Friday, December 21, 2012

The Godfather calls

Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all.

-Norman Vincent Peale

The Advance course had trained me for Advance climbing techniques especially artificial climbing. I had an old account to settle. Revisit Khada Parsi pinnacle! Milind and I prepared for the climb. Prasad helped us with basic rock climbing equipment. He was to make the first highest rock climb of a nearby rock face called Dhakoba.

We had prepared for a high risk climb without any support from bottom. Both of us were influenced by Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker’s climb of the Shining Mountain, Changbang. We felt we could at least do our bit in Sahyadri.

We travelled on the Suzuki motorbike to Ghatghar village. We traversed the fort wall and climbed a gully to enter the fort. We pitched our tent close to a water tank and laid out the gear needed for the climb for the next day. It consisted on a pair of home made ettriers, 20 Carabiners, 200 feet of rope.

We were using canvas shoes for the climb as we had no rock climbing shoes. For protection of head during any mishap, we wore two wheeler helmets. I was wearing a red T shirt, so that Prasad could spot me from the Dhakoba wall with his binoculars.

We descended from the fort to the base of the pinnacle. I started the lead. I mentioned to Milind that he could Jummar up as soon as I reached the first ledge. (This was the point where I had given up the first attempt.)

I climbed fast, full of confidence. I finished the open traverse, removing carabiners and tying off with small pieces of rope to save on the carabiners. The advance course two piton technique had built my confidence. I was leaving strings that were bare essential for my safety.

I approached a small ledge that could barely accommodate my feet. I clipped my self anchor and attached a 100 ft rope through three bolt anchor for Milind to Jumar up directly to the ledge.

Milind took a long time to abseil and as he approached I found the reason. I had not adjusted the Jummar strings of proper length for him. The leg string was too long and the waist Jummar was far away. I was not surprised when he expressed that it was easier to climb directly than jummar up a fixed rope. As he clipped on his self-anchor, I made the necessary adjustments.

I started off up the next pitch which was an overhang. I climbed up the ettrier, but this time my legs did not shake. There was no panic that I had felt during my past climb. After 6 or 7 bolts I stood on another ledge. Milind followed, a lot faster this time. We decided to change the lead. I snapped on the jumars.

Milind was a lot more confident than me and he proved to be a lot faster when climbing directly. I jummared up to him. We had a single water bottle and we wet our beaks.

The next portion was critical as it ended in a neck that has loose rocks and scree. I gestured to Milind that he had to be very quick on his feet. He vanished above the rock shaped like a bookshelf. He cried out that he was close to the head of the pinnacle. As I followed him I found that he had traversed to the right of the pinnacle in a hurry. The head of the pinnacle was supposed to be bolted but we found none. We were at high places hooked to a single piton with no lead to follow. Not a good situation, especially when we had absolutely no one at the base. Milind said, “ I feel very confident that I can free climb to the top. It is just 50 feet away and no more critical than the free climbs we do at Sinhagad.” Judging by the speed of his climb and the confidence, I agreed that he open the new route. In ten minutes I heard a shout from the top. Milind was on the top of Khada Parsi. He had anchored the rope. I quickly followed him after removing my self anchor and winding up all the extra rope. Finally we were on the top of a well-known pinnacle. I looked around and the top was no more than 5 feet in radius. The abyss fell more than a thousand feet towards the east. On the right was the fort wall from where I had watched this great pinnacle when I was in my teens. We had realized our dream with training, practice and a bit of confidence. I was overjoyed and I wished that Prasad was watching me from the Dhakoba wall. I could not see their team as their route was under a shadow. We still had to make a safe descent. I tied a short string to the top Piton and looped the two ropes. We were confident enough not to use a belay when rapelling. In the first pitch, we got to the neck which was close by. The next pitch took us to the bolt station near the ledge. As we reached it, we had to slip off the rope. The rope would not budge! It had got stuck in a cactus near the neck. I gave a few sharp jerks and fortunately the rope slid off to us. We descended to ground zero safe and sound.

We wrapped all the gear and got back to our tent. The limbs ached from the full day activity. We were on our toes for almost 8 hours. We had absolutely no energy to prepare food and we slept. I had not put on the tent outer. Through the tent fabric I gazed at the stars in the dark sky.

The God father had blessed us with a success.

Milind spoke, “Two man is easier and faster. Next attempt Tel Baila Pinnacles next.”

I nodded. Milind and I were the perfect pair of climbers as we complement each other. Now, we could take the world by storm. We had filled water bottles from the side by tank for the night.

We were very dehydrated and I kept sipping water throughout the night.

I woke up with a swelling in my throat which made it difficult to swallow the tea or the noodles.

But all was well, as we were in high spirits of finishing the climb. We yet had to descend the fort and ride the motorbike to Pune.

A few days later, Prasad called me. "I watched most of your climb. The red dot spent 1 hour at the neck. Why so?" He had seen me untangling the ropes from the cactus.
Prasad had reached a bigger goal of the largest alpine style rock climb in Sahyadri. The NW face of Dhakoba.