By Conrad Anker
Ten years to a child seems like eternity. A decade in the chapter of an adult is one chapter in life. On the timeline of humanity, it is inconsequential. In a cosmic and geologic timeframe it is a period of time so small it is unrecognizable. For Jimmy and I, it is a decade of sharing adventures around the world. One peak, Meru, in the Garhwal Himal, is an adventure we are drawn to.
In 2008, Renan, Jimmy and I battled a 5 day storm, intense cold and difficult climbing to be turned back 100 meters from the summit. After 19 days of toil, we tossed in the towel and retreated. Three years later, we are back to give the line we started another go.
Unfinished business. We all have something that keeps us motivated. These aspirational goals are vital to the human condition. We have the drive to finish something once started.
We departed Colorado, Montana and Idaho as summer was slowly giving way to crisp mornings and the change of color. With the miracle of jet travel, we were pretty much on the opposite side of the globe in a 24 hour window.
Delhi, home to 24 million people is one of the world’s most populous cities. The daily surge of humanity and controlled chaos is always eye opening to the three of us, accustomed to wide open spaces.
As on cue, the monsoon focused its intensity the morning we departed Delhi. The underpasses were flooded while the overpasses provided shelter to the stranded commuters. The heavy rains, while welcome for the people of India, also create difficult travel conditions on the high mountain roads.
The plains of northern India abruptly meet the Himalayas at Rishekesh. The Ganges River exits the youngest and tallest ranges of mountains at this holy city. Rishekesh was made famous in the eyes of westerners when the Beatles chilled out seeking musical and spiritual enlightenment.
The next leg of the journey is to Utterkashi, a mere 160 km away. We had heard the roads were impassable but tried our luck. We encountered several massive landslides. Most of them had barely been cleared. We bumped along through the chaotic debris with tires inches away from the edge of several thousand foot drops down to the raging rivers. We finally hit an active landslide with trees and boulders rushing by which blocked the tenuous road.
We waited for a day, sitting on the road, and finally decided to take a long questionable detour, costing us a day. After some exciting driving and digging at several other landslides, we reached Utterkashi. Beyond Utterkashi, the roads were impassable by bus, so we switched to the Indian Mahindra jeeps.
We piled into one Jeep and joined the flow of pilgrims headed to Gangotri, the holy gateway village of the Ganges River. The road seemed to be falling apart around us, but our skilled driver navigated us around seemingly impassable sections of the washed out road. As the sun set, we pulled into Gangotri.
Once in Gangotri, we exploded our gear at our lodge and spent a couple days building porter loads and visiting the temple and some of our old Sadhu friends that we ‘d met in previous years.
One Sadhu, Sunderandan, at 83 years of age, is one of the most devout people in the area. A famed yogi master, in his youth he also took part in several climbing expeditions. During that time he picked up a camera, and along side his yoga practice, Sunderandan pursued a lifetime of photography. We visited him in 2008 and we were happy to spend the afternoon with him again this year. He bestowed upon us a mantra for our expedition and gave us a blessing. It was special to be in the presence of such an enlightened being.
The following morning we shouldered our packs and headed for Topavon, a two day trek away. Along the way we stopped at Galmuk, literally the place where the Ganges spills out of the toe of the Gangotri Glacier. This is the source of India’s most holy river and we encountered several pilgrims and holy men along the way. We paid our respects, and dipped in the ice cold water, knowing the water we touched here would travel and touch many others as it flowed through the rest of India.
After an epic hike above Galmuk and across the glacier with our small army of porters, we arrived at Tapovan. Nestled below Shivling with the Bhagarathis and Meru in the distance, Tapovan would be our basecamp for the next few weeks.