Tough and wet dreams.

When I made the initial attempts to enroll for the July schedule of BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course) at ABVIMAS (Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute for Mountaineering and Allied Sports), Manali, I was warned beforehand regarding the potential and likely prospect of showers, but made minimal preparations for I thought it would not be a great ordeal.

But a pretty big challenge it was.

The institute at Manali.

Going uphill

The first ten days of the course were devoted to rock craft around the noisy hill station of Manali itself, and instances of rainfall were few and fairly manageable. But as soon as we had progressed to the high altitude Bakarthach base camp (10,700 feet) for our subsequent snow and ice training, realization dawned upon many of us about the mandatory nature of appropriate rain-proof gear. Yet those lacking such necessary apparel got a genuine wet and slippery experience of a monsoon basic course.

Our base camp was situated in between the Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges, which could only be seen provided the atmosphere was free from grey clouds rushing to create white-outs. The rain never forgot to pay a visit each and every day, sending chills down our spines and us running to pluck clothes put out to dry on top of tents. It became habitual to hear wet shoes sloshing their way through muddy puddles to the kitchen tent after the dinner whistle was blown. It was easy to observe a medley of reactions among the trainees-some frustrated, some indifferently pulling through the problems, while some simply enjoying the rain, laughing through it and turning the evening’s relaxation more jovial and lively.

During one of those lazy evenings.

A teeth-chattering story

It was the third day of our training in snow, when we encountered quite a rattling experience. Having formed a circle on the snow slope, we stood with our eyes and ears focused on the instructor delivering a lecture on the day’s activity from an uphill position.

Soon the techniques of setting up natural and artificial snow anchors transformed into a baffling welter of words which shot right over the top of our heads. It began with a light drizzle. Then no sooner did we think that it would pass than our snow climbing clothes were absolutely soaked, and we were left shivering and our teeth chattering incessantly. Hands encased in plastic gloves went numb and we wondered how we would go through the activity part! The cold metallic grip over ice axes sent chills up our arms.

We just waited there for a torturous and incomprehensibly lengthy period of time, some trying to skip and shuffle about to warm up our stiff bodies. So as soon as the lecture was complete and the course in-charge came forward to declare the activity postponed and give the call for dispersal, the helter-skelter and rush of people to descend to the warmth of the base camp was a sight to behold.

After having escaped a frightful bout of cold rain on those snow slopes.

Kisses from the clouds

Another time, it was the second day of our ice training, and we were retracing our steps back from the ice field, a good 4-5 kilometers of steep rocky ridges and moraine area away from the base camp. As I was negotiating a steep descent from a ridge, the dark clouds above broke open and a heavy shower drenched us. With a twisted ankle I had to judge each step carefully upon the steep muddy slope.

But as I reached the plain land, and was approaching the base camp, the rain turned into a downpour which was pretty enjoyable. I skipped and swung about the loose ends of my poncho in glee and ecstasy, as I let the cool droplets trickle down my face and inhaled the fresh air. An Irish trainee also yielded to the rain, soaked himself, and shouted, ‘feels like Ireland!’

A bit of rest before another exhaustive ascent.

Well, these were minor instances of our 26 days’ course that brought one in close proximity to the real toughness of camping on a mountain. We were fortunate to have a clear weather on two crucial days, one of height-gaining when we trekked up to Camp 1 of Kshitidhar Peak at 15,700 feet, and the other when we were scheduled to spend a night of survival outside our tents in temporary, natural shelters, having had no dinner.

The absence of rain was equally fascinating, especially at nights, when an ethereal aura shrouded the camp with the surrounding snow-capped peaks bathed in moonlight and starlight, and the Milky Way faintly visible among the millions of stars.

It’s too blurry; yet you can make out that bright moon dazzling above a peak.

But the moments signaling our final departure brought along an occasional heartache and a teardrop as we looked back to the time which taught us how to cheerfully survive in adverse wet and cold conditions, in the tough yet beautiful bosom of the mountains.

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Published by alientrekker

An alien cherishing her best moments on some mountains of the earth.

2 thoughts on “Tough and wet dreams.

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