Sherpas, the backbone of expeditions in the Himalayas – via the story of climber Palkesh Kalma

As Palkesh Kalma describes his story of climbing Dhaulagiri in Nepal, it highlights how the Sherpas, the Himalayan people, defies all odds to help climbers in their passion. 

It is not uncommon to find locals, one of the most significant helping hands behind any successful tour to an unknown place. Many such stories are often narrated by travellers where they do not forget to mention the contribution of locals, and when it comes to climbing mountains, especially, Himalayas, one can not undermine how sherpas, the Himalayan people living on the borders of Nepal and Tibet, experienced in mountaineering, go to a great extent to help travellers reach the peaks. An Ahmedabad-based climber, Palkesh Kalma, also experienced the same on his expedition to Dhaulagiri, a mountain massif of the Himalayas at an elevation of 8, 167 m in west-central Nepal.

Palkesh Kalma

It started on September 10, 2021, when Palkesh reached Nepal for the expedition. Such expeditions are carried out through travel agencies that have direct contact with the sherpas. To acclimatize the bodies to the extreme weather conditions, the travellers, along with Palkesh were, first, made to stay at the base camps from where they also went to camp 1, 2, and 3 for practice.

After the completion of the activity, they were ready to reach the peak on October 29. They left camp 2 at around 8:45 a.m. to go to camp 3, which is situated at the height of 7,240 mt. The journey was tiring for them with bags on their backs. It took them long hours to reach there and meet the sherpa team, involved in putting safety ropes to make the roads clear for the climbers to move amid darkness and snowfall.

By this time, all the travellers, had put on the oxygen given to them by the agency, but there was a fear of finishing it because of its limitation. Meanwhile, the snow was all over the base and was above the waist of the members. The sherpas were continuously trying to clear the route, but since it was a fresh snowfall, it had become difficult for them to remove it. Around 2 a.m., they told the members that it was not possible for them to go further and that they could not fix the rope and clear the route. The travellers, along with the sherpas came back to camp 3 where a few of them rested.

However, the question remained as to who will take the members up again. “I remember, only two to three sherpas were ready to make the second attempt,” Palkesh says. The situation led the travel agency to intervene in the matter, and lastly, fours sherpas were selected to clear the route again on the next day, and one sherpa was allotted to each traveller throughout the trek. The major work of a sherpa was to carry the oxygen, walkie-talkie, etc., of the travellers so that they could easily hike the mountain. “Sherpas are well aware of all the possibilities and hence, are no less than saviours,” Palkesh adds.

The next day called for the selected sherpas to clear the path for the travellers for which they left camp 3 around 10:30 a.m. They were followed by Palkesh and other members who reached near them along with their helpers around 1:50 a.m. on October 1. To all of their surprise, it was not that windy, and the temperature was only between minus 15 to 20 degrees, better than other days! “Even the temperature was better, though we could not feel our hands and fingers,” Palkesh says.

The whole team passed the steep and narrow section between two mountains, and the sherpas tried to save the ropes so that they did not fall short of them. Lastly, at around 5:52 a.m., came the emotional moment for the team, when they reached the Dhaulagiri summit, their destination, and saw the breathtaking sunrise from there. In Palkesh’s words, “After a long 12-hour journey, the sight was a relief to me.”

Palkesh Kalma, an Assistant Engineer with Oil Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) by profession, has climbed various peaks, including Satopanth and Kanchenjunga, since 2016. However, what is common in all such climbing journeys is he never fails to deliver thanks to the sherpas, like in the Dhaulagiri where he handed one lakh to his sherpa, on the successful climbing to the peak!

Also Read: The incident of the strange sound in the silent Himalayas and the night that ended long for Isa Khan, a traveller from Delhi!

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