Saturday, May 2, 2009

Life off the edge 1 – Some of my most technical climbs

Life offers us unlimited options and choices, most of which are manmade. I don’t accept most and consciously and willingly reduce my options to the barest minimum. Grasping only what is essential and natural. There is an almost non-existent line separating our dreams from our realities, for we think therefore we are! And in our dreams we can cover galactic voids in a wink or create universes out of nothing. There is a constant yearning for what we are not and what we want to be, there is a perennial struggle to grasp what lies beyond our vision while discarding those that are within. My life is essentially devoid of these struggles or turmoil, since I live only for my dreams and I foolishly believe that all my dreams are viable, achievable and definitely within the span of this lifetime. Choices are extremely limited, banal to the best, so I go for it, most often than not, I rush in where angels would fear to tread. Life on and off the edge is all about believing in my dreams, holding my life in my hand and swinging out my ice axe into the fuzzy unknown, with complete faith in myself and the elements, and finally emerging out alive at the top, only to stand on an insignificant piece of rock or a forlorn patch of ice. Risking my life and limbs incessantly, time and again, putting everything at risk on one single move, on one tiny ant sized piece of ledge or rock, one insane leap, one single frozen second, one gravity and definitely logic defying upward push… nothing to hold on to, or to hold me back. If I fall, I go and there are no worries at all, but if I don’t then I am euphoric and tired and afraid, shaking like a dry leave in tempest, cursing my stupidity and vowing that never again would I depart from the horizontal plain. Why do it! Why do I do it! Because I am not happy living one life, but dying a million times and living million lives in this one I fulfill my infinite dreams, flying on their wings. Living every moment while dying in the next, I live a thousand fantasy. In this series of my ramblings I will constantly take you to the edge and throw you off into empty air and when you fall free, without gravity or sense of space, will you experience true freedom, true unwinding of your soul, with absolutely nothing to fear and nothing to hold you back. For as they say: if you are not living on the edge, you are taking too much space, so let’s give it to the world, let them enjoy their space while we will live OFF the edge. The FUN has only begun.

Climbing in the Cordillera Carabaya Range in the Peruvian Andes:

Picture 1.

This unnamed peak (the black rocky pyramid) had fascinated me from the first time I saw it from the air, while returning from another climb in the Peruvian Andes. It took me nearly two years to gather a small team and enough fund to go looking for it from ground. To find this unknown peak, in one of the remotest and least explored mountain regions in the world was not an easy task. But we finally did find a local alpaca herder, who would carry our loads to the base glacier, who recognized it from my picture. Though unnamed by the mountaineering fraternity, he told us that the mountain was the abode of the ‘Huaca’ spirits and we should not climb it. As we approached the general area, huge clouds from Pacific rolled in and blotted out our horizon. We had to climb another peak to get this view, and as if in a dream it emerged out of the clouds. I felt its fatal charm, like sirens calling and trapping the mariners. Despite our guide’s warning, we managed to climb this peak in a duration of 11 insane days. When it was all over, we were totally spent, exhausted, without thoughts or action and one member less. One of my finest climbing buddies, Sarah, uprooted a piton while descending and plunged to her death, never to be found again. There she still lives, I would like to believe, giving company to the ‘Huacas’, regaling them with her charm and smile. For all I know, by now she could be the ruling queen of the holy spirits.

Picture 2.

Shows our ascent route in blue and the pink circles are the campsites. We failed on our first attempt to the right when the danger of rock fall became too obvious even to a harebrain like me. Hanging from our teeth, we had some gritty climbs. We were bombarded by snow, avalanches, fierce winds and terrible temperatures. Due to the sheer technicalities, we did aid climbing in our normal hiking boots. Till date I have no idea how we escaped without any frost bites. Sarah fell when her abseil anchor uprooted at the notch of ‘Y’ on the route, where our first and second route joined. I was right beside her, and in less than a fraction of a second she was whisked away by the wind and gravity while I stood mute and frozen, with absolutely nothing in my capacity to do or prevent her death. But I know as much for her as much for me, that we climbers like to live right here right now, so every moment our last and also the first where one dream ends and another, equally or more outrageously fantastic, begin.

Picture 3.

Here I am leading one of the crux pitches, with classical aid climbing stance, beyond the penultimate campsite, smack right on the middle of the sheer sweeping face.


  1. am too frozen to comment...

  2. I do wonder why you do what you do, but then you wouldn't be you if you didn't do what you do and so i love you more then i did yesterday and so want you back in my arms where you belong.
    Be safe, S.