Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cow Poetry

Distant Hills

The distant hills call to me.
Their rolling waves seduce my heart.
Oh, how I want to graze in their lush valleys.
Oh, how I want to run down their green slopes.
Alas, I cannot.

Damn the electric fence!
Damn the electric fence!

Thank you.

(by Gary Larson in "The Far Side". The original image, showing a cow reciting the above in front of an audience of cows sitting on chairs, is not posted because of this. This post is dedicated to the Diabolic Dancer, who introduced me to

Monday, October 16, 2006

Har soz mein har saaz mein maujood hai tu

Yeh zameen jab na thi, yeh jahaan jab na tha
Chaand suraj na the, aasmaan jab na tha
Raaz-e-haq bhi kisi par ayaan jab na tha
Jab na tha kuchh yahaan, tha magar tu hi tu.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Kalindikhal - Part 8

23rd July (Suralaya Glacier to Kalindi Base): Great views in the morning:

Today, after some clambering...

... we got onto a pure white river of ice with, for a change, no rocks on it. This is probably still the Chaturangi, upstream from the point where it is joined by the Sweta Glacier (I haven't found a complete map yet). Here's what it looks like down the valley...

... and up it...

... and even further up, with Kalindi Pass itself running up the centre of the picture, between the white hanging glacier and the darker rock behind it:

Chandra Parbat was off to our right:

There were little meltwater rivulets running through the glacier, which we jumped across with suitable melodrama :P

... while Vishnu and Mahavir paused to play cards on the ice at regular intervals. I presume this shows some sort of high-altitude savoir faire.

We walked up the glacier to the foot of the pass (~5700m) and pitched camp there. Walking on the ice was surprisingly easy, and not very slippery at all. The glacier had its source in a massive icesheet (coming from China?), whose size is impossible to convey in pictures. Here's an attempt:

And here's our camp right at its rightmost end, where it's all cracked up:

The seracs behind Vishnoi are pretty far beyond him, and are each at least the size of a many-storey building.

Here's a view up the pass itself. We'll be going up this slope the next morning at the crack of dawn.

We sat outside in the gathering gloom for dinner, then prepared for a very short night -- we'd have to be up at 2:30am and start out by 4:30, to get on the ice before it started growing soft and dangerous in the sun. Vishnu had earlier suggested we might not even sleep tonight ("Nobody sleeps. The kitchen runs all night"), but that plan was shelved and we did get a few hours' shuteye.

(Part 9)

Kalindikhal - Part 7

(This part was wrongly included in the Day 6 episode. Sorry about the mixup.)

22nd July (Khada Patthar to Suralaya Glacier, 6km): I started out early today, and moved ahead with Vishnu. We got onto the glacier fast. The glacier was covered with rust-coloured rock. We'd heard the name "Raktabaran" ("blood-coloured") applied to one of the ice-rivers here. It could have been this very one (Update: according to a map I've just located, it wasn't), possibly as one of the four colours of the Chaturangi (which literally translates to "four-coloured") glacier. As is no doubt evident, my glacial geography is rather weak. Vishnu had passed this way a couple of weeks ago with another team, and he scouted out the trail of markers, little piles of stones, that he'd placed then. We moved ahead at a rapid pace, and I enjoyed the feeling of being at the front for once. After a while, we caught the most fantastic view of Satopanth, gleaming blinding white only a short distance away.

Vishnu was going to guide an army expedition up the mountain right after our trek. He pointed out the route to the summit: up the snow ridge starting between the two large black horns (standing out in the middle picture).

I think something about the views of the peaks today invigorated us. I can speak for myself, at least -- normally I'm pretty slow and steady, but today I felt like racing ahead all the time.

We also passed some interesting ice mushrooms -- large flat rocks carried down by the glacier under which the ice has partially melted, leaving them perched on frozen pillars.

And then this interesting little traverse of a knife-edge ridge of ice: normally, a glacial ridge has a sheer drop to on one side and rubbly, gentle slope on the other -- one walks just below the edge on this rubbly side. For this short stretch of maybe 20 feet, both sides were sheer, slippery ice. Vishnu marched out onto this edge, balancing like a tightrope walker...

... and keeping himself perched upright God knows how, hacked out some footholds on one side with his ice-axe. This took quite some time and the rest of the party turned up as he was finishing the job. I went across first, minus pack and (throwing dignity to the winds in the light of the abysses on both sides) on all fours, putting my hands on the edge and my feet in the footholds. The rest followed in identical fashion, except of course some, or possibly all, of the porters who tightroped across (with packs) like Vishnu.

I hate being a plainsman :(.

I'm to the left of the ridge, and Ajay about to cross it on the right, in the left picture. The right picture is what we'd have fallen into on the other side if we'd slipped. We had a gala time chucking pebbles into this pool after we'd crossed over.

The sheer walls of ice flanking these ridges were quite spectacular. Here's one angle on them:

Our camp was on the glacier itself, on a rock-strewn sheet of ice with a little hole for water nearby.

(Part 8)