In Delhi, we stopped overnight at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, where we fended off an infestation of geckos in the bathroom and were warned--animatedly--of the ‘impassable’ 30° glacial slopes around our chosen objective. After much polite nodding, our next task was to source the cool sum of 71,000 Rupees, which we had foolishly neglected to withdraw before leaving the UK. Fortunately, our training came in handy as we raced between Delhi ATMs and eventually stumped up the cash for our peak permit. Having established that we didn’t need to purchase 500m of static rope to ‘equip’ the north face of Chiling II, we boarded a flight bound for Leh, excited to escape the 47°C heat wave that was melting the capital.
After tying up some logistical loose ends in Leh, two days of driving brought us to the roadhead just beyond the spectacular Rangdum monastery. The second half of this journey, which featured rough, unmetalled roads from Kargil into the mountain proved distinctly testing for Alex. He spent 8 hours groaning in the fetal position on the backseat of our jeep, and would periodically display some uncharacteristic athleticism by jumping out and vomiting violently in various spots along the Suru valley, courtesy of an undercooked omelet. If in doubt, opt for paratha. For me, the journey passed quickly, as I mused on the many towering, roadside alpine rock objectives in view and occasionally prodded Alex to check that he was still alive.
With Alex on the road to recovery from his digestive funk, and having recruited a small army of flip-flop clad Rangdum locals, a short half-day walk and a crossing of the Suru river allowed us to establish a base camp on the toe of the Lalung glacier, where we would spend the next three weeks.
Our base camp was still a complex, two-day walk from the base of Chiling II’s north face, and so we established an advanced base camp on the medial moraine of the Lalung glacier, some 8km further up the glacier, with the help of Karma, the self-professed ‘big load specialist’. While Alex and I stumbled inelegantly across heaps of moraine material, Karma romped up the loosest of ground with a 20kg sack, his feet equipped only with a luminous pair of Nike Airmax. Our delusions of sherpa-like fitness fell further behind with every sinking step we took, and the persistent cloud cover on the Chiling peaks left us concerned about our chosen line.