I have been a sportsman since childhood. Spending hours playing basketball, badminton, cricket etc. was my normal routine and thus a winning spirit had developed in me. I was always told that winning and losing is a part of the game but I couldn’t stand losing. It always bugged me and still does. During my Hampta Pass trek, I had faced a similar kind of defeat. My competitor, the mighty mountain of the Himalayas. Maybe it was not my day but I had to settle my score with it.
Kanamo peak also known as the White Lady Peak is situated at the back of Kibber and Tashi Gang Village in Spiti valley. Standing tall at 19600ft. the peak is one of the few mountains that does not require any mountaineering skill to summit it. As I was unable to do the Hampta Pass Trek due to AMS and somewhere inside I had started doubting my capabilities. There was a slight fear that had set in somewhere deep in my heart. People even made fun of it. So to set things right I decided that I will summit this white hostess and to do so in a more professional manner I registered myself with India Hikes.
On 29th of July around 4pm, all the trekkers reported at Kaza. We were a team of 14 people led by a professional IH’s trek leader (TL) and a couple of local guides. Despite the long tiring journey from Manali to Kaza all the trekkers were highly enthusiastic and excited. Everyone was very interactive and friendly and with that, I realized that I was the youngest trekker in the entire group. All of them working nine to fives, some of them were married and some of them even had kids. And then there was me, young blooded college graduated adventurous retard. “This trip is going to be boring, where am I stuck with all these IT people,” I said to myself. A brief introduction broke my infant stereotype. To the contrary of what I thought, everyone was damn cool and had a good amount of trekking experience. Finally, it was our TL, Geet Tryambake’s turn. The man’s personality spoke for itself. Completed nearly 35 treks, and has also been to the ABC and EBC in Nepal. So when he spoke we were all ears. Geet sir covered certain major topics regarding the trek and special emphasis was given to the medical part. An hour-long briefing made us aware about AMS, HACE, HAPE and other high altitude problems and how to deal with it. We all listened to him with the highest level of seriousness. 19600ft is not an altitude where you can fool around. You cannot take things lightly. I had already experienced AMS so I knew it’s importance.
The next morning we started for Kibber located at 14019ft. We were accommodated in a homestay which was our logistical base. At this altitude, it was very important for our bodies to acclimatize fast. We spent two nights in Kibber for this purpose. We started a course of Diamox so as not to take a chance. Acclimatization treks were undertaken with full seriousness, going up to 15000ft and then coming back down to the base. Some of the trekkers had already started to complain about tiredness and mild headaches and was brought to the TL’s notice. But it was not all doom and gloom, we also had fun times. Afternoons were sunny and full of energy. Games were played, stories were shared and we all used to have a gala of a time. The owner of the homestay, Shubham was a chilled out guy and used to join us for some interesting conversations. By this time we had all jelled in pretty well and a sense of responsibility had developed towards each other. We were a team and we had to look after each other.
On 1st of August, we marched out to our next location, Kanamo Base Camp. The camp was 5km away from kibber and was situated at 15748ft. It was a sunny morning with blue skies and big white clouds moving across the sky was a cheerful scene. We started to trek, and since everyone had their own pace the team got a little scattered. Some were very fit and were always with the lead guide. Then there were some who caught their breath a little too soon. There were also a couple of photographers in the group (me :p) who used to trade pace for passion. The view throughout the trek was absolutely stunning. The little thorny flora and the infinite sky gave beautiful colours to the deserted mountains of Spiti. As we trekked higher in the mountains we reached a pond which was a perfect place to have lunch. Hungry as a lion I quickly took out my packed lunch and enjoyed my meal with everyone. Around 4pm we finally reached at the base camp, tiny victory for the tiny ones on the mountains. The staff gave us our tents and told us to pitch it ourselves. So we started to look for good spots. Suddenly everyone was so hyper that it was hard to tell that we just trekked for 7 hours. In case you are wondering why, it was the view. Everyone wanted a spot with a good view and that’s why everyone was running left and right to capture their land. With me were Mark and Bharat and after finding the perfect location we pitched our tent which was good fun.
Around 8pm we all gathered in the dining tent for dinner. Our TL briefed us with the next day’s plan while we enjoyed the feast prepared by the India Hikes’ kitchen team. The food was absolutely delicious and we all used to eat like bores. Next day was an acclimatization day as 15748ft to 19600ft is a big leap. Some of the trekkers were still having difficulty adapting to the altitude and their health didn’t seem fine. Acclimatization is something that depends on your own body and there is no other trick to it.
After a little stargazing session, everyone went back in their tents. The bond that you share with your tent mates is a special one. Pitching it together and then cooperating in that small space, it forms an understanding. Me, Mark and Bharat all tugged in our comfy warm sleeping bags then went off to sleep.
7am, 8am, 9am were the next morning’s timing. 7am was our wakeup call which was accompanied with tea. 8am was breakfast time and 9am was march out time. As I came out of my tent I saw that people had gathered around two tents and some serious murmuring was going on. Two trekkers were hit by AMS and it was serious. One was hit by the first stage of HACE and was even given oxygen through an O2 cylinder. Both of them had to get down at a lower altitude to regain their health so our trek leader decided that he’ll take them and the rest of us would carry with our routine. The ambience of the base camp had suddenly changed. We were all sad for our teammates. Coming a long way and then to go down like that, I could completely relate but there was no other option and it was the best for them. One of their friends also decided to accompany them back and thus the strength of 14 dropped to 11.
That day’s acclimatization was led by the guides and was a successful one. We went up to a point from where we could see Kanamo’s summit. We could also see some other peaks one of which was CCSK which is a virgin peak. The view was spectacular and I could only imagine how it would look form Kanamo’s top. Geet sir came back in the afternoon. He took some rest and called for a briefing. We were soon to summit and sir told us some things that were to be kept in mind. It was going to be a long trek the next day and thus we had our dinner at 6 in the evening. We were told to set everything before we go to bed. Next day’s breakfast was at 1am and by 2am we were supposed to start from the base camp. So we set our rucksacks and slept in the same clothes which we had to wear for the trek.
It was 3rd August, the summit day! At 12:30am everyone woke up. It was dark and quiet and the activity at the base camp broke the silence of the night. We had breakfast at 1 in the night and following our TL’s instructions we ate until our stomachs were full. As we were stuffing ourselves in the dining tent I realized that there is someone missing. As I enquired I got to know that one trekker had got high blood pressure and thus won’t be able to summit with us. Everything was happening so quickly and then one more trekker abandoning the team was a sad blow. The remaining 10 trekkers were all set and at 2am sharp, we marched out from the base camp. The night was dark but the mountains reflected the moon’s light. It was cold but clear and our bodies slowly became warm as we took small steps towards our goal under the umbrella of a million twinkling stars. There were three shoulders before the beginning of the final ascent of the white hostess. The first shoulder was short and easy. The second and third were a little difficult. The soil and vegetation were left behind and it was all gravel now. We were tired but stopping was a tough decision. Sitting down at a break was a tougher decision as one would lose body heat. After one point I decided to give up on some as I thought I got plenty however I was wrong and within a minute I started shivering.
After 3 hours I reached the bottom of the final ascent. 4 of my teammates were already there, they were 10 -15 minutes ahead of me and the rest were behind so we waited for everyone to come to that point. It was around 5 in the morning and the first light illuminated the beauty of the chilly deserted mountains as well as the exhausted faces of the humans climbing it. The sight of sunshine was a blessing from nature and with that, we started our final ascent. It was a steep ascent of about 80 degrees on the scree slope.
With every step I took, I could feel my energy drowning. I think I was halfway through when my head started to ache badly. I was tired and took frequent breaks to catch my breath. By this time everyone was scattered and I was in the middle, alone. Geet sir was around 50 meters behind me and I could notice that even he was having a tough time. It was a lot of up and down for him the day before. I sat down to get a hang on my pounding headache. And as I rested my head on my trek pole I fell asleep. It was that moment when my body started to tell me that it wants to go down. But how could I let that happen? Did I come all the way to give up and go back midway? Someone once told me that pain is in the mind and not in the body! And with that, I opened my eyes. Geet sir was near and I got up to walk with him. Small steps, controlled breathing and a constant rhythm and I was almost there. I was just 100 meters away from the top and could see my teammates who had reached, cheering me up and telling me to keep going but I was out of juice. I didn’t want to move a muscle and my head was killing me. I heard one guide shouting “mauka sirf ek hi bar milega” – you will only get one chance, and with that motivation, I moved.
After 7 hours of trekking and constantly pushing my body, I finally reached the top of Kanamo peak. I will never be able to describe that moment in words. It was a long struggle and I was really happy to have completed my trek. It took some time for others to reach. However not all made it. One of the trekkers only 50 meters from the top reached his limit. Unfortunately, he got hit by very initial stages of HACE and blacked out on the slope. The guides then took care of him and took him down. Rest of the 9 trekkers successfully made it to the top.
I congratulated my teammates, Geet sir and our guides, it wouldn’t have been possible without them. We all clicked pictures on the summit and shared a happy moment. The view from the summit was breathtaking! The beautiful 360-degree view of the Himalayas was absolutely worth the pain and effort. It was like a different world for all you see is endless mountain ranges spread all across. I cherished the beauty of the view to the fullest.
I had finally achieved my goal. Challenged the mountain and won it. It was an emotional moment for me as I recalled what had happened to me on my last trek and now I was standing at 19600ft. I had done it! However, the score was yet to be settled. I looked for a flat area on the top and told my mates to click a picture of me. I did my signature pose, a handstand with legs spread up in the air creating a V and that is how I summited the Kanamo Peak.