The summit that wasn’t meant to be

The summit that wasn’t meant to be

So here I am, back in hot and humid Delhi after an absolutely marvellous climbing trip in the Himalayas.

First things first: I did not summit Gangotri 1, and in fact turned back of my own volition at Camp 2, because I realised that I wasn’t acclimatising as well as I should.

Am I disappointed?

To be honest not as much as I thought I would be, because although obviously I hate giving up on things, in this case I could feel that my breathing was not up to the mark and after the year I have had healthwise, there was no question of taking any further risks.

Plus, and this might sound strange, although summiting is obviously a big part of a climbing trip, it is not the only important aspect.

The whole experience of being in the mountains, of seeing such heart-stopping beauty, of being privileged to walk amongst scenery so amazing it makes you feel humble…all of that was there for me in abundance.

And I loved every single second of it all…well, OK, there were moments as I scrambled and fell on the interminable moraine that I loved it all less, but you get my drift?!

I was lucky enough to be with an absolutely super group of climbers and when I waved goodbye to them all at Camp 2, it was with a real pang of regret.

In all my climbing and trekking trips, I don’t think I’ve ever been with such a harmonious group. Great fun.

Endless discussions about politics in the mess tent.

Endless games of “uno”.

Endless cups of tea.

A truly smashing group of fun guys, and I am only sorry that we didn’t finish the trip together. My bad.

During our acclimatisation time in the little pilgrimage town of Gangotri. I went to the temple for the morning and evening “aarti”, and it was a very interesting time to be there. Just 2 days before we arrived, the Covid ban on pilgrimages was lifted, and we witnessed what is (apparently) an otherwise jam-packed little town waking itself up from months of torpor. There’s really only one little street in the town leading to the temple (the whole raison d’être of Gangotri) but most of the shops lining it were still shuttered when we arrived.

It was distinctly weird, being in a place that should’ve been packed, but wasn’t.

That should’ve been full of visitors but was virtually empty.

It was nice (as a visitor) to be in such an empty little town, but doubtless the influx of visitor is what the townsfolk want, not quiet, deserted streets.

One morning 4 of us went for a puja ceremony right here in this shrine, with this man

After leaving Gangotri we lost all connectivity and started the long climb up to Base Camp and beyond.

We had snow and initially quite a lot of rain, but thankfully mostly on our rest days at Base Camp, so we all played cards and drank tea.

Home sweet home at Base Camp

Before we left Base Camp to head up the mountain, our lovely sherpas had a puja and I’m not ashamed to say that it moved me to tears. To see our ice axes propped up in front of the altar, waiting to be blessed, with the prayer flags fluttering overhead…oh yes, I wept a little.

We load-ferried up to Camp 1, went back down to Base Camp, then back to Camp 1, and onto Camp 2. I loved every moment of this adventure but my body didn’t agree.

My tent at Camp 1. A bit precarious but WHAT a view!!

I found breathing difficult, even back down at Base Camp, and so, as the others prepared to head up to Camp 3 and then the summit, I slowly wended my way down the mountain with my lovely Liaison Officer Chandra Shekar for company – I’m a foreigner, so need an LO.

It took 3 days to get back to Delhi, with long days of walking and then long drives down to Uttarkashi and Dehra Dun.

My bags are unpacked.

My photos are downloaded.

My bruises from tumbles on the moraine are slowly healing and my poor water-retaining legs are gradually reducing. (I am SO not a pretty sight right now!).

I’ve slept for hours and am trying to hang onto the glory of the mountains while of necessity coming back down to earth…

I will not easily forget the breathtaking beauty of a Himalayan sunrise from my vantage point at Camp 1:

As ever, I travelled with White Magic Adventure Travel who are in my opinion, quite simply, the best in the business.

Professional to a T.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a kinder, more helpful group of people, and as I do after most of my trips with WM, I am reviewing them separately in my review blog.

Excellent service should be recognised.

So do please take a few moment to read my latest assessment of WM.

18 Comments

  1. Sunil Nehru

    Really enjoyed your trip report and the WM review, Christine. This was a proper siege climb with three camps and lots of load ferrying – quite a different experience I am sure to previous climbs. I am so glad you listened to your body and took the wrenching decision to turn back when you did. As you have said – its disappointing but everything else went well and you came home safe! That mountain isn’t going anywhere, and its now an addition to the WM trip inventory, so you can always try again. I succeeded on Stok Kangri on my third attempt and the age of 70! White Magic make these challenging experiences accessible for ordinary folk like you and me. It makes you realise just what amazing people serious climbers are. Now you deserve lots of pampering, resting and rebuilding! Well done!

    1. Sanjiv Rastogi

      Sunil Nehru you are not ordinary folk. And Christine is a Super Lady. You both have shown the way to so many ordinary folk and made them believe they can achieve do much more!

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