It was the middle of the night and Victor awoke with a start. He knew immediately what was wrong.
‘I’m so sorry……’ he began. But it was too late.
The liquid in our water bottle was most definitely not the refreshing water that I had expected.
Up until this point I had been snoozing contentedly in our little tent at 5,200m sucking in as much thin air as possible ahead of our attempt on the unclimbed north face of Sersank (c6,050m) in the Pangi Valley area of the Indian Himalaya.
As I fumbled around to melt water to wash my mouth out and ignore the unappetising taste of Victor’s urine I noticed that the stars were out. This at least was a positive development that allowed my mind to move in a different direction. It had been snowing non-stop for several hours but now an improvement in the weather looked to be on the cards and that would greatly ease access to our planned climb.
It was the British mountaineer Martin Moran who prompted our interest in Sersank. He led a trek across the Sersank La in 2011 and wrote that the north side presented a ‘tremendous north face of linked white spiders.’ Victor and I knew Martin well enough to read between the lines. We contacted him, confirmed our suspicions and found our 2016 objective.
Vic and I had not climbed together since we did the Golden Pillar of Spantik in Pakistan in 1987. Over the intervening years we had a boxing match in a seedy East London pub and intermittently kept in touch but essentially we went our separate ways; Victor became a mountain guide based in Chamonix and I stayed with my tax office job in England. And then, in 2015, a joint selection of our memoirs was published in France [Ed – Turn to page 66 for Climb’s review of the recently published English translation], a literary award was won and talk of a fresh trip together was born. And so it ended up that Vic and I, at 66 and 60, were back together in the mountains – 29 years after our Spantik experience.
Himalayan trips have changed a lot in 29 years. Back in the 1980s we freighted gas cartridges, spent hours in customs sheds, negotiated with porters and generally did everything ourselves. Now though gas cartridges can be bought in India, bigger baggage allowances to Delhi mean there is no need to freight kit and a plethora of incountry agents means that mountaineers can lay back and let others take the strain. We embraced the new world. Simplicity is all.
You can read the full article in Issue 140 of Climb on sale now