Back to Base and onwards to Nimaling

4th & 5th July : We received a hero’s welcome back at Base. Dawa had baked many cakes and pizzas and other delicacies.


(Dawa Dai chef par excellence!)

It was wonderful to be a couple of thousand feet lower! It seemed like a different climate zone. In the last 24 hrs BC had been populated by three other groups! Two out of them were going to climb Kang Yatze II and one Norwegian couple was going to be at BC for many days acclimatizing fully to climb the more challenging Kang Yatze I.

It was a happy homecoming to see Farid fit and cheerful. It seemed like the traumatic night had been in our imagination and not a reality. He assured me that the kidneys were functioning well. We each had become very particular about observing our liquid intake and comparative output etc as part of our acclimatization ritual. The descent on the morraine had been challenging for Farid as he was quite disoriented and fell a number of times but Padma was a great help and support. The vision in his left eye became blurred during the walk down. On reaching BC he spent the first few hours close to Dawa in the dining tent. They continued to coax him to drink liquids. Soup, water and tea. Until I suppose the cells in his body started getting rehydrated and he went for his first tentative pee. Soon after he says, he could start talking and generally feel normal. What a relief.

Finally when Iqbal came off the morraine after his numerous naps along the way, we had a happy reunion in the dining tent and a game of Cambio! It was good to know that the grey matter was still working.

I was relieved to note that no one was unduly disappointed about not bagging the peak. We had all had a wonderful experience. At that moment of our reunion I had to do a quick calibration of my presence among “Mah boyz”. Although for Takpa I continued to be the boys’ “Mama Genius”, I was actually very much one of the team. I was not their mother or aunt taking them on an outing and making sure they were having a good time. I would not take it as a personal failure that I was unable to provide them with the peak as the lollipop. These wonderful young men were not thinking of my age or my role in their lives. Age no bar. Gender no bar.

Iqbal developed a fever that night due to sheer exhaustion. Tejas caught up with his much needed sleep, though I continued with shallow sleep and very vivid dreams. Not very restful at all.

I was keen to get a glimpse of the other climbers on the mountain at 5am the next morning to check on their progress. One group returned to Camp having barely crossed the morraine and a few hundred feet on the snow. The other climbers summited that morning. I’m no saint, and I can’t say I was ecstatic about their success. It was interesting though to see their progress on the mountain sitting in the comfort of my tent at BC. Especially since they were using the same route as us. The route that we had opened up the day before. Our’s would have been the first ascent of Kang Yatze II this summer and now it was their’s.


(A telephoto of the climbers….following our footsteps!)


(Another telephoto, a bit hazy but our path is visible….and the other climbers)

We left BC soon after breakfast and almost skipped and danced our way to the next campsite in record time! Fitness is a wonderful thing having trudged up and down 20,000ft one starts feeling a bit invincible.

Nimaling was a most beautiful campsite though crowded. We had got spoiled for privacy and were used to being by ourselves and feeling like we owned all that we beheld while we were in the vicinity of Kang Yatze. At Nimaling we were back on the main Markha valley route and campsites had to be shared.



(while walking to Nimaling….Kang Yatze behind us…..)


(….and Kongmaru La, 18,000ft ahead us. A pass we had to cross the next day.)


(…one last look back at the Markha Valley and in the direction of Kang Yatze to the left not in photo)

19 hours at ABC and beyond……(III)

4th July : Once we started climbing, the four of us, Takpa, Iqbal, myself, Tejas and Rigzin, roped up in that order, we pretty much continued over the next 3 hours from 5:30am until 8:30am. There were a few short standing up, “catching our breath” breaks. The rhythm was set and we noticed we were gaining height and the ABC soon became a dot in the distance and the desert landscape of snowy Ladakhi peaks was at our feet. We were sort of above it, surveying around us from a higher perch. It felt good.

I wouldn’t say that we were clipping away the meters or the feet with any speed but we were quite steady with our plodding pace. Certainly we were all gasping for breath as we continued to gain height, while walking with our big boots, and with the ice axe fully buried in snow with each step forward. It took a lot of effort.

Takpa might have wanted us to go faster, I’m not sure, but in those first three hours he seemed to have got back some of his characteristic enthusiasm and that was encouraging. He even remarked that now he was confident we would make the summit and he was not worried about the time either. The summit he said was “around the corner”.

The snow slopes couldn’t have been more than 40 degrees but the sheer expanse and exposure of the slope made it seem steeper and much more challenging. There was nothing really to “hang on” to, as we traversed, other than our ice axes. And those too would sink fully into the snow with each step.

At 8:30am we came across  a small garden of rocks and without a word we all sat down for a much needed break. Just as we sat down, still tethered to each other with the rope, and as Takpa started to warn us to secure our water bottles and ice axes, I took off my helmet (Farid’s helmet) to remove a layer of fleece from around my neck, in that split second, my helmet rolled right off the mountain. It was both mesmerising and frightening to watch! We were all still, scarcely breathing, watching the bright blue dot disappear on the ever brighter snow which was catching the first rays of the rising sun.

While resting on this rocky perch, we decided that perhaps we could extend the turnaround time from 10am to 10:30am because as Takpa said we were “almost there” and 10:30am was good too.

We might have sat there for about 15 minutes when lassitude struck Iqbal and also to some extent our samurai. When we started walking again, Iqbal was almost sleeping on his feet and had to be prodded awake! I had read about lassitude at much higher altitudes but I suppose there is no hard and fast rule about altitude sickness. Curiously, Takpa too changed his lead with Rigzin and sent him ahead to cut the steps on a vertical piece of slope which we were negotiating soon after the rest break. In retrospect I think poor Takpa was tired from the double ferry to ABC the day before and had not quite recovered from that.

With the sun beating down on the slope the ice soon started to turn mushy. The vertical slope was giving me the nightmares now. The steps would melt almost as soon as Rigzin would cut them and step up which left each one of us in our positions on the rope clambering, clawing, scrambling up the exposed slope, trying to be quick and agile! But the vertical ladder of steps would soon become a chute! It was frightening to say the least. We bravely carried on for another two hours. I was kind of determined to “turn that corner” that Takpa kept promising.

Then wisdom dawned on me from my young team members. Tejas was keeping track of time. I was avoiding looking at my watch, my camera, the scenery, everything. Crazed. I was only looking at the edge of the slope ahead, the supposed “around the corner”. It was 10:30am already. We had already changed our turn around time once. The snow was becoming like melted vanilla ice cream. We were weighed down with each step. Three steps up and two down. Was this worth it?

We stopped to take stock and an important decision. Both Tejas and Iqbal reminded me again about the turn around time. Iqbal in a small voice reminded me about how we’d always discussed that to be safe on the mountain meant respecting one’s turn around time. Turn around times are set at the beginning of a climb always probably keeping in mind an exhausted mind while climbing that may or may not be making correct decisions later on!……..

I made one last crazed plea about going just 20 more feet ahead to see what was “around the corner”. Mah wise boyz stood quietly and said they would go with whatever decision I took, but they wanted me to know that we were way beyond our turn around time.

We turned around.

DSC_0862 (1)

(A few pics that Tejas had the energy and the wherewithal to take!)

I will forever be grateful to Tejas and Iqbal for being patient with me. It was wonderful to see a steady head on young shoulders. No greed about bagging a peak. Just good cheer at having tried. Was I disappointed? A little. My own personal best had been 20,000ft before now. “Mah boyz” tell me I probably crossed 20,000ft by a few feet on this climb! Takpa says we were short of the summit by 167 meters. Why that precise number? Why not 200 or 150 meters? I’m not sure. I didn’t ask. He did not argue with our decision to turn back. Even though we were “right there” he said. But he couldn’t quite tell us how long we would take to get to “right there”! And meanwhile snow conditions by 10:30am were becoming progressively worse and a cruel joke.


(The slope and the “round the corner” that I never saw…..)

The snow under our crampons started to weigh more than our boots and was balling up under our boots with each excruciating step. Dusting it off with a tap of our ice axes with each step became tiring, annoying and irritating.

And so began our arduous climb down from the mountain. If it was the pumping hearts on the way up, it was tired, uncoordinated limbs with heavy boots on the way down. I was trying to negotiate the traverse without looking around too much at the steep slope. I mustered up all my skills from meditation to keep my nerves calm and my mind focussed.


At about 12:30pm we reached ABC and I was impatient to get down to BC to check on Farid. Tejas and I had gone without sleep for about 28 hours by now. We were kind of exhausted, though still alert and focussed. The adrenaline was still coursing through our veins.

Phuntsok received us warmly at ABC with hot soup and puree-aloo that Dawa had sent up from BC. We had not eaten since dinner the evening before. The food tasted divine. Phuntsok also reassured me that Farid was well. Eating, drinking and urinating!

Thereafter Tejas and I pretty much skipped our way down to BC while Iqbal took double the time because he kept falling asleep and taking long naps on the morraine. He got back back down close to dinner time.


19 hours at ABC and beyond……(II)

4th July : I let the boys go ahead to settle in to our tent. While I sat around with Takpa, Padma and Rigzin, inhaling the intoxicating kerosene fumes (that I was enjoying very much!) and generally planning for the summit bid a few hours hence. Morale was high. We didn’t give Farid’s sudden setback too much thought. There was no way he wouldn’t be better after a few hours of rest.

It was decided that we’d have a cup of hot tea and some maggi noodles at 2am and then generally lace up our boots and rope up and be ready for the climb by 2:30am. This meant that I would nudge the boys awake by 1:30am, so we could get into our harnesses, gloves and helmets etc. have some time for a quick pee or something… one was thinking of any elaborate midnight ablutions. We were in fact praying that no one would need more than a quick piss at that time of night. We were going to sleep with all our clothes on, to save time.

After our short and precise plan with the time etc, I got over to our tent and was surprised that there was no sound. Our boots were still lying outside, and wearing frozen boots at 2am would have been a nightmare. So I slipped 2 sets each into either vestibules of the tent so that the boots had some protection and were within easy access and crept in to the tent. All three boys were lying inert. Tejas, though, was awake and I explained about the boots to him. Farid was groaning and I wasn’t sure whether he was awake or asleep. Little Iqbal was definitely asleep and snoring! I was full of envy for him.

From 10:30pm onwards began Farid’s hellish rigmarole of stepping out of the tent every 20 minutes or so to try and urinate. Between his headache, nausea and the urination, he and I spent the next three hours taking sips of water, popping asprin, paracetamol and nimulid and generally just biding our time. Farid’s walk to the summit was becoming distant with each passing minute. Neither of us wanted to discuss it. He was in no condition to think about it and I was dreading bringing it up. At that moment the summit didn’t seem important. Farid’s health was all that was on my mind.

Tejas through all this had been lying awake as well. Just trying to rest up as much as possible with his eyes shut. At 1:30am we awoke Iqbal. I was relieved that it was time for some decisions and action. The last three hours with Farid had been excruciating. Tejas, Iqbal and I slipped into our harnesses and helmets and the inners of our boots and sat around and awaited Padma’s arrival with some tea. It occurred to us that there was no movement from the kitchen tent. Odd.

I gathered enough reserve to step out into the howling, cold and lashing wind which arose and died intermittently through the night. All three in the kitchen were fast asleep! I was dismayed! Having woken them, they made some mumbling excuse about the stove not working…….I said that was Ok. Then Padma came to the tent entrance and said that Takpa said that it was ok if we left a couple of hours later.

Having spent the last three hours awake, a part of me was relieved that we could squeeze a couple more hours for some rest. Another part of me knew that it would just be a continuation of the nightmare and not much relief. Another part of me doubted whether we’d ever get to the summit at this rate with this lackadaisical attitude towards time. Time on a mountain is to be treated with as much respect as one’s equipment as would be made amply clear shortly……..

I was disappointed with this disrespect for time. Anyway I walked back to our tent and told Tejas and Iqbal the latest plan. No one spoke and we all kind of continued to drift in and out of a dazed slumber with poor Farid carrying on with his own nightmare.

At about 5am Padma came to our tent and handed us a cup of tea each. No one even asked for Maggi because we just wanted to get on with it. Then came the decision regarding Farid. Takpa’s first reaction seemed to be to rest up and try for the summit next day as a full team. I was not expecting this from him.

I knew that Farid had to go down to BC definitely. If we delayed the summit bid by another day, would he be fit enough to come back up this same evening to try the summit the next morning / tomorrow? And even if we went with a “day later” decision would Tejas, Iqbal and I be fit and willing to continue to occupy ABC at 18,000ft which had fabulous views but was cold and windy and generally uncomfortable? I was very quiet while Takpa was trying to boost Farid’s morale by giving him the option for climbing the next day. In a way, I am glad Farid was given that option because he was the fittest member of the team and he deserved that chance. However, my silence might have made Takpa realise that this was not an ideal option for all of us. If Farid had shown even a slight amount of enthusiasm, I might have considered it but he was too far gone to be disappointed or enthusiastic about another opportunity. He just needed to get down and lose height as quickly as possible. Padma was deputed to take him down. I sensed disappointment there because Padma was by far the fittest in the group and he had been looking forward to the chance of bagging a peak!

Then came the difficult task for me, “Mama”, the genius, to decide whether I wanted to continue with Tejas and Iqbal or return with Farid. I did want a chance at the peak and yet I had a sick son. “Dharam sankat”. Farid very magnanimously whispered that I must go and that I should take his helmet and torch. I didn’t need any further encouragement.

We were ready and geared up by 5:30am and then Takpa had his second wave of indecision! He felt it was late already. The sun had not risen though it was daylight and we didn’t need torches. The snow was crisp and compact but it was a clear day and the sun would be out in an hour. This was most demoralising. This kind of indecisiveness. Then he walked around and beat the snow around a bit with his crampons and said it was OK and we would “make a go” for the summit. We gave ourselves 10am as our turn around time. Mind you, a “normal” turn around should be about 7:30 / 8am in order to deal with better snow conditions.

We started off all roped up. Takpa in the lead, followed by Iqbal, then myself, followed by Tejas and Rigzin bringing up the rear. Three feet from our tent I saw a bright red patch in the snow that looked like tomato juice or soup. It couldn’t be either because that’s not what we had for dinner the previous evening. Takpa pointed out that that was Farid’s urine. I was shocked! I wasn’t sure I wanted to carry on.

What was happening? Three precious hours late on the mountain. Illness. Oversleeping. Indecision. And yet I felt that it was only fair to the healthy ones to have a chance. Especially Tejas who had not only been up all night with me, but was now totally cheerful, awake, sprightly and willing to give himself a chance at the peak. Unroping myself and staying back would have taken another 20 minutes off of our already delayed schedule. Farid would never have asked me to go if he was even slightly unsure about himself and his health even though he was so weak…… And so began our summit bid under a lot of cloud, doubt and dilemma to say the least……….




19 hours at ABC and beyond….(I)

3rd July : We had a relaxed morning at BC with plenty of sunshine and rest and many games of Cambio. Its a card game that Farid had introduced and it had become a daily ritual. It was played every evening before dinner. Farid made Cambio seem like a necessity because he said it exercised our minds and it was an important gauge to check whether our grey cells were functioning well at altitude. (Yet another challenge for me to keep up with the youngsters). I confess I got quite addicted to a round of Cambio every evening before dinner…..

In the afternoon we set off from BC to occupy ABC.

Our sturdy Samurai, Takpa and Rigzin, the muleteer, Padma and Phuntsok the cook’s helpers had already done a ferry in the morning and Padma, Rigzin and Takpa would be coming up later to occupy ABC with us. We were hoping that all three would climb with us to the summit.


We moved up the morraine with the ease and familiarity of knowing the terrain from the day before. We occupied ABC and settled into our tent. Four of us in a 2 Man tent was a snug squeeze but we were hoping that the tight fit would keep us warm.


We were around 18,000 ft. The sky was a bright blue with a few fluffs of friendly cumulus and all around was sharp and clear.  The clarity of vision hurt the eyes. The wind chill factor on the other hand was almost unbearable.


(Mah Boyz and me)

At ABC we found some pug marks. I would like to believe they belonged to a snow leopard though Takpa thought they might be of a fox. We were visited at night again since we found fresh pug marks around our tent the next morning. Tejas and I distinctly heard the rustling outside at some point at night but neither had the energy to investigate.


At around 6pm we crowded into the kitchen for a hot soup and some food that Dawa had sent up from BC.

The kitchen tent was warm with 7 bodies crowded in. Takpa was melting snow for our water. I was enjoying the kerosene fumes of the stove at 18,000ft. This is when we noticed that Farid had gone very quiet and was nursing a sudden and stabbing headache and soon started complaining of nausea.

It didn’t make sense since this was his second time up to this altitude in less than 24 hrs and he had been traipsing around outside just a few minutes ago feeling fit and agile. He had organised our tent and climbing equipment, inspecting the pug marks and generally being in-charge.

Neither he nor I paid this minor setback much heed and we all felt he’d soon recover. We got back to our tent and tried to rest up for a few hours. Our scheduled departure for the summit was 2:30am.

And so began a long nightmarish night………..


Decision for ABC

2nd July : We awoke at Base Camp to the sound of Marmots and field mice in who’s territory we had set up camp.


(eek ! just noticed a plastic bottle lying next to the marmot!)

“Mah boyz” were feeling refreshed and strong and ready for an acclimatization walk of approx. 3000ft up the morraine along the shoulder of the mountain. We would do the walk in our mountain boots which weighed a tonne (just under 2kgs) for familiarization.


(fitting crampons under the boots – Tejas and Iqbal in the foreground)

Normally the entire climb from BC to summit of approximately 5000ft (7-8 hrs) is done in one go. Climbers leave BC at about 12 midnight, reach the shoulder of the mountain by 2am/3am and then do the snow climb to the summit over the next 4 hrs or so. Arriving at the summit for sunrise between 6 -7 am or 8am on the outside.  The idea is to get safely off the the rather large and exposed snowy massif by 10am or so. Otherwise as the sun beats down on the massif the snow gets mushy, waist deep and difficult to negotiate.


(Top of the brown morraine and dip to the other side was our goal. pic : Tejas)

We started our acclimatization walk at 12 noon and after about 20 mins into the walk in our heavy mountain boots, labouring across morraine, it was clear that this was not working for us! It is the most frustrating, disheartening and inelegant experience to be trudging in mountain boots over morraine! Takpa’s idea was that at 12 midnight, we would not notice the terrain (!) and it was easiest to climb with the heavy boots already on our feet because it would be too cold to change into our mountain boots at 3am just before the snow climb. So according to him it would be best to already be kitted out in heavy boots, harnesses and helmets and arrive atop the shoulder of the mountain and then rope up for the final summit push across the snow.


(Farid walking on the morraine. pic : Tejas)

We reached the shoulder top and with very little discussion with the others, I decided that we needed to have an Advanced Base Camp right there. Takpa immediately agreed and said, he had been thinking the same. “Mah boyz” were much relieved with the decision. More so, because their own prior reading about Kang Yatze and others’ experiences had shown that an ABC made the summit push easier.


(Walking up the morraine. pic : Tejas)

We left some of our excess equipment like ice-axes and helmets anchored to a rock and descended to BC. The plan was to bring up 2 tents and a stove with our personal gear the next day to occupy ABC and then make a summit bid.

We returned to BC with a plan. Feeling confident and full of hope and renewed expectations…………..


(Iqbal pic : Tejas)



Life & thoughts at Base Camp

1st July : We finally reached base camp. It was a short though arduous trek from Hunkar. We were steadily gaining altitude. Although “mah boyz” had found a rhythm for walking and breathing, they each had to struggle with their own altitude demons as we gained height and the breathing became more laboured and the ruck sacks became heavier.  I, on the other hand, have never suffered from the ills of altitude. Never.

IMG_2690(Our resting spot atop a small col)

IMG_2682(….and from this spot a second view of Kang Yatze)


As we walked into the valley below Kang Yatze, the lassitude and head aches gripped the youngsters. I felt almost guilty for not having the same sufferances. I wanted to quietly disappear without being noticed because I was feeling so fit and it felt like I was thumbing my nose or insulting that vastness for not going through the same rites de passage of acclimatization!

IMG_2702(The lotus eaters gripped by lassitude)

Getting to base camp was like successfully completing the first hurdle on the expedition. We could now concentrate on climbing the mountain. Through the night I heard the distant menacing avalanches coming off the face of Kang Yatze I. Our own Kang Yatze II though less technical was almost too vast and insurmountable. With these thoughts rushing through my head, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to concentrate only on the “here and now” and get back to the Yogic way of being!

Sleep at high altitude becomes a rear and precious commodity. Dreams are vivid. If there is one fall out from altitude that I suffer, then it is perhaps this rather odd sleep pattern. It is never a deep sleep. Always shallow.


(Base Camp. Kang Yatze II on the right with the ridge joining it to Kang Yatze I to the left. Almost 2,000 ft of morraine in the foreground that makes up the shoulder of the mountain.)

If there was a way of slowing down any further then it was at base camp. All the political and geographical catastrophes seemed to belong to another planet. Not part of this arid piece of magnificent Ladakh. Getting to the summit of Kang Yatze seemed like a much more important and worthwhile goal for our time than constantly worrying about the Nation. This goal seemed much more attainable than trying to understand the opinions of even friends who’s politics seemed threatening to peace and harmony of the social fabric of the Nation. This dry vastness seemed like the safe cocoon that I didn’t care to leave.


Its all in the mind….. and Yoga helps

30th June : By the third day of walking we had got into a rhythm despite the wetness. I was never more than 10 mins behind the boys. Though I must confess that keeping up with them became my primary focus and I paid less attention to the surroundings…..

IMG_2594(A glacial river crossing before Hunkar village)

Takpa Lay, our guide, continued to feed my ego and called me a “genius” for my healthy lungs and strong legs. I continued to tussle with maintaining a humble exterior and tried hard to not let all the compliments go to my head! I sagaciously imparted the benefits of Yoga to all (until I literally had Takpa standing on his head!), as I laboured with keeping up with “mah boyz” and maintaining a certain rhythm and pattern for my breathing and walking at ever increasing altitudes. We had by now reached about 16000 ft asl.


(Takpa Lay demonstrating a version of the Shirshasana)

The Markha is indeed a beautiful valley. These days one can travel light with just a back pack with personal belongings because there are home stays available in every village throughout the valley. They seemed clean with palatable local food. Most home stays provide toilet facilities. Some are better equipped and cleaner than others. The Ladakhi toilet is similar to the old Portuguese toilet in Goa. Though in Ladakh, there are no pigs to keep the toilets clean. So although the squatting area is at least 10 ft above the landing area and the holes are small enough that one can’t fall through they are still large enough for the eye to notice the details of what is below. And the sight is never pleasing or aesthetic…….


(A Ladakhi toilet exterior. I leave the interior to your imagination…..)

We arrived at our third day’s campsite at Hunkar and the clouds parted and sunshine seeped through and warmed our bones, our tents and sleeping bags. Our spirits lifted. As often happens when one is so close to the elements in the outdoors and living under canvas, every ray of sunshine, cloud or drizzle is interpreted and given a meaning and is taken as a message sent by a higher being. The sunshine at Hunkar was interpreted by us as good will from the higher being and we felt that now that the bad weather was behind us we would surely scale Kang Yatze.


(Sunning at Hunkar campsite)

When it rains it pours……

28th & 29th June : We left Leh amidst dappled sunshine and non threatening clouds. Seemingly the best kind of weather for walking in the vast Ladakhi landscape. We drove 2 hrs to Chilling village. After several dust ridden delays along the way because of road construction activity we finally reached the point just beyond Chilling where the cold Zanskar river had to be crossed in a “jhoola”. The bridge across to the other side had been washed away a few years ago. There seemed to be no urgency to repair or replace it.


Once across the river, our 10 mules waiting on the other side were loaded with all our climbing and camping equipment. We started walking towards Skiu village, our destination for the first day’s walk.

We spent time surreptitiously sizing each other’s capabilities on this first day’s short walk. Actually, let me rephrase that and say that our guide, cook and cook’s helper not to mention my own three young men pretended to be casually though actually looking very hard (without making it too obvious!) to see whether I could keep up with their pace or not……..

An intense wind picked up soon after we started walking, blowing desert dust into our faces. The strong winds soon gave way to a steady monotonous drizzle.


(Mah boyz….Tejas, Farid & Iqbal)

And so began our trek to the base camp of Kang Yatze. The steady drizzle was relentless for the next 48 hours. Our tents and our clothes held us in good stead and I was grateful that I had borrowed my clothes and equipment well!

Unfortunately for me I had a damp sleeping bag by the second night but I made do with a couple of blankets and kept all my clothes on. There is nothing more comforting than a warm tent and dry clothes when it is pouring outside.


We were all popping a low dose asprin at breakfast and dinner. Our acclimatisation was going well and we were hoping that the clouds would lighten their loads as we got closer to Kang Yatze.


It “ain’t” the altitude, its the attitude.

26th June : We have automatically “slowed down” on reaching Leh. There is patchy wi-fi and erratic phone signals. We are disengaging from the gadgets.

In the last twenty four hours, time has taken on a whole new dimension as it always does in Leh and places like it. There is time to eat and think about the next meal. There is time to read a book. Time to chat. Most of all there is time to think and be present in the moment.

We are drinking at least 6 litres of water daily and this along with slowing down has eased us into the acclimatization process remarkably well. No headaches, no light headedness or woolly headedness.

We met up with our climbing guide Takpa Norbu. I liked him immediately. He seems to be around 25 but could be 35. He is fit. He has a wonderfully mobile face that smiles and laughs easily. He seems like someone who could be sitting still for hours in meditation or doing long and arduous walks in the mountains, both with equal ease. His long hair tied up in a knot makes him look like a monk, a Samurai or a modern day Ninja. Either ways he seems pretty solid and someone we could trust with our lives on the mountain. This is my first impression.

We got our climbing gear sorted and hired our snow boots, crampons, ice axes, harnesses and helmets. A good hard hike in the mountains seems like the best detox programme and a perfect way to align mind and body.


Kang Yatse II – (its more than a Gadabout)

Its been 21 yrs since I stepped out to do a serious trek / climb. I am venturing back into the trans Himalaya with my two sons and nephew. They have agreed without (too much) demurring to my joining this expedition to Kang Yatse II, 6200 m. KY is a small snowy peak deep in the Markha Valley in the Zanskar range in Ladakh.

I am physically quite fit though the last three weeks were spent almost immobile.  A heavy wooden bed crash landed and broke (the bed did) on my right foot. No worrisome damage to the foot though plenty to the bed. Two  days ago I was even able to wear my hiking boots without much difficulty. Though I haven’t had time to break them in.

Equipped with borrowed climbing gear (since mine from 20 years ago is pretty outdated) and armed with a lot of mental resolve, I am off to Gadabout in Ladakh. One of my all time favourite places. Going to Ladakh always feels like coming home. And I am grateful that in the last twenty years I have had several opportunities to visit different parts of it, all the way to the recently “opened” Turtuk. Though that will be a different story. For now its Kang Yatse.

We fly to Leh on Sunday / 25th June. Our expedition is over two weeks. We will acclimatise first in Leh and then walk over two or three leisurely days to the base of Kang Yatse. We’ll take the more challenging route back to Leh over the Kongmaru La (Pass) after summiting Kang Yatse. But let me not get ahead of myself.

For the moment I am struggling with packing my borrowed clothes (underwear is my own) into my borrowed rucksack. Its a challenge! Its not the same thing packing for the mountains at 51 as it was when I was less than 30 yrs old. Ankle supports and knee supports and warm clothes  for sub zero temperatures add up to the weight.

I’m struggling but……..IMG_20170624_155946I’ll get there!