If you’re carrying your restlessness in your heart, You are alive
If you’re carrying the lightning of dreams in your eyes, You are alive
If you’re carrying your wonder in your eyes, You are alive
What was only a desire till yesterday, is exactly what I’ve found today
This is about my half expedition to Mount Nun. As you guess from the title, I ran back half way, it could be considered as a Himalayan blunder or the beginning of a beginning. If you are a mountaineer, please avoid this, you are in wrong place, this is too basic. This is the story of a fellow who head to the expedition just reading Mount Nun is the easiest 7000m peak from Google, who had no experience in mountaineering other than a few treks, who hasn’t do any mountaineering course and has no idea about the difficulties and risks involved in an expedition. The idea about expedition came into my mind during Chadar Trek in February. One of my fellow trekker was planning for an expedition to Mount Satopanth (7035m). Till then I heard about peaks in Nepal only and I haven’t done any search on expeditions in India. So after the trek, I started googling about peaks in India and fixed departure expeditions (I have to join group expedition since I don’t have company to do crazy things as always). The options I found are Kedar Dome, Gangotri, Bhagirathi, Satopanth, Shivling, Nun-Kun. Most of the fixed departure expeditions I found on internet are peaks which are around 7000m. When I contact different agencies, I realize that only a few options are available in August-September. Those who have done any mountaineering course are allowed for the expedition (IMF rule). Foreigners can do the expedition with out mountaineering certificate. (I haven’t done the course, I join the expedition as NRI ). Mount Nun-Kun was not there in my primary list. But in the end I realised they were the only possible options left in this year. When I go to the details, I came to know that, they are near Kargil and will get a chance to visit Srinagar after the expedition. There is different options for this expedition From Delhi-Delhi, Leh-Leh, or Leh-Srinagar. I opt to join from Leh and return from Srinagar despite the situation in Srinagar was not that good as I always want to see Srinagar. It saves me 2 days as well. Unfortunately the guy who gave me the idea about the expedition couldn’t make this due to various reasons.
The tour agent received me at Leh airport. I met the other members at the hotel except the one who will join us from Kargil and then went out for shopping and hiring the climbing gears for the expedition. When I was hiring the equipment, I started to realize that I am going to do the wrong thing in a wrong place. I was seeing all those climbing gears for the first time. Almost all the gear required for an expedition is available in Leh, but if you are going for 6500m+ arrange your gear before as you might not find all the stuff from there in the last minute. And another important thing is if you are going for 6000m, its better your gears are rated for 7000m, if 7000m then 8000m rated gears and so on. The conditions at the top of the mountains is quite unpredictable and extreme, so never take a chance. The minimum evacuation time in case of emergency appears to be 18 to 24 hours or worse depending on where you are. The communication options in Indian mountain range is very much limited and there is restrictions for satellite phones as well.
We started our journey to Kargil by road next day morning. We visited Gurudwara Pathar Sahib on the way. We bought fresh and some dry apricots on the way. We reached Kargil (2676m) in the afternoon. Kargil is a small town with limited facilities compared to Leh. Next day we continue our journey by road to the base camp in Tangol. We had first sight of Mount Nun on the way. We reached Tangol (3700m) in the evening, a place without electricity, proper roads and even good mobile network. We were not able to view Mount Nun from there but Mount Kun was visible partially from there. Next day we have to trek to Advanced Base Camp (ABC-4600m), the route towards which is continuous steep uphill. The view of the path towards ABC gave me heartache as I was doing something like this for the first time(Previous treks I did were steady gain in altitude not like steep uphill). We have to carry our backpack with necessary items, porters will take your luggage (up to 20kg) to ABC. We kept all our luggage ready before we sleep as the porters will start load ferrying early morning say 2AM.
We had breakfast and started our trekking in the early morning by 7 with packed lunch. The journey starts from a small village and wheat fields. Immediately after that steep ascent started. The trail was good and clear almost till the end near the glaciers. The view of the village after 2 hours of climb shows us how empty and beautiful the area is. soon I realised I was the slowest person and the one with least or no experience in our group. I could see snails overtaking me while I was on the move. I was not really feeling hungry through out the expedition which is not unusual, but the bad thing was I was not eating well. Because of all these random reasons, I was running out of energy. I was exhausted by half way itself and I was cursing myself with all the bad words I know. The good thing was I was running out of bad words for the upcoming days as I used all on the first day of trekking. The toughest part of the day was after we cross the glacier. The uphill after the glacier was glacier itself but covered with sharp stones. We crossed the glacier in the afternoon, the time ice is melting which makes the trail and stones slippery and unpredictable. The trail going up near the waterfall was not clear. We have to follow someone or wait for another porter to follow. If we miss the one we follow from our sight, again we have to wait for another porter or Sherpa. I was totally drained, thought of giving my backpack to one of the porters. Some of them asked me whether I need help as well, but somehow I feel to take it on my own. Finally we reached Advanced Base Camp(ABC) around 3 O clock, I was the last to reach there, no surprises. Still Nun is not visible as it is behind another peak. If you consider ABC as a triangular space, one side is covered by a snowy mountain, next side by the glacier we cross on the way and the other side is the waterfall and valley we came in.
Next day was acclimatization day, we wasted time playing cards and sleeping. Our cook was preparing good food with the limited resources available he have at that altitude.
Load ferry to camp 1
We did the puja (worshiping the mountain gods) for the success of the expedition led by our guide and Sherpas and started load ferrying to Camp 1. Load ferry is like a trial run before we really move. Its a practice session as well as acclimatization and you will get an idea about the way ahead. We started in the morning with minimum stuff and all the necessary climbing gear. The route is all the way uphill as always. From the camp to glacier is around 2 hours through rocks. At the beginning of the glacier, crampon point, we have to take off our trekking shoes and wear all the climbing gears, including crampon. Its another half an hour to the beginning of the fixed ropes over the slippery glacier. Then we attach our self with the ropes, go up with the help of ascender. The glacier wall looks scary which was almost 90 degrees. The call of the mountain was so tempting, so I just started ascending even I was using all those gears for the first time and was seeing grave dangerous place like that for the first time. There was a small avalanche with in 100m on the right side of the very same glacier to welcome us. I was not taking any photos as any minor mistake could be lethal as I am on my own, I was already beyond my limits and was moving very slowly. When I reach 70% of the way, we met some of the sherpas were returning after load ferry. As it was late and I was out of charge, I had to leave my bag somewhere over the glacier and turn back. I reached back in Advanced Base Camp (ABC). I was not even confidant to reach till camp 1. I came to know my fitness in that altitude was very much inadequate. I was getting exhausted after ten steps. I almost made my mind to stay in ABC, not go up as I realise what I am up to and my inexperience makes me more vulnerable.
To Camp 1
Next day I have to start as I remember I have many things inside the bag I left in the glacier(one of my wallet and some cards). So I head to Camp 1(~5500m). I was better than previous day but still I was exhausted soon after we pass the place I left my bag. The path through the glaciers was getting worse as we go up. If I slip or break the ice beneath, that could be the end of the story. I was not really hungry even I didn’t had anything good for more than 5 hours. I ate something for the sake of eating after passing the dangerous glacier. Somehow I reached camp 1 with the help of our camp manager. Other 4 members reached there long time before me and the last member will join us next day. The camp manager who was accompanying me had a tough time. He did a great job which was beyond his scope by accompanying me. The climb after ABC is technical and it get harder as we go further up as we will be having minimum resources and facilities. We boil ice to make water up there, we had only noodles, oats or dry fruits to eat. We have to spend most of the day in the small tent which is really boring.
Next day was acclimatization day, spent the whole day sleeping and watching some movies in mobile. I took like 150% of my efforts to reach camp1. The further route, Camp 2, Camp 3 and then summit is more technical and tougher. And the overall fitness is getting reduced as we go up. Health wise I was good(no headache or something like that) but my fitness level was horribly down at that altitude. If I summit, it will be new history or I will become history. But if I go up, I will be risking others also whoever tries to help me in case if I am in trouble. So I decided to go back. Meanwhile I came to know one of the member in the previous expedition (a week before our expedition) died and another was seriously injured. He was requested to go back by the guide as he was not feeling well, but he insisted to go up. His condition became bad after camp 2 and they were not able to save him. The helicopter evacuation is possible from camp 1 only. If someone is ill, they have to come down to camp 1 for helicopter evacuation. Our last member reached camp 1 in the afternoon and had to go back in the night itself because of altitude sickness.
Winding up and returning back from Camp 1
Next day I returned to ABC. We spent time playing cards and eating. I tried some astrophotography as well. I witnessed a couple of shooting stars out there, one of them featured in my frame unintentionally. I was out there alone in the dark with billions of stars and a few spiders. As I am not in good terms with spiders from the beginning, I didn’t try much shots in the night, may be next time. I took some time lapse videos in my mobile. Next day 2 sherpas also returned because one of them was not feeling well. So we got more guys for playing cards.
Our Teammates Summit
We were not able to communicate with the team in camp 1 or camp 3 from ABC using walkie-talkie. They spent (4 Team members out of 6) 2 days in camp 2(6100m) because of bad weather, then next day to Camp 3 (6400m). Then the summit (7135m). Because of the wind temperature dropped drastically from Camp 2 on wards, but our team manage well and everyone was fine. Two of our members had nearly frost bite situation and timely action didn’t make it worse. Then they returned to ABC.
Going Back to Kargil
Next day some of us went back to Tangol who is going to Srinagar. I joined them since my departure is from Srinagar. Rest of the team changed their mind and they were flying from Leh. Our team mate from Srinagar arranged his car for taking us from Tangol. We took on more team mate whose fingers were swollen and he should get medical advise as soon as possible. We reached Tangol in the afternoon. We reached Kargil around 7 O clock by car, went to hospital to consult the doctor. We were worried until doctor said there is nothing to worry even it will take a few days to recover.
Next day we went to Srinagar, with our team mate and his friends in his car. I was staying with him as he didn’t allow me to stay in the hotel. His hospitality was so great like he was not allowing to pay me even for a bottle of water while we were roaming around Srinagar. Kashmir was looking great even if it was not the tourist season. I want to visit there in winter as well. We covered almost all the tourist locations like Dachigam National Park, Dal lake, Mughal garden, Sankaracharya Temple, etc.
I heard about skiing at Ghulmarg from my friend. I am new to skiing, still next trip is to Ghulmarg for skiing in the winter. Then we went Delhi to meet others for sent off party and next day back to Dubai.
Altitudes in a glance
Leh (3524 M) – Kargil (2676 M)
Tangol Base Camp (3700 M)
Advanced Base Camp (4600 M)
Camp 1 (5500m) – Camp 2(6100m) – Camp 3(6400m)
When I reached Camp 1, I lost connection with the mountain. I feel some kind of accomplishment or the mountain itself doesn’t look relevant for me. Of course Mount Nun is great, tough and still impossible for me. When I think from our guide’s point of view, its a routine, he did it like 4-5 times, he even did Everest twice. So what looks like a lifetime achievement for us is just a child’s play for someone. When I was back to base camp mountains came back to my conscious. May be this was not the one. I learned countless lessons during the expedition, but not enough to stop me from thinking about another. What you fantasize becomes your dreams, What you dream once becomes reality if you put really put efforts towards your dream. If you have any suggestions other than stop me, I will consider it, may be I can steal your idea, just like this one…. So Whats Next???