Adil! our alpine adventurer
By: Mahmood A Shah
In 2013, a helicopter rescue operation was carried by Wing Commander Anshul Saxena of Indian Air Force when 5 trekkers got stranded while clicking pictures on an iceberg at Kousarnag Lake. Their only chance of survival was heli-rescue. God was kind, help arrived in time and all the five trekkers were safely airlifted. Adil was one of them and that day he had a new lease of life. Five years down the line, his luck ran out when ,while scaling Kolahoi , the highest feature of Kashmir, a rock fall around Burdalaw would consume him. Finally, the mountains succeeded in securing its precious asset. His life would come to an end on the alpines he had become synonymous with.
Few years back when I got a maiden JKMHC Trek organized to Gangbal , many boys where anxious to join and among them Adil the alpine adventurer was a part of 30-member trekking team. I met him for the first time at Gangbal. I could gauge his ebullience as he marched ahead, was the first to reach the lake, went on to visit Koulsar, wading 4 ft of snow to the lake. He was bitten by mountain bug very early and in coming years it would turn virulent.
Soft spoken and humble, he used to post lots of adventure stuff and spice it with interesting posts. He was cut above the rest and caught my attention. We stated interacting, initially through social media then meeting in my office. We discussed routes, trek, lakes, passes, equipment, maps, hiking boots, trekking books, literature, almost everything on adventure. He had a flair for it and was blessed with organizational capabilities.
For the next few years, we would trek together and with each passing trek our bond of friendship grew stronger. While I picked up many things from him, he nurtured deep respect for me. He used to seek my advice on crucial matters and keep me informed about upcoming treks and expeditions. Seeing his passion, I could not refuse him support. He wanted to do chaddar, I gladly supported. I even went to seek support from a friend for his Everest base camp trek. As he would return from a trek, he would plan future trails. He was focussed, his passion un-satiated. He was daring and would take risks to be in the mountains, a truly a man possessed.
I was attending a conference when my phone rang. It was an unknown number. I hesitated a bit, took the call, on the other side it was Adil. He was elated to announce that his team had summited Kolahoi and were on way down. He quickly gave the details of the ascent and weather conditions. I told him to take care and get down safely. Little did I know that it was going to be his final call and I would be the last person he would talk to on phone. Earlier before embarking on the expedition he had dropped me a message that he would start on 2nd September to recceeNandlalBakayas route. However, he did not mention that he was planning to summit the peak.
He was a trail blazer, perhaps the first local to have climbed Harmukh, Sunset, Katsal, Kutwal, Shin Manyiun, Stok Kagri and Kolahoi, the mountain which ultimately wrested him from us. He trekked to more than 100 high altitude lakes, only Last year he discovered highest high-altitude lake around sonmarg at an altitude of 4602metres. Every year, on mountain day he would prepare yearly achievement for the club. He meticulously collated trekking logs and would present them immaculately. He was unique in many ways, though short in stature, he lacked height and build, however he overcompensated it with his spirit. He was a pivot, a role model for many youngsters whom he inspired and would command their blind following. He indeed was a pick of the bunch .
Later in the day I would get frantic calls for help regarding the accident. One confirmed death of Naveed, a young promising KAS officer while the fate of Adil remained unclear. I would for the next three days get involved in the rescue that would finally end with the retrieval of the two bodies. It was 7th September, the flood anniversary and the whole adventure fraternity of Kashmir was inundated in grief and shock to what had happened on Kolahoi (Gwashibror). The mountain of light had this time around spread darkness. This is the first ever death on the mountain since it was climbed in 1912 by Kenneth Mason and Dr Earnest Neve.
As the news went viral, his friends, relatives, club boys, Aru inhabitants and district administration rushed to save them. Nawab, Junaid, Tufail, GulluShafqat ,Riyaz ,Tahir and many more would reach Danwat that night only to be confronted by bad weather. The climbing team would reach down that night along with the injured, to be airlifted next morning. The rescue efforts would remain hampered for the next day till finally a coordinated effort of rescuers and helicopter would bring the bodies down.
Hoping against hope that Adil would survive the accident, I went to his home to console his grieving father while I was talking to him my sight wandered to the wall Calendar that Adil would design and print every year. I was shocked to see the coincidence, September pictured Kolahoi with the surrounding ice field, place where he was destined to take his final breath. He had planned it, the picture, the ascent and his demise looked like a jigsaw that matched perfectly.
Earlier in 2013 I wrote an obituary of Dr Hamid, the famous teacher-cum-trekker, who died while coming down from Mahadev, a thought came to my mind later that when I will leave this world Adil will write my obituary. It never crossed my mind that I will have to write his one also. As we lowered him into the grave, he took a part of me along, He has done the same with his friends and family.
Fate had a strange twist for him. On 10th of September Wing Commander Anshul Saxena of Indian Air Force landed his chopper on the Kolahoi ice field to pick up Adil’s body bag, Anshul had picked him up earlier from Kousarnag as well but this time around it was his final ride. His five years of luck had finally run out, from Kounsarnag to Kolahoi his life had come full circle. He was not only a great man but he had a great life as well.
The writer is Regional Director Settlement, Kashmir.