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Kun 2015 – 7077m

NB: Best viewed on a notebook. Most mobile devices do not play flash.

After mostly climbing (and skiing) solo for the better part of the last 2 years, Kevin and I decided to climb something together. After Nun, we considered a number of objectives including Reo, Satopanth and Sasser, but we finally agreed on Kun. Initially, it was just Kevin and I, who were part of the team. We didn’t get our preferred July-Aug window from the IMF so we settled for the only available slot, i.e. June-July. The peak was booked almost a year in advance. About 5 or 6 months before the expedition, Samarth, a good friend, expressed interest in the project. I was apprehensive initially but agreed once we discussed his training regimen and his background in the Himalayas. Samarth also suggested that one of his close friends V might be interested in the expedition. I was not sure about a fourth member in the team; like they say, “three is a crowd”. But Samarth suggested that his friend won’t be a burden and will not affect the balance of the team adversely. Hesitantly, I agreed, but requested Samarth to keep me posted about V’s preparations and his own progress.

By the end of February, Samarth had to drop out of the expedition because of his Doctoral preoccupations. V decided to continue with his preps for the expedition. We were told by IMF that the pre expedition briefing would be held on the 22nd of June, which meant that we would most probably drive to the road head on the 24thor 25th. Apart from training rigorously for the big mountain, I had also planned to do some solo climbing in order to acclimatise well before the expedition. (click here for more on the solo trip) So I was in Leh by the 11th of June; I drove with my friend Tsering to Shan Sumdo on the 13th and trekked to Nimaling over the next two days. I tried to climb in the area for the next few days. I was back to Leh from the mountains on the 20th, having had some good exposure to high altitudes. I had attempted Dzo Jongo and an unnamed peak but had to return empty handed because of adverse weather. Nevertheless, I had been able to trek to the base camp via very high passes with a very heavy pack and was also able to attempt both Dzo Jongo and the Unnamed Peak from the same base. Unfortunately, both attempts were cut short by deep

powder and snow storms. I still took some positives from that solo trip, in that I was able to acclimatise at close to 18000 ft with heavy loads. The biggest gain for me from the solo outing was that I met with Ben and Petra, a German – Hungarian couple, doing the Merkha valley trek. They became very good friends and after returning to Leh from the solo trip, we hung out often. I showed them around Leh town and we ate at my favourite restaurants. It was good fun.

22 June 2015

I had to fly out of Leh on the morning of 22nd in order to be at the IMF by 2, for the briefing. I met Kevin and Sridhar, our LO, at the IMF. The briefing was short and crisp. Since Sridhar was to depart from Terminal D while Kevin and I were to fly out of T3, we agreed to meet in Leh the following day instead of the airport in Delhi. Besides, Sridhar was staying at the IMF dorm while Kevin had invited me to stay at his hotel in Paharganj for the night. We rode a rickshaw to Connaught Place where we had lunch at a nice restaurant; Kevin had a truck load of beer. The place was a little too loud for my liking but I never complain as long as the food is good. After lunch, we went to Adventure18 and Adventure Point, both on Benito Juarez Road. Around 7 we decided to go back to the hotel. But I had promised Kevin that drinks that night were on me. So, we had a drink at a bar near our Hotel; technically Kevin had a couple of beers, I just had Lime Soda. Around 10 we went back to the hotel and agreed to meet in the lobby at 3 the next morning. We had an early morning flight and T3 is a huge terminal, so we didn’t wanna take any chances.

 I only slept around midnight, so I didn’t sleep much, and all the climbing in the last two weeks had made me a little sore, so I felt terrible getting out of bed. After a quick shower, I met with Kevin in the Lobby. We settled the bills and then arrived at the airport just in time, but not without a little misadventure. The stupid Rickshaw guy decided not to inform us that Rickshaws were not allowed right up to the terminal. He thought to enlighten us about this little inconvenience only at the Airport Shuttle point. What a scamster. Fortunately, we got the airport shuttle just in time and made it to the terminal. All my gear was in Leh with Ben and Petra, so we split Kevin’s gear (he was carrying 38 kilos, and he had 5 kilos at the hotel – Phew) to avoid excess baggage penalty. At the boarding gate we came across a bunch of school kids who I suspected were from Singapore. At Nimaling, Asta and Marty had mentioned that they were gonna escort a bunch of school kids to do the Merkha Valley Trek. Incidentally I was seated next to one of those kids. He confirmed that him and his friends were from Singapore and were indeed scheduled to do the Merkha Valley Trek. 

23 June 2015

We arrived at Leh around 7. Sridhar had arrived before us and was waiting for us at the terminal, while Sam was out at the Taxi Stand to drop us at the hotel. From the Hotel I went to meet Ben and Petra, to check on them and of course to pick my gear as well. We agreed to meet for lunch and then I went back to the hotel. I was really exhausted because of the back to back to flights over the last two days, so a nap seemed like in order. Ben and Petra showed up around 1. We had lunch at Gezmos and then strolled around the market place for a while. Sam and the rest of the support staff sorted out the rations and equipment for the climb.

The rest of the day was very uneventful. V and I had agreed to meet as soon as I was back from the briefing, but his phone was not reachable the whole day. I figured he was not back from his trip to Pangong; He was with his wife and 3 year old daughter, driving around Ladakh. It must have been fun.

The following day we went to the Old market. I needed a shave before going to the mountains and I also had some of Kevin’s and my own stuff which needed repairs. The repairs and sundry were sorted out by noon. I was expecting to meet Ben and Petra in the evening, so lunch was at the Hotel where we were staying. I also had a word with Sam and Mingma (a good friend and a guide) and sort of scurried through our tentative plan for Kun once again. We were to drive out of Leh around 6 the next morning. The journey from Leh to Gulmatonga is usually covered in two days with a night halt at Kargil. But I decided to reach Gulmatonga in one day, which would allow us one extra day on the mountain. I am usually pretty fast on the mountain, but we needed as many days as possible in order to cater for possible bad weather days and to maximise our summit chances. Sridhar, had his doubts about us being able to make it to Gulmatonga in a day, but Kevin and I were intent on doing it in one instead of two days and brushed aside every thought suggesting otherwise. We met with Ben and Petra in the evening. V had also made it back to Leh by then. I met his missus and beautiful little daughter. I slept quite late that night since I went to meet V at his guest house to check his apparel and gear. I also had to pick a shovel from a friend because we didn’t have one, and would need one to dig out camping spots on the mountain, because all three camps above base would be on ice. It was 10 by the time I got to the room; I stuffed my pack and hit the sack. I slept quite late that night; not the best idea considering we had to start quite early the next morning; there was a very long bus ride ahead of us.

25 June 2015

We woke up around 5. My hopes for Kun were destroyed even before I had a chance to realise them. I was in a rush to get ready and get out of the room. In the rush I stubbed the little toe of my left foot against the furniture. My toe nail was broken and there was thick blood oozing out of the toe. I was appalled by the accident. It was totally avoidable but I was just too flimsy and careless; so I said to myself, did I just stub my toe or did I stub my chances of even attempting the peak, let alone succeeding. The moment I stubbed my toe, noticed the broken nail and saw the blood, I figured it was curtains for me. I cleaned up the wound with some dettol and went for a shower. By the time I got out, Kevin was gone. I was a little befuddled by his behaviour. I didn’t exp