I have been adventurous all my life and from the time Toby has arrived, my adventure quotient has risen. He and I did several treks which involved technical stuff like rock climbing & rappelling. After Nalichi Wat at Harishchandragad, I searched a lot and we purchased a good rock climbing harness for him online. We did a good abseil at Sandhan Valley in May 2019. Having him on treks has been a treat. Many a times patrons on treks of Zenith Odysseys also inquire whether he would be joining or not. He is a well behaved dog whilst on trek which is not really expected from an Indian dog. So taking him to a climb, putting his harness to good use and pending items my bucket list were pointing to Lingana.
Lingana is also looked upon as a Mecca for the rock climbing community of Western Ghats of India, however, many commercial trek operators organize rock climbing events here and the mountain has lost its sanctity.
The urge to visit this place was getting stronger day by day and I started looking for team. I am usually look for a team with certain qualities like stable mind, ability to perform under pressure, respect towards the nature, physical capacity and stamina, team spirit and of course technical knowledge. Apart from playing team, I usually have couple of non playing captains who in case of emergency can handle rescue if required.
I messaged “The BMC bud” & “The BMC Kid”, another lady friend and few other regular patrons of Zenith Odyssey. “The BMC Kid” said yes unconditionally and “The BMC bud” put up a condition of choosing weekends. I strongly wanted “The BMC bud” to join as He, “The BMC Kid” and I would have made an awesome team. We three are batch mates of Basic Mountaineering Course and have been glued to each other since then. Initial plan involved just 5 people and then there were few additions. However, the rains lasted much beyond expected and some withdrew and some were on wait and watch mode. One fine day, “The BOY” messaged he wished to take The DOG, a breed dog to Lingana and I thought of taking two dogs to summit. So the plan was shaping up nicely and we forgot about it in few days.
Then again “A FRIEND” asked about status and we all came back to life. As “the climbing season” for commercial trek operators had already begun, we decided to climb on weekdays. With this decision few others along with “The BMC bud” dropped out. I chalked out a rough itinerary and we decided to leave on 18 December early morning and return by early evening of 19 December.
Two days prior I started preparing. I borrowed few stuff like branded harnesses and a Jumar etc. from a friend and also bought some stuff for Toby. “A FRIEND” chose to look after food. It seemed like “The BOY” and I had all the required gear. By the nightfall on 17 December, Toby and I were ready to move out next day. “The BOY” and I had been planning on introducing Toby and The DOG before the trek however due to other commitments I couldn’t do that.
I was up by 345 on 18 December and we all were already exchanging messages on WhatsApp. By 5 AM “A FRIEND” and “The BMC Kid” had arrived and few moments later “The BOY” arrived along with his friend “The GIRL”. I was surprised to see her since it was never discussed that she would be joining. “A FRIEND” mentioned he was carrying food for only four people; I assured him it would be alright. In the morning we tried very hard to make Toby and The DOG friends, however both kept growling at each other and then I decided to give up after around 20 minutes. It was a noisy start of the day for the entire neighborhood. I removed Toby’s stuff from my backpack along with his backpack. My baby looked confusedly at me. I could not even hide my disappointment in my fate and left. By the time we finally left from my place, it was 0605.
We reached Velhe and hungrily searched for a place to eat. Torana Vihar hadn’t opened yet so we decided to eat at the only place available.
The road after Kelad khind (pass) seemed ok until a point and after that practically just because it looked like something which looked like a road because handful of heavy duty vehicles could pass. We reached Mohari Village at 915 and prepared for the hike. I removed some more stuff and left it in the car. Time was 940 and we were delayed by almost one and half hour already. At that time it just meant less rest between lunch and final climb and it didn’t matter much technically.
We walked nonstop till the starting point of Borata Naal – the Gorge that goes down closest towards Lingana. At the entrance of the gorge we took a small break and “The GIRL” already looked tired. I was worried but pretended otherwise and carried on. Time was 1030 AM.
The hike down was pretty easy but slow. I didn’t want to push anyone to stress themselves and make things difficult for themselves and others. The rock was heating up and Sun was teasing us with every minute lost. By the time we reached the traverse, it was 1130 AM. This is where I started calculating daylight hours left and making equations as to how much time would be required to reach cave.
During the planning, “The BOY” and I had discussed a possibility of climbing the summit before sunset and rappelling in dark to the cave. At that point of that time, it looked very much possible, but every time I looked at “The GIRL”, I could feel that this possibility was now diminishing. We reached the col below Lingana at about 1330 and I declared that we would be just pushing to the cave before the nightfall and would attempt the summit next day at sunrise.
“The BOY” was our lead climber, his rope management and climbing skills are top notch. He fixed the rope and helped us climb. Looking at the losing daylight, I suggested two people climbing at same time. And then I realized that we were so smart that we were carrying only one static rope and other one was left in the car. I literally wanted to abandon the climb and return home right from that spot.
I suggested that “The BMC Kid” to be last man so that he could assist “A FRIEND” and “The GIRL” to get on the rope and climb. I postponed my dream to climb Lingana and used the other end to jumar up loads of backpacks and the dog. I kept telling the climbers to self anchor whenever they would reach the station and also kept anchoring the backpacks and the dog during my load ferries. Every time I started Jumaring with the dog on my harness, a chill would go down my spine. I was the only one the local made, uncertified harness. (We did have 4 branded and UIAA certified and I had picked up this one last moment after I saw “The GIRL”)
As per the original plan we should have been in the cave by 1400 having lunch. And here we were just beginning to climb with hungry stomachs.
During this climb, I also realized that “The GIRL” knew close to nothing of climbing and also that the rope had severe abrasions near the midpoint. The entire climbing activity looked like a grave mistake and it would have been wiser to return home immediately. However, hiking back would have taken far more time since “The GIRL” was almost exhausted and also we were short of water at that point. The water source and shelter was available some hundred meters above us. It was a catch 22 situation. I made certain notes in the mind.
We put great efforts and the team finally reached the cave near the water source. First thing we did was that we had the sandwiches “A FRIEND” had brought for us. Time was 1700. I declared that now we rest and do the rest of the climb next day morning. Everyone agreed, I didn’t want to let “The GIRL” climb but didn’t know how to put it forward. Thankfully, she herself came up with the suggestion.
“The BOY” and “The GIRL” helped refilling the water. We “A FRIEND” had also brought ready to heat dinner for us all, Which we had by 2130 and slept off in no time. Although, the night was pretty much uneventful, I didn’t get good sleep. Perhaps the thoughts of next day kept me disturbed all night long. We woke up by 700 and it was already late to start the climb. The breakfast preparations and packing the stuff after that took almost an hour after that.
We all had kept only climbing gear outside and had packed everything else inside. I had also left a Swiss army knife with long cord. We had a set of walkie talkie to facilitate communication across stations. I handed over one set to “The GIRL” who was going to stay back in the cave, One to “The BOY”, One to “A FRIEND” and one was to be shared between “The BMC Kid” and me. I had specifically requested everyone to be careful with the sets and keep them in the zipped pockets of the clothing. “The BOY” took out cord of my Swiss army knife and attached it to his set of walkie talkie without my knowledge.
At about 815, “The BOY” started climbing and even before he had reached first station he shouted watch out. We glued ourselves to the rockwall and saw some small object falling. He then informed me that it was his set of walkie talkie. I was terribly frustrated already. We who were at base station tried to look for it however realized it was way too dangerous to move even an inch towards the valley without proper safety. We gave up the idea and I decided to climb with the dog on my local uncertified harness. It just felt way too risky because I kept feeling that the sewing of the harness might just rip off. Also due to load and incorrect placement of the Jumar, it kept locking up. Seeing me struggle that “A FRIEND” said he didn’t want to go to the top. I didn’t push him and suggested we all give up the idea of summit and start our journey back home, which “The BMC Kid”and “A FRIEND” agreed with no questions asked. Same time, “The BOY” tried to give similar suggestion from the first station. And due to wind and “The GIRL”s over enthusiasm to reach “The BOY” with her voice was causing hindrance. Somehow “The BOY” got the message and we wound up the climbing plan. In few minutes, he was back to the base station near water source.
“The BMC Kid”said the walkie talkie set had fallen in the grass nearby and we could perhaps retrieve it. “The BOY” took the responsibility on himself and anchored himself and went downwards on the face of the mountain. Thankfully he retrieved the walkie talkie set which was undamaged except for missing back cover.
We went back to the cave. Did little bit of rearrangement of all the backpacks to share the loads as to reduce the weight from “The GIRL”’s backpack and help her walk a bit freely.
“A FRIEND” was just reaching first station and “The GIRL” told me to go before her with the dog. I was just not ready to take the dog on my harness again. But then I realized that I had no option as “The BOY” might have to do tandem – abseil or simul-rappelling with “The GIRL” because it was probably first time that she was abseiling. My anger had already reached sky and with great difficulty I controlled it and quietly took the dog and abseiled. Here “A FRIEND”, “The BMC Kid”and I sat for about 45 minutes before the couple arrived. Somewhere back of the mind I was cursing myself for this misadventure.
I have never lost my temper in the mountains but this time and I shouted at “The GIRL” and used all sort of offensive words for throwing up tantrums during the abseil. Although it was just abseiling, it took us almost 5 hours to reach the col. I was on the verge of break down when we reached there. I sent texts to We took a quick break of about 15 minutes to re-hydrate and relieve ourselves and started immediately.
all the three backups – non playing captains that we had finally abseiled safely. It was a great relief that everyone had reached safely to the base.
Now the second part was the upward hike towards Railing Plateau and later the easy walk to Mohri Village. We did have food and hydration yet I wasn’t really convinced that we would make it to Railing before sunset.
I was literally coercing “The BMC Kid”to exchange his backpack with “The GIRL” (his backpack was lightest; I knew it since I had packed most of it). Nonetheless, “The BMC Kid”and “A FRIEND” volunteered and we shuffled some more stuff). The climb went through far better than I had anticipated and we were out of Boratyachi Naal (the gully) by 1720. I have never been that grateful to the almighty as I was at that moment.
I wanted to go near the cliff of the Railing Plateau and thus suggested “The GIRL” to rest and “The BOY” to accompany her. “A FRIEND”, “The BMC Kid”and I went on the small hike without our heavy backpacks. So it was a quick walk of about 10 minutes and we could see the entire vertex of Lingana in single glance.
During the return hike, “A FRIEND” had said that he felt bad that we gave up our summit attempt because of him. I had tried to convey that it was not at all about him but various other reasons. And with experience I knew that a complete picture would tell him the exact story.
So when three of us were standing on the edge, I pointed towards the cave and elaborated the climb that we had abandoned. He seemed relieved. “The BMC Kid”had a funny reaction,” Did we go there just for camping? We could have simply pitched our tent right here and looked at the mountain.” I sincerely felt sorry for the kid. We didn’t wait for the sunset and rushed back to the point where “The BOY” and “The GIRL” were resting. We picked up our bags and walked back to the village. We just dumped our backpacks in the boot and drove off. We took a stop at Velha again for dinner. It was almost 2230 when I reached home.
Although this climb was not successful, I did learn certain lessons that I am sharing below:
- Strictly no strangers on the technical climbing
activity. Ideally I should have declined to venture out in the outdoors
especially on a climb like Lingana with a girl who was a complete stranger. But
because of my inability to say NO, we did. I now feel “The BOY” was also a
stranger to me when it came to outdoors. His outdoor ethics seemed far
different than mine and it did make me uncomfortable throughout the climb.
- Strictly no last minute additions on the climbing. Apart from reasons mentioned in the blog, it also affects the logistics like food, water and equipment.
- My ideology of small group in outdoors again proved to be correct! This time we were 5, I would add just one more person who would be capable of climbing.
- The equipment should be sufficient. We left second rope in the car. We had only one Jumar, carabineers were just numbered. One lost or broken would have put us in unwanted - unpleasant situations. There were no Prussik cords available. We didn’t have enough gloves / mittens.
- All equipment should always be branded and certified by UIAA. Period. (More about this in next blog)
- Gather all the equipment at least two days prior to the activity in one place.
- Check all the equipment prior to the activity. There were abrasions on the rope.
- No dogs on multi pitch climbing. No questions asked!
- Adhering to timelines. I think this is enough said!
- This is a personal learning: I should develop the skill/ tact to be able to say no or stop when things don’t seem right. This climb could have turned into a grave fatal accident. I will be guilty all my life for having jeopardizing lives of my friends and myself and the dog. Mountains are never forgiving. They’ve spared us this time, but that may not be the case every time.
- I am usually look for a team with certain qualities like stable mind, ability to perform under pressure, respect towards the nature, physical capacity and stamina, team spirit and of course technical knowledge. But going forward I should be following this strictly!