As each one of us were going through our emotions, Nishant said the weather was turning bad, we saw that the skies were foggy and at that height it was magical and foreboding. We could hear thunder and saw streaks of lightening. Nishant was in touch with base camp staff and he said we would leave in 10 minutes. The descent would be long and hard and the faster we moved down the better.
We formed a circle of gratitude and as I looked around, right from the day we started our trek, the circle kept getting smaller, this was life, this was real, nothing was permanent but what mattered was the NOW, the present moment.
I was in a state of calmness after all that happened. As I saw the skies, the foggy sunrise with no view of the mountain ranges in front of Pangarchulla I could only thank the universe. For letting us all through this excruciating journey.
And then I came to know.. Paul was so near.. He could actually see the flag flapping from below but he couldn’t go further, he just couldn’t and that’s bravery too. And a common sense to understand he could have still tried somehow very slowly and reached the top, but then he would also have to descend and with his energy zapped out, it would be a very arduous journey back, the risks would be high. We were still half way done for the day and a long way to go. The way I look at it, he thought about the team too, he had that awareness about himself to understand he couldn’t go further.
I am not saying Chandra’s struggle was any less, but Paul’s predicament was so raw and so tough, to be there, to see that flag flapping and deciding to give into oneself, to nature and not be selfish and not get carried away by the temptation. Respect. Total respect here. I don’t know if anyone will get what am trying very hard to say here. We are but mere mortals but there will be a few who will rise above, under tough circumstances and Paul did that.
As Priyanka and I just started our way down, we saw a very tired and drained Bala just about making his way to the top with Khemraj. In all the emotions that was happening around us we didn’t realise Bala was missing. He was gone and out and yet he pushed himself motivated by Khemraj and made his way up. Later Bala thanked Khemraj, if not for him, he wouldn’t have had that confidence to come up. He said he just couldn’t do it without him. And this is where the resilience and softness of our technical team and guides show up. They were tough, motivating and so full of compassion. Something we truly needed to imbibe from them. They were made of extraordinary stuff.
We slowly made our way down as the weather was playing games with us, from foggy weather to sunshine to rumbles in the sky. I looked back at Pangarchulla with utter reverence. The Himalayas had divinity through and through. You could go to the alps, be that Swiss or Canadian, go to Peruvian mountains or Colorado, but the Himalayas and her ranges was a divine supernatural presence guarding, protecting us and teaching us. You have no idea how blessed we should feel for being a part of the Indian sub continent, for having the privilege of seeing her time and again. ❤️
From then on it was only descent, again through tricky boulders, to melting snow, to us looking back in astonishment every single time wondering if we truly did this all? At night you don’t get to see anything but once daylight happens and the truth reveals itself. Us, puny human beings were able to ascent on such precarious paths!
Lots of slips and falls happened on our way down. Later I came to know that John was enjoying sliding his way down on the snow but he was out of control and could have gone over if not for Nishant running at lightening speed and stopping his fall with his pole, he actually overtook John, swerved and jammed the pole in front and held him! There was also laughter about it later on. Baba like a trooper carried his pick axe throughout those days but at that very moment when John was sliding he didn’t have the axe with him, so he ran and tried to stop the fall with his thumb! Yes his thumb! 😁
As we started making our way through those boulders which was actually bigger than I thought at daylight, I wondered, how? How did we do this at night? I asked Nishant about his leg and he honestly admitted to it. He said I was careless about it, I was nicely hopping over the rocks, became over confident and fell, very stupid of me to do that. I smiled because here was one guy admitting to it while I had a different experience altogether with another TL during Gidara Bugyal who was as am gently putting it, immature and childish 😊
We kept moving on through skies and meadows and the weather truly played a game on us, we came rushing down from the summit because of bad weather and it was all sunshine and clear skies! Nishant said his team had got all the ingredients and a small stove to make hot chai for us at the peak but no complaints here. She blessed us and that mattered.
We descended over a beautiful ridge which reminded me of the stark and vast Gidara Bugyal all the way down to the kitchen team calling us out for Chai. What can I tell you folks? In the open meadows under the skies, vast and open we were having the luxury to sip hot chai and they were so thoughtful they made my sugarless chai too 😊
I remember on our journey down chatting with Paul, he was doing fine and one significant thing he told me, you know I am arrogant, I portray this happy go lucky guy but today my arrogance was brought down, it showed me what I need to do. For him to admit that, more to himself than to me or anybody else requires guts.
As we sipped Chai, we looked up in awe, open mouthed, did we really descend all the way down? We could see the steepest level from here. How did we? Even now how did we descend?? That’s the beauty of the human mind and body and maybe that’s the reason why we have survived, adapting ourselves automatically to whatever confronted us for thousands of years, it’s in the gene pool..
Our stomachs were also growling by now, big mumbo jumbo happening inside yet there was a content within, to be here, at this moment, to be with the people we were with. Is it any wonder we keep running back to the Himalayas, this goes beyond an escape or a distraction. You are closest to who you really are here while back ‘home’ all our masks came on.
We stopped at a Bugyal to rest up, and most of us went flat out on the grass and Nishant handed us postcards to write what we were going through this journey, anything. This was a practice that Indiahikes developed during COVID times at its height.
Every trek after the summit this was a part of the process. I didn’t know what to write, I was blank, there was nothingness. I had written so many, sometimes for myself, sometimes for others, this time I only felt a beautiful emptiness inside, there was no more an outlet to write something. I wrote two words and that was it.
It was time to head back to the campsite and when I looked at my watch it was 9.30 am.. The day had just started for half of the world while for the other half it was ending and for us? We had gone far and beyond the time continuum, we were like fresh new souls.
To be continued on Monday.. Meanwhile enjoy the pics Pritish clicked as well as amazing videos by my trekmates Aussie boy and John – it made me very emotional and by my mate Vijay.