My Everest Story
My mindset at this point is looking pretty positive – I am ready to do this. I have prepared well and I know enough. The trek rotations are to begin on April the 15th, and we are to take these rotations seriously if we wish to survive. I have my mind set on the summit…come what may, I will never say die. This feat is mine.
…and so our first rotation rolls around the corner. From the Base Camp we start our trek for Camp 1, which is at a height of 6,000m. I set out in the wee hours of the morning with my team, with a firm resolve to not be fazed by any difficulty that comes my way…and it is not long before I realize the error of my thinking. We all are aware of how mother Nature has her ways of putting humans in their place; I say that mountains have their own unique way. They stand tall and unmoving, relentless and passively proud as a silent rebuke to the cockiness of human beings. I realize this the hard way when I first come face-to-face with the Khumbu Icefall…and oh, I daresay, the terrain makes my decade-long struggle sound wishy washy. As far as my eyes can see, there is no firm ground. Crevasses everywhere; sheer drops and steep inclines – and it is all ICE. You can train your body as hard as you like – in the end, if the ice you hook into is loose, you lose. It dawns on me then; I need not just brawns but brains too if I am to keep myself from falling deep into these icy chasms, never to climb again. If you ask me, the Khumbu Icefall is easily the most dangerous stretch of trek you could encounter during the entire climb. I talk not just about the crevasses and drops in this glacier, but also of avalanches and tumbling ice-blocks – and these events can injure you mortally or even kill you. Thinking of all this, my mind immediately gears into clutch mode and I start paying close attention to what I’m doing.
I forge on. Braving all my fears and doubts, trusting my knowledge, instinct and intuition, I leave nothing to chance. This is what I have prepared for and it is my moral and ethical duty to ensure I see the end of it. Carefully, I navigate the ice-walls of Khumbu glacier, and finally arrive at the head of the glacier, into the safety of Camp 1. In the back of my head, I am aware of the fact that we are supposed to descend back to Base Camp, since this is only a rotation exercise. Images of the icefall loom inside the darkest corners of my mind. To think we need to navigate those icy ridges again gnaws at me. I push those thoughts away and decide not to think of them again. This is what I came here for – there is no running away from it. I decide to face it head on. And so we head back down, clawing our way up and down the frosted, white walls of ice of Khumbu Glacier.
Our rotation treks continue without wait or distractions. With each rotation, we keep adding another milestone to our routine, which helps us acclimatize to the harsh conditions at this elevation. Rotation to Camp 2, perched 6,400m above the sea, takes us through the biting cold but gentle slopes of the Western Cwm. This routine is also successfully completed, without any incident. In the third rotation, we head for Camp 3, sitting on a high of 7,200m. Camp 3 is very cleverly carved into the Lhotse face of the climbing route. The beauty of the views I capture in my heart stun me into speechlessness. Disengaging my mind from the summit for a few seconds to bask in this pristine panorama takes some effort, but I make sure I remember this too. My team and I take the mandatory rest needed to descend and head back down to Camp 2.
Like I said earlier, mountains have their own way of showing humans their place. My Summit Mission is fraught not only with sub-zero temperatures, but natural hazards also. Our night at Camp 2 on the way down is razed with an angry storm. I see my tent flying off into the dead of the night, forever lost to the wrath of a mountain unhappy with something mysterious. We also end up losing our burners. For those who aren’t aware, Everesters carry burners in order to melt snow for drinking water. Our burners are now lost; we decide to descend without them. This rotation we complete without drinking a single drop of water. I’m a little shaken, but in no way discouraged – if anything, my resolve has hardened further.
Our final rotation happens till Camp 4, at a height of 7,950m, where supplementary oxygen is required. Beyond this elevation is the Death Zone – the atmosphere higher up than this point is so thin, so devoid of oxygen that life isn’t permanently sustainable. This rotation happens without any incidents and we all return to Base.
Back now safely at the Base Camp, my team and I start to keep an eye out for the weather reports. It is important to pick a summit day with favourable weather, seeing how everyone is a bit rattled from the recent storm.