Today i have reflected on what i have accomplished in my life. Ive done some things that i am proud of but most the things i have done havent been as hard once i have finished them. Until i came to India. Today as i was walking through the Bazzar (Market) I stopped and bought a butterscotch ice cream cone from a vender. I am lactose intolerant and dairy products usually give me “loose motions” but today i felt like i deserved something that delicious.
Over the past two months i have survived India, thus far. I have eaten local meals, hiked to the highest villages in the world, lived in a Buddhist temple for three weeks (where i built a greenhouse out of mud), and just in the past two weeks or so i have successfully climbed a 20,000 ft peck.
The name of the mountain is Draupadi-ka-Dunda, but we call it TKD2 for short. With the help from an NIM (Nehru Institute of Mountaineering) instructor, the other gap semester students and i trained by going rock climbing, hiking around Utterakashi with full backpacks and learned climbing technics that would help us with our assent. We started at the road head of this hike after two cups of chi and a two hour bus ride (that was actually in an old ambulance). We hiked through a beautiful forrest that reminded me too much of the book “The Hobbit”, which i read while on this trek, and i was expecting giant spiders or trolls to walk in front of me at any moment. But that never happened only monkeys and big birds crossed my path. I did hear word of a black bear in the area and i saw some footprints but was not lucky enough to see one, or maybe i was lucky enough not to see one. I hiked though streams and across log bridges, all up hill, for four hours until we came on the first camp. I was exhausted. Keep in mind i had the heaviest pack, besides the porters who supplied the tent and cooking supplies (God bless their souls they carried a lot). I would say my pack weighed about 50 to 60 pounds which isnt bad when im back in Tennessee, with an altitude of 500 ft, but the road head starts at 7,500 ft and the first camp was at about 10,000 ft alt. I was pooped as i got my sleeping bag ready and laid out my mat to sleep on. Thats when i learned how our trek the next day was going to be. Our Instructor Mr. Singh came to Holden and I, we were the first to reach the first camp site, that the next days hike would be twice as long and even more vertical than the hike today. I wanted to turn around then but im not a quitter. I knew why i was on that mountain at that point.
Mr. Singh introduced us to this very old couple that live near the first camp year round. They were cute but i dont understand how they live in those conditions year round, its ridiculous.
Mr. Singh was also very correct in how long and vertical the next day’s hike would be. The first three hours were ok, but as soon as we crossed the river we were basically climbing up roots to get to the top of this huge hill. It was pathetic how hard i was breathing but Mr. Singh did a good job of giving us 3 minute breaks as we ascended about 300 feet ever 20 minutes. With a lunch break in between we did make it to the second camp in 8 hours but once we made it there i was ready to lay down. Mr. Singh didnt like us just laying down though. Everyday he would take us on acclimatization hikes to get our bodys used to the mountain. I hated these walks because i acclimatized fast but i guess it was still good for me. The next camp was called base camp. This is about 14,000 ft alt and was where a helicopter would land if we needed to be evacuated off the mountain. Luckily we didnt need those services. We stayed at base camp for 3 days learning ice climbing skills and survival tactics that we could use if an emergency happens on the mountain. From base camp we hiked up to ABC camp, which is the last camp before the glacier in front of the mountain. This camp, while cold became a home base for us, mainly because we build a snowman with the hail and snow that fell and we stayed there for the longest. On the 8th the doctor came and told Alex and Rishi that they couldnt climb the mountain due to a hurt knee and high heart rate. Hearing this disappointed me because i was set on us all summiting but i was just thankful i was healthy enough to go on with the journey. On the ninth, Holden and I, Mr. Singh, Jevoung (an energetic porter who became my brother on the mountain) Geresh (another Instructor) and two others made our way to camp one at about 15500 ft alt. Walking most the way across and up a glacier that was saidto have 300 foot crevasses in it. I was a little scared i guess you could say. We made it up to camp one and had to set up our tent on the top of that glacier and make sure that it was sturdy enough to take on the high winds. The temperature up there was below 0 degrees Celsius and getting in and out of the tent was dreadful but we only had to stay there for a couple hours because we started our packing at 2 in the morning and started the assent at 3:40 Am.
At this point i still knew why i was on the mountain. The Top was all i could think about, and the Local Native song that was stuck in my head at the time. I would hum as i hopped across frozen rocks and kicked my feet through the snow and ice. As the trek continued and in the frozen pitch black night i started to think more about why i was there. With huge crevasses on either side of me in the middle of the night i was in a different country risking my life to make it to the top of something that doesnt even know i exist. I worked so had to get there and it never even moved. I started to pray, and to sing church songs instead of Local Natives songs. It put me in a better mood. Especially “Lord be there for me”, mainly because as i was ice climbing up this vertical slope kicking my crampons in and driving my Icepick in as deep as i could get it, i thought about the second line of that song. Lord be there for me when i fall be there for me. I wasnt expecting to fall but im sure Jesus had my back. Holden did exceptionally well in making sure he followed all the steps correctly and i respect him more now than i did before the hike. Climbing a mountain makes you see the real side of a person, how far they are willing to push themselves for success. We made it to the top of TKD1 which is the mountain Neighboring TKD2 but we sill had to make it another 2,500 ft to the Summit of TKD2 and the sun was coming out so we only had a few hours. Once the sun starts to melt the snow it can get dangerous due to breaking ice and avalanches. We summited at about 10:15 AM and took plenty of photos on the top.
Thats when i realized why i was where i was. I was accomplishing something that i have dreamt about for years. I was a true mountaineer and i was proud to say that. Now that mountain knows my name, not only because i left a piece of paper at the top with my name and address, but also because i knew it on a personal level now. The mountain and i had a fight and it didnt break me.
We descended and nobody ran down that giant hill faster than me. I was falling head over heels trying to get to a warmer place but my weary legs only let me go so far so fast. We made it down to camp one by about one oclock PM and then back down to ABC camp where Rishi and Alex were waiting for us to take our bags and give us some fresh lime tea. It was delicious. and finally sitting down was glorious.