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Kalanka North Face

 

Sheets of empty canvas. The passing of time seemed to be faster as usual this year. Departure around the corner, being ready as ever and it being time to move. Training has been overshadowed the last few months with unstable weather and conditions. Making it hard to find high altitude projects. There is always something. Nevertheless I have not experienced it like this before. Alternatives always around the corner nowadays, the strength and endurance has been build. Just left to be tested, at Kalanka, our destination this year. Tucked away in the Uttarakhand Himalaya in India.  

 

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Our planned route - Photo Mike van Berkel
 
The objective for this year was to attempt the North face of Kalanka. The height of the north face is approximately 1700 meters and summit the summit lies at 6930 meters. The route we intended to follow consists mainly of snow, ice and mixed terrain. A similar line to these of the Czechoslovakians in 1977 although we wanted to attempt the face in Alpine style. We expected to be on the route for approximately four days. It was the third attempt for Cas van den Gevel, my partner for this project.
 
 
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Czech route 1977 - Photo AAJ
 
Nothing in my way. We arrived in Joshimath at the end of august and two days of approach brought us to our base camp at the rim of the Bagini glacier at a height of 4510 meter. Two days later we established advanced base camp at  5110 meter. Definitely feels great to be out, we feel that we have a good chance to climb the face. The view of Changabang and Kalanka was amazing after the damp and wet days without any visibility. A turning point, filling my mind with enthusiasm and drive. This is what we came for. The monsoon was still fully active and there was a daily reoccurring pattern of cloud and rain moving in from the valley base during the morning. We have been able to see the North face and the line we wanted to attempt. The conditions looked quite good on the face and we thought it would be feasible to attempt the route after acclimatization and retreat of the monsoon.
 
 
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Upper part of the route on the face - Photo Mike van Berkel
 
 
Fields of joy. After a small week at base camp and a trip to visit ABC we are now ready for an acclimatization mountain. It has been pouring rain ever since we got here. Nevertheless everything seems to be going really well. The face looks good, we both feel very strong. The monsoon seems to linger longer this year and so far this is hampering our plans. We hope for change of wind direction soon to make this monsoon turn around. Just waiting for the rain to stop. The following day we climbed to 5985 meters where a rocky loose ridge made s decide to return to our tent and descend the same day to base camp. The plan was to acclimatize with one more night above 5500 meters and then wait for a weather window to attempt the North face of Kalanka.  
 
Set fire to the rain. What a beauty. Why is it so easy then to sink in the lows and the dull routine of the monsoon? The lows can be quite deep, switching from one person to the other. The waiting game, till the rain dies down. The forecast keeps up giving hope, at least something. But sometimes I prefer it to be just clear and get it over with so that we have this waiting put to an end. It can be quite challenging to keep the motivation burning deep inside.
 
 
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The first view of Kalanka (l) and Changabang (r) after the monsoon
 
 
Wandering days. The days just float by. In the following 8 days the monsoon showed little sign of retreating, unstable weather, warm for the height and time of year. With little over one week left before our original planned departure we decided that the weather window would arrive too late with no time for the conditions on the face stabilize under colder temperature. So packing up and departing base camp.
 
 
Rolling in the deep. Defeat once again. Although it was our own choice it still feels like defeat, giving up. It is all too easy to rationalize it and say this was the right sensible decision. It did not keep me from feeling deep emotions, being able to cry from disappointment. One thing I know for sure next time I want to feel defeat deep in my core again. Returning clichés after some time of reflecting. Easy to say when you are not in the environment anymore. The state I am in, how to work with it and direct it sensibly. Was it the monkey mind or not? Maybe just a good decision.