Day 14 — High Camp — Summit — Base Camp
This is it. the past 2 days of crazy trekking under the relentless sun and cold have led to this.
The summit push usually starts at dusk, so that means we had to wake up at 0100 hours and be ready by 0200 hours…
…but that didnt happen.
It was one of those mornings where anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The kitchen stove couldn’t be lit because it was too cold, so there was no breakfast. The water had a strange kerosene taste, so time was wasted trying to get it replaced. and then a few of us wore our crampons wrongly (me included) despite being told to adjust it the night before by Edwin.
0200 hours became 0330 hours, and that’s terrible in mountaineering terms. 1.5 hours may seem little, but that could be the difference between having everyone make the summit, or only a minority.
Thankfully, we all made it, and according to Anil (our local guide), this was his first group that had a 100% summit success rate.
It was anything but easy though…
The climb up was freezing to say the least. It was always a dilemma each time we stopped to rest – take a break to catch our breath, or stand still and let our bodies freeze?
On the way up
We roped up for the summit push just like what we did for training a few days back. In 2 teams of 4, we trudged on bit by bit against the weather and terrain. To be honest, one thought that kept creeping into my mind during the climb was whether mountaineering truly was for me; I doubt i was the only one.
But I remembered Edwin telling us early on to make every step count, and after many painstaking steps and a few prayers, we all made it to Friendship Peak at 5289m. It may just be 200m higher than our Da Feng summit in January, but this was a totally different challenge. Trust us. The only thing that could compare was the spectacular view – mountains after mountains right in front of your eyes.
Once we made the summit, we learned that we had to take the same route down in the same roped-up manner (I was under the impression that we could glissade down) and that felt like a sucker punch to me. After giving what seemed like everything for the ascent, we now had to draw from our post-reserves to go down. Thankfully, after a slow initial descent, we stopped at a ridge line and were allowed to take off our gear and finally glissade down the mountain side. Sure, we managed to save some time and effort, but we still had to walk all the way back to our high camp, and eventually, to base camp.
On the way down
By the time we arrived at high camp, it was already close to 1300 hours, and it felt like we walked from the summit straight into a desert. The sun was slowly cooking us inside our tents. The snow around us only served to reflect the heat back to us. The new challenge now was to pack up everything and trek back to base camp in the other extreme temperature. Because we are mountaineers – we don’t do things the easy way, eh.
We accomplished it nonetheless, and today was another milestone for each individual. I’d never expect myself to be in India, let alone to summit a mountain. Whatever our remaining plans for this summer break, we can proudly say that we’ve survived the extreme weather, harsh terrain and even food poisoning to stand atop mountains (:
Now a warm shower, comfortable bed and wifi access awaits! aahhhhhh