NANGA PARBAT: Mummery Winter 4

Patience is a virtue.  What’s the hardest part of an expedition? The acclimatisation, the load carrying, the cold, digging out buried camps? No. The hardest part of an expedition is the waiting. Sitting around on your duff, stuffing your face full of rice, going to relieve yourself of said rice, sleeping.

tom ballard nanga parbat 4 | montane

< vol. 3

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately, trying to drown out the negative thoughts floating maliciously inside my mind. Basecamp life is fairly predictable: First breakfast, anywhere between 7.30am and 9am, depending on what we’ve planned for the day. Fried eggs with chapatis or pancakes or similar. Porridge if we’re heading up on the hill. Washed down with two cups of tea and a cup of coffee. If it snowed during the night (more than likely) then after breakfast there’s snow to be moved. Tents to be cleared and pathways reopened. If I wake up early then I’ll often clear at least one tent before breakfast.

When we broke the trail downwards so that the porters could come up to us, we discovered another boulder for drytooling – the ‘Terminator stone’. Here we while away a few hours, biceps screaming on the both technical and powerfully overhanging traverse. I can’t help glancing back to the mountain. The weather always looks good up there when we are down here! The grass is always greener… The Samurai stone is closer, turn right after the toilet, but less steep. A very technical traverse is the main attraction. Superb viewpoint. The Jedi stone we haven’t been to for some weeks, due to too much snow. It has a short but very powerful traverse.

breaking trail on nanga parbat | montane

At this rate I may come back from this expedition with a decent amount of strength, for drytooling at least. Being extremely light also helps of course – I’ve lost a lot of weight. Snow clearing is great exercise as well. When up on the hill usually I eat only a handful of nuts and a protein bar. Famished on returning to basecamp, lunch is started with soup after 1pm. Then pasta and often fried potatoes. Fruit, apples and oranges keep the scurvy at bay but require careful defrosting first.

basecamp nanga parbat tom ballard | montane

Usually, we watch a film in the afternoon, and or do any odd jobs that remain. Depending on the weather. There’s always something to sew. ‘A stitch in time…’ and all that jazz. On average we watch two films a day. A hard drive full of movies should be on the top of the list when planning an expedition. Although hearing Tom Cruise or Liam Neeson with an Italian voice is wearing thin, for me at least. Occasionally we play badminton and basketball with the cooks and policemen. Good fun. Cold hands usually stops play.

tent management on nanga parbat | montane

Time seems to drag until 7pm when the soup makes another round. Then usually – groan – rice with beans or vegetables on the side. Dan will often get a plateful of meat, as a vegetarian the replacement for me is potatoes or to eat more of the beans and vegetables. We’ve even had baked beans. I explained to Dan, the multitude of uses for baked beans, usually involving toast, whilst he was grating parmesan into his soup. If we’re lucky we will be served pizza! For desert runny custard or wobbly jelly. Chocolate, whilst stocks last, which with us both is not long.

We’ve been up to C2 several times recently. But always the threat of avalanches made us turn back without spending the night. We even turned back from C1 because we didn’t have a good feeling. Well-founded as a huge avalanche engulfed our line of ascent shortly after. Back to waiting. Patience is a virtue after all.

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