Embarking and leading the Friendship Peak Expedition was a dream come true for me. The thought of conquering the towering Himalayas and reaching the summit of this majestic peak filled me with excitement and anticipation as I had attempted this feat previously as well but came short of summiting this mighty mountain of the Himalayas. Hear my tale, as I take you through each day of this exhilarating adventure, from our arrival in Naggar to the triumphant ascension to the summit and back.
Day 1: Arrival in Naggar
As our team gathered in the picturesque and quaint little village of Naggar, the air was filled with a sense of adventure and everyone’s excitement could be felt energizing the whole team. The team spent the day acclimatizing to the change in altitude and preparing mentally and physically for the challenges that lay ahead. Myself and the whole team had to fill in some paperwork for administrative purposes as the local authorities are extremely particular about such things. The evening time was spent in leisure, getting to know our fellow climbers and our experienced guide, who shared valuable insights about the journey we were to embark upon.
Day 2: Manali to Riyali Thach
The expedition officially began as we left Naggar and got onto our vehicles which were to drop us to Dhundi. Dhundi is the last point to where our vehicles could reach and from then onwards we were on foot and made our way to the enchanting Riyali Thach. The trail led us through dense forests, where the sunlight filtered through the leaves, creating a magical ambiance. Mid day the weather started to change and the sun hid from us behind the clouds. But luckily, even though the sky seemed overcast we did not experience any rainfall. The last portion of the trek for the day is a river crossing but the conditions this year were so different that there was still a snow bridge which lay on top of it which lasted the whole winter and into the summer months. The camp at Riyali Thach provided a tranquil resting place amidst the breathtaking natural beauty. The team enjoyed a marvelous sunset amidst the high mountain peak.
Day 3: Riyali Thach to Lady Leg
Our journey continued from Riyali Thach to the base camp at Lady Leg. The trail offered panoramic views of snow-capped peaks, while the vibrant flowers of many colors that adorned the landscape added a touch of color to the white and gray surroundings. As we ascended, the terrain became more challenging, with rocky sections and steep slopes testing our endurance. On top of that we started to realize that the altitude plays a major obstacle in the success of summiting the peak. Upon reaching Lady Leg, we were rewarded with a stunning vista of the surrounding mountains. But we did not stop there as we had to pitch our tents and establish our campsite on the icy slopes of Lady Leg Base Camp. After getting some much needed rest after some hot and scrumptious lunch, I gathered the whole team and distributed the technical equipment which we will require for the summit. After seeing the snow boots which are used to climb on the snowy slopes of Friendship peak, most of the team was flabbergasted but with some practice of ascending and descending techniques they were more confident about themselves making it to the summit.
Day 4: Lady Leg to ABC (Advanced Base Camp) Load Ferry
The day’s trek took us from Lady Leg to the Advanced Base Camp (ABC), which marked a significant milestone in our expedition. We all woke up early in the morning full of enthusiasm to finally use the snow boots with which we practiced the previous day. Our agenda for the day was to take as much of the things required to the ABC like ration, extra tents, technical equipment, fuel and utensils which we might need at the ABC for the summit push. The route to the ABC was covered with snow which made it even more difficult to climb. Some of the team members got so enthusiastic that they started opening their own route through the snow while some struggled just to climb to the ABC. After establishing the ABC, we celebrated with some pictures with the magnificent view and then returned back to Lady Leg to spend the night there. The height gain helped the whole team to relax better at Lady Leg.
Day 5: Occupying Advance Base Camp
On this day, we took all our luggage and equipment and made our way to the ABC. The previous day’s load ferry made it easier for us to completely shift our base from Lady Leg to ABC. Our main agenda was to occupy the ABC which gives us a strategic advantage in the summit push by reducing the time and effort which is required to make the climb. The rest of the day is spent resting to keep ourselves in optimum condition to make the summit attempt. After having a simple and early dinner we closed our eyes and tried emptying our thoughts but the constant anticipation of the summit kept us awake and we could barely get any sleep.
Day 6: Summit Day
The long-awaited summit day had finally arrived. We woke up at midnight, fueled by a mix of excitement and nerves. The ascent to the summit demanded utmost focus and determination as we navigated through icy slopes and steep ridges. Initially, we started off with the whole team trying to make their way to the summit. But as the trail continued, the cold of the night and the increasing altitude started getting to some of the team members and as their leader, I respected their decision to turn back to the ABC to rest. With the rest of the team members in full flow we continued our climb to the summit overtaking many members from other teams as well. For the last section of the climb, the team roped up together and worked as one unit to make the summit successful. The view from the top was nothing short of spectacular—snow-capped peaks stretched as far as the eye could see, and the sense of accomplishment was overwhelming. We took a moment to celebrate our triumph before beginning the descent. During our descent we got exhausted due to the melting snow and decided to slide down using our poncho as the base reduced a lot of time. Our last task was to wind up the ABC and move back down to Lady Leg. The whole team was in high spirits with the success of the expedition and celebrated equally.
Day 7: Lady to Manali
The final leg of our expedition took us from Lady Leg back to Manali. Although physically exhausted, our spirits were high as we retraced our steps, reminiscing about the challenges we had overcome and the breathtaking landscapes we had witnessed. Upon reaching Manali, we celebrated our safe return with the whole team. Rejoicing the wonderful memories and bonds that we made during the course of the whole journey that we took together as a team.
The Friendship Peak Expedition was an extraordinary adventure that tested our physical and mental capabilities while immersing us in the unparalleled beauty of the Himalayas. It was a journey of self-discovery, resilience, and friendship. As we bid farewell to Manali, we left with a profound appreciation for the mountains and a burning desire to seek more such experiences. Friendship Peak had not only granted us breathtaking views but also deepened our connection to nature and the camaraderie among fellow climbers. The memories and lessons garnered from this expedition will forever inspire and fuel our passion for mountaineering, reminding us that the mountains are both formidable challenges and steadfast friends.