Kanchenjunga Expedition-Snow at night and Puja in the morning (Day 23)

Sep 12

After my odyssey, if I thought I would have a good night’s rest I was mistaken. To my credit Major Chauhan was somewhat surprised I made it to Base Camp after all. Apparently the walk through the morain and the mountain climb leading to the camp had blown the wind out of the sail of almost all members. C. N Bodh extended his unusually warm welcome coming forward to shake my hand.

It began to snow after our dinner around seven. We are put up in what Gary informs me are `Artic tents’. It is pretty bland after our days in the fancy `North Face tents. However it is round and huge with accommodation for about 8 men unlike the North Face. One can stand and move around erect in it , with the pole being over 12 feet in the centre.

This pole bent after we failed to thump off snow from the roof around 11pm. We all Gary, Maj Chauhan, Amit and I who share the tent are in a flurry lest the tent –roof falls on us all-burying us inside. The snow is heavy. Its already over 8 inches and still snowing-the cloth roof hangs heavy with snow over our heads. Where we sleep the supports all along the sides of the round tent, snap away or bend low bringing the roof down low. The snowpiles up high along the sides of the tent and as we pound and push we know we are in for a long haul. I get up thrice after Amit and Gary and Chauhan and few others shovel the snow away outside while we thump the piling snow off from the roof. I just wonder as I get into the inner of the sleeping bag that I had being using only the `outer’ till now. I wondered that if it has snowed so much now in the beginning of September, how many sleepless nights we would have to bear with as winter progresses during October.

After a bad night we get up to a white morning. It has snowed around 8 inches-as I catch Nel Chand barking out to someone on the wireless –and I am happy to be safe and dry. Today is a Puja ceremony in Base Camp and it is a Sherpa- do all and all out. Pempa-the guy who has done everest 8 times-presides over the religious ceremony with another Sherpa-who speaks reasonably good English and seems to enjoy speaking it. He tells me later, he was a Lama for 10 yrs under his father who is still a big lama, until he fled his `ecclesiastical’ duties for the mountains. He however knows a lot of the Buddhist scriptures and he sits in front of a stine –pyramid erected in the middle of the camp and recites the verses with a deep resonant voice, very uncharacteristic of his sweet soft voice.

The unique aspect of this puja ceremony is that liquore is one of the main offering to the Gods. I shoot a lot and try to get as many pics of the team members taking pegs of Royal stag whisky. Kazi ensures everyone has enough and as in Gary’s case more than enough share of the `prasad’. There is also `warm halwa’ some drops of milk and an assortment of biscuits and sweet-meats to go around. During one particular ceremony, I am taken unaware when they fling flour in the air and i am covered by a layer of flour. I had a little dizziness yesterday when I came, towards everhing today I am fine as a fettle.

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