In sight of the Summit

Abhishek Kaushal reaches the last stopping place before the final push to the summit of Mount Thelu.

Advanced Base Camp to Summit Camp – Expedition Day 7 – 27/May/2016

After a good night’s sleep, and moving on over the disappointment of the previous day, I started preparing for the next step of the expedition. Today we would be moving ahead to the Summit Camp. As we were supposed to carry only the essential stuff from here on, I decided to wear all possible clothes and just carry the feather jacket, sleeping bag, gloves and extra pair of socks to the Summit Camp. I went to the kitchen tent to have my first cup of tea for the day and found out that the expedition leader had also fallen sick. It was not sure whether he would continue ahead and he would take a decision after a couple of hours. A new member had also joined us yesterday and as he was coming back after climbing another peak in the area, he was well acclimatised.

The plan for today was to reach the Summit Camp before noon, get settled and then prepare the personal technical equipment for the summit climb. The two guides would go ahead and figure out the route to the summit, and also fix up ropes wherever necessary. The expedition leader suggested that the Summit Camp should be located a little ahead of the dump site from yesterday, so as to reduce the effort and the time required for the summit climb. We all had our breakfast and packed our stuff, got ready and one by one started moving. After yesterday’s feedback about my walking pace, I had decided to walk with one of the senior members for the entire duration of the climb to the Summit Camp today.

The climb was much easier as we were following the same path that we had taken yesterday. We crossed the moraines next to the Advanced Base Camp, walked next to the stream for some time, and then crossed over the ice field to the start of the slate section. I was very careful while crossing the crevasse today. It seemed bigger than yesterday and I also saw the snow patch which had slid under my rear foot. One of the guides and the new member were almost near the top of the snow ridge, next to the dumping site. I continued following the senior member while taking some tips for the summit climb.

By the time we reached the snow ridge near the dump site, our lead guide had also passed us. He showed us the direction of the Summit Camp from where we stood. We picked our personal technical stuff from the sacks at the dump site and continued walking over the big snow field towards the Summit Camp. The Summit Camp was on one side of this big snow field, near a steep snow slope (over which there was another ridge and then the final route to the summit of Mount Thelu), while Mount Koteshwar was visible on the other side of the Summit Camp. By the time we reached the Summit Camp, the guides had already started putting up the kitchen cum sleeping tent. The lead guide informed us that the expedition leader had decided to head back to Base Camp because of his deteriorating health. We were also instructed by the lead guide to stay near the tents as there might be frozen ponds below the vast snow and ice field.

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Spotting possible frozen ponds under the snow field; Photo: Shashi Bahuguna

Up here at Summit Camp, only two tents were being put up for a total of 10 people. Six men would be sleeping in the kitchen tent and the four female team members would occupy the second tent. The snow and ice field was hard and almost flat with a very gentle slope. This meant that there was no need to dig the snow for flattening the surface to place the tents. We covered the sides of the tents with snow so that it wouldn’t fly off in the strong winds that were normal at this altitude. The sun was at its peak by the time we settled down and the inside of the tent was as hot as a sauna while winds blew outside. One of the guides collected some ice in a bag that would be melted on a stove and used as water. After this, the lead guide prepared some tea and Maggi for everyone. The two guides left the Summit Camp after lunch to check the route towards the summit and instructed all of us to check and prepare our technical equipment for tomorrow.

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Looking up at Mount Thelu summit from the Summit Camp; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal

I also went out after lunch to check the surrounding views that were simply magnificent. I was further excited by the thoughts of how the view from the summit must be. Once the guides had gone, the remaining eight of us settled in the kitchen tent and started chatting, listening to music and singing songs. Later, some of us started preparing our crampons and harnesses for the next day. Our senior member took charge of the kitchen and kept preparing some popcorn and coffee frequently. We all were eagerly waiting for the guides to return so that they could brief us about the plan for summit attempt.

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Hoping that the weather prediction stays true for tomorrow; Photo: Guneet Puri

The guides returned after a couple of hours. They told us that they had checked the route upto the summit ridge and had also fixed a rope on the steep climb approaching the summit ridge. The lead guide instructed everyone that we all would leave the Summit Camp at 3:00 am – he would wake everyone up at 1:00 am with hot tea and then everyone would get ready. Finally the two guides also settled in the tent and started preparing dinner. We were using small butane stove for cooking here and dinner comprised Maggi, upma and hot tea.

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Exhilarating views of the surrounding peaks as the weather clears in the evening; Photo: Abhishek Kaushal

After dinner, the four female members went to their tent while we six men prepared to sleep in ours. We all knew that we wouldn’t get much sleep tonight – the excitement of the summit attempt would keep us awake for most of the time, and by the time one actually would manage to get some sleep in the cramped space, it would be time to wake up. But it was very important to rest as it would be a very long day tomorrow – after summiting, we would pack the Summit Camp and the Advanced Base Camp and walk all the way back to the Base Camp with all our stuff. The forecast was for good weather tomorrow with winds in the evening, and so, with the positive thought of making to the summit and then thinking about the long walk to the Base Camp, I almost forced myself to sleep.

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