I would like to take the reference of the All India Radio, Imphal interview of the Mongsangai Woodstock School who has gone to Mt. Everest base camp and to Mt Kalapathar as their part of challenges of the school under the guidance of R.K. Mangi. I was awakened by the interview and started visualizing the trek route from the Jiri to Mt. Everest (EBC) and to Mt. Kalapathar.
They achieved the mission without guide and potters to help them. They proudly claimed that their school is the only school where trekking and adventure are focused. They have some challenges of their own namely:
1st challenge—long distance walk from Mumbai to Andhra Pradesh
2nd challenge—climbed Mt. Annapurna peak ( Nepal)
3rd challenge—climbed Mt. Gorachan ( Nepal)
4th challenge |
5th challenge | etc
6th challenge—Mt. EBC and to Mt. Kalapathar—3 percent challenge of their Action Plan of the school.
In the interview, they mentioned about the financial supports given by R.K. Anand and other like-minded group. Well done Mongsangai Woodstock School, congratulation to the Principal, R.K. Mangi, and the climber’s team. It was lovely to listen to the radio and yours ‘everlasting enjoyable moments and life changing experience. The interviews have given me an impact and I started remembering one by one our activities and was very refreshing my mind all over again. Himalayas have always been a fascinating destination and Nepal, the kingdom of mountains has been attracting adventures from all over the world.
The starting point in Nepal for Mt. EBC (Mt Everest Base camp) by the route from Jiri (where the route follows the classic walk by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay (Sherpa) who had scaled Mt. Everest made historic record in the year 29th May 1953. Sherpa are known as the tigers of Mt. Everest and another route to climb Mt. Everest is to fly up to Lukla and from there to start climbing for the expedition to Mt. EBC.
In the year, 1997 Mt. Everest base camp and to Mt. Kalapathar at Nepal, Himalaya, 40 members selected for the expedition which was led under the leadership of Oinam Chaoba. There were 2 medical officers namely Professor Sharat from RIMS and another from J.N.Hospital Dr. Sadhana Ningthoujam to look after 40 trekkers from MMTA (Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association). Bijaya Yumlembam of the AIR, who recently fell victim to COVID, was there from media side for documentation and she was also involved actively in the MMTA. We, 40 trekkers have started our journey from MMTA office, flagged off by the Hon’ble Chief Minister Okram Ibobi; we left Imphal by bus up to Nepal border. When we reached Kathmandu, we all went out for shopping; I bought my snicker and some necessary items from Kathmandu. After that our leader asked all of us to go to Pashupati Nath Temple, well known temple of Lord Shiva, Bijaya Yumlembam and myself did not join them instead we went to meet one of our friend’s brother Vikram’s place where we had lunched and spent our time nicely over there. We have to co-ordinate with our team and proceeded together to Jiri i.e. 110 km from Kathmandu by bus. There we stayed one night at Jiri for the next day to begin our expedition to Mt. EBC and to Mt. Kalapathar. We, Bijaya and Sadhana were slow climbers or rear group, we faced certain tough situations in spite of it, we observed innumerable breathtaking view, Glacier Rivers and dense forest of Nepal but it was really beautiful. We called ourselves donkey carrying heavy load of about 35 kg on our back who see beautiful and wonderful landscape. We enjoyed climbing up and every mountain pass has unique amazing beautiful scenery. The cost of the expedition was also very high like for example, Mt. Kalapathar trek would cost about US$990. We could do it with the help of sponsorship and supported by the ground work team from MMTA side too. Many places look like mini Switzerland, Jumbesi was very striking to us. I was wishing from inside that the film shooting should be done here, wonderful landscape, few houses were there, the most fascinating was their high tech kitchen arrangement. They have pipes all around the house which was heated by the kitchen fire; they require few logs of wood for cooking, it was beautiful and simple but high tech ideas work out in the kitchen. At the washing basin, as continuous flow of hot water was. There was no need to boil water separately for washing greasy dishes and for bathing too. Inside view was cozy and nice, well kept and comfortable. I admired the whole set-up of Jumbesi’s houses and the surrounding beautiful scenery. We could see the beauty because we were rear, slow climbers group like the slow and steady tortoise sees the best and win the race.
There were many unforgettable events on the way to Mt. EBC namely:
1st day—Jiri to Shivalaya (27 km Height)
2nd day—Shivalaya to Kinja (37 km height)
Nuthala and Bupsa
Namchi Bazaar (highest bazaar)
Mt. Everest base camp (EBC)
I am listing the routes haphazardly because I am recording after a long gap. Thanks to Mongsangai Woodstock School again for awakening me once again. I would quote few striking events happened on the way to Mt. EBC.
First day of our expedition, we have started from Jiri to Shivalaya, it was 27 km climb. It was very pleasant at the beginning; we had breakfast and started our journey to EBC. As we climbed up higher and higher, the weather kept changing; it became foggy and started raining heavily. The route became very slippery due to rain. I had many falls while climbing up and my whole body became very muddy and I looked like a buffalo. I was not a good climber. I was damn tired because I was not a good trekker and I could not synchronize with my footsteps and the breathing, the art and skill of climbing was totally nil in me. When we reached Shivalaya, all the locality came forwards for their health check up probably they came to know that there were two doctors in these expedition team. I was drying my wet cloth, snicker, and shocks over the fire. On other side, cooking was going on for our dinner; our tents were ready outside the camping place near the mountain stream. We, Dr. Sarat and I Dr. Sadhana started examining the patients one by one in the evening. The pathetic condition of Shivalaya was that there was no health care center, no pharmacy there and pregnant mothers were taking the obsolete antibiotic Tetracycline because of its’ side effect and health hazard to the unborn baby. They were unaware about the fact too, very frightening indeed, only God’s grace and natural environment saved the people of Shivalaya, It was a blessing in disguise. We were lucky that we brought lots of medicines and other necessary items to tackle anything possible on the way as well as we planned to do health camp at Jiri after our mission of Mt. EBC and Mt. Kalapathar. After examining the patients, there were two pregnant ladies, full term; they might deliver their babies in the early morning because the baby heads were fixed. I gave the information to our leader about the pregnant ladies. After checking the patients, we were back again to have dinner and gone to our respective tent to settle ourselves for the next day. I was damn tired, no time to watch the surrounding and slept like a log. At 2 AM early morning, someone from the locality kept calling for doctor for their patients. We have heard the call, I was feeling very sleepy, I could not even open my eyes. Bijaya responded the call; I told Bijaya that I want to lie down for another 5 minutes so tell them to call the local dais and I would tackle the case a little later. They said that the dais place was very far, it would take 3 hours climb.
I felt quite sad and the reality was in pathetic condition. I told Bijaya to tell them to boil lots of water for the delivery. They were very happy to our response, when I came out from the tent, it was beautiful, breathtaking landscape because it was full moon day of Buddha Purmima, the sound of the streams and Silvery Mountain, really amazing and wonderful, it awakened all the ladies and my sleepiness all gone and freshen us all over again. We were ready to move on for the mission ahead. God’s creation is wonderful. For me, I never watch full moon nor noticed the beauty of the moon; my only concentration was my hospital duties, home, and friends and I slept like a log after hectic schedule of my responsibilities. I made fun of the seniors who have appreciated the beauty of the moon; I told them that it’s look like a rounded baked roti. I have realized that I was wrong to make such a comment to my seniors. Then we woke up our leader and some of the senior’s team members for the delivery. From 2.30 AM—5.30 AM, I was managing and tackling the cases, from the 1st house, I delivered a baby boy and then from another next house, I delivered a baby girl with our limited things and equipment. They were so happy and they wanted to satisfy us with something they could do. I told them to offer black coffee for 11 of us including our leader Mr. Oinam Chaoba. The tradition of Shivalaya people followed and used the capital letter of their mother,s name for naming their children. They told me that they wanted to call my name to the baby girl, I said not to call my name instead to call her “THOIBI”, our legendary name of our motherland and we name the baby girl as “Thoibi” and the baby boy as “ junior Chaoba’, taken our leader’s name. I would like to mention some of our team members name; they were Mr. Chaoba, Manitomba, Pritam, Chongtham Doren, Tomba, Birbanta, Henry, Anukaram, S. Nandirani, Bijaya Yumlembam, Saityabhama, and Dr. Sadhana Ningthoujam etc. We have attendance call morning and evening, interacted and taken feedback in the evening time and our leader gave a brief to all of us the next day program how to go about. In spite of the sleepless night, with our fond memories we have started our 2nd day mission to Kinja.
On the 2nd day, climbed to Kinja—it was tough rocky mountain, full of ups and downs, our next camping place was Kinja; the distance from Shivalaya to Kinja was 37 kms. It was very tough and difficult for me. We, 5 rear groups were far behind from the other trekkers, it was getting darker and very late but the brightness of the moon shining above us was the guiding force for us. We sat down frequently and rested on the way. We could hear the howling sound of the jackals, to protect ourselves, we were told to pick up anything like sticks or stone on the way, in case attacked by the jungle jackals. When we reached Kinja, all the advance team members welcomed us with encouraging claps. We were told to lie down on the floor and some of our members started massaging our legs and upper limbs in order to relieve our body tension and to improve our circulations. I was too tired; I could not eat or drink. I told our leader that everything seems to be dark, I wanted to stay back here; he told me “ you are very important for all the trekkers and we depend on you for their health care throughout the journey, so do not back out”. Every mountain Pass we came across has different unique beauties of its own, many places look like valley of paradise, mini Switzerland, etc for example like Jumbesi, Ringmu, Lamjulla, Nuthala, Bupsa, Kharikhola, Bhandara, Surkhe, etc. I slowly adapted my pace to the climbing skill.
On the 4th day, we have started after taking breakfast, slowly, slowly I have started adapting my climbing skills, synchronizing my steps with the breathing and then I have started enjoying my treks. We came across lots of foreigners, we have greeted each other, they said life begins at 80s’, many elderly climbers were there, one German farmer, we met on the way, he was fed up of eating chowmein (noodle), soup, fried rice, etc. He came to see what we were cooking, he said that whatever we cooked, he wanted to have that; we were preparing plain rice and Iromba for dinner, we were managing out of the things we have plucked small bamboo and tokningkok plants on the way in order to prepare Iromba. The German fellow enjoyed our food and we laughed saying to ourselves that he had been initiated to the Manipuri food items. Bijaya have commented to his response that’ Meitei Irombada Chaumle”. We met another Research student who did research work on submarine under water plants joined the climbing in order to take a break from the hectic research work probably to recharge his energy. We drank mountain available water on the way by treating with Iodine drops added into the water bottle; when our boiled water stock finishes, because Himalayas ranges belonged to Goiters region. Many foreigners’ climbers treat the water for drinking like these. The research student joined with us most of the time and we all continued climbing.
As we climbed higher up, I started having nauseating feeling, headache and dizziness so I told them that I have needed to acclimatize so we, Bijaya, Nandirani and myself Sadhana stayed back for the night and later on to catch up with our team the next day. Professor Sarat have descended down further from our station due to high altitude sickness, it seems that he had some heart problem too. We had to co- ordinate with him through walky-talky to catch up with us the next day so that we could climb together.
After we have acclimatized ourselves, we have waited in the morning for Prof. Sarat to climb up so that we could continue our journey together. Every mountain Pass had its own beauties from Kinja to Lamjulla, Lamjulla pass to Ringmu, brilliant view of Jumbesi valley could be seen from there and we came across rain forest to pine forest to spooky hanging moss forest and so on. As we climbed up further, Lamjulla pass or Lamjulla spring is an exhilarating trek through Alpine valley where Rhododendrons were blooming all over the trek, thickly grown trees with full of flowers of different shades of pink colors, off-white, purple, yellow color flowers etc. We have forgotten the hard tiring experience with altitude problems, Dr. Sarat have shouted and screamed loudly, we thought that he was having some heart problem, so we, Bijaya and myself, Sadhana ran high up the mountain, with lots of fear because of our limited medicines in hand. When we reached up there, we came to know that he shouted out of contentment after seeing the beautiful flowers. We have scolded him not to repeat again in future. Lamjulla pass was a breathtaking view, awesome and wonderful treks. We came across Stupa at the Lamjulla pass and many other places also, flags were hanging and many suspension bridges, we came across on the way. We have experienced the jungle life also and tackling the situational problems that come by. One junior girl of our team was having psychological fear i.e. phobia, fear of crossing suspension bridge. I have tackled her problem by counseling. At first she could not cross the bridge by herself, she has to hold others, scream and shout while crossing it. I tried to gain her confidence and the good support system by all of us; she could do it without much help while crossing the suspension bridge. Later on, one black and white spotted dog followed us, her attention was diverted to the dog and her phobia was completely cured. We named the dog, Tengboche and he followed us throughout the journey. We brought him to Imphal, kept at the MMTA office and later on to MMI, Lamdan. The dog, Tengboche was a lovely one and he accompanies all of us till the completion of our mission. We came across mountain goats, sheep, yaks, donkeys and potters carrying heavy loads on the way and we also tasted hard cheese (chuppi) while climbing up to Mt. EBC.
Nuthala and Bupsa
The unique was of the Nuthala and Bupsa lie their being lowland hilly areas with temperate forest and really beautiful, Bupsa’s place looks like a cowboy town and exhilarating trek. We came across on the way, one deaf and dump fellow; we had to co-ordinate with him by our finger signal and in a demonstrative manner to get our requirements at the house where we put up and while we were cooking for ourselves. He was very helpful and nice, only things we have to demonstrate and signs to get chilies and other necessary items of the kitchen. When we were climbing down also we met him again, we were very happy to see him.
As we climbed up higher and higher, there were uneven rocks that made the paths and slippery from rain, in the thick forest where rain was pouring heavily we lost our treks and as the evening got darker and darker, we could not see the way properly even with the help of our torch light on; we have decided to hold the night if we came across any house on the way. I had almost fallen over the uneven rocks and finally we saw a house, it was a big relief; Dr. Sarat knocked on the door and called out many times but no response. I told that a female vocice would help in this situation, so Bijaya knocked and called out the owner of the house, then the lady opened the door. We asked the lady to provide for our stay and even food to eat, she agreed to do so, we ate simple foods which were available there and she provided a room for us to spend the night. We were very tired and tried to get some sleep, the night was very cold and I was shivering, I looked around and saw a mattress over the wall, I took the mattress and covered myself with it. Thus I spent the night comfortably. It was a life changing experience of jungle survival we practiced there and adapted to meet the situation. The next morning, we started our journey to catch up the advanced team; we have cleared the charges for the room and the food and thanked their family for nice hospitality
The cost price of one plate of rice was Rs200—250 as we climbed up higher and higher, one bucket of hot water for bathing, it was Rs 150—200/per bucket. We tried to get some changes from the passer- by, Rs 1000 Indian money when exchanged to Nepal currency we got Rs 1500, experiences are the teacher and it’s a life changing experience. Mt. Everest base camp was the centre of attraction for all the adventure seekers. I came across 2 wonderful projects worked out on the way to Mt. EBC. One was Japanese project of hydroelectricity, Japanese climbers identified the problem, after the need assessment, from the small mountain streams, and hydroelectricity was generated and provides the towns with light fitted with auto cut mechanism also. And the second beautiful project work was done by Germany. This project provides water supply, water has been diverted by the help of the pipe and supply higher up the mountain continuously. The most needed ones were fulfilled and a great achievement.
As we proceed further, we reached Namchi bazaar at the height of 3440 meters above sea level. It is a town in Khumbu Nepal district. The Tibetans come over this route to do their business and sells their woolen products here. We have exchanged Nepal currency from the money exchanger. We stayed in a hotel run by a Buddhist lady; she gave a silk scarf to me and to Bijaya and her family blessed us too. We met all our team members at Namchi bazaar. From there they proceeded to Tengboche, Dingboche, Lobuche and Mt. EBC. The team followed the route that from Mt. EBC to Gorekshep and submitted to Mt. Kalapathar. Our team faced high altitude sickness, tackled with frequent acclimatization and by medication during the expedition and summitted the peak in time without the support of oxygen. We came back on the same route. At Shivalaya, we were waited by the baby junior Chaoba, I have examined him and found that he developed mild jaundice. o I advised some medication for baby boy junior Chaoba. When we reached Jiri, we organized health camp; there we have examined more than 300 patients and given medicines too. Our mission was completed with flying colors
When we reached Guahati, we were given program at DDK, Guahati; they interviewed our leader Mr. Chaoba, Dr Sarat, Bijaya Yumlembam and Dr. Sadhana Ningthoujam. When we reached Manipur, we were again interviewed at All India Radio, Imphal. Our mission was great and it was a life time experience with ever lasting impact to all of us. Long live MMTA.
The writer is a medical doctor with the Manipur Health Services