It was 1:00 am. at 4900 meters it was freezing cold. I got up after 3 hours of sleep in the oxygen depraved dry heights of the Laddakh himalayas. It took me some time to get out of the bag and put on my trekking shoes. I had already packed my bag with the essentials i thought i would need on the summit attempt. headlamp, a water bottle, extra socks and gloves and some chocolates.
air outside was as dry and cold as it could get. I could see some movement around the base camp. There were two groups of trekkers with their head lamps on and moving around the camp site. I moved to our kitchen tent and had a cup of tea. didnt feel like eating much at the odd hour. Norbu and mutuk, our guide and helper were ready with their backpacks.
it was pitch dark and i could only see the next few feets of the trail which was as steep as 30-4o degrees in places. the first part of the trail was only about 500 meters in distance but it took trekkers about 40 minutes to ascent. After 40 minutes on the trail, I was at around 5100 meters. I looked at the sky and could see countless stars. The pole star was as bright as a head lamp. Infact for sometime i confused it with a trekker standing on the ridge. I felt the lack of oxygen and had to stop after every 2 minutes. When i stopped, it got cold. it turned my fingers blue and toes numb. I took off my gloves and had a look at fingers. they were in pretty bad shape. the nails had turned purple and i could hardly move my fingers. I had borrowed some cool looking gloves from our trekking agency but they werent working. I tried my 300 rs mitts i had bought for Goecha La and they didnt work either. It felt like shit. The guide told me that the advanced base camp was about 1.5 hours away. I started moving again but only to stop every two minutes to get some air.
At that point of time, I could think of nothing else but the trail in front of me and my ears which were paining from cold. I wanted to touch my nose tip and my ears to reassure myself that they were still there. It must have been below -10 degrees. Last i experienced such extreme weather was in Narkanada but then i was in my hotel room. under a blanket and multi layer clothing. Here it was 3 in the morning and i was on an exposed section of the ridge. I was pretty confident of my Nike ACG shoes but soon I realized that they wernt meant for this temperature. I couldnt feel my toes. The advance base camp was visible now and so was the glacier which was to be crossed to start the final summit push. Howver when i reached the base camp, I had given up. I tried asking the guide if I could get some tea in the advanced base camp but guess what....I had frozen lips. Couldnt speak properly. I guess that was it. I thought may be next time with better and warmer gear. Once i was inside a kitchen camp, it was then difficult to get up and walk again. That was the end of my summit push.
However once i was down to the base camp i did think if i could have pushed a little more. may be another 2 hours and there would be sun and the temperature will be fine. buts whats the point. when i turned back all i could think was that i cant speak and its so fu*****g cold. never mind i have started finding authentic mountain gear and next time next season i hope to finish what we couldnt do this time.