Sunday, December 27, 2009

the whole ANTARCTICA experience....

couldnt use the internet before.....so here goes now....from the time i landed...in chile...












14th Dec.
Reached at 4 o clock in the morning after 4 flight changes.....Mumbai - India to Johannesburg - South Africa to Buenos Aires - Argentina to Santiago - Chile to Punta Arenas - Chile.......feeling even more tiered after writing it down......read and slept and read and slept....music music and the slept again....trying not to think about the cold in the plane and that is waiting for me at Antarctica.

14th Dec
All settled in this new place....thanks to couchsurfing....i don’t feel like a damn tourist.....Antarctica Logistics and Expeditions my adventure company that i will be climbing with...... my stuff had not come in...but my host annibal was so sweet that he went and collected it from the airport for me.....and when i retunred from dinner with the expedition group.....he surprised me....with it....it was great....i cant beleive a stranger would do all this......Chile feels very beautiful...the summer has just set in here......theres an air of comfortableness n ease in the air......like the holiday air in goa or more like Gokarna.......soaking every bit of the warmth.....all the way to my bones.....

15th Dec.
We had a briefing in the morning with the team......like everest i have some highly experienced mountaineers with me.....feel like a little baby taking my first little steps with them.....unlike everest we will be carrying all our equipment plus some of the team gear......its going to be a fantastically different and conditions here are going to be much more challenging than Everset was......now I miss the comfort we felt with Partemba Sherpa around us.....so almost sure of the peak.....but here its gona be the unimaginable....mysterious.......even with all the LIGHT!!

16th Dec.
We had to wait for the Weather reports to come in for the flight to ANTARCTICA.South of Tierra del Fuego lies the open water of the Drake Passage, well known for its violent storms. At approximately 60° south latitude we reach an area of ocean called the Antarctic Convergence. This area is rich in plankton and other tiny creatures that form the base of the food chain for Antarctica’s rich bird and wildlife colonies. We are now entering the area governed by the Antarctic Treaty. At 66° south we cross the Antarctic Circle. Along this circle the sun never sets at the austral summer solstice and never rises at the austral winter solstice. Further south Antarctic days and nights lengthen until at the South Pole the sun rises and sets only once a year. It was a beutifull flight....i almost felt like my two eyes were not enough to see all the Beauty and Amazing views just on the WAY to Antarctica......I feel so excited my blood is rushing to my brain at the speeds of the winds here!!! The moment I set foot ON Antarctica....I knew this was going to be no ordinary Expedition....I felt the adventure and the risk in that moment..... the first gush of air that blew my hood away and the air made that familiar whisper in my ears......this time it was going to have no mercy....its just going to BLOW u away.....




17th Dec.

Though the winds had scared us the earlier day.....they allowed us to fly from Patriot Hills to Vinson Base Camp .....we now stand at the height of 2100mtrs...though my watch shows me a little more.....in comparison to Everest it is as good as 3000mteres on Everest......the oxygen in the air has already become thiner and this time I am going without oxygen....like we had done the 7075mtr peak....SATOPANTH in 2008.....those landscapes keep flashing in my head.....though the landscape here is very different than what I had seen before....


18th Dec.

Shifted to Low camp today.....a 9 kilometer walk with an height gain of 650meters.....the snow climbing lasted for 6 hrs...the sun shone brightly....made us sweat but then...the winds played their “boo” game bursting on us just when we thought that they are gone.....the constant sunlight makes you feel like u have not moved ahead....like running on a treadmill when you really need to reach another point......every morning we start walking or get out of the tent it feels like no time has passed and yet a whole night and a whole day have gone by......the importance of the dark....the romantic ness of that “raina”...... the day light feels spooky here...like someone has cursed this ice dessert with light till it melts away......
Hills, ready for cooking by our guides and Vinson base camp staff.
All climbers on Vinson are required to follow ANI’s stringent environmental policy. Unlike other peaks in the midlatitudes,the snow on Vinson does not melt away in the summer to give a fresh start each season. Any signs of our passing that we leave behind remain for years to come. For this reason,
nothing may be left on the mountain. All garbage and solid human waste, equipment and extra food must be returned to base camp.From there, ANI transports garbage and waste back to Patriot Hills and onward to Chile for disposal. Urine and grey water are concentrated in designated sites. So I have been having a nice relationship with the bags....who are quite difficult to maintrain in this cold....but its a zero impact expedition....so im more than glad and proud to do what i do.



19th Dec.
The so called nights have been like not that bad.....the cold makes up for the dark....u wana cuddle up in your sleeping bag like you never wana come out again....i bury myself in the darkness of my bag and the the two eye shades i wear make me feel warmer........have an acclimatisation stay at this camp for today .....will move up tomorrow if the weather permits....the weather has been treating us very well...the sun is bright...at this camp the sun dissappears behind a mountain between 2am to 11 am...making it amazingly chilly....so we sleep during that time...the "day" begins late at this camp....doing the acclimatisation walks and hikes......want that chai and bhajji......whenever i comeback.....



20th Dec.

Had a long climb up to high camp.....8 hrs....started of at 2pm by 5 we were at the lunch ledge....by 8 we were at the top of the fix lines....what i could see around me....i cant describe in words....not even pictures.....every photo i took i knew was not as good as what i could see.....a never ending continent of ice.....i wonder how shalkton orrobert scott did what they did....1020 m of elevation gain, fixed ropes on slopes up to 45°, 8 hours travel. The weather was good as we ascended to High Camp, which lies at just over 3,770 m. Our route takes us
up the broad mixed spur at the northern end of the Branscomb Ridge.We ascend fixed ropes on snow slopes up to 45°, with some rocky sections and areas of blue ice. High camp is more basic than camps below. We cook simple, dehydrated meals and eat them in our tents or outside if the weather is calm. Our next day will be spent resting and acclimatizing at High Camp. This gives everyone the best chance of summiting the following day.





21st Dec. It is a bright and sunny day....one team left for theire summit attempt today.....i feel a little scared....actually its just the heart beating rapidly....i got out and took some pictures of the breathtaking view s from this HIGH camp....we had to check the gama bag....and our guide pachi went inside it as a guinie pig....that scene some how reminded me of.....that morning on everest when henry had walked back to base camp flashed in front of my eyes and i tried to stir myself away from those visuals. I quite ness of this lonely remote continent had started playing a horror tune in my ears....i tried not to listen to it.....but I wonder what i would do if I was a polar bear......hibernate and look for food when im awake....who would then bother to climb the highest.....
22nd Dec.
The day started off slow......the weather looked angry today ....the wind woooooooooohooooooooo for the entire time that was supposed to be night.....pushing the tent walls on us.....like my mum pushing me out of the bed for school in the mornings......the winds refused to subside.....stepping out of the tent was like having the coldest air in this universe enveloping you in its clutches like it would never ever leave you......I prayed and swayed on my knees in the tent....wondering which prayers would be answered.....the remoteness of the continent made me feel like probably god doesn’t or rather cant hear the prayers coming from this side of the world....yet feeling so close to him at some points....like he is the only one suffering the cold with me........pray pray pray

......not wanting to go ahead ...... the sun seem to have dissappeared....behind a blanket of thick thick black clouds....an antarctic storm...the weather forecast was worse for the next day so we got ready to leave for the summit....and we were off by 9am.....the wind was playing in its territory....we had no power....and no prayers were gona help it even reduce its force slightly......had to reach to the heat in the depths of my body and somehow make it reach my toes , hands, fingers and face.....icicles formed on my nose and hair that crept out from beneath my cap......the snow particles danced in the air.....like celebratory strings being thrown from balconies.....it was going to be a long walk.....the first 2 hours went by fast but not the way.....we reached thehalf way pointer in about four hours......i was prepared for an 8 hrs to go up.....after 6 hrs the climb became steeper the wind harder and colder......my head began to hurt....maybe it was the cold....or the altitude.....or the tight snow goggles....and the the spin drifts began....gushes of wind that lift the snow and swing them in circular motions to the top....the particles went in our hoods....and left our spines shivering.....this was going to be tougher than anything i had done....we then reached the summit ridge just when me and my guide had thought that it was going to be impossible....we reached the summit ridge.....met one of our teams just returning from the summit......now even the coldest of coldest winds couldnt deter me.....another 45mins to the summit....at 4:50 pm i stood on the tallest point in ANTARCTICA......not that i could tell that....even if i had just stood in camp it would have looked the same.....the visibility was zero....just white.....took 3 pics.....in 3 minites and at 4:55 am we started moving down......on the way down we ran...ran from the storm from the wind.....all the way to high camp.....weather started getting better......the sun started showing some sign of existing somewhere far far away.....and by the time we reached back in camp the wind had died down......and so had all my muscles with the cold.....at 7:30 pm we were back......we had then a slow passing evening.....loads of water being drunk to reduce the head ache.....some noodle soup.....some warmth from the kitchen tent and slept like a baby in my cocoon....dreaming of school....and school days......thinking of my next summit.....

23rd Dec.
We were up by 8am packed up the entire camp.....folded the tents...the kitchen tents...had a quick breakfast....and by 11 we said good bye to the high camp.....the way on which we had taken 8 hrs to go up.....we galloped down in 2 hrs all the way to low camp......picked up the stuffwe had left had low camp...the poop bags....etc and then had a beautiful walk towards Vinson Base Camp......the sun was back....it shone abunduntly over us.....like the bad weather had come to just test us.....we were relaxed now....once we reached the big snow field we couldnt see the VBC....there was a blanket of fog that had gathered in the valley.....it was bright ....and then we walked in to the fog...and the sun dissappeared again.....Helga...my german climbing buddy and pachi my guide.....we walked and walked....and then helga who was lugging a big sledge of her equipment.....(i had chosen to pack everything in my backpack).....decided to sledge down in the the sledge....but pachi said that there are some crevasses we need to be carefull of......but helga was persistance....and so was i.....whn would we ever get to do this.....so me and helga sat on the sledge....helga holdoing my legs as breaks on the sides.....and pachi running behind us....the rope attached to us.....and whenever a steep bit would come we would scream.....RUN PACHI RUN!!!!....it was crazeeee.....hilllerious....i laughed till i had tears in my eyes....




24th Dec.
We were back in base camp....we were stinking and it was going to be chistmas eve today.....we couldnt be stinking like that....so me and helfga stole about 4 liters of hot water in our bottle and had a hairwash in our tents....changeged our clothes....put on some kajal and mascarra and we were ready for the PARTY.....dont know exactly what we are celebrating....the summit or chirstmas....it was a double celebration....and tonight we stayed up and played MONOPOLY till the wee hours.....till 3 in the morning.....



25th Dec.

Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way Santa Claus will come all the way from the north pole.........Jingle bells jingle bells....I want a fire place and the scent of scented candles.....some wine and brownies!!!!! Just the thought cheers me up.....awww that warmth in India

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Though I thought I would sleep like a baby......the excitement to reach back home to relish that moment on the summit tell mom about every step i took....tell the man who came with me in some way or the other.... about it and the whole world of what i have seen and felt.


the experiences of the other climbers is like a wealth of knowledge.....i could have all the money in the world and still not get that......the quietness of this continent that i can enjoy now.....now that im not scared of it....im a part of it.....in this silence I can see my family ....the little girls who make so much noise u wish u were deaf....that doting aunt....who lets me sleep in the mornings......that mum of mine who pretends she is not scared at all......that man who stands alone at the foot of the Himalayas and feels the wind that blows from here to there........the friends ......the neighbous...... that love that has protected me from the cold......and sent me to the top and pulled me back.....the tears fill up and in this silence they are the warmth my country sends me from miles away....its a gift......

2 comments:

  1. oh ma shonu i wish i was with u to give u the warmth....am so proud and happy that u are getting such wonderful experiences of life at such an young age....the freedom u got to do what YOU want to, you are using it in a rightful way.....am the proudest and most happiest mother.....god bless you and let all your wishes come true with this new year......

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  2. i love you shonu......and miss you a lot....but go and achieve what you are suppose to.....i am sooooooo happy that you are able to do what you wanted to do.....but donot forget our culture and our principles in life.....our character is the most important factor of our life so take care of it as you would take care of me, in all odds.....all my prayers are for you and your success.....so go and conquer the world....

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