Climbing a mountain with a friend who is attuned to your personality is a great experience; climbing a mountain with your spouse who shares the passion can be an awesome way to spend a fortnight; climbing a mountain with both these important people in your life is a top-of-the-world experience and that’s what I set out to do in the summer of 2017.
The destination was Gangotri-III and I landed in Dehradun on 9th May 2017 along with my spouse Isha, who was undertaking her first mountaineering expedition. We had planned the trip with my climbing partner Abhishek (co-Founder and Chief Executive of The Mountain Walker), but he could not join the expedition due to a knee injury. Isha and I were sad at this turn of events since we had been looking forward to spending time with our long-time buddy Abhishek on the expedition.
After checking-in at the hotel in Dehradun, we went to meet Shashi Bahuguna – our expedition team leader – and Guneet Puri (deputy team leader). I have known both these professional mountaineers for 3 years now and Isha was eager to meet them, having heard so much about them. We had been invited for the customary Meat-Bhaat (mutton-rice) at Shashi’s place before the start of the expedition. We spent a long evening, catching up over a few drinks, and after enjoying the mandatory Meat-Bhaat, we finally returned to our hotel.
Isha and I had come for this expedition from a city located at sea level. In order to acclimatise for the expedition ahead, we headed out to Mussoorie for a couple of days. The plan was to join the rest of the team mid-way on the way to Gangotri on 12th May.
On 12th May, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. and started getting ready. Shashi had informed us the previous night that we would meet at the pick-up point by 6:30 a.m. On the way we had to try out our snow shoes at N.I.M. Uttarkashi (National Institute of Mountaineering). Considering that the drive from Dehradun to Gangotri is long and we wanted to avoid traffic, we had to leave early. Guneet had left for Uttarkashi the previous day since she had to rent the technical equipment required for the expedition.
We reached Mussoorie bus stop at 6:30 a.m. and after introductions with the rest of the expedition team, we hit the road. At Rautu ki Beli, we stopped for a quick breakfast and I had my fill of Aloo Paratha and Rajma! The weather was clear and the drive through the hills was refreshing. Enjoying the beautiful sceneries, I got adequate time to think about the upcoming expedition. I was a bit nervous because I was worried about how my body would react to high altitude this time round, since the previous year I was not well acclimatised due to my mistakes. At the same time, I was also excited because I was back to the hills after a gap of one long year.
We reached Uttarkashi and arrived at N.I.M. by 12:45 p.m. and met Guneet, who was eagerly waiting for us. I tried out my snow shoes and after finalising the same, I roamed around the N.I.M. campus. We also met our guide for the expedition. After everyone had finished trying out the snow shoes, we all went for lunch. Post lunch, I smoked my last cigarette for the next 12 days. I was hoping that not smoking would help me better acclimatise as I gained altitude in the coming days.
The weather in the late afternoon got cloudy and it started raining as we drove on towards Gangotri. We stopped along the way to pick up some essential supplies for the expedition and by the time we reached Gangotri, it was past 9:00 p.m. We finished dinner quickly and retired to our room to get some much needed rest. We had a long day ahead of us the next day.