel for upper camps. The food consisted of Condensed milk, Noodles, Soups, Prepacked Chapati, Rice, Groundnut and Chocolates. We had packed medicines for Frost bite, hypothermia, Pulmonary Edema, Diarrhea, Dysentery in a small quantity.

With a few words of caution we are seen off by our friends and relatives. As the train moves away from the station, Girish and Milind, are in a very different world than mine. My thoughts are only around the mountains. “I have trained and it better pay off.”

Milind broke the silence, “I seem to have a small leak in my Camera. The edge of the film burns off.”

“Our Khada Parsi climb was well captured. Let’s check.” I said.

I observe the camera. The back flap seems to have a small play. I push in a slide roll and close the flap. We secured the back with an adhesive tape. The play is negligible. The Yashika SLR was completely mechanical and it had fetched us excellent photographs.

“Let’s tape it, every time we change the roll.”

The train arrived at New Delhi, an hour late. We ferried the 6 kitbags and sacks to a small restaurant in front of the station. I ordered for food while, Milind enquired about transport to Rishikesh. The stench of a nearby gutter overpowered the aroma of the food.

The coach did not arrive till late night. It was supposed to be a video coach and there was no trace of a TV inside. But the driver did think of providing us the entertainment. At midnight, loud Bollywood music howled through the speakers.

We decided that Girish and milind would go straight to Gangotri while I would get down on the route at Uttarkashi and make arrangements for porters and kerosene.

Girish had forgotten to get the safety valve for the Pressure cooker which had to be purchased at Uttarkashi. I would get to Gangotri on the later part of the day.

In the town I heard sad news. Bachan Singh who had supplied Porters for Mt Matri had closed down the agency. Gopal Singh (who wanted to with us on Matri) had died on an expedition to Gangotri-2. I lodged at the Bhandari hotel and figured out a deal with Khemsingh. I decided to pay porterage for five Days approach, though the trek was less than 2 days.

We left the next morning in a densely packed bus. At Bhatwari a man got on the bus with his goat. I was amused when he paid ½ the bus charge for his goat. The goat seemed much disciplined and it stood on its legs obediently, trying to avoid the other standees. But every time the driver steered, it pushed its horns into the butt of the man ahead, much to his irritation. Fortunately the man got off with his goat at the village of Harsil. Harsil was flooded with apples although the quality was inferior to Himachal apples.

Our bus reached Gangotri at 1PM. Girish and Milind were waiting at the bus parking. They had booked a room close to the parking area. We asked the porters to meet us in the evening and we went for a lunch. I met Chinmoy Pal who was my rope mate during the basic course. He was going on a trek to Kalindi pass. We heard from him that a team from west Bengal was attempting Matri. From his account it looked almost like a raid rather than an expedition. The team, was using 80 low altitude porters, 20 high altitude porters and the budget was Rs. 3,00,000/-. Prasad had made the first successful ascent of Mt Matri and this team would eventually be guided by pre fixed ropes. Our attempt of Matri looked like a cheap joke with a budget of Rs 25,000/- , 13 low altitude porters and no high altitude porters.

Most of the people we met were surprised by the size of our team. Milind, Girish and I laughed at the gap of us versus the traditional Indian expeditions. It was high time that we set a trend. Towards evening, we went for an acclimatization walk along the Kedar Ganga Valley.

On 19 September, we started from Gangotri towards the base camp. Two of the porters had lost their bedding. They were keen on completing the two day walk in one day. I was all for it as it would give us an additional day. We crossed a log bridge across a stream. The valley was very beautiful and right ahead; we could see the summit pyramid of Mt Gangotri-3. The slope started to steepen and it took lot of effort to walk small distances. Girish was going very slow and I was irritated as he had spent no time for fitness. The incompetence was showing up. So far, Milind and I had not let any of the porter’s catch-up with us. Now, we had to slow down for our weaker member.

I wanted to push the porters to set the camp at the crossing of the stream. With Girish getting delayed, the porters would force us to set camp at Rudugaira base. This meant extra load ferry distance of almost 2 km along the moraine for us. I asked Gyan Bahadur to go back and fetch Girish. The Rudugaira base was a nice green meadow. The main problem was we had to walk almost a kilometer for water, there being no streams around the campsite. Fortunately, we found an abandoned tin besides an old kitchen.

It was almost 3PM and Gyan Bahadur arrived with a flabbergasted Girish. Girish almost looked like a fish at the end of a string. It was then that Girish narrated his story.

“I stopped to attend the call of nature. A strange smell of herbs around me made me drowsy and I vomited. I tried to wave to you for help but you were out of range.”

When Gyan Bahadur reached Girish, he found him deep asleep. He awakened Girish and kept talking to him, helping him with his loaded sack and walked him up to the base camp.

I said, “Gyan. You have helped us a lot. Can you accept some money as a token of appreciation?” Gyan Bahadur felt that this was a part of his duty, but he took the money when we pressed. The porters wished us luck and started their descent.

Apart from the three of us, there was no other expedition in the area. We pitched the dome tent and Girsh lay inside cozily in his sleeping bag. Milind had managed to clear some space I struggled outside with the kitbags to find necessary things. The cold wind made me shiver inside the Goretex suit. Finally I found the plastic sheet to cover the kitchen area and we weighed it down with rocks. My hands were completely frozen. Inside the kitchen, Milind was struggling to get the stove alight. After half an hour things were somewhat settled. Girish came out feeling a lot better and took charge of the kitchen from Milind. We cooked Rice and soup. The Pressure cooker valve was not of the right size and we were forced to eat uncooked rice. We ate like a hog and slept like a log. We planned a recky the next day. The surroundings did not look familiar to the photographs I had seen.

20 Sept

We woke up at 5:30AM. Girish was feeling ok. Milind and I decided to let him rest while we did our reconnaissance. We quickly prepared some noodles. The weather was spotlessly clear. Rays of sunlight bathed the summits of the mountains above us. The sun rose slowly and we were cold in our suits. Milind and I started walking towards a col on a ridge that leads to Rudugaira. I was tempted at the thought of climbing Rudugaira and Milind was also hooked. But then we thought of Girsih. We decided to go for it only after Girish recovers. We also wanted to concentrate on our prime aim ie. Gangotri-3

From behind the moraine we could see a sharp pyramid rising high behind a ridge. It was none other than Mt Matri. Milind and I talked about our past expedition on Matri and we even located our Highpoint on the Matri face. We climbed up and down many moraine mounds towards the Mt G-3 till we came across a stream. I managed to find the narrowest place to jump to the other side. Unfortunately I landed on a rock that was covered with verglass. I slipped and fell into ice cold water. All of the boulders had a thin sheet of ice as the sun was still low. Milind got across safely. We found the ridge which led us straight to Gangotri-3. We trekked almost to the end of the ridge to make sure. Marker poles left by some previous expedition confirmed that the route was correct. We also found the real site of the G3 base camp. Our porters had conned us. We returned to our base camp in 2 hours and we found a better route during our return.

Gangotri 3 did not look very difficult. The challenging portion was the summit cap which was separated from the lower slopes by a bergschrund. Below this was a dome shaped ice field which may have been 60 degrees at the steepest. This was approachable from below by a snow ridge. The ridge had some exposed rocky portion. But the ridge could be approached by climbing a steep ice wall that ended in a wide crevasse.

The next day, we would have to ferry all the equipment along with some food. Girish volunteered to help with the ferry.

I said, “Gentlemen! We should be very proud of ourselves, having setup base considering that we were in Pune 5 days ago. We are now at 15000 feet and ready to go! Cheers!”

; a note to which everyone drank their tea. At dinner, Milind was feeling nauseated and did not eat much. Girish was ok. I was feeling healthy and did not even have the headache that I usually get at higher altitude. The only sign of altitude was my runny nose.

21 Sept

We were ready by 6AM. We ate some Chiwda and downed the dry stuff with some tea. We loaded our sacks with around 10kg each. The jump over the stream was easy as most of it was frozen. I was careful with the verglass on the boulders. Girish had not thoroughly recovered and was going slow. I wondered, if we should push him to the upper camp. Milind and I could take care of ourselves and taking Girish along would only slow us. We sped as we reached the final moraine. Suring the brief rest I had another idea and I discussed it with Milind.

“What if we took a route through the icefall on the right. It does not look as difficult as the ridge on the left. The tongue of snow directly leads to the icefall.

Milind was a bit reluctant at first but then he agreed. “ We can place the advance base camp. The upper part of the icefall cannot be seen but if we could camp just below the snow dome? Let us see how things shape up!”

We lost the track of the marker poles and we left the equipment in a flat regionthat could house our dome tent. Girish was quite late and I decided that we should not take the risk of taking him along us up the icefall.”

During our return we had trouble crossing the stream which had flooded during the noon. We saw a large herd of Bharal (Himalayan deer), but it vanished when we tried to get close.

Back at base I was bent over tying my shoe laces and someone said “Hello!” It took me by surprise. It was a European guy dressed in Goretex fabric and his quiet approach gave me a turn.

In my mind I thought! “Here is some company for Girish.”

“My name is Martin. I just climbed Bhrigu Patthar. I came to this valley to plan a climb for the next year.”

I introduced myself and my plan to climb G3. Soon Martin’s liason officer, Praful, arrived and they went to pitch their tent. Praful was from a town called Solapur, . Praful was also to be married on his return. “It makes three of them.” I thought.

Milind had talked Girish into staying at base. His feelings might have been hurt but its always better to be blunt in the mountains. After all, everyone is for himself. I have a strong opinion that personal friendship should never rule choice of fellow climbers for an expedition. Expeditions can get derailed due to stubborn friendship. A commitment to help a weaker friend reach a summit reduces momentum of the entire team. The summit team should leave out a unfit person. After all! All that matters is you and your safety.

22 Sep

We woke up late. We pitched the triangular tent for Girish. Fortunately he had good company for two days. We were to move the dome tent to the upper camp as it had to stand speedy winds. Milind and I packed with essential stuff for 3 days.

Milind and I were in different moods and we hardly talked to each other during the walk, each was occupied in his own thoughts. When we reached the moraine ridge, Ice cold winds blew at us at almost 70-80kmph. We had pulled down our hood to leave a small hole , just enough to see and breathe. We hurried to the Advance base site and immediately started clearing space to erect the tent. After Milind fetched some water we sat for dinner. The condensed milk was used as a spread over the readymade chapatis. I had developed nausea for the smell of the cumin in the chapatis and the solid fuel fumes. Four more days to go, I thought.

We studied the icefall. It was bare ice with a scattering of snow. The angle was around 45 degrees and we may not have too much trouble climbing up. The next day’s stretch was vital for success. I tried to sleep. A rock edge poked my back through the carry mat and I was at discomfort.

23 Sep

We decided to wait for the sun as it was bitterly cold outside the tent. We had some chiwda and tea. The oiliness made it unpalatable. Both of us decided not to rope up as it was an easy angle. Also, if one of us slipped the other guy would be pulled away as well. Caution was the key. Both of us wore a waistline, Karabiners and ice screws. I carried a coil of rope in case the ice slope got grimmer. I set of the tongue of the glacier and Milind followed closely. The crampons bit well in the ice and I felt secure. I walked like a mechanical toy, stopping after every 5 kicks. Splinters of ice flew, at the blow of the crampons. All of my thoughts were switched off and I walked like a zombie.

The lower portion of the icefall was climbed and we had reached a broken icefall. To reach the ridge was going to be very difficult than we previously imagined. The crevasse filed was dense. Milind joined me and while munching on a chocolate we started the survey for a good route. It was like a maze. Every trace ended up in a large gap in the ice that we could not be able to bridge.I found a nice unbroken slope on my left at around 60 degrees. I front pointed to around 200 feet and Milind followed me close.

Milind asked, “Can you go to the left of the slope? I think it will get us to a better ground.”

When I climbed up the slope I found myself surrounded by a horrid maze of seracs, which was worse than before. We climbed down again and got on my previous route. The crevasses were very deep. Finally I found a snowbridge that was a foot wide. A boulder blocked the access at the other end. I tiptoed over the snowbridge dug my axe in the ice and swung the foot over the boulder. Balancing my sack, I slowly eased myself to the other side. It was a tough time as we had not roped up. I climbed another slope at 60 degrees and came to a wide crevasse. There was a place where it narrowed but it was not a safe jumping distance. A slip at the other end would be disastrous. We roped up. Milind took off his sack and got inside the crevasse belayed by me. He reached the other side safe and sound and was very cheerful after overcoming the obstacle.

The clouds started getting dense and in a few minutes it was a complete whiteout. The crevasse zone was not seen due to poor visibility. We had crossed one crevasse. What next?

We were about a thousand feet above the advance base. Milinds call brought me back to my senses. I tied his sack and slowly lowered it down the crevasse as he pulled it across. It began to snow and there seemed to be no end to our troubles. Our hands were frozen. My sack was hanging haphazardly in the middle of the crevasse. The wind began to howl at us and soon we lost patience.

In the midst of the snow storm, Milind asked, “What should we do now?”

Why is he asking me when he can see for himself?

I replied, “I don’t see any point in pursuing today. Let us pull back to my side of the platform and pitch the tent.”

Milind climbed back to me. The slab looked like the only safe spot for a tent. Milind had wet gloves and I pitied his condition. Milind was still in a jolly mood. He scoffed at me, “Why are you so damn sulky? Do not be so negative!” We had pitched our tent.

I did my best not to show my feelings. We had landed in a mess owing to my poor judgement. I even wondered if we could find a way back through the maze. We lay inside our tent. Milind had a lot of sunburn on his checks and nose the rest of his face was well covered by his beard. My nose was sensitive and I could feel the raw skin as I breathed.

I opened the topic for discussion as I wanted to know his thoughts.

I said, “ What do you think about the circumstances.”

Milind answered, “Why are you so damn negative? Tomorrow everything is going to be fine! We are going to find our way to the upper camp site.”

I wondered how he could be so positive! I could see few chances of making our way through the scrambled ice field. If we decided to go further, Milind would get all my support. He was a much better climber than me and I remembered the top head free climb on Khada Parsi. But I also observed that since we did not have any fixed ropes, the idea of climbing down the same route through the chaos of Ice blocks was unthinkable. We had to climb down via a completely different route.

A lot of time had passed and we needed to take a joint decision. Both of us were unwilling to accept defeat. We had 2 days food with us. I peered outside the tent. The white out was there to stay! Both of us were tense.

Milind broke the silence. “What is your opinion?”

I spoke (guardedly), “ Well! We still need to find a way to the top of the icefall. If we have a dead end we have to trace back our route and withdraw.”

Milind chirped, “ We have to find a way to get down too. I think there is a way near the hump.”

I remembered the steep ice wall on the way he had mentioned and said, “ It’s not easy to get down the icewall. If we get near the hump, we cannot turn back. We better try for the summit and descend on the other side.”

I decided to drop the sledge hammer, “I am confident of getting down the way we climbed up only to this spot. If we go any further the return will be full of risks and plenty of chances of goofing up. On the other hands it is also risky to descend on an unknown ground.”

Milind asked, “Can we finalize? We are not getting anywhere with this talk.”

I suggested, “ We pack up tomorrow and descend to advance base camp. We should stop this climb and I am responsible as it was my bad judgment that cost us this peak.”

Milind was much moved. He replied, “It is not your fault. None of us knew about the field above us and we took our chances. If we have to go back we should just focus on the retreat.”

My mind had raced through all the consequences when I suggested the retreat. Milind was to be married. I owed a safe return to Swati. Girish was alone at base. In case of an accident, it would be difficult for him to go alone to Gangotri and fetch help. If we did not return in 2 more days he would have to climb up to advance Base to make a check. What could he do alone? We were on a mountain without a permit. There was absolutely no hope of getting evacuated.

I did not have any hope of descending our route and climbing the peak from the regular route as we would be burned out during the descent.

I narrated my thoughts to Milind and he saw eye to eye with me after my disclosure. The decision was taken. One more unsuccessful peak would weigh down my conscience. After our descent, after getting rest, I would obviously forget the rigorous climb and the retreat and perhaps unable to forgive myself that I did not give it enough time.

I realized that both of us were very relaxed after taking a decision. I switched on my cassette player. Geeta Dutt started singing in the grey atmosphere of the tent. Soon, we were in a normal mood and started talking of things that we would do after returning to Pune. I sipped Benadryl syrup as I had a bad cough. I feet had bad blisters and I dusted them with antifungal powder.

We were unable to sleep at night as we heard a eerie creaking sound from the block below us. The glacier was moving. I hoped that our ice block would last the night.

24 Sep

The clouds had not cleared in the morning. The valley was also filled with clouds. We dismantled our tent/ I tried to remember the way we had come up. This time we were roped up. My feet hurt at every step. The snow fall had wiped out our tracks from the day before and I had many hit and miss situations to find our way down. Milind had to maintain same pace as me. I warned Milind a bit too late and he stepped on thin ice. His foot was drenched in icy water. He was worried of getting frost bitten. I advised him to keep his fingers moving. We undid the foot-fangs and poured out the water from his boot outer.

We exchanged some hot words and were silent for some time. Without further debate we started on our way down. Milind corrected me once when I was descending in a wrong direction. Soon we reached the top of the snow tongue. From here it was easy climb down to the Advance base.

It was 12:30PM. We had a brief rest and started loading our sacks with all the stuff. The sack was almost 35kg and we staggered when we started the walk.

Milind mentioned, “ We can do a load ferry rather than pushing to the limits.” I replied, “ OK. Lets go slow and steady with adequate rests. Let’s not push ourselves.”

We met a herd of Bharal. This time they did not shy away from us. Perhaps, even they knew that the worn out climbers could not lift a finger. We reached the stream at 2PM. It was extremely flooded. I wet my boots for a safer crossing. Milind did not mind getting wetter than he already was. We started up the slope that led to our base camp. Girish came for help. I asked him to help out Milind, who was having a tougher time.

At last we were at base and could relax. Girish cooked a nice dinner and we gormandized. It was the first lavish meal we had, after 3 days. We explained the story to Girish.

Girish was very worried as he too had experienced fierce winds. His tent had blown away and the Liaison officer had helped him to set it up again.

We decided to take a day’s rest. We were glad to be together. We decided to climb Mt Rudugaira the day after. I hoped it would offer some consolation.

25 Sep

We woke at 7 AM. I glanced outside our tent. The maze had lifted and G3 summit was visible. I was depressed. One more failure? How would I explain it to my friends? What would Prasad say? People love to talk about a failure and point out the flaws in planning. But..

This was MY venture. I did not publicize this.

What right do others have to comment on my failure? I used my money and my vacation to get here. Do people ever see that it was a small team? The budget was lower than they party with!

Milind said, “Why should we care? Why should we accept criticism from anyone below us?”

I walked up the long slope towards Rudugaira. The lone place gave me peace of mind.

26 Sep

We started the Rudugaira climb at 6:30AM.Milind had walked up the ridge. Girish and I were climbing up through the boulder slopes. Birds were chirping. I thought, “ What kind of food do they get here? Are they as crazy as us to fly as high, just for fun?”

We climbed steadily till we came to a leveled meadow. It had served as a Camp for some past expedition.

Mt Matri had shown up along with the satellite Twin peaks. I could see the hump on which we had placed our final camp and the hanging glacier. My Olympus SLR seemed to have some flaw as the shutter speed sounded too slow for 1/500. Girish was too slow and I started to climb alone.

It was a long climb, almost a marathon. Milind had reached the summit first. There was snow on the summit and I trudged my way towards him.

This was our first successful summit but we did not feel any excitement. Behind us, stood Shrikant Parbat. It was connected by a long ridge to Gangotri-1 peak. On the left stood G-2 and G-3. Further on left were the Jogin group of peaks.

If we had climbed Rudugaira first, we would have known that the route taken by us was treacherous.

We looked down the valley and could see the green meadow that housed our basecamp.

We had made a very fast climb in 4hrs and 30 minutes we had climbed from 15000 feet to 19000+ feet.We spent 30 minutes on the summit.

Mt Thalaysagar and Bhrigupanth were the most prominent. The Manda Massif was smaller but looked very challenging. We started taking photographs of the panaroma and eventually Girish arrived at the top. Milind waved the Saffron flag and then the tricolor.

We started on the way down and every step dislodged a volley of stones. While climbing down I took an entirely different route. But nothing could go wrong as long as I had the basecamp in my sight.

I descended to base in just two hours and it was my fastest descent so far. Milind was ahead of me. We sipped Glucon-D. I peeped into a broken mirror. My face had heavy sunburn. My nose looked like a roast potato and it was bleeding slightly. We ferried water from the stream to camp. Girish had returned. After dinner we relaxed in our tent.

We had decided to wind up the camp the next day and ferry load to climb down at the half mark to Gangotri village. We would set up an arbitrary camp at a 2 hrs travel distance and do a reverse load ferry, then pump the load to Gangotri in two load ferries a day.

27 Sep

We packed the sacks to around 30kg. We descended to a good camping site near the stream just before the start of a pine forest. We erected our tent. Girish was to cook and Milind and I climbed back to the base camp to get the second load ferry. When I reached base, I felt completely sapped. Two load ferries a day was too much. A new German team was at Rudugaira base. We had tea with them and discussed around the state of affairs if the Unification of Germany. They mentioned the reforms to increase of taxes on the west side for ten years to help to bring

Both countries to same level of economy.

We started on the way back and Milind was a bit slow as he was carrying more stuff than me.

I said, “I bet that Girish will have Glucon C ready when we get to the camp.”

We roared with laughter as Girish brought out our glasses. We decided that the next day all of us would ferry loads as it was a burden for two.

28 Sep

We wrapped up the camp and hid all the loads from the roadside. Then we started on our way to Gangotri. We met an expedition from Jamshedpur heading up for G-3. They had 7 High altitude porters and eight members. (They had twenty low altitude porters. ) They were shocked to hear about our alpine attempt. I was relieved that we had pulled out just in time from a booked mountain. We reached Gangotri in two hours. We found a room in a lodge. The room looked like one from a Tibetan monastery. We had a quick snack and then headed back to the camp . We moved down all the stuff and we had saved around Rs 1500/- worth porterage.Girish was to move with the equipment to Uttarkashi while Milind and I paid a visit to Gomukh after a day’s rest.

We lazed in the room, fully relaxed as there was no more tension, no load ferries.

The value of luxury is realized only through hardship.