North Face of Chhogho Ri
07 March 2013
In front of us was a cone of bare rock above which a snow peak towered into the sky, heavy with its diaphanous blue veil. To the left of these two masses of rock and ice rose the misshapen pyramid of Chhogho Ri. It had a snow-covered hump on the left side. In the centre of the face in front of us, a great ridge ran up like a giant scar all the way up to the summit. Between this ridge and the hump on the left was a deep gully festooned with enormous hummocks of snow and ice just ripe for the avalanche. The face to the right of the ridge was crumpled and completely covered with snow. If the nearer peak had a blue veil, Chhogho Ri was partial to purple. It was in sharp contrast to the symmetrical, elegant lines of the south face as seen from Concordia at the top of the Baltoro Glacier, a contrast that yet did little to mar the majestic grandeur of the second highest peak on the planet.
I stood in open-mouthed awe for a good few minutes before starting to walk. 'Aren't you taking a picture?' Wahab wanted to know. 'Look at the blue haze. This is hardly going to be a picture. We should have been here shortly after sunup.' I was averse to just an ordinary snapshot of such a powerful spectacle and had not even reached for my camera. 'You must take a photo. You said it is certain you will never return. One day you'll need this photo to remind you what the mountain actually looks like from our side.' Wahab said solicitously. Then with a moment's thought he added, 'It will remind you also of the time you became the first Pakistani to see the north face of Chhogho Ri.'
The man was so right. Within days after leaving this region, my mental image would start becoming distorted. Over time I would imagine the mountain any which way my fancy took. The mussed up coarseness of this side as against the smooth handcrafted loveliness of the south face might become magnified; the avalanche-ready stacks of snow and ice greater and its blue veneer less seemly. And so, shortly before eleven in the morning, with everything covered in a blue skein, I took my snapshot of Chhogho Ri. Within ten minutes of walking after the picture, the mountain was hidden behind the nearer hills.
Labels: The Apricot Road to Yarkand
posted by Salman Rashid @ 2:05 PM,