By Neha Kulkarni.
My neck hardly had any space to move and look around. It felt hemmed in by a bulky rucksack I was carrying on my back, whose top portion was taller than my head. With hands holding the ice axe, and crampons on my snow boots kicking front pointed steps in the snow, I really did not want to bother myself with anything more than looking ahead at the climber above me, and following his route up the steep gully that would take us to the top of the pass.
Twenty steps, stop, breathe, gather your thoughts, twenty steps, stop… I was trying to maintain a rhythm while climbing up the slope. But we were already 14000 feet above sea level and lack of oxygen in the air was making its presence felt. Leaning down on the ice axe, which I had planted in the snow to use it as an anchor, I tried to calm down my chaos filled mind with the exquisite panorama I could look at through the gap in my feet. The rocks & ice blocks that rumbled down from an ice fall some safe distance away made for a constant background sound.
|Climbing towards ‘Tentu’ pass on the snow slope, with a 70 degrees gradient.|
Hanuman Tibba, standing tall at 5984m from mean sea level, is the highest peak in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas and I was making an attempt at climbing this peak in the Alpine way, under the lead and guidance of two other climbers. Alpine style meant that we were just the three of us - no porters, no cooks and no mules to carry our loads. From logistics to food to load ferries to actual climbing, we were very much on our own.
For the last five days, my life had revolved around six things, namely, pitching the tent, putting a brew on the stove, packing the rucksack, putting on the gear, panting while walking uphill, and trying in vain to find a flat surface on the tent floor at night with the intention of catching some sleep. Afternoons and evenings were spent looking around and soaking in the magical views. By day 3, I had begun to memorize the contours of the region surrounding me.
|Way towards Base camp.|
We had trekked from Dhundi (near Manali) to Beas Kund, and set up our campsite some way above that. The trek route had been scenic, with gushing waters, green trees and snow capped mountains all around us. The Seven Sisters, an aptly called chain of mountain peaks, was lining one side of the route. Some way ahead in the same line lay Hanuman Tibba, and it was this mountain that we had intended to climb. Soon enough in the trek, the mountain had turned kind enough to part its veil of clouds and let us have a clear view of its three fanged peak. The clouds had taken over after a few minutes, as if the show had ended and curtains had fallen over the stage. We had then taken to shifting our focus to other beautiful mountains on the other side of the route. Friendship, Shitidhar, Ladakhi - they all stood erect to complete a three-quarter of the circle around the route, leaving the path along the Beas river open, if one wished to access the interiors.
|Base camp at Beas Kund.|
|Enjoying a cuppa and the serene views outside the tent at advanced base camp.|
The trek has been a total six days of toil. We had set up base camp, advanced base camp, an intermediate camp and could have reached the summit of the peak had we been able to proceed to two higher camps. But on day five, due to objective dangers in the mountain, we had opted for safety over anything else and aborted the climb to retrace our steps down the mountain. And still, I had not felt a single emotion of sadness or loss for not being able to stand on the top.
|Intermediate camp some way up the path to Tentu pass.|
|Icefall accompanying us on the left throughout the climb.|
|Geared up for the climb on the last day. The rucksack weighs between 15 and 20 kg. The Scarpa snow shoes, crampons and the helmet are absolutely necessary.|
All I had done was to challenge my physical and mental limits and the effort had been immensely satisfying. The fabulous mountain views surrounding us were an added bonus.
|Turn back point on the last day of the uphill journey.|
For the first time in my life, I had realized, that it is good to have a good end to a journey; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
|Go out and stretch your limits. You will be surprised to see just how much you can go beyond what you thought was possible.|
Photo courtesy and our guide: Inder Thakur from Manali
Expedition Organiser: Geck & Co.
Expedition Leader: Kunal Bedarkar.
Author Bio: The author is an IT professional who happens to be in love with mountains and the art of rock climbing. She also lugs around her DSLR and likes the art of editing photographs. Her travel blog can be found at http://wondersandwanders.wordpress.com/.