I remember reaching Nepal and our guide Naren laughing at us for commenting that the temperature in Kathmandu was ‘cold’. We were told to man up, that there was more to face. This was an all guys team, and a rare one in a long time, I guess the fight for greatest alpha was bound to be there. Little did we know, Naren was soon to be the highlight of our trip.
We took a 4X4 to Syrubesi, but in essence it was just an SUV outfitted with pathetic 4×4 drive. The road was unforgiving for all of us, since 7 of us plus guides squeezed into that one SUV. It was an 8-hour drive away from dusty Kathmandu, and that was the only solace we had, I guess.
Syrubesi was the last actual town that we were going to reside in. It was also the first night that I managed to see the sky filled with stars. I remember how we ran up to the roof only in fleece jackets just for that sight while we cursed at the cold.
The next day, we finally started walking, and walking and walking. Each tea house we stopped by we asked ourselves our purpose here. At each whiff of chocolate and snacks, the decision to spend that cash was a big life choice. We had all chosen to pack light and went without any comfort food, and it was not long before we regretted that.
As the days went by, Langtang Valley started to widen, the forest started to thin out and we were greeted by the true sights of Langtang Lirung. At this point we all got used to smelling the gas from the point man. We were able to identify each other by the color of the fleece jackets, and the way the silhouettes of one another stood out in the dark. We knew each others pace and everything started to feel a lot more comfortable.
Kyanji Gumpa was a gem in itself. I woke up at 530 in the morning and walked out to see the sunrise. Just imagine complete silence as you watch the pink hue of the sunlight edge itself across the peaks of the valley, and yaks grazing absently at an arm’s reach. It was the greatest escape from city life.
We did training here for 2 nights. Abseil, jumar, climb high, sleep low. The catch being Naren wanted us to get used to Mountaineering boots, so we wore them from this point on. It was a blast!
Next stop was lower base camp, followed by higher base camp where we would stay a total of 6 nights there. It was probably from here on out that altitude started to take a real toll on our team. We had to heli-evac one of our guys out. So ultimately 6 of us were the ones who made summit.
Summit push day started at 2am. We only returned at 930pm. It was the longest day for many of us. There was no snow in our season, we faced an icy unforgiving terrain. The steps up the glacier were jagged and sharp. I guess it was quite a ‘technical’ mountain for a first timer. There were 3 jumar sections. And they went from steep to steeper to vertical. The last portion was a literal vertical rock wall with loose rocks threatening to decapitate the guy below you.
Terrain was one thing, but we all know that the greatest enemy is ourselves. Not enough food, water and some of us had to fight asthma. On our way down, tensions were high between the guides and all of us. The ice screws started to give way cause the ice was melting, ropework was not perfect for some of us and there were gentle exchanges of kind words. I enjoyed every single moment of it, because all smiles and laughter meant it was too easy. There were so many elements that we had to overcome, and it was tenacity in all of us that took us through. I think we were all very proud to have shared this experience together.
If you like to challenge yourself, fight the pain, embrace the elements, this is the right place for you.
MIR 16 Winter TMC consists of: Jonathan Yee Chen Xin, Eliot Robinson, Tom Michael Ho, Wong Chee Weng, Justin Koh, Siva Subbiah, Lim Joel