On to Advanced Base Camp…

Abhishek Kaushal moves ahead to Advanced Base Camp, one more step closer to the summit of Mount Thelu.

Raktvan Base Camp to Advanced Base Camp – Expedition Day 5 – 25/May/2016

A clear day greeted me when I got out of my tent at 4:30 am and this was a great relief after yesterday’s bad weather. Today the entire team except the cook and his helper would be moving ahead to Advanced Base Camp. Most of the personal technical equipment had already been Load Ferry-ed to Advanced Base Camp yesterday so the loads for today comprised our clothes, personal stuff and sleeping bags. In addition to this, the team members who were not able to reach the Advanced Base Camp yesterday would have to carry their technical equipment from the two dump sites on the route. I was feeling pretty lucky that I wouldn’t be carrying all the stuff, which would make today’s repeat journey up to the Advanced Base Camp easy for me. From the previous day’s experience, I just thought that if the weather stayed like this all day then it would be perfect. The two guides would also be going further ahead to the Summit Camp to dump some stuff while rest of us would just set up the Advanced Base Camp and rest.

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Welcoming a clear day at Base Camp after two days of bad weather; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal

We all packed our bags and started leaving one by one after breakfast. The cook had also packed our lunch for the day as we wouldn’t get enough time to cook after setting up the Advanced Base Camp. This breakfast and the lunch were probably going to be the last few good meals we would have before we returned back to Base Camp after the summit attempt. But with the excitement of moving one stage closer to the summit, food was the least priority item on my mind. The only disturbing thought that troubled me was that the tiring moraines had to be dealt with again.

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Making the way up through the tiring moraines; Photo: Shashi Bahuguna

Today I was climbing slowly with the other senior team members, talking about the expedition so far and what to expect next. Our guide, expedition leader and one senior member had been here earlier and attempted Mount Thelu in 2013, but due to bad weather at that time, they had to come back from the Summit Camp. This was the same year when natural disaster had struck Uttarakhand. They were telling stories about their whole experience, of how they had to walk all the way from the Summit Camp to almost Uttarkashi, the widespread destruction they saw after they reached Gangotri Glacier, and the difficulties and dangers they faced on this journey.

The climb today was mentally fatiguing. This was firstly because I knew the route from yesterday’s climb, so there was no excitement on that front; secondly I was getting irritated by climbing the moraines and wanted to set foot on snow ASAP; and lastly, since we were just walking through the gully, even the views were not very engaging. The only positive thought in my mind was that with each passing day, the summit day was approaching.

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Last view of the Shivling Peak before Advanced Base Camp; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati

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Team members appearing as tiny shapes in contrast to the vast rugged landscape; Photo: Shashi Bahuguna

After climbing for around two and a half hours, we reached the Advanced Base Camp. After setting up the kitchen tent, the two guides left for Summit Camp as planned, while the rest of us started setting up the other tents and finalise the sleeping arrangements. Uptil Base Camp, two people were sharing a single tent, but as the number of tents here at Advance Base Camp were lesser in number, three to four people had to accommodate in a single tent.

Due to bad weather yesterday, I hadn’t gotten a chance to see around the camp. The Advanced Base Camp was situated on a flattish piece of ground with a slight downhill gradient, just across a ridge at the end of the moraine section on the way up from Base Camp. On the other end of this ground, a steep moraine section led towards higher sections of our route. Huge piles of boulder debris, fallen down from the mountains above, made up either side of the ground. A small stream was flowing through the middle of this ground. Since there was no proper flat surface available here to put up our tents, slabs of slate rocks had to be arranged in order to create make-shift sleeping areas.

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Abhishek surveys the Advanced Base Camp in better visibility conditions; Photo: Shashi Bahuguna

Due to the high mountains on either side, the duration of sunlight here was very limited. This meant that shortly after finishing our lunch, as the sun went behind the mountains, it got cold. The two guides were also back from the Summit Camp and they told us that the snow started after the ridge that was visible from the Advanced Base Camp. This was good news as it meant that there wouldn’t be any more moraines to climb after the small section next to the Advanced Base Camp. Everybody settled in their tents and waited for dinner. The guides were in charge of cooking today and the menu would be daal-rice khichdi mixed with soybeans.

The wind had picked up by evening and it got a lot colder as compared to Base Camp. This made all of us take out our feather jackets to deal with the cold. We all had an early dinner and the leader explained the plan for the next day – Load Ferry to Summit Camp. The plan was to leave early, go to the Summit Camp, dump stuff and return back to the Advanced Base Camp before lunch.

After dinner all of us got back to our tents. Tonight, it was going to be four of us sleeping in one tent. The benefit of this was that it would keep the tent warm, but the flip side of it was that the tent was very crowded and it was tough to even turn sides. The temperatures outside were already hovering in the negatives, which was apparent by all the frost that was developing on the inside of the tents. I was very excited for the coming day as finally we would be walking on the snow. Initially it was tough to sleep because of the cramped space inside the tent, but slowly the uncomfortable sleeping position was overshadowed by the tired body and mind, and I slept off.

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