The agenda for Day-5 was to shift to Advance Base Camp – lock, stock and all the necessary barrels so to say. Ahead of Base Camp, everybody was sharing the load of technical equipment and ration, along with their personal belongings. Therefore we were strictly instructed not to carry our day packs, which is a 20-30 litre back pack as compared to a rucksack which has a capacity of 60 litres and above.
Coming out of my tent today, I was greeted with clear weather, which was a pleasing sight after the bad weather we encountered yesterday. After finishing my daily chores, I prepared my and Isha’s rucksack. Today she would be carrying a heavier load to Advance Base Camp (ABC), which would be a test for her. So far she has impressed everyone including me on this expedition with her will power and adaptability to the mountain environment. Coming here, she was suffering from Vertigo, which seems to have vanished into the thin high-altitude air. I guess that’s the charm of the mountains – you just forget everything in its majesty.
We had a couple of unwell members in our team. One was suffering with muscle cramps, while the other one was sick. After a long discussion, Shashi decided to stay back with the sick member at Base Camp and she would join us tomorrow at ABC. The other member with muscle cramps decided to come to ABC after discussion with two of his friends. After eating Roti with Nutrela Aloo and Cheese Parathas for breakfast, we started our walk. Since we were taking the same trail as yesterday, the walk was not as engaging. But the weather today was crisp and clear, offering nice views of the nearby peaks.
After three hours we arrived at ABC, which was bound by moraines towards the north and south direction. Eastward, the moraine descended into the Ruduganga River Valley and westwards lay the Gangotri group of mountains along with the Gangotri glacier. We started to setup our camp on uneven rocky surface. It took an hour and a half to dig out ice and arranging flat stone pieces to make the site suitable to set up three sleeping and one kitchen tent.
Most of the members had arrived at the campsite by this time, but we were still missing Isha and the injured member. Since everyone was busy setting up the tents, Manisha volunteered to go back looking for the members. She found Isha climbing the snow field, close to the campsite and accompanied her to the camp. There was still no news of the injured member. Last Isha saw him, he was still on his way over the moraines. I was disappointed with his two friends, who had convinced him to come to ABC and did not have the common sense to stick with him along the way. Being in the harshest of environments brings out the real nature of human beings, and these two were setting a bad example in my opinion. Finally one of our guides went back looking for the injured member and after an hour got him safely to ABC.
After having delicious Kadi Chaawal for lunch, we settled outside enjoying the views. Late in the afternoon, our guides went for a walk on the moraine behind the campsite. I watched in amazement as they swiftly went up the difficult terrain. Tackling this unforgiving terrain was like a walk in the park for them. They followed the moraine towards the Gangotri glacier and finally returned to the camp site. I enquired from one of our guides about the next day’s load ferry to Camp 1. He showed me the location of Camp-1, high up in between snow-covered ridges. I was happy that the trekking part was over and starting tomorrow, the real “mountaineering” expedition begins.
As the sun set behind Gangotri-III peak, the temperature dropped quickly. We settled down in the kitchen tent, eagerly waiting for our dinner. Post dinner of Roti and Chaawal with Aloo Tamatar Sabzi, I retired to my tent.
Tucked in my sleeping bag, I kept on thinking about our guides – the way they tackled the moraines was astonishing. The climb which took hardly 5 minutes for them to cover would have easily taken a good 20 minutes for me to finish. I was amazed by their endurance to do demanding errands day in, day out. They take huge risks to open the route and ensure safe passage for rest of the team. Even today they were first to arrive and set-up the campsite and helped the injured member reach the campsite safely, setting an example of climbing code for everyone to follow on the mountains… these thoughts ran through my mind as I slowly drifted off into slumber.