First light soon hit the surrounding peaks, turning them golden-pink.
We moved up an icy, crevassed slope between a dark, rocky outcrop and a huge white bulge.
Fresh snow made it difficult to make out the crevasses. After a bit we roped up, Vishnu leading, and moved on very cautiously. It was tough going, since we were wearing plastic mountaineering boots (and gaiters) for the first time and they're very awkward if you're not used to them (and to the weird, splayed gait needed to ensure purchase on the snow).
There's some ice-axe-anchored crevasse-testing going on in the rightmost pic.
The roping-up proved to be prudent. After some time, we found ourselves on the lip of a crevasse about a couple of feet wide. First Vishnu jumped across, then Vishnoi. Then, to complete the trio of V's, it was Vladlen's turn. As he hesitated on the edge, Happy turned to me and said "Yaar, teri guide ki bahut phat-ti hai!" ("Your guide gets really nerved out"). I was about to make a suitable retort when we looked around and found the guy had disappeared, rucksack and all, and faint shouts of "Help! Help!" were coming from the icy depths :P. Thankfully he'd jammed somewhere inside and not gone all the way in. The folks in front dug their iceaxes into the slope to hold him in place on the rope, and after fifteen minutes of mighty pushing and pulling he emerged, unhurt and surprisingly cheerful. To our eternal regret, we were so caught up in the moment that nobody took a photo.
The rest of the climb was a bit of a struggle (and my lack of conditioning showed), but we eventually made the couple of hundred metres to the pass itself, at 5947m. It was gorgeous -- there's no other word for it. Bright sunlight, blinding snow and an incredible view.
(Click on the picture, enlarge it if necessary, and scroll left to right to see it properly. It covers about 180 degrees. If I can get a 10-foot long print of this from the original file it should be a knockout.)
And here are the lot of us on top. Mukut, Abigamin and Kamet (7242, 7355 and 7756m, L to R) float over the clouds just above my head (I'm the leftmost guy).
After a few minutes on top, we decided to head down the other side to Rajparav. This involved clambering down a steep, snowy slope to a huge icefield that seemed to stretch on and on and on and finally roll over into infinity.
That's our advance party of porters in the right two pics, and the thin lines cutting across the icefield (enlarge the middle picture) are crevasses. We plodded on and on across this white desert, sinking in ankle to waist-deep with every step. It was also pretty hot, and we ran out of water, and had to refill our bottles from a shallow puddle of meltwater a couple of inches deep. The road to Rajparav lay along the right side of the icefield, but as the sun rose higher and higher the surface became more and more soft and treacherous. So we decided to pitch camp a little earlier than planned, just below the lip of the icefield straight ahead. There was no way to walk down, so we had to rappel down the ice. This was great fun -- we rammed a couple of iceaxes into the ground and anchored two ropes to them (the main rappel line, and a safety rope). There was a small snag -- the safety rope was too short, so Mahavir and Gagan Singh stood on a little ledge where the safety rope ended and unhooked the rapeller from it when he got there, so that he could climb down the last few metres on the main line alone. Vishnoi and I had rappelled before (down a three-storey wall of our hostel in IITK :)), so we went last, along with Vishnu, eschewing the whole safety rope business and trusting the main line alone.
Here's the rappelling scene -- the middle third of the picture is ice. Vishnu, the last man down, tied his rope to an ice screw which he had to do some fancy ice-climbing to recover later.
Little meltwaterfalls trickled down the rocks below the lip of the icefield, and we clambered past these channels to get to camp...
... where much fooling around was done.