Today is summit day. There was quite a commotion downstairs in the dining room. I had little sleep. It was a little cold as I stepped out of my room. The large group members had already gathered and attired to start the morning hike. They were waiting for the food caterers to prepare the morning snack. I noticed a sign with a quote – something like ” breakfast will only be served from 0230″. The time now was 0130!. I could not believe it. Were they just eager or just plain silly? I went back to bed. There goes the plan to leave before and ahead of the group! Navindd was fast asleep.
After a quick hot snack, we were eager to get going. When we stepped outside, the cold wrapped us up. Fortunately, this time, we had thermals, gloves and proper jackets on. We even had our own headlamps to shine the path forward. Azman informed us that we need to be at Sayat-Sayat check point before 5.30 am. Otherwise, hikers may be stopped from continuing to the summit. I am not sure about this. With that in mind, we forged forward….which translated to uphill all the way. Up on a steep wooden belian steps, we climbed in pitch darkness shone only by our head lights. A long thin line of lights streamed up hill. It looked like a formidable task ahead. I stopped frequently as my poor fitness level surfaced. Navindd was still good, perhaps a little cold. We were above the cloud line. Visibility of the valley below was sporadic. We reached a fixed roped section of the trail. Against a solid granite rock face, a narrow crack rose uphill. Gripping the rope, we heaved up with our legs finding traction on a rather slipper surface apart from the narrow crack. I was nervous climbing up as the steep fall did not look attractive. One after another, we all climbed up very slowly. This is a treacherous stretch! I was concerned and wondered how I managed this stretch the last time. I don’t even remember it. Then was about 20 years ago. Perhaps youth had a part to play.
After that wrecking rock climb, we finally reached Sayat- Sayat Huts (3668m), the final checkpoint. It was 5am. We made it. There seem to be some pressure to walk quickly to get here, otherwise….. Our permits were checked and we were off again. The vegetation here is now a few standing shrubs and trees skeleton left. The landscape is now a rocky one. There were a few more tricky stretches using rope to propel forward. We have now passed the 7km mark and it was slow slog up the barren rocky plateau. I could see lights stretching from Sayat- Sayat Hut right up towards the summit. Surreal mountain formations surrounded us.