Half an hour ago, I was not sure whether I would get at least one fair chance to fight. Now, it gave me goose bumps to think that I had actually commenced the summit bid. The moment had finally arrived for me to fulfill my dream - the dream that I had nurtured in my mind for years.
Half an hour ago, I was not sure whether I would get at least one fair chance to fight. Now, it gave me goose bumps to think that I had actually commenced the summit bid. The moment had finally arrived for me to fulfill my dream - the dream that I had nurtured in my mind for years. The dream, that one day I would climb Mount Everest.
Every step brought me closer to my goal, but, I remained cool and composed. I knew that it was not, as yet, an occasion to rejoice. I had not reached the finishing line. Now, it all depended on me and I needed to play the final master stroke subtly and carefully to see a happy ending.
We had covered quite a good distance at one stretch since 09:00 pm. Now, we had to anchor ourselves with the fixed rope. The gradient had also increased and we could feel the exertions of going uphill. To climb 3,000 feet in one day was always difficult – even in low altitudes. We expected that it would take us around fifteen hours of non-stop climb to ascend the height.
The weather had improved beyond our expectation. The sky was clear. I could not remember when I had last seen so many constellations in the sky. The stars were brighter and seldom twinkled. We hoped that the fair weather would persist till tomorrow.
Suddenly, everyone in the line stopped. We were quite far from the first climber and could not understand what had happened. After a long wait, four sherpas came up from below, overtook us and went up. We were climbing a rocky slope and the rope had shifted to an overhang. Probably, the climbers who had descended in the morning had committed the mistake. The sherpas brought back the rope to the original position and the climb resumed. Valuable time had been wasted. My toes felt numb inside my climbing boots. I twitched my toes to bring back the blood circulation. Personally, I had reasons to fear frostbite.
When we reached the top of the rock-wall, we found that its inclination was no less than eighty degrees. We had to jummer our way up. It was difficult to get footholds with our jumbo sized mountain boots with crampon. We swung on the rope and were on several occasions thrashed against the wall. Our thick feather suit took the toll and reduced the impact. Otherwise, we would have emerged scratched and striped like zebras. When we ultimately got to the top, we were confronted by another steep slope. The slope ended in “Balcony”. The “Balcony” – a unique feature in mountains was a huge overhang. In mountain terminology it would be more apt to call it a ceiling if somebody approached the structure from below. It was a little projection that protruded out like a jetty. We hoped to take some rest on the platform.
On reaching the “balcony” we dropped our sacks and sat down on the soft snow. I decided to leave my near empty oxygen cylinder there. I opened my thermos flask and sipped fruit juice. We had been climbing non-stop for seven hours and had crossed the half-way mark. I bit off a small chunk from my chocolate bar and looked at the south-east ridge that would take us to the top.
We got up and resumed our journey. We climbed along the south-east ridge. We had sheer drops on both sides of the ridge. The ridge, however, was not too narrow and had a slight inclination. But, we were not destined to walk on an easy track for long. Within ten minutes, we found ourselves standing in front of a steep rock and ice mixed zone. As we started climbing the ice-wall, I had the most memorable sunrise of my life. The sun rose above the peaks to the east. The horizon turned red. The tips of the ranges developed a reddish tinge. The peaks bloomed as the last star in the sky dimmed off. The red streaks of clouds were like confident strokes of brush from a master artist. Alas, the painting lasted for a few seconds only. As the sun climbed higher, the whole panorama went through a remarkable transition. The reddish hue slowly faded into silver and finally to a dazzling white of the snow of the mountains. The sun’s rays reflected so intensely from the ice that it blinded us. Hurriedly, we put our snow-goggles on.
We reached the south-summit. It took us more than three hours to reach south-summit from balcony. We needed some rest. A piece of chocolate and few sips of fruit juice did a world of good. My heart beat went back to its normal pace. I looked around. It seemed we were already sitting on the top of the world. The view was similar to the one which we had seen from our flight to Lukla. Only, the peaks were much closer now. The famous peaks of the World surrounded us in all directions – Makalu, Kanchenjunga, Lohtse, Nuptse, Cho-Oyu all within our reach, as if we could touch them. The sky was clear and blue. I took out my camera and started capturing the awesome view.
We started climbing the Hillary’s step. The black rocky ridge went down thousands of feet on both sides. Snow had accumulated in the hollows and corners of the rocks. We had a terrific experience of rock-climbing at a height of 29,000 feet (approx) above the sea level. We were taken aback when a para-glider flew down on his wings from the summit. We had heard that the climber would paraglide from the summit to base-camp. Nevertheless, it was a feat that mesmerized us.
When we reached atop the Hillary’s step, we found our route had ascended a mound. Rajib had almost reached there. The summit was nearly 100 meters away from the hump where Rajib was sitting. Rajib had already started walking towards the summit of Mount Everest. Our route had again ascended a hump – the last hump of the route. In fact, the topmost hump of the world. I could see prayer flags on the summit and the mountaineers who had just reached there. There is no material structure on earth higher than this place, I pondered. The very thought evoked respect in my mind. Beyond the summit, there was only blue sky and nothing else. The summit sloped down in all directions except on the north-east. On that side the summit abruptly ended in a huge cornice.
I waited for Karma to reach the summit. And, then I pressed the shutter.
21st May, 2011. At 10:33 am, I reached the summit of Mount Everest. It’s not possible to express the waves of feeling that heaved inside my mind. Himalaya is the abode of God. Whatever inner meanings the phrase may contain, we Hindus as has been imbibed and inculcated from childhood do believe that the heaven is situated somewhere in the Himalayas. I had a strange feeling as I stood on the topmost place on Earth. There were two idols of Buddha on the summit. I placed my father’s photo-frame at the feet of the idols and bowed. I bowed before my Maker. I bowed before Nature. I bowed to Mount Everest.
I was proud. I was proud of my teammates – Rajib, Karma, Purba, Buddhi, Santosh and Loben. I was proud of my friends. I was proud of my little supporters. It was not just my success. It was our success. Everybody had a role to play behind the achievement. It was a success for those who relied on us and believed that we could do it.
I was proud of my country. I was proud to bear the Indian tri-colour to the top of the world. At 10:33 am, I took out the National Flag from the sack. It flew in the air triumphantly. I took out the flags of “Bhadrakali Padatik”, “Angan Chaariye” and also that of “DAV public School Barrackpore”. Purba took the photographs as we held the flags up in our hands.
We saw two idols of Lord Buddha on the summit. One was installed by the Government of Nepal and the other one was placed by the Government of China. The idols were hidden under the piles of prayer flags. I placed the photographs of Swami Vivekananda, the Gods and Goddesses that we had carried with us. It took us sometime to light the incense sticks. Then, we offered Puja. I dedicated the achievement to my Father.
Next, we had to take few snaps of our own self. The Nepalese Government awarded certificates to the successful climbers. The photographs were the evidence that we had reached the summit. We had to remove our oxygen-masks and snow goggles so that we could be identified in the photographs.
After completing the rituals and formalities we got a chance to look around. Cloud had engulfed the region below and it seemed as if we were standing on a deserted island surrounded by water on all sides. Only, Lohtse, the fourth highest peak in the world, stood above the clouds. We had reached the peak along the south Col. On the opposite side; I could see the north Col route. The route was beckoning me. Maybe in future, I would get a chance to try out that route. I was ready to come back, if I got the chance.
We were not lucky to meet the mountaineers who reached the summit from north Col. Karma explained why that had not happened. The route from north Col was shorter and the climbers had already reached the summit and returned. If we had arrived earlier, we could have met them.
We spent forty five minutes on the summit. Now, the time had come to return. We packed our sacks. We found the members of Indian Air Force Team coming up one by one. We gave a last glance towards the summit. We picked up our ice-axe and our journey towards home began.