Mountain Walking

Contemplating Gangotri-III in the Company of Dark Clouds

I had been wondering when the Weather Gods would vent and I woke up at 4.30 am on Day 7 to realise: today was the day.

We intended to shift to Camp-1 and the plan was for six climbers and two guides to advance today. Rest of the team would stay back at Advance Base Camp with the support staff till we returned from our summit attempt. The Weather Gods were in bad mood right from the crack of dawn, and it was cloudy up towards Gangotri-III peak and down the valley, there was a troublesome weather system building up. By the time we got ready, the two cloud systems had merged and now it was completely overcast.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 01

Unwelcome clouds arrive at ABC; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 02

Troublesome weather system building up the Rudugaira Valley; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

Shashi and Guneet had a discussion over the weather and decided to proceed as per plan to Camp-1. After having Paratha with Sabzi, and Sewai for breakfast, everybody left for Camp-1. Since Shashi was not a part of the Load Ferry yesterday, she was advised by Guneet to walk slow today for better acclimatisation. Today we all walked slowly in groups, the first group led by Shashi, followed by Guneet and me in the second group.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 03

The team descends through the last moraine; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 04

Slushy snow conditions making the climb tedious; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 05

Happy to see the weather clearing up; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 06

The crevasses below Gangotri Glacier; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 07

Back in sight of the zig-zag path up to the second ridge; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 08

Climbing to Camp-1 in blinding conditions; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

The weather got better as we climbed, with occasional clouds providing shade in the hot sun. Finally after five hours of climbing, we arrived at the campsite, and started setting up the tents. Since the campsite was located on a snow slope, we had to level it by digging out snow. Three tents were set up, the first occupied by the two climber friends, the second by Guneet, Shashi and Manisha, and I was sharing the final tent with our two guides.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 09

Setting up Camp-1; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

I settled down in our tent with the guides. Our two guides had previously completed several expeditions to Gangotri-III and were well versed with the route ahead. They told me that ahead of us lay a steep climb till the Summit Camp. The Gangotri-III peak features two big crevasses and the location of the Summit Camp is on a small ice field just below the first crevasse. After occupying the Summit Camp, we would start our summit attempt the same night, between 1-2 am and return to ABC or Camp-1 depending on the weather condition. Talking to them I realised that we had a strenuous two days of climbing ahead of us.

Sometime later Shashi called us for lunch – Maggi…! Melting ice for water at high altitudes on a butane stove is a time consuming affair, so we relied on packaged ready-to-eat food, which takes comparatively less time to prepare. Finally after lunch we settled down in a tent, talking our way through the remaining day. The weather was clear, providing mesmerising views of nearby peaks. Finally, as the sun settled behind the peaks, we prepared our ready-to-eat packaged Veg Biryani. After dinner, I promptly retired to my tent.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 10

A surprise winged visitor at Camp-1; Photo: Swarjit Samajpati.

WM Gangotri-III Summit Camp 11

Dusk witnessed from Camp-1; Photo: Guneet Puri.

Packed in my sleeping bag, I was thinking about the day ahead. I knew the coming two days would be demanding and would test my physical endurance and mental toughness. Beyond a certain point, it would be mind over body but that’s why I was here – to test myself and in that process I was enjoying the experience.

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