Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lucky to be alive (Gangotri-Kedarnath Trek 9.)


1: Trek preparations
2: Arrival in Gangotri
3: Gathering of Motley's Crew
4: Out of Gangotri
5: Beyond Bugyals
6: Trapped over cliffs
7: Auden's Col crossing
8: Trapped in the Khatling Glacier
9: Lucky to be alive
10: Back to the ices
11: Mayali Pass Crossing
12: Arrival in Kedarnath

Day 6.
Without any event we wake up in the golden morning at 8AM and amazingly it is not very cold and we all are feeling better. Nobody is in a particular rush to go to the rim-balcony to check upon Baba. We make tea and then begin making breakfast.
Briana is a bit concerned she says, “First let’s do something to bring out Baba.”
Biswas says smilingly, “But he must be hungry, so we must have food ready for the poor bugger.”
It is not that we are not compassionate about Baba but we gave up all the hopes and fear going there because we won’t be able to do anything at all.
Let’s see.
It is not my character to worry about things.

A river is born

At nine we are getting ready to visit ledge with 3 ropes and we hear an animal like screeching sound and we all look in the east direction – to the source of the sound. There we see Baba is coming running and making noises. We run to him, he is looking very scary, his half loincloth is burned and he has many bruises and bleeding at several places. His one shoe (Briana’s shoe) is missing. Before we meet, he drops down and has epilepsy like attacks. His whole body is shaking violently.
Only solution is to give him his drug. We all wait for the spasm to end. Now he seems in a lifeless catatonic state. We lift him up and bring him to our town. He is awake but not showing any resolve to make any movement or speak. He is cold and blue, and his blood pressure is very week.
I put some gunza balls and tobacco in his cheroot and burn at top while sucking it and put it to Baba’s mouth but he makes no effort to suck it. He is looking at us in a brain dead state.
I tell Biswas to give him smoke mouth to mouth.
He shouts at me, “Not me.”
Briana says to me, “Someone got to do it, you do it.”
I make a pipe with paper and inhale the smoke from the cheroot and close Baba’s nostrils and force smoke in his mouth with the paper pipe, hoping he will suck it.
Still no result.
Half way to cheroot I feel dizzy and then run to vomit and then I pass out.
When I wake up I find myself laying next to Baba and both Briana and Biswas looking at me in worry. Baba is in sitting position and smoking. He gives me a faint smile.
I ask Baba about how is he and he says he is fine. Briana tells me that luckily no bone is broken, only bruises and concussions.
I passed away for good one hour and my head is still spinning.
I ask for a lemon tea so tea is made for all again.
Baba eats food and is walking again. I always keep a Silver Sulfadiazine tube for wounds and Biswas has a Bitadine tube, we cut off my loincloth in half and give it to Baba to wear and we use my night shirt to make bandages for him. We leave the stove running and water being hot so he can wash himself and have warmth from the steam and flames.

Touching the green again
At 11AM, we dismantle our camp and –
Now what to do, where to go, how to go?
I give another of Briana’s shoe to Baba, it is thin walking canvas shoe. Baba wants to wear one existing shoe because that is cushy and has more treaded and on other foot he wears the second one. Now he looks like a circus joker wearing Briana’s girly jacket, two different shoes (one pink) and half of my lungi.
We walk to the ledge again and begin walking to the right side. We stop at a crevasse that is five feet wide and about fifty feet deep. In the ordinary circumstances it is easy to jump across five feet but if one of us slips then what? Slit is getting wider towards the drop. We walk next to it for half kilometers and there it narrows down to four feet. There we throw our backpacks at the other side and jump across. We return to the drop again and keep walking.
No symptoms of passage just anywhere.
“We can never make it,” Biswas says.
Briana says, “hey Pal, then look back towards the Auden’s Col. You sure you’d make it back.”
Biswas looks back at the wall from where we came from and shakes his head from side to side several times.
“I cannot even believe we came from there, it is a wall of ice, snow and rubble.”
We again keep moving to the right of the glacier. Then we find a Huge rock and under it seems we may descend over the unstable rubble with hands and feet like babies learn to get down the stairs. After a couple of hundred feet, slope is steeper and more small gravel are there.
I say, “We have no alternative but to try this way and be prepared to slip to the the bottom. If anyone slips, under no circumstance you must resist yourself. Keep slipping. Wrap some clothes over your heads to make a turban for protection and slide your hands in your jacket and slip on your back.
Problem is: how to get below the rock. There is no anchor to tie the rope. If three people hold the rope and one goes down, then what next. How others will come and then our backpacks and then rope itself.

A river is born
I have an idea, as people bury half of the cycle tire in the ground to make an anchor for the rope. We should try it. We tie several elongated rocks and make a ten feet long necklace and begin digging the ice but it gets rough because ice is rock solid and also bottom rocks are glued to the ice. We decide to pile up the weight of the rocks on the necklace. It take us half hour and we tie a rope to this necklace and push it, it is holding one person’s weight.
I wrap my loincloth on my head but cushion is not enough then I wrap my spare pant over it. Biswas wears two monkey caps and then over it his jacket’s hood cap. Baba wears Briana’s shawl as his turban. Briana wears her various clothes over her head and then puts on her jacket’s hood cap.
My as well Briana’s jackets are ultralight, ultra-thin and feather filled (she brought both jackets from UK). I and Briana both wrap our upper-side with our sleeping bags and strap it up. Biswas’s jacket is very thick and cotton filled he try to wrap his sleeping bag over it but then his mobility is hindered so he settles with his canvas thick jacket. We wrap Sri-Sri-1008 with my sleeping pad in upright positions. We all decide to wear our backpacks in such a way that our backs stay half inclined.
It is the time to act as life demands action.
Would we see another day?
would we see today evening?
It is September 16th 2011, Time 13.00 IST
Just to amuse myself I draw a chart of the time.
Since Sun rose in Virgo so I guess the ascendant should be in Sagittarius. And anything that is to cause harm lies in the seventh house that is Gemini.
Wow! Mercury is in Virgo and Mercury exalts in Virgo. This means forces opposing us at this time are at their peak.
However lord of ascendant Jupiter is in Taurus and also moon is exalted in Taurus.
I guess both sides are strong. Our chances are strong and forces those may harm us are also equally strong.
What should we do now?
About 2PM ascendant may be in Capricorn and Saturn too is exalting in Libra. Moon is exalting in Taurus and then Jupiter to is there. Again it is the same situation. Both sides are strong.
Things will change at 4PM when 1st house should be Aquarius and 7th Leo and nothing is supporting us and nothing is opposing us.
It is the time to say goodbye to this place and to others also.
I take the rope and decide to go first.
Everybody shakes hands with everybody and all are tearful but I laugh it off saying it is only a quarter of kilometer below.
Briana says crying, “can’t you wait below the rock and I will join you. We will both go together.”
“No. Together is more weight on the rubble slope.”
She bursts into weeping.
Then suddenly Baba snatches the rope from me and jumps first but in a rush his bag entangles with the rope and we pull him back because he is not wearing any headgear yet. I tell Briana to use all the clothes to give him more cushion with her spare clothes.
Now I bid goodbye to all and take the rope.
Biswas says, “We should go back. We have food enough to reach Gangotri. We will get to the Col in two days. Let’s go back. After Col it is all the way down.”
I say, “I will buy you all a spectacular dinner in Kedarnath.”
Briana shouts, “You always say that ….”
I point towards the Col, pretending to notice something above there, and as they all look back and I jump and in some seconds I am below the rock and look at the 45 degree slanting unstable rubble slope. Without wasting any time I begin crawling down. Initially I do reverse crawling like babies with my backpack on my back but after hundred feet of descent my hands give up due to the sharp rocks, I am tired and numb with cold.
Then suddenly ground slips under me and I slip my hands in my jacket and begin sliding creating a landslide. I gain speed over the round rocks those are working as a roller bearing under me. To my horror I watch the huge black rock about 200 feet from me and if I strike it – It is the End for me. I turn my legs to go around the rock but I continue sliding down towards that rock but my side is facing it, making it even more dangerous for me. I have no alternative but to relax myself and turn over so my backpack creates resistance on my side.
Wow! this works and I zoom along the side of the rock, almost hitting it. Now slide becomes narrow.
We were unable to look the end of slide below but now it is visible to me. It takes a turn and now I am falling with full speed to the end of the slide and a landslide is chasing me behind. To prevent myself from striking the bottom, I dig my shoes in the rocks, I feel a severe shock but my legs bear the momentum of my fall and it works and I slow down and reach down with a shock.
A mass of rocks passes around and over me and many hit my head but luckily turban saves me from serious injury. When my slide stops I am surrounded in the dust, one rock hits my head and gives a jerk to my neck and I see flashes and thunderbolts.
I thought at that time
- That is it –
My eyes open and I see the world again in disbelief. I try to rise but I have no legs and I am again in a trauma.
My legs gone.
Then I realize that my legs are under the rubble.
Slowly I set myself free.
Bottom is still about 20 feet below.
After this point I do it with my hands and feet and get to the bottom although many rocks slip under me.
I reach at the base where a river is coming out of a hole in the ice wall. I cannot see above me and they cannot see me. I want to stay there for them to be in suspense but this is not a joke by any definition.
I cross the freezing water and run to other side so they see me that I am OK. Then I hear shouts from the above and they have seen me.
I can see them standing and looking at me but 200 meter height it too far to listen to each other. As dust settles down I see them still standing in confusion. They are looking at me in disbelief. They saw a landslide and dust and assumed the worse.
I wave my jacket for them to follow me.
I also frantically wave them to make a turn at the rock and I have no idea if they have understood it.
On the other hand I am in fear for them and cursing myself to inviting them to the danger.
I want to tell them to go back to Gangotri but they won’t listen to my voice anyway.
Either they have seen me maneuvering a turn around that big black rock or their own instincts will guide them further. I tell them to come down my way.

We landed below this rock slide over Khatling Glacier
Briana’s number is next. I see her reaching the rock with the rope, There she begins doing baby walk and then she begins slipping at about the same point where I slipped. My slip made a channel from top to bottom and she is automatically deflected around the rock in the channel.
She comes exactly the way I came and luckily she trigger lesser landslide then I did. At this moment I begin running at the landing point. Luckily I arrive there in the split second and I lie there in the channel I created with my backpack facing up. She hits my backpack and throws me a good five feet on the rubble. I shout her to stay laid and cover her head and hands for the rubble to pass over us. We wait for a five minutes for the dust to settle.
We drop our backpacks and run to inform Biswas and Baba that we both are now safe. Now Biswas comes with his huge backpack. His burden makes him slip ahead of the channel I created. He creates a bigger landslide. We both watch with horror that his slip is aimed towards that black rock. Luckily his backpacks unbalances and rolls and he changes direction. I run and make a cushion with both backpacks and then I lie at the end and he hits with great force but then as he is trying to stand up I shout him stay belly down and protract his head. Landslide hits us with force and a dust cloud and we are half covered with rocks. As I am about to stand up, one large rock hits me on the backpack and I fell down. Another almost hits Biswas. We leave our three backpacks and run to tell Baba.
Baba cuts the rope to salvage as much possible and comes down easily because he is lightweight and most of the lose gravel is already displaced by others.
We made it without a scratch.
We are covered with dust.
At the bottom we all hug each other.
Brianna sits by the river and puts her hands on her face and begins weeping.
Biswas sits beside her and pats on her shoulder in bravo.
I blink to him.
It is already 2PM. We lost much time in the morning in the wait for Baba and then other things concerning him.
I point towards Mayali Pass behind that is Kedarnath.
Baba is in ecstasy.
He begins dancing and then he sets up a small Shiva temple by the river. He lights his joth and ringing a small brass bell he sings Ganga Aartee followed by Shiva Aartee.
We all participate.

End of the Glacier
We walk over the rubble, boulders and in the muddy slushy grounds. We continue walking over the large and small rocks. Many rock begin rolling as we stepped over.
When we saw a big problem solved, another one appears. We come on the top of a waterfall and there is no way down but only to go down over it. Sides of the waterfall are the wall of the rubble and ice.
1008 shouts, “भोले बाबा, पहले हमें आसमान से गेरा और अब खजूर मैं अटकाया.”
Biswas sighs, “We cannot go back, it is simply impossible.”
Briana reacts as usual, she sits at a rock with both her hands over her eyes and chants nonchalant: Oh my God! Oh my God and so on …………
To be continued ……..

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