Scene: Base Camp. Time: Unimportant. Weather : Forever Spring
Enter Pulak from down slope. Sukhendu gets up to greet him.
Sukhendu: Welcome, welcome. Did not expect you so soon though. But now that you are here, put down your sack and relax.
Pulak: (breathless, puts down his ruck sac) Oh, I am so tired. The last pitch was tough. So few holds, no rope, no belay. Why didn’t you belay me?
Sukhendu: (smiling) Cant belay. Not permitted by leader. You have to do it alone. Solo free climb.
Pulak: Well I did manage it, but my tummy was paining so.
Sukhendu: You were a good climber. The pain has now gone surely?
Pulak: Yes, strange. No pain now. In fact I am feeling pretty good now. Seeing you after nearly 32 years, Sukhen, you haven’t changed at all. Same yellow T Shirt, same Nepali topi.
Sukhendu: ( laughs) You have changed, but I can always recognise you, though its been a long time. In fact I can even recognise you from your back.
Pulak: From my back, but how?
Sukhendu: Remember Sept 19th, we were coming back from the top of Kamet. I was following you on the rope, so I even know your back.
Pulak: (looking down, eyes fill with tears) We tried, Sukhen, we really tried very hard... so dark......so much snow....so cold.....but we pulled and pulled....for hours...... shouted ...we screamed at you.... and then you stopped answering......Lakhpa and Kami screamed we have to go....or we will die.....the rope...you were still on the rope .....we anchored it.......and went down.........so sorry.....( starts sobbing )
(Sukhendu puts his hand on Pulak's shoulder)
Pulak: I was finished.... my feet gone... they went back again next day... they tried so hard... but... but...
Sukhendu: Yes ,yes....I know... Pranesh da and some Sherpas came....poor chaps .....how could they know I was long gone but still there on that rope.....they tried so hard.....but failed to bring me up......and then....
Pulak: ( in a hoarse whisper ) Pranesh da cut the rope .....set you free.....I failed ......
Sukhendu: ( smiles and holds Pulak tightly ) Don’t blame yourself , you tried your best. It was impossible at above 23,500 ft. Silly of me to fall through that evening, but I am still on the rope. It’s all right now, let’s go to the mess tent, you must be thirsty.
Both stroll down a " bugial " , an arm around each other’s shoulder , a mess tent can be seen in the distance ...a "rope" trails off from " here " to " eternity "........
Postscript: 1984. Team of four summits Kamet. On way down above Meade's Col, one climber, Sukhendu, goes down a crevasse. The rest try to rescue him but fail. Pulak survives with frostbitten feet. Pulak never climbed again.
Mt. Kamet (Image Courtesy: Himalaya Alpine Guides)