Everest Ridge I – A story

Chapter 1 – Mystic Mountains

Nature has taught us anything that opposes a force has some enchanting story behind it. Often the force being opposed happens to be gravity. Life forms has to defy enormous gravitational force to accomplish any minuscule work. Trees fascinates us because its stands taller than us defying gravity. Same goes with hills and mountains. Mountains are gigantic pieces of earth in itself working against gravity every second to stand still. Mountains dreams of touching the sky without leaving its roots from the earth. Maybe this impossible dream of mountain is what attract humans beings towards it.

Mountains don’t discriminate among each other. For them their height, composition and location doesn’t matter. All of them have same capabilities. They attract clouds, cool them and send them with winds to provide life forms with snow and rain. All of them are able to instruct clouds to activate destructive thunderbolts when they feel like. They don’t remember their past nor they worry about the future. They doesn’t keep record of how many living creature has visited them. The nuance foot prints of these living creatures are erased from its memory within few days or hours. All mountains are capable of radiating beautiful reflections when viewed in sunlight or moonlight and mesmerizing our hearts.

People usually judge mountains based on its height. We take 13,000 ft mountains as innocent hills and those higher mountains (>20,000 ft) as real mountains. No matter the height of mountain, small or big, the are equally capable of transforming our life i.e game for survival. Rock star mountaineers from previous generation (Ed Viesturs, Anatoli Boukreev, George Mallory, Conrad Anker, Maurice Herzog, Reinhold Messner and many more) and our generation (David Lama, Jimmy Chin and others ) have climbed harsh route in unjust weather conditions. Many of them succeed in climbing high mountains and some lost their life in lesser mountains. The point is that no matter the height of mountains, the mountain deserve equal respect, preparation and determination to enjoy the beauty at its top and from the base.

I am a huge fan of David Lama. He was a elite mountaineer with first ascent in difficult routes of big mountains. But on 16th April 2019, Lama along with climbers Jess Roskelley and Hansjorg Aure, were caught in an avalanche on Howse Peak in the Waputik Range of the Canadian Rockies. Climbing world lost three invaluable assets that day. Some time luck plays an important role in survival for mountaineers either in big or small mountains.

Like mountains we have different height, composition and location and everyone of us is capable of doing miracles as every mountain is a natural miracle by itself. Looking at the mountains we realize our own dreams of rising above our self projection and pushing oneself further towards our imagination. With this motivation of pushing myself to the limit and know my endurance capacity, I embarked on a journey to climb Everest Ridge route of Mount Timpanogous in Provo, UT.

Chapter 2 – End or Beginning?

The sun was glowing with all its glory. My body was getting enough heat inside my two-man all season tent. The tent was perfectly laid out below a huge green pine tree. There was snow till where the eyes could see. The trees are so resilient. They don’t get tired with the power of sun which converts a land to desert nor the rainfall which give rise to uncontrollable floods nor visually deceptive snow avalanches. They do their boring job of standing straight pretty well. Those pine trees are the only savior for so many adventurers. Those trees have heard many blessing, many secrets and had been closer to a persons soul than most of us ever will. The adventurers are endangered from one force of nature and protected by another. Trees usually take side of the benign force where as snow and rain stand on other spectrum at this altitude. But isn’t it that every human life is a tightly knit struggle within so-called benign and malign forces or thoughts.

I was certainly not thinking about pine trees while I was laying inside my tent exhausted. Will the warmth of the sun single-handedly revive me? Does sun have the mysterious powers that people talk in the holy scriptures? Though if it does, why should I be the one seeing its power. Because I need a idea to hang on. Idea to bring my buried mind back to the surface of meter deep snow. But my curious mind was thinking how could the warmth of the sun reached me with the two layers of tent’s fabrics. This was more important to me than other important life questions. How could sun warmth get into the tent?

How is it possible?

I completely ignored the fact that sun’s energy travels millions of miles in every direction. So for it to cross the millimeter of tent’s fabrics is nothing. This is how exhausted I was at that moment. Why did I wanted to climb this mountain? What have I achieved by submitting to the mountain’s will? Pain and misery or Happiness and Satisfaction? What motivated me to try such a ordeal? Was it a rational decision? What if these question will just be question in my head and never find a keyboard? Why should people know about this adventure if I do find a keyboard? Aren’t there millions of solo adventures in the world? Why will my story have a voice of its own in the concert of millions sounds concurrently buzzing? But isn’t the whole point of adventure is to live for youself so that you are not concerned about those voices? Does all of our voices need to be listened, appreciated and categorized? What if these voices are ignored and kept mute for our whole life? Will anyone notice it?

(Footsteps approaching) The sound of each steps intensifies. I don’t know if I was asleep or unconscious or knocked-out or lethargic or following my bullet train of thoughts. That sound brought me back from wherever I was dwelling. The sound reaches its peak and just start to fade.

“Help! Help! Anyone there?”

Trying to open the tent’s door zipper.

“This side. Come to this side. Hello! Here!”. Uff. “Do you have some surplus water?”

“Yes! I do.” – Stranger

“Thats awesome! I melted snow yesterday for drinking water and ……”. I am telling my unfortunate story to the strange but my voice strength with each word does go down on log scale. I believe he didn’t hear a thing. I mean he has no interest in my story. He came to help me as a human being. He understood the gist of me murmuring so he offered me a bottle of water. He watched me as I drank all the water in one go. We both understood that he has done his part and he went his way.

Was this just my dream or hallucination or reality. I can’t say for sure. But that did revived me a little. It brought back courage in me so that I can pack the tent, load all the things in my rucksack and crawl down the mountain. The sun warmth was additional motivation. I started by packing my sleeping bag. My sleeping bag is plain blue like a sky when she is happy with no black clouded thoughts. It is filled with some form of goose features. Its light as those features. I brought this back in Nepal during our Manaslu trip. It has served me will so far. Rolled and folded the sleeping bag while holding the upper part with both of my keens. Stuffed it in its proper bag. One task done. I am checking off on to my mental to-do list. Now I had to deflate the sleeping mats (I had two in the tent). Done. Load them into the bottom of bag. Done. Now one by one I loaded the cooking utensils, my down jacket, snow pants, gloves, socks, first aid kit and others. There was not space to put my snow boots inside the bag. I devised an cleaver idea to tie the boots, crampons and tent on the outside of the bag layered on top of each other. I had to make sure that they didn’t fall and get lost while I descend. I had already lost a hunting knife in the morning.

By the time I was done with loading all the things onto the bag, Sun has traveled some distance from South towards West. It took me more than 2 hours to finalized everything and make sure that I haven’t left anything behind except my endless questions and doubts. I hold the bag at the anchor point below the straps with my right hand and put the straps on the shoulders and tighten the belly strap. I couldn’t see a way for the bag to be this heavy with the things I kept inside. I thought someone must have hidden two big stones on my bag as I remember reading somewhere that mountaineers used to hide stones inside others bag to test endurance. I neither need stone nor a single feather in my bag to test my endurance. I scored myself below what I thought I could endure. Can I make it down on time to the safety of my apartment? After taking few steps, I was couple of feet away from the camping site. I remembered how I ended up camping there.

Chapter 3 – Flashback

I spotted this spot for camping yesterday’s evening while I was traversing the ridge of Big Baldy peak facing north face of Mount Timpanogous. There was a feet of snow still on the peak. I didn’t need to put on my crampons but I did use ice axe for safety. The view from the ridge line was beautiful. I could see Mount Nebo on north and Cascade mountain and Provo peak in east. It was such a mesmerizing scene. At that moment, I thought I could spend rest of my life just glancing the beauty around this place. Slowly I was moving ahead towards the enchanting Mount Timpanogous. I knew I had to find a good place to camp where there is less snow and some protection from the hauling winds.

Suddenly my eyes focused on a big cohort of pine trees whose branches had no sign of the harsh winter season it had endured. Nor the green spikey leaves had any scar. They were as green as they spend there whole tree life only in spring. I noticed a familiar pattern of rock assembly besides one of the tree stem. There were some half small tree branches carefully placed around the stones. With a quick glace it seemed liked that these branches have survived human test. The heavy black scars on one end was the evidence of night they endured. My mind is accustomed enough to recognize that those unfortunate branch dreams were shattered when some humans set them on fire for their amusement or for survival. Only these branches would know the answer what was the intention of the human who lit them on fire.

Being honest, I was going to lit them on fire as other humans did along with their fellow branch friends just for warmth and to melt some snow. I had two bottles of one liter drinking water with me. I used up most of the water when I climbed up the steep face of Big baldy. In order to stay hydrated, I had to melt snow and get enough water for the mind and body to function in unison. I could have spared the life of those branches, fallen leaves, and bushes around me but I choose not to.

I didn’t measure my backpack while starting the adventure so I can’t be that certain of its weight. I can assure you all that it was heavier than all the backpacks I have carried during my previous adventures. One the heaviest backpack as I remember was during Lakre la (Manaslu) trekking. One of the guides on the trail was curious about how much our backpack weigh. He informed it was 25 Kgs after he measured it. So I can say this backpack was more than that based on my memory though human’s memory are not dependable. I don’t have a clear idea on how the bag got that heavy. I am still puzzled. I only packed the items that was absolutely necessary to camp that night and tomorrow’s ascent to Mount Timpanogous via Everest Ridge.

It took some time to set up the tent: level the snow field and place the metal anchors so that it will be stable during high wind which are common on exposed face of a peak. I noticed that the position of tree’s shadow has elongated drastically indicating that the sun in going to sleep. Before the sun gave one last magnificent reflection on the Utah lake and its rose light on the mountain tops, I had to start a fire. The trees haven’t seen snow in two or three days so the branches were dry. When they crackled and gave a bright flame with the lighter in action, I knew they were completely dried out of life.

Seeing fire rise from the ashes gave me new enthusiasm to click pictures of the mesmerizing sun. The fact is that the sun will again rise tomorrow but there are uncertainties if a person will rise to see the sun again. I had work to do. Melt snow and fill the water bottles. Some how I remembered some secondary science class where we did filtration of water with a filter paper. Luckily I had few spare papers with me. The warmth of the fire after the sun went down was immeasurable. The sky was clear. I could see the Mount Timpanogous in front of me, Cascade mountain and Provo peak on the East and Mount Nebo on south. I was wondering how will my ascent be tomorrow. From my research I knew I had to start early in the morning so that I can traverse safely through the technical section of the ridge before the sun kisses the mountain.

I restructured the stones so that it could support my black metal bowl. I planned to melt snow in this bowl. I used hard plastic water cup to scrape snow from the surface nearby. Poured the snow into the bowl. I also realized that I had two small potato with me. Now there was some coal, I could roast the potato. With the passage of time, the snow was being submerged into the water. It took considerable amount of time for all the snow to melt. I noticed some black objects floating in the water. I drew closer to the fire and with my headlamp, I noticed the black objects were the ashes. I was constantly blowing air into the fire to make sure it stay lit. My blowing action gave the ashes force to rise above the bowl. Some ashes landed into the water and some merged with the wind to explore distant land.

Past, Present and Future is very amazing concept that humans have developed. So far as I know, animals don’t distinguish these concepts. We are the only living being who contemplates on the Past and get anxious about the future and neglects the present. Though I was there looking at the fire and the resistance of snow to melt, I was trying to follow my train of thoughts. Is life just about survival? Is there so inherit meaning in life? Isn’t human physical form similar to the snow melting right now? Snow is changing its physical state from solid to liquid similarly human change from embryo to child to adult to old to nature. Why am I here? What does climbing this mountain mean? How will my solo adventure fold out tomorrow?

Why do people climb mountains?

Stay tuned. This story has 7 chapters. Four more chapters to go.

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