Friday, May 29, 2009

Spectre of Brocken

Nature has its own way of letting itself be, unaffected by us mortal's doings. Sometimes enough care is taken so that we do carry anything back from it, but only spectacular memories. Some events, when revisited, spur your imagination to think “Why was I not allowed to capture the moment to show it to others?” But such is the power of nature and such are some memories; very personal experiences, very vivid memories, images so strong that even after years they refuse to fade away even a wee bit.Add Image

I still feel the chill, still remember the panorama, see the sun break over the horizon behind a thick cluster of clouds, glistening up the tip of Mt. Khanchendzonga – the first of the 8000ers (there are 14 peaks in the world that stand above 8000mtrs) to grace the spectacle.

“Sir, Chai”, he says knocking at our doors holding out two steel cup full of freshly brewed chai and a bowl of popcorn. Popcorn! So early in the morning? Heck, what an idea! But who cares? I illuminate my digital watch, it reads 03:00 am. The date, 23rd May 2000. We zip out of our sleeping bags, initially reluctantly, but fire up immediately after the hot cup of chai. Setting out at 0315Hrs in the freezing cold is unacceptable. But we have taken so much efforts to be here, to see a spectacle unfold in front of our eyes. Through frosted ground we take about 45 minutes to get to the top as others too make their way up. We realise, that dawn there will not be more than a handful of us who will be privy to the drama of nature. Poor others sleepy souls, they will never see this!
The horizon lightens up slowly with a golden hue, anticipation rides high. A brilliant glow appears on the eastern horizon and with spontaneity the sun heads out for a new day. On the western horizon the gloomy, grey Khanchendzonga responds with equal enthusiasm transforming itself into a wonderful spectacle. The summit assumes a vermillion tinge, slowly changing into yellow and then golden. Early in the dawn, nature knows how to announce the best and the top!

All our fingers are on the shutter switch and we get into frenzy; absorbed in capturing every single moment, record the progress of the sun and the light as it progresses over all the summits, marching over the broad flanks of the mountains. We almost ignore the fact that this moment is for us to savour. We want to take this home to show others… some of whom may return here to take more shutters back for others to see. Now, the alternation of such a panorama between the view finder and real eyes seems like a fading idea. Maybe, if we had not taken our cameras, the real views would have embedded in our souls more strongly, that those pictures on the film tend to dilute our imagination today.

Little do we realise that, on our first visit here unguided by any advise or experience, we expose ourselves to shiver and frostbite. The thermometer reads minus 5. The views cast a warm blanket over us. It is so easy to ignore the chill and the waft against such a spectacle. I instantly knew I was hooked. Almost as a family, many summiteers here huddle and queue for a group photo, the warmth of the group extending to the hearts. Its been almost an hour that we stood there, changing views, films and cameras. Between the 2 of us we shoot 150 pics of this marvel. Everyone leaves.

We are the last to descend. Even our guide left for the chores of the day. It’s only two of us now slowly making our way down! The sun is lodged well behind our backs at a perfect angle. With the monsoons on its beck, the valley below is brimming with clouds, almost touching out feet. Elation draws upon us. The eye is still transfixed at the horizon panning across the snow clad massifs of the Goddess of Five Elements. We enter a tuft of cloud, thin enough, that we can see the path and the valley below, thick enough to caress our faces.

Suddenly our eyes catch the shadowy characters walking alongside us. It’s enigmatic. We trace the shadows back to our own feet. The sun behind has cast own shadows on the clouds below. We trace it up to an unbelievable sight. There is a rainbow that appears around our own shadow, a halo! We are ecstatic, ‘unbelievable’ we say! It’s heavenly! There are no words to describe the view, miracle and feeling. Are we on cloud nine, are we in seventh heaven? We don’t know. We pull out our cameras again.
Click….clack…clack. The film does not move. Oops! No film left. My friend clicks! Clack again! He is exhausted of film too. Do we have extra… frisk ourselves for more and return with a handful of retracted films in their cartridges - memories of dawn’s tryst imprisoned in a tiny dark cell, captured for all those dear friends back in the plains. We wished that there was at least one film that teased its tongue out! Or at least one shot left. Frustration!

This was the moment. We decide that we will stay till the sight does, not taking our eyes off even for the distraction of a shutterbug. We are no more disturbed, we are at peace with ourselves. We were our own gods for about 5 minutes till the clouds grew thinner again, exposing the thicket of juniper below. We move on, we wonder ‘why did this happen to us?’ We thought that for all our endurance and efforts, nature chose us minus our paraphernalia. The captured views were for the others; the experience our very own. Was it a coincidence? No, I believe. It was designed such by nature! Such is its power. That was our moment of glory.

We return back home. Everyone loves the pics; we have no way to describe what we experienced. “Maybe, if you go there, you will see it too.” We leave it at that.

Rrrrringg… “Hey my friend. How are you? Do you remember our shadows we saw in the clouds with a colourful halo around us, at Dzongri? It’s called the ‘Spectre of Brocken’”. I conclude!