Thursday, January 3, 2013

A change for good

It was 7PM when the door bell rang.

“Prasad! Its good to see you. What is up?”

“ Let’s go to Sinhagad. I am carrying two hammocks.”, chirped Prasad. “Its fun to do something unplanned.”

I was surprised as Prasad, never divulges the full intent in first talk. He had a grand plan.

“ Do you have a good torch?”

I fished out one from my drawer. “ But I haven’t eaten anything.”

Prasad, “Let’s eat at some place on the route and then climb.”

Over a Mutton Biryani, Prasad started to divulge the plan.

Then Prasad began, “You remember the Khan kada wall. Sanjay and Surendra have put a bolting station.”

I knew that they had opened a new route, but I had yet to see where the hammocks would come in. Prasad explained, “We shall descend the wall from the top. At 70-80 feet from the top of the cliff, there is a bolt station. We shall clip the hammocks to the bolts crawl inside and go to sleep.”

I marveled at the idea. Firstly, it meant rappelling the face in total darkness. Swinging and attaching the hammocks to the bolts and spending a cold night with around ~80+ feet below us.

It was a crazy idea, but expected, from my old friend. Though we always talked about our expeditions and climbs, we had not ever climbed together. He had drifted away with a group of excellent climbers and had bagged many peaks such as first ascents of Mt Matri and Mt Panwali Dwar. He and Surendra had narrowly escaped an avalanche on Mt Shivling.

We biked to Sinhagad. Prasad climbed to the top of the cliff with the gear and started the descnt. I was guiding him with my torch. With couple of swings he setup the first hammock and then the second one. I tied the torch to the end of the rope as he pulled it to his hammock.

I started my descent. I wore a Jummar for self anchor and the seat harness. The plan was to keep hooked to the top rope and wear the harnesses throughout the night. The Hammock had a tightly closed lip and I shoved my Leg inside to open it wider. I snuggled in and soon found the discomfort. My shoulders were crunched inside the boat shaped canvas against the rock wall.

Prasad was smiling at me from the other hammock. He was in a very jolly mood. I decided to digest the situation for the night. I remembered that I had decided to have a pee, but had forgotten in a hurry. I buried the thought. It was 9PM. We started singing in chorus and soon I forgot the drop underneath. We started talking about our old treks, laughing at the crazy situations we had been.

“Prasad! How about some music?”

“ You carried a tape recorder? That’s great!”

I pulled out a cassette from my knapsack and the night went alive with the music, with choral support from Prasad and me.

It was almost 1AM when a booze party picked up in a shed near the carpark area. Booze is prohibited on the fort and we decided to create some disturbance. I shone my torch on to the group and hooted. The people were very surprised to see the light from middle of the cliff but could not make out the hammocks.

At 3AM, to make things challenging, Mother Nature decided to provide us with a cold shower. We were clamped to the face, but we had a tiny protection from the overhang above. Drenched and unable to move in the hammocks we waited for the first ray of the sun.

We rappelled down after removing the hammocks and the gear. It was a great night. My fear for the face was killed.

Prasad asked, “Would you be willing to join the Kamet Expedition? Let’s go for the meeting and you can decide. Balya has agreed to lead.”

I thought about the circumstances. This was a siege style expedition contrary to my experience. I would be a misfit in the team. But I had the opportunity to climb with Good climbers from Mumbai and Pune. I would also get a chance to be with my hostel mates, Surendra and Moreshwar. I did not see any chances of teaming with alpine style climbers. I had run out of choices and this was a good offer.

Kamet experience would be the closest to a mountain of 8000 mt and I decided to waive aside my scruples for Siege style climbing.