Mountain Walking

Gangotri-III Expedition Day 3: Why Am I Doing This?

What does the world look like from Four Thousand Five Hundred and Sixty metres (4560 m) above sea-level? I had a whole day to find out on Day 3, which was a rest day at Base Camp for acclimatisation purposes. Yesterday we had gained an altitude of 870 meters, starting from Naala Camp at 3689 m to Base Camp which stands at 4560 m.

My mind and body didn’t seem to know the difference between a walking day and a rest day though. And so, I was up at 4 am again, and as per habit, got out of my cozy tent and went about my daily chores in the freezing cold water of the stream. The Base Camp site had a stunning view of the surrounding peaks. Starting with Mount Rudugaira towards the Northwest followed by the gigantic Rudugaira Glacier. Farther Southwest stood the beautiful Gangotri I, II and III peaks. Towards the East, ran a water stream joining the Ruduganga River; across the stream stood moraines separating the Ruduganga Valley from the Base Camp. It was already bright outside, with the moon still visible above the Gangotri group of mountains. I waited for the sunrise on the peaks and slowly, as the sun bathed the peaks in sunlight, it was a great sight watching the peaks turn from white to yellow.

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Sunrise at Base Camp, with the Gangotri-III, II and I peaks already bathed in sunlight (left to right); Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Water source at the Base camp, with an un-named peak in the southeast side under the first rays of the sun; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

The kitchen staff served everyone morning tea in the tents. I enjoyed my morning tea outside, watching the mesmerising sunrise that slowly immersed the base camp in royal sunlight. By this time everyone was up and we gathered to offer our prayers to the mountain gods for a successful expedition. After the prayers, we had our breakfast which comprised Cabbage Sabzi with Roti, and Halwa. Soon after, we settled down to carry out inventory check of our technical equipment, and once that was over, Shashi and I went for an acclimatisation walk. Shashi and Guneet had desired to dump some equipment at the Advanced Base Camp, but our guide advised otherwise.

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Prayer ceremony in progress at Base Camp; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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The temple at Base Camp; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Technical equipment inventory check; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

Finding a suitable place, we crossed over the water stream and climbed up the moraine through a snow patch. Once on top of the moraine, we continued towards Auden’s Cove for a while and finally settled down on a rock. The view here was amazing and the weather was sunny and clear. Shashi sat down for meditation in this mesmerising environment, while I sat down looking at the high snow-covered peaks and the huge glaciers around me.

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View of Base Camp from the moraines; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Mt. Rudugaira; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Rudugaira Glacier; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

In front of the magnitude of the huge mountains around me, I was not even a dot. Just before the start of the expedition, I had a question in my mind… why am I doing this? Why am I putting my body through all this? Today when I sat at top of this moraine and looked around the magnificent views around me, I found my answers. This is an exhilarating experience and this is why I am here, not for summit but for the experience. This is what was driving me, motivating me for the entire year every day. People come to the mountains for different reasons – for me the reason was the experience of the journey and not the destination, and fulfilling moments like these, which gives you happiness. All the hardship I have gone through to reach this place was worth it. It made this incredible experience even more rewarding. Being in this amazing place I felt happy, satisfied and at peace.

Sometime later we continued on our way, following the moraine on top to the point where it descended into the Gangotri group’s glacier valley. Shashi showed me the famous Auden’s Cove route and the path we would follow tomorrow to Advance Base Camp. The Gangotri –III peak looked fascinating bathed in sunlight. We spent some time there enjoying the scenery and decided to return back to Base Camp for lunch.

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Auden’s Cove route through the Pass between the mountains; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Gangotri-III peak basking in sunlight; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Atop the moraine section during the acclimatisation walk; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Shashi, our expedition leader checking out the route to Advance Base Camp; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

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Time to turn around as Base Camp is hardly visible in the distance; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

While returning back, we met up with the rest of the team who were out on the moraine for their acclimatisation walk. We reached Camp by 1 pm and had Rice with Daal and Sabzi. Later, I tried out my snow boots and crampons, after which all of us settled in the dining tent. Like the previous day, it started snowing late in the afternoon. The snowfall today was quite heavy, and we took turns every half an hour to shake the snow off our tents to prevent it from collapsing. Eventually, the snow stopped late in the evening, and by that time it was dinner time. After enjoying the Roti with Daal and Aloo Sabzi, everyone retired to their respective tents.

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