Darkness engulfed the snow.
Yet the snow showed that the absence of light is not darkness. The moon and the stars were smiling upon and the snow and the expression were reciprocated likewise. 3:30 AM was the time we stepped out. Cold winds pierced our body like a sword piercing a naive armor(our jackets). Hands shivering, teeth rattling,shoe lace unwinding itself, ears fluttering like wings, words barely audible from the person in front of us, we set out.
We did tag along with a guide as mentioned previously. We took the road not taken and progressed. Because our camp was a little ahead of the other camps, we covered a little less distance to the summit. Trailing shadows for about 4 hours, breathing heavily, drinking lots and lots of water (which one shouldn’t but I wouldn’t listen, and I just did) ; sitting down where ever my mind made my body to sit.
The night before the ascent to the summit, fear struck me as we saw small sized paws around the tent. Scared, I went to the tent and screamed for the guide to come and check the tracks. Another guy(guide to someone else), listening to my complaint about an animal on the prowl near to our tents, steamed out of his tent with a pair of sickles in his hand. “Agar jaanwar aaya tho, ye kaam aayega” – If any animal comes, this will come in handy. Promptly, we had a sickle placed in our tents. So much for the drama. So much for being scared of animals. These paws as confirmed by my cousin on his extensive ten minute research, were that of a fox, while another camper said it was that of a tiger. My cousins and I frowned at the apparent lack of animal knowledge the guy had.(pretty rude, sorry, but you don’t call them tiger paws, see the picture please).
The dogs,(around 4-5 of them) accompanied us from the second base camp to the summit. Wherever we stopped, they stopped. My final post on the Kedharkanta adventure will be on these lovely animals. I want to tell you about them, I really do! With these trusted guys, a few guides and their trekkers to tag along, we climbed and climbed and climbed. There was a point in time, I think at around 5:30 AM when one of the guides yelled at us to pick up the pace and told us there was a steep incline for an hour or we would miss the sunrise. Sunrise that day seemed like the objective to everyone. Once the steep part started, I found myself (more than once) on the receiving end of tiredness. My legs gave up and I had to force my friend not to, at every instant. On the way, we saw these huge imprints on the snow, examined and stamped as bear paws. Paws were frightening but the progress was encouraging.
Closer and closer, along with the effect of tiredness, with the altitude steadily gaining, I found myself almost getting knocked out by the decrease in oxygen levels. Water, dry fruits and words of motivation was all that which powered me forward. About 200 meters from the summit, I sat down, any interest in scaling the summit waning…..
My cousin just screamed at me, pointing to that mere distance for which I came a long way; a very long way. What people generally do in 4-5 days, we were doing it on the second day early morning. The screaming was lost in the cold winds and I could barely hear anything. One more round of yelling, this time only louder, only sharper, made me realize, it ain’t over until it’s over. One last sip of water, one last throw of the energy dice; a double six; mustering every ounce of strength in the legs, I touched the summit.
Joy. Sheer Joy.
One of the guides said in a calm voice “aap aa gaye.. shabaash- ” you came, well done”. He had seen me struggle and to hear these words from him brought a smile on my face. The photo-shoot was next.
The view was just breathtaking. Worth the climb. Worth spending every ounce of energy. Take a look! I think you, my friends will like these! Pictures here, pictures there. No one cared about the selfies at a point. Staring at the mountains, the color white reaching far beyond the eye can see. The Himalayas were a sight for sore eyes. A crown jewel in India.
Proud as Punch!