I didn’t wish to believe my ears. No amount of persuasion, counseling, encouragement or flattery worked as he probably had been doing the same to himself for quite sometime.
He wouldn’t budge!
It meant, one of us (out of 7), would have to sacrifice his further climb. Everyone was looking at one another & quite naturally nobody wanted to give up. He, an officer, was only mentally exhausted, I as a Doctor and experienced climber tried convincing him in vain.
Not willing to move further, the onus fell upon me as the doctor to stay back while the others continued towards the summit.
Disappointed, but putting up a brave face, I decided to sacrifice the summit attempt even though we were just 300 meters away. Probably God has his own ways. He had some other task for me, rather both of us.
Here we were, 2 officers with cold cups of tea brewed in freezing tempratures waiting for the summit party to return. It had grown to be a Whiteout. The wait felt eternal and we were really worried about the safety of the summiters. The snow and the blizzard had already wiped away all our markers and our way back was already looking difficult
Having summited, the group was back by about 4 PM. While we were happy for them, they didn’t look all that happy, possibly the dread of the difficult return journey must have played in their minds.
Our next challenge – getting back to Summit camp!.
Standing at the top there was a total loss of sense of direction. It was like getting lost in sand dunes in a desert. We discussed our options, in duress,. The summit camp suddenly felt like a distant dream, a very bleak possibility. That meant a very high probability of freezing to death after exhaustion. I firmly announced that no matter what, We have to keep losing height & hope to get some kind of shelter & may be if we are lucky hit the summit camp.
We started our descent in a rough direction that we felt was the most probable one. The descent was scary and we were blinded by the whiteout. 4 of the summiters were totally exhausted and on the verge of giving up. We were all roped up. One member would slip, fall & slide taking two others with him & then we all would try to arrest the slide by hitting the ice axe on the ice. This happened many a times.
With crevasses around, one slip & that would be the end of one or more of us.