The Sun had just peeped a little above the horizon, which was lit up faintly with a familiar reddish orange glow. The bright blob was aligned to the right of the center of the horizon, with the foreground still under the blanket of semidarkness. With each passing minute, we could see a little more of what lay between the mountain we stood on and the mountains far and beyond. As beautiful as it was before the naked eyes, I knew in my mind that it will make for a hopeless picture, unable to do justice to the reality. Nonetheless, I captured what I could and tried to absorb it in. I knew we couldn’t linger on for a long time. It was 4:30 a.m. We still had a long, ‘circuitous’ path ahead of us. There were many more snow step to be treaded and yet more crevasses to be crossed.
Before February of this year, I didn’t even know that there existed a certain Mt. Washington in New Hampshire and that the mountain is infamous as the “Home of the World’s Worst Weather” (although technically that claim is not true, the weather is bad enough! Imagine extremely fast wind speeds combined with low temperatures). Luckily, I have joined a couple of climbing related Meetup groups and I keep getting notifications of upcoming events from these meetups. Someone had posted an event for Mt. Washington winter hike and interested people were supposed to confirm their spot. I did a Google search on Mt. Washington for about 10 mins and signed up for this event by the end of the 15th! Turned out that there were quite a few who wanted to do this tough winter hike and in the end, a group of 6 of us from New York/ New Jersey and Connecticut areas booked a spot each on an IMCS (International Mountain Climbing School) guided climb up the peak.
My neck hardly had any space to move and look around. It had got hemmed in by a bulky rucksack I was carrying on my back and whose top portion was slightly higher than that of my head. With hands holding the ice axe and crampons on my snow boots kicking front pointed steps in the snow, I really did not want to bother myself with anything more than looking ahead to the climber above me and following his route up the steep couloir that would take us to the top of the pass. Twenty steps, stop, breathe, gather your thoughts, twenty steps, stop… I was trying to maintain a rhythm while climbing up the slope. But we were already 14000 feet above sea level and lack of oxygen in the air was making its presence felt. I was trying to complete a set of twenty steps but always ended up giving up after twelve or fifteen. I cursed my insufficient fitness. Leaning down on the ice axe, which I had planted in the snow to use it as an anchor, I tried to calm down my chaos filled mind with the exquisite panorama I could look at through the gap in my feet. The view, when seen that way was upside down, but every time I looked at it, it brought along some amount of peace with it. It was easy to forget about everything and just keep marveling at the natural magic around you. The rumbling of the rocks and ice blocks tumbling down from an ice fall some safe distance away made for a constant background sound. The activity in the ice fall was so constant that it had almost become part of the rhythm.
These are the pictures from my trek to Stok Kangri peak in Ladakh,last August.The post has long been pending.I am only uploading the pictures as of now.
I call it a trek since even though I summitted this peak,some 6153meters in altitude,there was no technical skill required for doing so.All I had to do,was to trek along the easy trail till the top of the mountain.The real fun started when summit was about 3 hours away.The altitude had started showing its effect in the sense that the rate at which one would tire out before taking a break in the walk had increased after that.The view then on became magnificent.The glacier on the left side,sun rising from behind a serrated horizon on the right side and the summit right ahead ,high in front of the nose.
This was a very nice experience and made me feel ready for my next peak.