Si Lin's face erupted in a huge grin. "Don't worry, Aloke, we'll be down and up in a jiffy."
|Hu Si Lin|
The next 30 minutes were perhaps the most frightening I have ever spent in the mountains, rappelling off a couple of ice screws into the labyrinth, expecting any moment to be flattened by a boulder on its way down the cliff. I belayed Si Lin on the last section as he finally emerged from the ice fall onto the gentler snow slope and found his cache. He then insisted that we return the same way to the camp below the peak of Parvati South where the rest of the team were enjoying their late breakfast.
We had just taken a decision which by no stretch of the imagination could be classified as a Calculated Risk. I told myself that I should recommend Si Lin for a course in Risk Management in the Mountains. In the meantime I was stuck with him as my climbing partner on the Parvati-96 Indo-American Himalayan Expedition. Though the title was quite a mouthful, with 15 members it wasn't hard to swallow!
http://taccidental.blogspot.ca/2014/01/the-chango-chronicles-1995-grip-on.html ) I found a letter from the Himalayan Club enquiring if I was interested in being part of a joint expedition with The Mountaineers of Seattle. Little did I suspect that the unenviable task of "Leader" would be foisted on me. Don Goodman, a long standing member of The Mountaineers, was living in Mumbai at the time and had suggested to the Himalayan Club that an Indo-American expedition might be a good idea. I had first seen Don when he was giving an illustrated talk at the Himalayan Club about a hardcore ascent of Mt.Foraker in Alaska. I also knew that he had been to Everest and some seriously high peaks around the world, lived in Seattle and had hiked and climbed extensively in the Cascades, Alaska and Canada. He was eminently more suited than me to head the team, but due to the bureaucratic requirements of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for joint expeditions, I became the Accidental Leader!
Don is a man of a rather generous build matched by an equally generous nature. He is armed with a great sense of humour and a loud, infectious laughter. We chose the Parvati valley in Kullu because it did not require the reams of paperwork that areas designated within the Inner Line demanded. Glacier IV at the head of the valley had been well documented by a few pioneering teams and provided access to a number of peaks with modest heights and varying degrees of difficulty and we agreed that it would provide the perfect playground for our mixed bag of members.
The whole team, barring Prabodh Ganguly, gathered at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation's complex in New Delhi and after the appropriate meetings, briefings and much handshaking with the Director we loaded up the bus that had been hired to transport us and our baggage to Manikaran, the road head.
During the stop at Kullu, while the rest were enjoying brunch, Don, Steve, Jaspal Chauhan (the Liaison Officer) and I went to pay our respects to the District Magistrate. This courtesy was not only formal, but ensured that the local authorities were in the loop if a mountain rescue had to be organised.
|The route from Manikaran to Mantalai|
|The Parvati flows through a gorge beyond Pulga|
|Natala and Raghu at a chai stop|
|A guest entry in the register of the Pulga Rest House, 81 years before us! We were amazed that the ink and paper had survived so long...|
|Shridhar arrives at Khirganga, ready for a dip in the hot springs|
|Kullu Eiger - 5664 m|
|The last lap to Base Camp|
|A pastoral idyll en route to Khirganga|
|Sunset at Uri Thach|