I have sceneries in my head, but no words to describe them. I have memories of places, but each time I immerse myself in them, something is different about them; something has changed. I remember shivering while feeling the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I remember being nervous with a little voice at the back of my head telling me that I’m not worthy enough. I remember being tired and taking deep breaths, imagining all the Oxygen going to my muscles to allow them to breathe, giving me the strength to keep moving forward. I remember feeling like giving up. I remember not giving up.
I remember all these things, but I’m frustrated because I can’t remember the right combination of words to use to help you relive my experience. While writing this, I thought about throwing my laptop at the wall in frustration, but then I remembered that I don’t have enough money for another laptop. So now here I am, sitting in a sunny lawn scanning a couple of pictures and a 4-page journal entry, trying to figure out how and what to tell you about the last day of my expedition to Jagatsukh peak- the day I summited. Maybe I should drink some coffee before beginning.
It was a cold morning at our camp in Tainta, which lay sandwiched between the bases of Jagatsukh Peak and Deo Tibba (among others) on one side, and a freezing cold stream on the other side. We emerged from our tents at 3 am to be greeted by complete darkness and a cloudless sky covered in stars. In the distance, Jagatsukh Peak towered above us, its snow eerily emanating a soft glow. There was a light of anticipation in everybody’s eyes. As I took a good look at the peak that we would be summiting, I respected and at the same time was intimidated by its sheer size and by how small I was in comparison to it.
After a breakfast of boiled eggs, porridge and maggi, we headed out towards the peak. By now, it was about 4:15 am. The trail towards the base of the peak wound through and above several vehicle sized rocks. After approximately 1.5 hours of manoeuvring through this rocky terrain, we finally reached the snow on the base of Jagatsukh Peak. I was already burnt out, but we weren’t even halfway there. As we fastened our crampons (spikes that one fixes onto the soles of shoes) onto our snow boots, one person in our group went scouting for a nice big rock to take a dump behind. Good, that would give me some time to catch my breath. Once he had successfully executed the task at hand, we divided ourselves into two groups and roped ourselves up to each other.
Snow is a very unforgiving terrain, especially when you have to scale a snowy slope that is at an incline of 60 degrees. Each step on such a snowy incline is tiring because you have to lean forward, jam the toe spikes of your crampon into the slope and pull your body up with the help of an ice axe. If any of your bodyweight gets transferred from your toes to your heels, then the snow under your feet dislodges and you slide down a couple of steps, thereby wasting precious energy just to regain your earlier footing. Needless to say, this happened to me several times. As a result, I unloaded the full extent of my vocabulary of abuses (English and Hindi) onto the slope. The slope probably didn’t like that.
This tussle with the snowy slopes of Jagatsukh Peak would continue for the next 6 hours, following which the summit finally came into view. By this time, I felt destroyed. I ditched my rucksack on the slope because of how much it was weighing me down. With the help of a couple of tugs of the rope that I was connected to and some motivation from Mohit, who was behind me, I slowly but surely ploughed on.
At approximately 11:30am, we finally set foot on the summit of Jagatsukh Peak. Our guides, after jumping around like mad goats in excitement, gave us some prashad and conducted a mini-pooja at the summit, something that is customary. As I sat on the 5300m high summit of the peak with a semi-frozen butt, I felt relieved that I’d made it this far and proud too; this was after all the first time that I’d summited a peak. We weren’t yet done for the day though.
After resting for 15 minutes on the summit, we started to make our way back down. Descent can be a real bitch. By this time, the sun was out and the snow was soft, meaning that while descending, it’s quite easy for the snow to give way and for you to start sliding down the slope. In my destroyed state, I slipped and slid down quite frequently. With the help of my ice axe and our guide however, I successfully made it all the way down without sliding into a rock. It felt real good to be terra firma in one piece.
After a grueling 11 hours of walking, climbing and descending, we finally made it back to camp at about 3:45pm. I went straight to my tent and passed out for 4 hours while the rest of the seasoned climbers in my group celebrated by eating momos and playing atlas and chess. This was the only time in my entire life that I have taken a raincheck from a momo eating session, but I have no complaints on that front.
All in all, I’m happy to end this series of blogs by saying that this expedition was a great success.
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