Friday, April 29, 2011

View from the top – 2nd Anniversary

Today my blogging avatar completes two years of virtual existence. Thanks to my friends, readers, followers and fans who continue to encourage me and visit me from all over the world and drop their comments too, the journey to my second anniversary, even though I wrote far less number of posts, seemed much quicker than the first. Today is the time to sum up and to once again go down the memory lane and to see a sneak rear-view of the year just gone by. But I will keep everything brief, mild and spice-less lest some of you might point at my vanity.

Compared to 103 posts during my first year, in the second year I managed only 48 posts (present one included) and this could either be due to extensive travelling and climbing that I did in this duration or could be due to my lazy nature, as some of you might offer. A trek and solo climb of a Himalayan giant during Aug – Sep followed by a serious one during Sep – Oct succeeded by a long stint in Kenya (Nov – Feb 2011) kept me on my toes. Many of my posts during this time revolved around Kenya and what I did there.

Google rank rose from 4 to 5, which still doesn’t tell me what it really says or means. 6426 visitors from 118 countries left their footprints on my blog. Followers went up to 91

, though it should have been more since few followers deleted their follow-ship for reasons I am not aware of and prefer not to dwell upon. Now let’s see when or who becomes my century follower. A special treat for that person in kind is a promise I am making publicly. As you know I have loads of mountaineering goodies to give away. The blog is now featured at Paris based travel portal favourite blog for second year continuously. For some reason, it also got adjudged as one of the best of Indian blogosphere award for 2010. I had hoped they would give me my first million, but they didn’t, which isn’t a bad thing since what would I do with a million!

Well, it had been a year of ups and downs but my blog always saw you all at the top. Thanks a million for cherishing what I pen and making it totally worth all the efforts. I am right now compiling my first book of climbing-adventure-travel stories from around the world. So if any of you know any good publishers / editors, please let me know. God bless and god speed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reaching South Pole

The true bottom of the world is a difficult place to reach but nothing stops you from reaching out to the 200 odd people who reside there during the summers. Right where all the meridians collide and unite at the southern tip of earth's spin axis it is a mini-township of people comprising mostly of scientists, doctors, researchers, household staff, technical people, engineers, adventurers and those who are absolutely mad-cap. They are a jolly sort and they love to provide cheer and warmth to all that visit the South Pole and they all reside within a space-lab kind structure standing on telescopic steel legs that is called 'Amundsen-Scott' Base and it belongs to the US. Though you would find the inhabitants representing many different race, culture, language, color, ethnicity and palate. It is a symbol of humanity too since out there they work towards the world as one and not as individuals. They love to recieve gifts and letters, especially during the warm months of Christmas and New Year. So please reach out to them, send them gifts and messages and tell them that one day you would visit them for sure. They will like it. And to do this you need to post your stuff meant for the South Pole residents to:

The Station Manager
South Pole Station
PSC 468 Box 400
APO AP 96598 - 5400

I have no idea how it will reach there, but it will for certain. Now don't you all wish that you could have bundled your ownself or your enemies (as the case may be) inside the parcel or envelop and mailed it to the place where everyone walks upside down and are constantly falling off the face of Earth. Good luck my friends, I am now headed just there. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Happy Easter and whatever.

Living Loving Life

This is a request post. I had no intentions of putting this up, since what follows was written to a friend in a mail about which I had literally forgotten. But today the friend requested that I should put this up as a post. And as you know, I cannot refuse a friend. So here it is, for this friend, and for my all other friends and to everyone who would pass by. Love it, live it, there's no other way of living the journey called 'Life'.

No one procreates because the life created will die one day, yet it will

No one begins a journey because it will end one day, yet it will

No farmer sows his field because his crops will be cut one day, yet it will

No gardener grows flower because it will wilt one day, yet it will

No one adores the youth because it will age one day, yet it will

No one loves because the love will be lost one day, yet it will

No one plays a game because you will lose, yet sometimes you will

The spring comes each year, knowing full well that whatever it created
and nourished will wilt in autumn and winter, yet it comes. There’s
peril in everything we do, even the breathe we take, even in the
smile we smile, since nothing lasts forever.

Perils are good and so is the fear of losing since that makes us cherish and value what we have.

That’s the reason why we must love life and living so much and should be
perennially happy, charged up, lively and smiling, since it
all can end any moment, any day.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

When does a Climb really begin?

After a series of Kenya posts, I decided to give Kenya a break, though there’s lot more to be written about that wonderful country with all its contrary incomprehensible comprehensiveness.

So let’s go back to our favorite arena of the big mountains and look at the question posed above. Actually this is a trick question since it doesn’t really have a definite answer, even I don’t have one that can be universally applied. Though I can certainly tell you when does a climb really ends; and that happens when you return home to your family and friends and regale them with your stories while showing them your pictures over cups of coffee / tea / juice / alcoholic beverages to the accompaniment of delightful savories; I don’t mind a full 14 course dinner either. Many of my vertical community citizens too prescribe to this view. It has often been debated that if a climber dies while on the summit or on his way down and doesn’t return alive then should he be credited with the summit! This is purely an academic situation though since by then the climber has scaled such heights that no mortal would ever reach. By now I am certain some of you have already caught my drift that I am once again trying to befuddle you all with my rhetoric without hitting the nail on its head. Ok, so here goes.

For some the climb begins on ground just before they step into their gear and take the first step up, for some the climb begins within the deep confines of their mind with the first image of the mountain they wish to summit, while for some the climb begins and ends on ground. Once my friend Ed Viesturs, the first American to climb all the fourteen 8000 m peaks in the world, said ‘summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.’ I absolutely subscribe to his view and have always followed it as god’s gospel truth. No mountain however beautiful, tempting and high isn’t worth enough to sacrifice one’s life. Mountains and extreme mountaineering teaches us to value and cherish life, not to extinguish it with some foolhardy acts of bravado. Reaching the summit is only half the story, the easier half and then begins the real adventure, the struggle to stay alive and return from where it all had begun.

Though on different climbs, my real climb could begin from different stages, there’s one point where it always does, no matter what and recently a non-climbing friend of mine from a distant land brought this point home when she mentioned; the real climb begins when you reach the top. I couldn’t agree with her more. The return journey from the top is more dangerous and most accidents and deaths on a mountain occur while descending. But then you would point out that coming down isn’t climbing and I am only speaking in metaphors and spiritual sense. Only non-climbing readers would say so, since when we descend on very steep and dangerous grounds we use a technique called: down-climbing or climbing-down. This sounds like oxymoron for sure, but then that’s what we do. So coming down is climbing too and that is the real climb which begins at the summit, right at the top of the peak.

By the time we reach the top, we are physically exhausted and have already used a large part of our rack / gear and the adrenalin that has been pumping in our blood, once we summit, dissipates immediately. Topping it all we are in a mad rush to descend and reach back within the warmth of our tents below and hot fluid. Body also starts freezing as we start to descend. Imagine the scenario, while going up our body is warm, mind is focused, we have more protections, and we have more energy. While descending we are physically weaker and more exhausted, our mind is listless, we have less gear and we are in a hurry – sure concoction for disaster. As our mind and body weakens and freezes our ability to make sound judgments also wane, which gets compounded, directly proportional to the altitude. And precisely for that reason the real climb must begin at the summit. We need to be more careful, more focused, more technically competent and more determined and above all we must climb down slowly and steadily with deliberation.

Mountains are my first love and I am married to them, even then I can’t stay on top forever. Such places are not meant for mortal humans beyond a very limited period of time. Despite having spent the better part of my life within the white arena I always wish to come down, to descend back to the green and lush earth though not into the city precincts.

My real climb always begins at the summit or at the point from where I decide to descend; where does your real climb begin? Happy climbing friends and I will always see you on TOP!