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Week of 4.17.09

David's Journal from India: Day 11

Dharali to Hardiwar:
High on Diesel Fumes

With the road now repaired, this is the enormous day of driving that has been looming on the schedule. In Uttarkash, we grab "The Times of India" which has an article about the roads, along with the grim news that ten people had died throughout the region in the heavy rains. Two people had their car crushed by a falling boulder.

In the tropical-seeming hills above Uttarkashi, we stop in at the Nehru Mountaineering Institute, to learn more about their training program for young people and for Conrad to pay his respects. In big, low chairs under a fan in the principal's office, we learn over coffee how teenagers can get a month of beginning or advanced climbing experience for the equivalent of about $500. An education in protecting the environment also comes free of charge here in India. Apparently, the U.S. has no equivalent, government-subsidized program.

Colonel M.M. Masur, Principal, Nehru Mountaineering Institute, Uttarkashi.
Colonel M.M. Masur, Principal, Nehru Mountaineering Institute, Uttarkashi.
The principal of the institute, Indian Army Colonel M.M. Masur, is full of the high energy of command. A number of the instructors are, like Conrad, "Everesters" who have summitted the world's highest peak. The Colonel speaks of a planned Indian attempt on Everest's west ridge next year. I can hear Conrad's intake of breath. The West Ridge is a very tough route and the plan is ambitious as the climbers are aiming to summit without supplemental oxygen. In Montana once I heard Conrad asked about whether he uses oxygen on his climbs. "Not enough," was his answer. Going high without gas too often isn't great for the brain cells.

View from a taxi.
View from a taxi.
Neither is all the diesel exhaust we are forced to breath in on what becomes eleven hours on the road. My iPod, which had self-destructed at high altitude, has come back to life as we go lower. We are going to pass through the ashrams of Rishikesh where The Beatles came to hang in the Sixties, so I click on some George Harrison and watch rice fields and monkeys go by.

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*Note: All photographs by John Siceloff unless otherwise credited.

Read Day 12: "Faith and Physics"