Kanchenjunga Expedition Pictures
``Are you sure you will be able to climb?’’, asked Lt Colonel Satish Sharma, leader of the Indian Army’s Kanchenjunga Expedition 2004. I was not a city slicker, who had never seen a mountain before. I was born and brought up in a hill station and had trekked up small hillocks for picnics and walked in over two feet of snow in my Wellingtons on many a Shimla’s winter. But going up the world’s third highest mountain was a different ball game altogether.

I looked at the satellite pictures of Kanchenjunga on the wall behind the Colonel and realized clearly where I was pushing myself. The picture taken from the mountain’s southwest side showed a broad white massif of the mountain, with leviathan glaciers running down its many ridges. I saw the progression of camps marked on the mountain and traced the Advanced Base Camp to a spot frighteningly close to the very summit! This was the point till where I had volunteered to accompany the Indian Army to record its expedition on camera and in my journal.

Would I be able to make it? Those who have climbed both Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga, say latter is a much more difficult mountain. It demands great technical expertise from the mountaineer and unlike Everest which has now become every back-packers destination, Kanchenjunga is not on the itinerary of even the most seasoned of mountaineers. The route to the summit is virtually unknown. The dangers and pitfalls on the way undiscovered. In Everest there are avalanche experts called `ice-doctors’ who go ahead to the Khumbu Ice fall region before the climbers and warn them if there is danger of an avalanche there. No such luxury in Kanchenjunga. Avalanches, blizzards, falling rocks, and crevasses have to be risked with the climb. There are no fixed ropes here and every expedition has to do its hard work. One in every four climbers has died climbing this 8586-meter high mountain, making it arguably the most dangerous mountain in the world.

I was accompanying a team of hardened mountaineers of the Indian Army, mind you. Almost all the 22 members had been on more than half a dozen mountain expeditions before. Four of them had climbed Everest, besides other 8000 meter peaks of the world. Among them, Naib Subedar Neel Chand and Naib Subedar C N Bodh, were regarded as the best mountaineers in India. Even Gary Lamare the young zealous cameraman hired to make a film on the expedition was something of a precocious climber. A few years ago, he had climbed up to Camp 1-in Everest-and this time, he was determined to climb to the very top of Kanchenjunga.

Even the thought of walking in such company was intimidating. I thought of avalanches, frostbite, deep crevasses and death. Nonetheless, I nodded to the Colonel.
For bigger pics of the Kanchenjunga expedition please see under ``photo-documentaries on my website...
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