19 hours at ABC and beyond….(I)

3rd July : We had a relaxed morning at BC with plenty of sunshine and rest and many games of Cambio. Its a card game that Farid had introduced and it had become a daily ritual. It was played every evening before dinner. Farid made Cambio seem like a necessity because he said it exercised our minds and it was an important gauge to check whether our grey cells were functioning well at altitude. (Yet another challenge for me to keep up with the youngsters). I confess I got quite addicted to a round of Cambio every evening before dinner…..

In the afternoon we set off from BC to occupy ABC.

Our sturdy Samurai, Takpa and Rigzin, the muleteer, Padma and Phuntsok the cook’s helpers had already done a ferry in the morning and Padma, Rigzin and Takpa would be coming up later to occupy ABC with us. We were hoping that all three would climb with us to the summit.

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We moved up the morraine with the ease and familiarity of knowing the terrain from the day before. We occupied ABC and settled into our tent. Four of us in a 2 Man tent was a snug squeeze but we were hoping that the tight fit would keep us warm.

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We were around 18,000 ft. The sky was a bright blue with a few fluffs of friendly cumulus and all around was sharp and clear.  The clarity of vision hurt the eyes. The wind chill factor on the other hand was almost unbearable.

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(Mah Boyz and me)

At ABC we found some pug marks. I would like to believe they belonged to a snow leopard though Takpa thought they might be of a fox. We were visited at night again since we found fresh pug marks around our tent the next morning. Tejas and I distinctly heard the rustling outside at some point at night but neither had the energy to investigate.

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At around 6pm we crowded into the kitchen for a hot soup and some food that Dawa had sent up from BC.

The kitchen tent was warm with 7 bodies crowded in. Takpa was melting snow for our water. I was enjoying the kerosene fumes of the stove at 18,000ft. This is when we noticed that Farid had gone very quiet and was nursing a sudden and stabbing headache and soon started complaining of nausea.

It didn’t make sense since this was his second time up to this altitude in less than 24 hrs and he had been traipsing around outside just a few minutes ago feeling fit and agile. He had organised our tent and climbing equipment, inspecting the pug marks and generally being in-charge.

Neither he nor I paid this minor setback much heed and we all felt he’d soon recover. We got back to our tent and tried to rest up for a few hours. Our scheduled departure for the summit was 2:30am.

And so began a long nightmarish night………..

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