Thoughts and insights after a (un)successful expedition to the Chandra Bagha 13 peak in India.
No, we could not reach the summit of the 6264 m high C.B. 13 on our 11-day expedition and even had to make an early resignation. Not only the sudden snowfall, but above all the symptoms of altitude sickness and a head injury of one participant caused by rockfall were the reasons to withdraw as soon as possible before reaching the summit camp.
Suddenly, an exciting adventure in the middle of the Indian Himalayas turned into bitter seriousness and the otherwise peaceful C.B 13 suddenly seemed life-threatening.
Injured and ill participants, no summit luck, premature reversal. Why, as the organizer of the expedition, do I write about this apparent failure in the first place and do not keep quiet?
Well, there are several reasons for this, about which I would like to write here.
1. An expedition is not a promise for a successful ascent of the summit.
A successful ascent of the mountain is the result of professionalism on the mountain with good preparation, technical climbing skills, physical and mental fitness and a whole range of favorable conditions such as best weather conditions and health. These two alone have already brought many climbers on their knees.
There are almost more reasons to not succied, than to succied. Nevertheless, (wo)man is willing to accept a great deal of hardship for this opportunity and is aware of its possible course.
A mountain ascent is not an easy trekking tour, where almost exactly every single day is planned and easy to implement. No, at a technically demanding summit like the C.B. 13, neither the team nor participants can be sure of the outcome of the expedition.
Nevertheless, we do our best to maximize success when organizing an expedition. That brings me to my second point.
2. Professionalism of the expedition
A first-class trained team of mountain guides, porters and expedition cooks ensures that the expedition participants are well looked after and safely guided to and from the summit.
The expedition length for the ascent of the CB 13 was generously planned – we had few additional days for acclimatization, training or in case of bad weather. Good and extensive climbing equipment guaranteed the necessary safety on the mountain.
During this expedition, a 1 to 1 supervision of participants and mountain guides ensured that even if a customer was weak or left behind, the other could still have a chance for the summit.
Our two participants completed the first few days very well. Not only did they cope pretty well with the altitude and acclimatised well, they were also mentally and physically fit, in the best mood and full of enthusiasm for the surrounding mountains and the caring team.
When one participant experienced significant altitude problems with nausea and headaches at an altitude of 5500 m, which forced him to descend, the further ascent was initially planned for the rest of the team.
It was only when the victim was unfortunately hit by a stone on the forehead during the descent and the worst weather conditions were added that a descent was inevitable for the whole team.
At that time, we did not know how bad the injured participant was and an immediate rescue operation had to be taken out, to ensure a safe descent over ice passages and crevasses.
Rarely was I ever so grateful, when everyone was safely back down in the camp, where the rest of the team was waiting for us and we were able to treat the wound as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, it turned out that the square wound on the forehead was deep, but not life-threatening.
Terrible snow drifts overnight also made a second summit attempt hopeless. The team was able to bring the injured participant back to Manali safely and quickly within two days. When we all ate Pizza and Tandoori Chicken together in the restaurant the next evening, we could all laugh again and not only became aware of our adventure, but felt collective gratitude for the fact that we were all allowed to spend the evening together carefree and alive.
3. Fascination Mountain
Mountains can have a special fascination on us humans and for some of us an ascent holds an incredible feeling of freedom and happiness. But if some factors such as weather, snow, rock and ice conditions and health do not play along, such a mountain can quickly become a life-threatening danger. I myself saw the beauty of the C.B. 13 during this expedition and a few days later I wished nothing more than the successful descent for the whole team.
My sincere thanks goes to the entire mountain team! Only through the professionalism in the technical terrain of the two mountain guides Jogi and Sanju could we all safely descend into our camp. The steep passages over hard glacial ice with deep and wide crevasses were truly a challenge. And our support team Sanju and Puran and cook Happy also ensured the success of the expedition in the broader sense with their care and quick willingness to act.
4. It was a great and instructive 10 days
Despite this critical and life-threatening situation, we all had a very good time together. The Indian Himalayas are breathtaking and during the first 6 days of the ascent alone we were able to experience this mighty Himalaya up close in all its glory. There were huge glaciers, bright white mountain peaks shining in the sunlight, raging rivers, waterfalls, the most beautiful starry skies, boulder fields as far as the eye could see.
On the technical site, we learned mountaineering techniques, such as walking roped up, handling crampons and ice-pickle, abseiling and securing techniques. We learned to work as a team and to appreciate each other. We all spent a few nights together in the kitchen tent, drinking chai and eating rice, laughing, singing and talking.
We got close, became a team and enjoyed the time in the midst of the mountain giants. And above all, we learned what really matters in life: life itself!
Without being particularly religious myself, I have thanked God for all of our lifes.
But one thing remains. The C.B. 13 is still a beautiful mountain and we will come back. Perhaps next time he will allow us to get a little further to his summit.
Even if a successful mountain expedition is the most beautiful – a failure is certainly the bigger learning experience.