Summit Day – Part XII(a)

It’s impossible for me to write in one go about the summit day hence the part A here. How can one condense something that was so magnificent?

So we woke up at 12.20 itself, Riddhi was awake too, we rushed out to finish our business and we could already hear voices. People were getting ready. It was cold yet the the whole atmosphere was charged. It was THE DAY. All these days of heavy trekking is a practice to lead to this day. The efforts we put in every day, moving along, keeping pace comes to fruition.

We rushed to eat our breakfast, yup breakfast at 1 am. No brushing nothing. Even in these past few days Riddhi and I were taking it easy on brushing our teeth and that’s how it is for trekkers. Right after we had our lunch, we got out our backpacks, trekking poles all set to go. Then came the packed lunch which we would carry it with us. We were also given dry Channa which we filled it in our jacket pockets. We would be munching on it for the surge of energy. It was going to be a long day.

But let me stop here and tell you about our true unsung heroes, the kitchen team of Indiahikes. If we had to eat at 1 am, it meant they never slept while we got some rest. And this was the case every day. Because to get our chai at 6.30 am, breakfast at 7.30 am, lunch too ready by that time, then snacks at 4 pm and dinner at 7 pm meant these guys were working non stop. My admiration for these heroes was hundred fold. And it was always healthy nutritious and delicious meals, all local food. Every meal plan was made keeping the strenuous trek we were doing. I think this is one of the reasons why I can’t look beyond Indiahikes since I started trekking with them in 2017. The whole team works on camaraderie, effort, positivity, local guys who love their village, their region their state and they do so much for the environment and I must say this, Indiahikes continues to do a commendable job.

Now we were set, and ready to go by 1.30 am. All that long day of tiredness meant nothing now, it was now or never. And this is what amazes me about humans. Just when you need that push the most, it happens.

In the front was Pankajji of course, Rahul from the kitchen team joined us. So in pitch darkness with our head lamps on, we started off. Tirth told us last evening and he repeated the same that midnight. Let’s move as a TEAM! Single line! Don’t overtake anyone, maintain a pace that’s it. We got to be there for each other.

We kept moving, and I am telling you it was not an easy task but from Baniya kund campsite to Chopta where we were using a trail and it was an ascent, there was a surge of energy, a single minded focus in all of us. There was no rushing, no walking fast, no speeding nothing, but it felt like we got this extra shot from within. Some things can’t be explained but in hindsight I see it as the blessings of Tungnath – Lord Shiva himself. God is nature, nature is God. All the elements got together, and we were moving ahead. In a single line, moving on and on and on. In between Tirth would motivate saying good going, Pankajji would say Shabaash Shabaash, Satish would say Aage bado. You have no idea how these words motivate us. It’s that human spirit that binds us all.

Even the bhutiyas- the mountain dogs from the campsite tagged along with us. They were swiftly and gracefully climbing up the trail like it was no big deal. They had done this so many times before and god knows how many teams they have tagged along. Man and dog, centuries together.

What also helped us was that we couldn’t see anything beyond 20 metres, yes that’s true. Why you ask? Because sometimes one shouldn’t know how far ahead it goes, if we had known the path in daylight and seen how it was, we would have never paced the way we did. And that’s where we humans go wrong in our lives, planning, always planning for the future so much, the calculative mind takes over and the heart remains dormant. We don’t enjoy the present, we just don’t. And the trek from Baniyakund to Chopta was that, keep moving, keep seeking, be in the moment, don’t worry about the result. Keep going as a team. It was the beginning of things.

After 2+ hours, with little water breaks we finally saw the village of Chopta, it was an ascent alright and it will continue to be an ascent till Chandrashila. We could see a few lights, those were the street lights and rest was darkness. Now the pacing slowed a bit knowing the first part of the journey was almost getting done, reaching Chopta. Himalayan villages are not your usual villages. They are always situated at higher elevation and there were steep steps and we were going in between homes, the households, families blissfully sleeping inside.

After that surge of energy came the lull, all that pacing helped tremendously because we were in Chopta before time. Tirth was in constant touch on his walkie talkie with the base camp team giving them an update. And here is the thing, within hours we were ascending 3,000 feet today which is abnormal because the body needs to acclimatise. On an average a healthy human being is comfortable with an ascent of 1000 feet per day, you go gradually but here, there was no choice. By the time we reached Chopta, we were already 1000+ feet higher in a couple of hours.

We were at the entrance of the steps.. the way to Tungnath temple. And this was going to be tough, really tough. From cement to rocks, with winding path and just ascent. My heart was beating fast. Call it nostalgia, call it nervousness, would we able to see Chandrashila this time? Will Tungnath grace us with his blessings? All this was going within me. And then it hit me.

I started getting a headache and instantly I knew it was the altitude. It was not pounding but it was starting and this could lead to pounding headache and maybe AMS( Altitude Mountain sickness) I told Bhim and he said ,tell Tirth NOW. I approached him and the first thing he asked me was on a scale of 1-10, how is the headache? I said 2, he took out a pill and gave it to me. As I was taking it, all kinds of scenarios came into my mind, what if I cannot do this?

I blurted it out to Bhim saying it’s ok if I am not able to do Chandrashila summit, I will stay in Tungnath. Bhim said No, we are going to do it. It looks like simple words but it gave me a boost, a calm within, knowing we are in this together, Bhim is with me, we have done and gone through so much these years, we will be together till the last step up there.

I remember as we all took our first steps towards the entrance which was adorned with beautiful bells, each one of us rang it and out came the words from us, Har Har Mahadev, Shambo Shankara! My heart and chest was filling up with the grace of Tungnath.

Here we go again, Bhim and I were exactly here 4 years ago, climbing onto this very place in dark torrential rains and that time we didn’t even talk to each other properly and today look at us, done so many journeys together, external, within, even the journey of life where we know we will always be there for each other. He is family to me and when your family is with you, it is for the long haul, good, bad and the worst.

Until tomorrow 💙💙

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