On Way to the Top
Tale of Annapurna Expedition
It was the dawn of 14th June 2009. The Annapurna IV expedition was nearing its end. As I pondered upon the whole length of our trip, I felt the anticipation building up. Throughout the expedition the team had tried to cross hurdles in order to reach the top of the peak. And yet the crevasse was proving to be insurmountable. Fatigue was also taking a toll on us at the height of approximate 22,500 feet (6860m) where the oxygen level was much thinner. It was a mind-blowing game of extreme patience and perseverance as technical climbing was the only way to go pass the crevasse to reach the summit of the Annapurna IV peak (24,690ft / 7525m).
We were initially frightened to see the six-foot wide crevasse in front of us. It was as if a venomous snake was lying ahead of us as we climbed through approximately 60 degree inclined ice-wall and knife-edged ridges of the Annapurna IV. Anxiety seeped through the veins of each of us. The Sherpa informed us that if we can climb for another two and half an hour, we would be able to reach the summit.
We started to push for the summit at 2:30 am wearing all the technical climbing gears. Notwithstanding headache and extreme fatigue we pressed ourselves to the very limits to consummate the steep feat of reaching Annapurna IV summit. We tried to ignore the bad weather conditions of the monsoon, the avalanche roaring down from mountains nearby, and the stormy winds. However we started to lose our spirit of climbing every second as the crevasse opened. It resembled a long hollow mouth, eager to gobble us down.
By that time we had travelled from camp one (17,716ft / 5400m) to camp two (21,817 ft/ 6650). The decision to make a summit-push on the very next day was highly ambitious. However having equipment shortage and an uncertain weather, we had no other option but to move ahead. So there was no confusion that the decision taken on that time was correct. Moreover, we took medicines to avoid acute mountain sickness. The team was moving with the highest energy level at every step.
A simple headlamp was the only thing we had closest to a friend, the night before dawn. The sharp ridge became apparent with first light in the horizon. I can hardly remember the time when I left my zumer out of grasp. We were more careful than before with our equipment harness, karabiners, ropes, ice boots and crampons, ice axe, and tubular pitons. Though fatigued, we were careful with our climbing technique of rope-up position. After all, we were standstill on a 30 feet wide oval shaped ice ridge!
At that point everyone was waiting for my decision decision from the team leader, whether to abandon the expedition or to go ahead. Sherpa leader, Som Bahadur, 55, made it clear that we should not climb further. Because, trying to cross the crevasse without a ladder is equivalent to suicide. Another Sherpa, Ganesh Magar, 46, did not make any comments at all. But the youngest Sherpa, Kailash Tamang, 23, came off the as silver lining when he said that he was ready to cross the crevasse. We felt revived, like getting new life as the three of us, Sarin Prakash Pradhan, Tawhid Hossain and I, climbed on.
Since the crevasse was not like a huge and flat glacier we could traverse it. We were climbing with a 200 feet long main-rope that was prepared with Middle Man and End Man Knots. As we all confirmed the team safety with 'self-arrest position', Kailash started his heroic climbing through the narrowest part of the crevasse, which was only two feet in width.
Kailash moved forward with an ice hammer, ice axe, ice pitons, ice bar and a rope. He prepared a triangle anchor on the other wall of the crevasse and fixed a rope to it. Then others crossed the crevasse as well. Som made a good base on the other side. Finally we managed to have a proper look on how deep the crevasse was. The looming sight of the endless crevasse nearly stopped our heart. It was nine o'clock, at that time.
Few moments later, mountain clouds engulfed us - white out. Again we knuckled up, looking for the route to the summit. The mighty wind started blowing and we all chilled down. Snow was rolling down from our head to toe. It took another two hours to reach the Annapurna IV summit, after tirelessly climbing the sharp edged ice wall. We finally had the smile of victory.
We launched ourselves victoriously at the summit at 11:54am local time.
We all were cheered up and were rejuvenated by sheer joy of our achievement. I wanted to shout out and announce to the rest of the world of our victory over the mighty Annapurna IV. We lunched our Red-Green Flag on the top of Annapurna IV. We shook hands and congratulated each other and then had a photo session atop the summit. We also took pictures with flags of the title sponsor to this expedition Navana Group, and co-sponsors Mattra, Destiny Group, Summit Group, Kohinoor Chemicals, RM Systems Pvt Ltd, Star Point, media partner Channel I, event partner Incitaa Tourism, Muktinath Holidays Pvt Ltd, and patrons The Daily Prothom Alo and The Daily Star. The great contribution of then Ambassador to Nepal from Bangladesh Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed, North Alpine Club Bangladesh NACB's President Anisul Hoque, Vice President Munir Hasan, Joint Secretary Fakhrul Abedin Milon, Rafeh Uddin Sirajee and Komal Aryal made the Annapurna IV expedition possible.
We ensured the 'Safety First' rule on our way down the summit. But one of our fellow climbers noticed that we were having blisters on our hand due to cold attack. We were afraid of frostbite. So, though we decided earlier to stay at camp two, we changed our mind and decided to get down to base camp as we did not have proper treatment support for this kind of ailment. We took chocolates, biscuits, nuts and dried fruits and had lemon drink and then started belaying down.
We climbed down to camp two by 3:00pm. Then the team was separated. Sherpa team started dismantling the tent and other equipment. The rest of us continued with our descent. Although we had no energy left we pushed on. Crossing past the dynamic moraine, we reached the base camp at 8:00pm.
Mountaineering history of Bangladesh will remember this date forever.
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