Taking It to the Limit
My spirit and strength had been taxed to its limit by the rigours of this difficult trek around Manaslu. Our ultimate objective the Larkya La pass (5160m) was within sight but still seemed like a world away. I slumped down on the snow exhausted beyond measure. My BFF Praveen urged me on like a crazed cowherd, his words of Go Mayo Go and Lal Sitara Zindabad invoking the gods of all our childhood, resonating in my ears but making no sense. I closed my eyes to shut it all out. Was this the end?
That morning we had left at 5 am from Dharamsala (4460m), the last frontier stop before the pass. While appropriate in its translation as a “rest house for pilgrims” in reality it was an awful dump huddling at the edge of the windswept moraine with untiled floors, broken toilets and inedible food. We were glad to leave it behind as we pushed up the moraine under the lightening sky. All around were the crystal peaks soaring up into the pristine blue vault of heaven. The weather gods were smiling down on us, giving us clear passage over the Larkya La.
But I couldn’t bring my thoughts to focus on the icy beauty around us. The numbing chill seeped through two pairs of gloves, freezing my fingertips. I gave my trekking poles to Shyam, the man who always saved me and thrust my hands deep into the pockets of my jacket. My throat was dry and parched but the damn water bladder tube was frozen. Shyam poured some down my throat from his own bottle and I stumbled on through the icy wilderness.
The trail wasn’t particularly difficult but it was long and arduous and wound ever upwards through the moraine following a line of iron staves that acted as beacons showing us pilgrims the way. I straggled along at the back of the pack, plodding upwards, hour after interminable hour. The sun came up and the mountains shone with a blinding brightness that engulfed us all. I began to sweat profusely under my down jacket and fatigue crept its way through every limb. For the first time I began to wonder if I could make it over the top.A sprightly older German couple that we had seen many times on the trail now passed me going strong for the top. Just in front was Divya, the last remaining holdout from Chennai, who had done commendably well for her virgin effort. They smiled and said something about the father-daughter bond becoming stronger in the outdoors. Both Divya and I had to stop to laugh. A moment of much-needed levity that warmed our hearts – who should feel more pleased by this unintentional compliment?