WOW | What You Think

What is the most daring thing that you have done?

Shanta Nepali
Adventure Filmmaker

It would be the time when we were documenting a new trekking route in Taplejung. There were 11 of us on an excursion by TAAN (Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal). On the ninth day of our journey, we were greeted by bad weather. All night, the wind howled and I thought it would blow away my tent. I spent the night holding the two sides of the tent onto the ground. The next day it began snowing. We asked locals to guide us up the 5,177-metre high Lumbasumba pass. Two men agreed, but as the snow fell thicker and obscured all paths, they returned. In the deep snow, we walked from 2am till 4pm, but could not find any trail.  As time passed, our team members became prey to the harsh weather. Altitude made breathing difficult leading to headaches and dizziness. Our photographer and writer developed severe cramps in the hands and my photographer became unconscious. As we ran out of water, we sucked on balled-up snow for moisture. We saved our packed lunches for emergency. But in that altitude, we lost our appetites. At  5,400 metres, I lost all hope of life. Starting a fire was almost impossible because the matches were moist and batteries in our equipment were nearly dead.  When our porter looked at his feet, he said with an eerie expression: “My toes have grown blue.” I immediately realised that hypothermia was setting in. I wrapped a plastic bag around my shoes and socks for insulation. Another porter discovered blue tints in his toes and complained about numbness. Our coordinator, who tended to everyone, realised that even his toes were getting infected.  There was no medical help. Though my hands and feet were fine, I kept staring at them all night. Next morning we woke to find that Mount Makalu was right in front of us. As our GPS had died, we could not find any path. We learned that we had wandered from Taplejung into Sankhuwasabha.  About five hours later, we reached a village called Thudam. It had 15 houses and the villagers spoke only Tibetan. A lone person, who spoke Nepali, told us that the nearest landline was five days away. We found someone who had a sky phone but there was no network. The trekking guide and I climbed nearly 400 metres. After almost three hours the network indicator showed one bar. At first, when I called Mahendra Thapa, President of TAAN, the line didn’t go through. Then I sent a message to one of my friends asking for immediate rescue. Thankfully, that got delivered. After three hours, a helicopter came to our rescue. Two of our porters, coordinator, photographer and writer went in the helicopter, while the rest of us continued the mission. The project was a success.