The appeal was obvious. For a climber, the mountain is the ideal challenge. Perfectly steep on all sides, composed of solid granite caked in ice and snow, with a capstone of rotten shale guarding it’s 6900 metre summit. Thalay Sagar is one of the world’s most beautiful peaks.
In mountaineering, a steady progression is vital. With each trip, over many seasons spent in the mountains, my ability to make the big decisions required to play safe became easier. I had cut my teeth in the Canadian Rockies and Patagonian Andes. I felt ready to devote the next chapter of my life to climbing in the world’s greatest arena, the Himalaya.
I’m a strict vegan. My dedication to nutrition has been my secret weapon for my goals as an athlete. I need to keep my engine burning cleanly to be able to get after it every day as hard as I push myself. It’s effort sure, but pretty soon it just becomes what you do, part of the routine. Planning my first expedition to the Himalaya I was nervous about what I was going to be eating. I’ve come to realize now with all the world traveling I do, it’s easy to maintain your commitment to nutrition in foreign countries, as long as you make it a priority.
Our travel north from Delhi to the sacred village of Gangotri, our starting point for the trek in to basecamp, was made much more difficult. The monsoon this year was violent. ‘Mountain tsunamis’ wreaked havoc on the roads and villages north of Uttarkashi, destroying large sections of road and leaving many folks stranded for the summer. We arrived in Gangotri in early September as the first tourists, western or Indian, since the spring. It was both amazing and unfortunate in a way to have one of the most cosmic centres of the world to explore by ourselves. Despite the additional hardship endured this year, the local people were stoked, as always.
As a holy centre of the Hindu faith, eating meat is prohibited in this area. Perfect policy for a guy like me. I was able to really connect with my new Indian friends as they were so happy that myself, a liberal westerner with the freedom of choice, would choose not to take anything from the animal, and was thriving! Having Hemp Hearts, hemp oil, and HempPro 70 with me ensured I always had the perfect, easily digested protein source to add to a veggie curry dish or any of the amazing yummy culinary triumphs of the Indians.
The massive production that goes along with the expedition style of climbing in the Himalaya is a tad regrettable for a low-key Canadian. It feels somewhat counter-intuitive to the way I enjoy approaching the mountains. It’s just what you need to do when climbing in these restricted areas of the Himalaya.
In a lot of areas an expedition liaison officer is needed as a rep for the Indian military and will tag along on your mission to base camp and back. Often these guys can be a real pain in the ass, or at minimum an unneeded additional expense to tack onto an already pricey climbing trip. Our LO, Mr. Shubash was not a mountain brother, but he was a real kindred spirit. Along with our cook Illam Singh and his assistant Kissan, it ended up being a privilege to share camp with these kindred spirits for a month. Despite the language barrier, we would learn so much from them about the amazing Hindu way of life.
After days spent glassing the face with a scope, and a high reconnaissance, we had our sights fixed on an outrageous stretch of vertical ice pillars adhered to the north face. The acclimation process was a new one for me, but heeding advice collected from altitude gurus it went very well. We had already slept above 6000m and I was adapting.
Our trip started with poor conditions, and they would only get worse. One meteorologist we spoke to cited it as the worst monsoon in 58 years. We were not going to argue, it had snowed on us in basecamp for every day that month, except for maybe one. Paul was having the hardest time acclimating, and generally didn’t seem in the best health. With basecamp at 4700m he was not recovering. Our initial plan to tackle such a wild line on the north face in alpine style relied heavily on the combined effort of a team of three. With Paul realistically out of action, it was sobering to think about the task that lay ahead of Josh and I. We were not going to compromise our king line and choose an easier route, even if it made sense under the circumstances. It’s important to be flexible in the mountains, but it is also good to simply release, go on the adventure, and search for the answers to the biggest question marks on the mountain yourself. Failure on a worthy project simply makes the process sweeter. For a guy like me, it’s often the beginning of an obsession.
The three days spent on Thalay Sagar with my good friend Joshua were some of the most intense and life-affirming I’ve yet lived. Of course, half that time was spent enduring near-constant spindrift avalanches, where like deep powder skiing, snorkels would actually be incredibly useful. It was the start of a brand new obsession for me. The next chapter of my life will be devoted to exploring the Himalaya.
Jason Kruk is a Manitoba Harvest Hemp Fuelled Athlete. Click here to see his full bio.