The last hours before the summit – Part VII

Post lunch we relaxed, but I could sense a nervous energy around us, soon we would know at what time we would start our ascent to the summit. We had carried Gators and microspikes right from base camp.

For the uninitiated, gators are like wrap around which we wrap around our trek pants below the knees, this prevents snow from getting into the pants and getting wet, you definitely don’t want anything to get wet and freeze like hell at those temperatures up there. We would summit to Pangarchulla at 15,000+ feet and anything above 14,000 feet meant snow and ice. Pangarchulla was formidable, with treacherous rocks and very and I repeat very steep ascent. The angles at which we trekked in those temperatures shudders me to this day. Way under rated trek.

Microspikes are shaped like a shoe but very flexible with chains and we would wear them strapped to the shoes before we got into hard ice, this would protect us from slipping, give us a grip giving us the foothold to traverse difficult terrains on snow.

But what Uttamji did during the briefing was something else. He gave us ground realities of the many possibilities that could happen on summit day. Most importantly he told us to keep our egos aside, all our previous trekking didn’t matter shit if we weren’t flexible to the circumstances that confronted us as we went along.

It was a technical ascent as he explained the route, just like in the morning we would reach Jhandi top and from there we would divert to a route towards Pangarchulla. We were so nervous when in the morning Surajbhai showed us Pangarchulla and the trail we would follow, it was almost a 70 degree ascent seeming endless.

Most importantly we couldn’t afford to delay anyone because of our egos, our selfishness. Period. We had to keep pace with everyone, the moment we went slow we would make it harder for the entire team. Yes ideally it would be great, we complete it together all of us, but if at any point any of us delayed the process, hard decisions would be taken.

Nishant also gave an update, as predicted the rains washed away the snow on the boulders so yes.. we had to navigate our way through huge boulders that had big gaps, it would be tougher now. Oh man..

Through all this, Chandra was with us too as he briefed us, I remember Priyanka and I were surprised when Chandra stood with us with her gators and microspikes for summit briefing. All of us knew she wouldn’t summit tomorrow, so when she told me and Priyanka she was ready for tomorrow we looked at each other and went didn’t she know? Jhandi top was a struggle for her, she seemed fine now but the push to the summit requires not just being ok, her stomach issues would come up.

I remember Priyanka and me wondering how to break the news to her.. Maybe at some level Chandra knew too, but that hope against hope remained. Today’s morning trek was a test for not only us but importantly for her to see if she could do it. And she was down and out. But you see, it’s that heart that can’t take in the reality because somewhere you hope against hope it still might happen.

And Nishant did just that, right before we ended the briefing he told her openly, ‘ You are not going’. It was straightforward and final. Chandra started protesting, wait wait I am going with you guys. Nishant simply said come with me, let’s talk.

Priyanka and I waited after the briefing, we kept looking at each other. We knew we had to be there for Chandra once she knew, I am sure she knew it already but the denial was happening too.

We went to our luggage tent and packed up for the summit. We were going to start at 12 midnight, yup. This is probably the first time in all my treks where there would be no sleep throughout. Nishant said firmly are you ready to stay awake through and through? From 12 midnight tonight to next day 11 am? And that is Pangarchulla my friends..

Once Nishant was done with Chandra we went upto him and asked as to how is she doing, where is she right now. He pointed her out as she sat far and away from the campsite, towards the mountain. Uttamji told us, look we are doing what is best for her and for the team. We silently nodded.

We went towards Chandra and sat down next to her. I could see from her face that she had finally accepted the outcome. She said I knew this would be the case but I didn’t want to believe it. There is one thing we all trekkers learn in every trek but sometimes we forget. The Mountains will always be there, we can come back. And this is not for consoling ourselves but the truth. What the Himalayas does is challenges us, pushes us to our edge, she doesn’t ever give us what we want, she gives us what we need at that moment.

Once Chandra accepted that fact, I could see her slowly coming into her element, she was lighter, becoming her normal self. It takes time but once she knew she always could do this trek again, it was clear, this was not the be all and end all of treks.

We had our dinner at 6 pm and got into our tents, wake up call would be at 10.30 pm, followed by tea then ‘breakfast’ which we had to stuff in as much as we could forcing ourselves because there would be no food nothing until we reached back to our campsite at 11 am the next day.. I tell you I can clearly say this has been the toughest timings I adhered to in all my treks. 12 midnight! Absolutely an all nighter till the next morning at 11 am. This is where in hindsight the human spirit prevails.

And as we three retired into the tent, we could hear John continuing his jokes on Nimsdai with Aussie boy and Bala who were in the tent next to us, ranting about the baggage they had sprawled around the tent. Priyanka, Chandra and me went on a laughing spree!

It all started with Chandra saying once you guys leave, the campsite will be empty and I will sleeping alone in the tent, and I don’t like it. So I said, so will you go ask the kitchen guys to give you company in the tent?? With your broken Hindi?? How are you gonna ask them? Scare them? Imagine you going and telling those naive pahadi boys I feel alone I need company! 😂 After that I can’t say more, we joked uncensored shit as to the many ways Chandra could ask the kitchen staff, Priyanka added her own bit and we went into hysterical laughter for an hour. I swear guys, in our silent campsite everyone probably the TTH group too could hear loud laughter echoing from our tent. And Aussie boy and Bala overheard our entire raunchy conversations and they joined in laughing out loud with us responding to them!

Plus our Aussie boy had already nicknamed our toilet tents as ‘ Khullara summit’ with the number of times our group was using it. He would say Khullara summit 1 done, now Khullara summit 2 baaki hai 😂😂 Taking a dump in a dug pit is no less than summit itself!

We were laughing so hard that we didn’t even hear Shahji shouting at us’ Ladies be quiet’! It was only much later we came to know about it 😁

Priyanka and me were a bundle of nerves and the laughter was our way out. She was exactly like me when it came to planning things. We would wake up at 9.30 pm and do our business before others and be ready and get into the dining tent at 10.30 pm. We were ready. Our thumping hearts didn’t slow down but slowly sleep overtook us, we had less than 2 hours to wake up.

What happened next will take a lot out of me emotionally to write so I end it here for now.

To be continued ❤️

PANGARCHULLA IT IS FINALLY – PHOTO CREDIT – UJJWAL

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