Advance Mountaineering Course - 41 at JIM&WS (July, 2018) - Part 2

Contd from part-1

Day 13: It never rains in endurance walk while it should. Somehow I complete another endurance circuit and reach back our camp where my breakfast awaited me. Today we were supposed to practise rappelling from a huge cliff and we did. But only after 10 students had abseiled it started raining heavily and the rock face gave the look of a waterfall. Result: Activity cancelled. Thankfully today again the institute bus was at our rescue and we didn’t have to walk all the way back.
Rest of the day we rested in our tents while it poured heavily outside till evening tea. I think even the rain wanted a tea break. The evening was again punishment time when one of our instructors noticed that one of us left the toilet tents at Pahalgam which were to be used in the expedition. He had forgotten the name of the student who was allotted the duty to load tents in the bus but so great was that student, he himself also never surrendered and we had an evening running session and shouted ‘Go’ our instructor and next moment we all were running uphill to touch a Gujjar hut.
Drenched yet happy, trying to find a shelter in rain by sticking to rock
Day 14: Another day of load carrying and again a new route. My performance had improved by now and I felt both great and grateful for it. Our instructors were always there to motivate us in any situation.
Today was Rappelling and Rock climbing test which of course went well. Though my thumb injury made it really difficult to place right footholds somehow we have to manage such situations. It was our last day on rocks, after all, we would be now soon moving to glacier camp. It was a bright sunny day and an opportunity to wash our clothes and of course ourselves (bath) after a week's cold weather. Daily chores are also important in mountains, no matter how much you hate them. Lunch was biryani and I could see the queue in the dining hall from a far distance. The evening was spent in market purchasing necessities for higher camp.
Rappelling test. Instructors observe the whole rappel very minutely.
Day 15: Judgement day. It was our endurance test for which we had been preparing all these days. The 7-8 km run with 12 kg on our back was our real test because on this day unlike previous days no one could afford to walk. Just run, run, and run. Thankfully I did better than the previous days and I was quite satisfied with my improving endurance. Rest of the day was free as we had to pack and load equipment for our next destination – Machoi Camp.
The girls gang - These girls did really well in endurance. 

And then the instructor checks the weight for top ten (just in case someone was cheating)
Day 16: It was 10 AM and with a lot of hopes and best wishes of juniors and other staff our bus throttled towards Machoi Camp (Between ZojiLa and Drass near Gumri village). Machoi is a small settlement of Gujjars where HAWS has its training area which was unoccupied by them till now. They hadn’t come this year till now to train at the machoi glacier. They had made the cemented base for temporary sheds which we used to pitch our tents. The wind was blowing so fast that for a while I thought what If it takes me along. Thankfully it did not. The camp is located at the roadside and we were welcomed by a baby brown bear being chased by hunter dogs.
Somehow we managed to pitch our tents while the wind blew at super speeds. Living in Machoi is not easy especially when you have to tighten the pegs of your tent three times a day. Moreover, it was in Drass which is anyways the worlds second coldest habitat in winters.
Later in evening, we were treated by our senior instructor in his signature style “ Ye advance hai, Basic nahi hai. Doubt to hona hi nahi chahiye”. From today our night duty begins to chase away brown bears which would try to hunt out treasure (Ration). And the duties were allotted tent wise and ours was the first tent, Our duty timing was 9-10 PM.
Night’s were dark, not because the sky was dark but because someone had forgotten the petrol bottle at sonamarg which is an essential fuel to start the generator. After it starts then the generator can use kerosene as fuel, but petrol was missing and so our electricity.
On the first day during my tents duty no bear came, but only a hunter dog which went away silently. The bear came at 2.30 AM but it didn’t come to anyone's notice except 9-10 people because the duty man silently chased it away. What a brave guy he is.
Campsite at Machoi

Welcomed by a brown bear

Day 17: It was raining heavily since morning and our ice craft activity got delayed. We started marching towards the glacier at 9 AM only to reach by 11.30 AM. After crossing a lot of crevasses and slippery moraine we finally reached our training point. It was a crevasse. We went into the crevasse and climbed up using four points. It was a great experience doing glacier training after three years. It was getting cold and raining at the same time. I could feel the chill to my bones inside the crevasse. Later in the afternoon, we had another ‘Go’ from our instructors as he felt the course is resting at high altitude in the daytime which is bad for acclimatization. This time the task was to touch a boulder located on top of a hill. Soon we were out of breath.
Today again I had to go on a night duty while I was not supposed to as it was left over eight tents who had to give duty. But ours was the only tent which had four people sleeping in it (it was by choice) while others had three people and one tent had left over two people sleeping in it. As per instructions one of our tent mates had to go with them on duty to fulfil the minimum requirement of three watch guards. And being high on adrenaline that too at midnight I volunteered on behalf of my tent. Time was between 1-2 AM and one of my duty mates went near fencing to answer the natures call. And suddenly he began running shouting ‘Bear, Bear!!’. All people out of tent within a second while mess guys running towards fence with a baton (Mashal) and fortunately I got to see a brown mother bear and her little one. There was a wave of terror from now onwards in everyone whosoever went on night duty. That night the bear returned three more times and had to retrace his footsteps as we showered him with powerful torchlight and lit a campfire.
Evening 'Go' session

Machoi Glacier Snout

River at our base camp

Fall in

When in trouble or lost in mountains, Next to God remember HAWS

Evening timepass

Black ice
Day 18: Today we marched early for ice training and it was the test of what we learnt yesterday. In the same crevasse, we had to climb up in less time to qualify. The test went well and weather god too supported us.
Later in evening, we welcomed the team of Indian airforce which was returning after summiting Mt. Nun (Kargil). In this expedition instructors of NIM, HMI and JIM had also participated. While all this was happening four of us including me were given a task to arrange petrol for Generator. We tried with the expedition team but they didn’t have any. Fortunately, a biker from Pune was passing by who agreed to fill our bottle. Our whole camp will be always grateful to him. That night our generators were turned on.
It was again our tents duty and my duty resumed for the third consecutive day. The sky was clear and I could see all the constellations and glittering stars. Today our duty was somewhere in the middle of the night around 2 AM and as we were changing duties, we spotted both bears on a ridgeline about 100 metres from us. Another wave of terror and we had to be alert flashing lights the whole night. The bears were usually silent and just used the small hill above camp to make their way to reach the other end.

Climbing test

Usual punishment in snow

IAF Team after successfully summiting Mt. Nun
Day 19: We had to leave for summit camp carrying all the load on our back but the plan got cancelled due to poor weather so the instructors took this as an opportunity to conduct a viva and questions flowed like they were out of the box for everyone. They were in an adventurous mood today. In Morning we went for height gain, then viva and then the whole day went preparing for the next days climb. Everyone was awaiting for evening fall in where we would be told about next days plan.
The plan was as follows – Expedition would be held on the same peak, but we won't be setting up any summit camp, rather begin early morning and come back by late evening. Now, that meant a climbers marathon where we would be gaining 5000feet of height in a day on a not so flat surface but actual climbing. All this was planned this way because there was no weather window after that to make a summit attempt. I was excited but a little worried at the same time as we had to complete our mission and return back in very less time.

Day 20 : 5:55 AM we move while many of us hadn’t had a proper breakfast due to lack of time. The summit camp which we had to set otherwise became our first and only halting point between Machoi camp and summit. It was 3.5 hours trek with a light backpack consisting of climbing gear and a few snacks. So by 10 AM many of us had reached that point. We took some extra time helping our friends reach there and walking in a group.  Now was time to wear the climbing outfit from the harness to crampons because a fixed rope awaited us as the initial climb was too steep.
The route to this halting point was steep, treacherous and quite tiring especially when you don’t have a proper breakfast. At this point, I sipped some water, wanted to have my packed lunch but the weather was not very good and two ropes had already left, so putting a chocolate in my pocket I begin jumaring up the fixed rope along with four friends. Upon reaching the top was a beautiful wide snowfield. I could see all the ropes marching ahead while the last rope had just left 5 minutes before us. With building pressure at 15,500 -16,000feet somewhere we began sprinting towards last rope so that we can join them. A rope member shouted from that rope that the field has hidden crevasses and we should come only when roped up. Now we five didn’t have a rope between us and there were many people coming behind none of whom had a rope. All the ropes were either fixed or distributed among earlier teams which were ahead of us. On a quick decision, we used our self-anchors and jumar sling (which was long enough) to anchor each other and we five had been roped up. Walking fast somehow we five almost reached the last rope but that had taken every bit of energy out of us. But we had no options, we had to summit that day.

Rope ahead of us
Soon the team reached the last fixed rope where even the earlier teams were waiting. Only two teams had summited the peak and rest were stopped by instructor because of bad weather and our rope of five had also managed to reach that point which was officially considered as a summit by our instructors because we were just 100 metres short of summit but the time within which we had achieved this was a summit in itself as per our instructors. Few metres before this last fixed rope I and a friend had unanchored ourselves from the rope because we felt few symptoms of mountain sickness like many other people from other ropes. It was quite natural to happen after all we had been surviving on water and chocolates since morning and gained almost 5000 feet of altitude. Somehow we descended and helped others to descend at our base where we had left our bags. A hot Maggie was awaiting us which acted as a medicine at that point.
This way our course summited Mt. Machoi, though I couldn’t reach the summit I still feel having reached the last point was an achievement in itself in so little time. In future I do plan to climb the same peak again very soon with a successful ascent. We began our descent and reached our road-head by 6 PM. We had been into climbing mode on this day for more than 12 hours.
Mt. Machoi (17,907 ft)
Last point where the team reached, above this is summit

Roped up while the weather is turning bad (On our right is Mcahoi peak)

Day 21: It was time to move back to Sonamarg so we began loading the tents and started unwinding the camp and by noon we reached Sonamarg. It was nostalgic leaving Machoi camp, A place which had taught me so much. Upon reaching sonamarg we felt relaxed having officially finished our course. The bears would be having a feast that night at our camp after all after all we had left our left over chicken and bones for them.

Day 22: Today was a lecture on first aid which had got postponed. We learnt about high altitude medicine and use of Portable Altitude Chamber. An AMS affected person is laid down in this chamber and it is pressurised so that the casualty feels like he is at an altitude of 4500 feet.

Ahead of this session was our written test which went well.
Written test

Learning to use Portable Altitude Chamber
Day 23: The day was meant for preparation for the closing ceremony and our team had prepared a skit on some interesting and memorable incidents of course.

Some Other Photos...
The final ascent

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Machoi Glacier
Mr. Zehar :p


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