”Amat Victoria Curam” – Victory Loves Preparation!!
In our previous article, we discussed with Monti Rajkhowa (the Kanchenjunga climber from 2018) about her background and her motivation behind mountaineering. Click here to read our first article on the Xpedition Series. Monti’s journey to Kanchenjunga involved intense preparation and all of this happened within a very short span of 2 years. Read on to find how an unwavering focus and commitment towards her preparation made Kanchenjunga possible for Monti!
Once you had found your call in mountaineering, how did you go about it? What mountains did you climb before Kanchenjunga?
‘’A friend of mine had come back from BMC at HMI, his photos enchanted me. I applied immediately.” It was during her BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course) that she climbed the 5,289 m high Friendship Peak. Monti didn’t stop thereafter, she immediately applied for an Advanced course in August, the same year.
”There was hardly any gap between BMC and AMC. So after climbing Friendship peak in July, 2016 I was already doing my AMC. We went on to climb CB 13, 6264m (Mt. Chandrabhaga 13, the magnificent peak visible from Chandratal) as a part of AMC, we had reached till 5,500m altitude and couldn’t go ahead as we did not have proper equipments to negotiate further.” Monti also climbed Kothi peak and Patalsu peak after this.
”We also climbed Mt. Satopanth (7,075m) which was attempted twice, summited once. It was both our pre+Everest and pre-kanchenjunga. We then climbed Mt. Lobuche (East) in Nepal.”
Monti then wanted to test her limits in winter climbing. ”I had gone for winter climbing in Ladakh region, wherein I had summited an unnamed peak of 6119m and also climbed Stok Kangri (6153m) in the chills of February”, says Monti.
Other than these, Monti has also attempted Mt. Everest in 2017.
How was the route of Kanchenjunga?
“Kanchenjunga has been climbed thorough four different routes till date. We climbed it through the southwest face. The route leads through ice walls, crevasses and ice fields. We had established 4 camps on the way beyond base camp.”
”The base camp is on a spur that has emerged atop the yalung and talung glaciers. It looks like a triangular table placed in between the 2 glaciers. This is also known as the southern base camp of Kanchenjunga and is at an altitude of 5,475m.
Where did you set your camps? How was the climb like?
”To ascend to C1, we got down to the glacier first and started climbing, negotiating the crevasses on the glacier. As we moved beyond, jut before reaching C1 there was a tall vertical wall of ice and snow, it’s gradient ranging from 70-85 degrees and stretching for more than half a km. C1 (6,130m) is just atop this wall, a few minutes ahead from the edge. Beyond this, a few huge open crevasses were negotiated with ladders. The biggest stretch was where we had to use four ladders, connected in series.”
”C2 (6,225m) is an easy climb, except that you should look out for avalanche or rock fall. We needed to ascend through gentle slopes, until we reached a rocky face, which we traversed around its base. This is the Hazzard we should look out for here. The route shows a huge ice field a few meters below. That is C2.”
”Towards C3, we started ascending through opened crevasses and ice fields. The route is 70% visible from C2. On the way we had to negotiate an overhang. It was a short climb, but at this height, where simply taking steps is difficult, we were all short of air, when we managed to get to the top of it, only to find a long stretch of 60% ice wall ahead, that ended in a couple of ice walls of a few feet. C3 (6935m) is atop an icewall. So, climbers should be careful, while moving about, especially at night.”
”The climb from C3-4 is comparatively short as we had our summit camp, i.e. C4 in 7,350m unlike the previous expeditions, who had their camps at 7,550m.”
“Kanchenjunga is a peak which was not climbed since 2013 onwards; the reason for a less no. of expedition is because it is tough and somebody got to put in extra efforts to fix the route. We got associated with ONGC and provided the ONGC mountaineers with rigorous training in every aspect.” – Col HS Chauhan, President of IMF
The final summit push required an elevation gain of 1,200 m for the team. Powder snow made great difficulties for them. Monti adds, “The route here was very tough, because of the powder snow. My team members were just a step ahead and yet if one opened the route, immediately the wind would cover it up with fresh powder snow. It was tedious and every climber almost had to tread the same amount of snow. Further ahead, the slope increased a lot and beyond a point the terrain was very rocky. With crampons on, it was a tough climb. Only a person with good balance can cross this patch to finally reach the summit.”
”There were times, when I thought I’d die of thirst, although I had water in my bag”. There were times, when my anchor gave away, and I thought I’m gone. I thought I had lost the route, during the climb, because I was moving all by myself. My guide had to stop to help another member of my team. It was only when I reached the rocky section, we (the guide and me) were relieved to see each other.”
Monti’s key takeaway from the climb – ”“I found peace, with myself and with nature. We should never stop exploring ourselves, because that’s the only way to happiness. We have forgotten to connect with ourselves as we race with each day. I realised that everything is possible, maybe we just need to stop for a while and re-focus on what we actually want in life.”
Keep an eye out for our ‘Xpedition Series’ every Wednesday, where we are on a mission to curate tales of mountaineers, to share stories of explorations and their will to RISE above the limitations.