“When you are on the peak, you see the clouds down below. The whole area is foggy with mist. It is such beauty, you could just keep looking and not ever be bored.” Cpl Hassan Abdulla shared with us, the most unique experience of his life. He climbed Thorong Peak, a 6100m high mountain in Nepal. It is described as one of the most rewarding and technically difficult peaks to climb in the Annapurna Region.
“This was my first ever such experience. At first, it was very difficult because of the cold conditions. In the initial days, I even slept wearing a hoody. The cold was especially intense at night. We took shower with hot water but before I could pat dry the water from my body, it becomes cool again.”
Cpl. Hassan got this unique opportunity through an offer given to MNDF by the High Altitude Mountain Warfare School of Nepal. He was selected from the applicants via MNDF Marine Corps.
Thorong peak, which had never been mounted by a Maldivian before Cpl. Hassan, is located in Muktinath, Nepal. This peak is about 20200 feet (6156.96 m) aloft sea level. This is the peak to the left of “Thorong La Pass”, the well-known mountain pass around tourists. Every year, thousands of travelers visit this site and are amused by the vision of this place.
This area can only be accessed by mountaineers with permission from the Nepal’s government. As a prerequisite to get the permission, Cpl. Hassan had to undergo a series of rigorous trainings at the Army Mountain warfare school. He was accompanied by about 13 soldiers from different countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Mexico, America and Lebanon. Among the group, most had some climbing experience; some of them were of instructor’s skill level. As Cpl. Hassan never had any experience prior, he got a lot of helping hands from them.
Three-day hike to the training school
Cpl. Hassan departed from Male’ to Nepal on 25th of July 2018. After reaching Nepal, he had to wait in Kathmandu, for the other foreign students. After everyone had arrived, they went to Pokhara and left for the training school on foot.
“The whole of first day, we kept on climbing up starting from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm till we reached Myagdi area. Our hotels were booked, and we spent the first night there.” Cpl. Hassan described how his journey started from the 4th August 2018.
Cpl. Hassan and his team members were travelling via the only route to the destination. As the route was not wide enough for vehicles to pass, the only way to reach the destination was on foot. After spending the first night at the hotel, they started their trek of their second day after having breakfast at dawn.
“Second day, we had to walk down. We went down for two days. We kept going until, on the third day, we reached the training school. When I reached the training school, I had muscle cramps all over my leg. For two days, I had difficulty even taking a single step.”
Acclimatization phase, which started with the trek to the school, continued for some time in school till the more rigorous “rock phase” which lasted for about two weeks. Physical training was held every day. This included combat march with 10KG backpacks. Pack march tests were conducted at 8KM and 14KM. Before mountaineering could start, these trainings are normal and compulsory as per mountaineering principles. This is to avoid various health issues that may be caused if one attempts to climb without training. Human body and mind needs to get habituated with the effects caused both physically and psychologically while ascending. The oxygen levels drop causing breathing difficulties. Other health issues include dizziness, nausea, cold and dermatological problems due to abrupt and extreme changes in weather conditions.
After completing the trainings at the training school, the team headed higher up for ice training. For 8 days, in frozen conditions, they trained and practiced Ice climbing, crevasse crossing and rescue techniques. After that they returned to the training school having completed the training phase.
Before departing to base camp, climbers must thoroughly prepare themselves for the climb. Thus, the next three days were spent in collecting and preparing items and gear needed for the journey. “In preparation phase, three days are spent on collecting ice boot with ice cleats, harness, carabiner and other accessories for the journey. After that, we split into rope teams. Each rope team consisted of three students and an instructor. Before starting for the journey, the instructors checked our gear and gave very clear instructions on how to use the items. After that we started the trip.”
After coming out of the training school, Cpl. Hassan and his team, first headed to a village near Muktinath, a temple held sacred by Hindus and Budhists. They spent the night there and in the morning, started their final journey to the base camp.
It wasn’t an easy journey. Going to the Thorong mountain turned out to be a difficult time. They had to walk amidst the rocks for kilometers. As they ascended, breathing became difficult they had to face other physical and psychological effects of increasing altitude.
Base camp was about 16000 feet above sea level. A heavy backpack was carried manually. The tents other necessary items were carried using donkeys. After a long journey of 4 to 5 hours starting from the morning, they reached their first camp at afternoon. After spending the night there in tents, they started their journey for the second camp (high camp). They reached the second camp within 4 hours. It was almost 17000 feet above sea level. Cold and fatigue kept on getting worse as they kept going higher.
Climbing Thorong peak
Thorong peak was visible from the high camp. They started their work on climbing the peak, 1:00 at midnight. One rope team at a time, one after the other, they started climbing the mountain. They were climbing with the help of a rope that was already fixed there to assist climbers, and with the help of grippers attached in the ice boots. This was a difficult and dangerous phase. If one person slipped, he would fall on to the person below him; causing serious Injuries.
When climbing up to this level, to protect the eyes from sun’s rays in the morning, they must wear sunglasses. As the sun rises in the morning, the rays are so strong that it may cause snow blindness if not protected. “This is caused by the reflection of the sun’s rays from the snow, a blindness occurs to some people”. The other problem faced is a sickness named “high altitude mountain sickness”. As the peak that Cpl. Hassan and his team climbed was a “very high” categorized peak, at that level, oxygen concentration in the atmosphere is drastically reduced compared to sea level that the body is used to, the blood oxygen level is reduced causing headaches, nausea and numbness. Cpl. Hassan took extreme care not to let his body get dehydrated. “starting at 1:00 at midnight, the sun came up while we kept on climbing. At around after 7:00am we all got to the top.”
The temperature was below freezing at that point. Cpl Hassan fought the cold temperature with four cold jackets and a puffy jacket on top. Having achieved the goal of climbing the top, he took a deep breath and looked around in awe. He was mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty and grandeur.
A Maldivian record!
Previously, Maldivians had climbed many peaks of Nepal. This included people who had climbed different parts of the Himalayan Mountains. However, it is not known that a Maldivian had climbed any higher than had Cpl. Hassan. Three Maldivians had climbed to the base camp of Himalaya, an impressive 17598 feet above sea level. Cpl. Hassan, however, climbed a peak above 20200 feet above sea level.
Cpl. Hassan, who never had any experience of such an endeavor, made us all proud and inspired us to try and push our own limits. After a long journey of 40 days he climbed there and flew the Maldivian flag.
“Actually, I was very happy I climbed that high, though it is a difficult thing to do. It is a very different experience that a Maldivians can have.” said Cpl. Hassan.
© mndf 2020 | All rights reserved.