Alison, Hilaree, Margaret, and me, Kasha, have come together with the singular goal of climbing one mountain in the Indian Himalaya, Hanuman Tiba, rising nearly 19,500 feet, and skiing an unskied couloir that drops over 7,000 feet.
Making busy people and busy schedules fit together was a chore, but we have all arrived in Delhi, India, successfully completing the first leg of many. Alison and I came from Colorado, where our plane barely took off from our small local airport due to our first real snowstorm of the winter. That aside, flying from Crested Butte, Colorado to Delhi is still a marathon journey. Flights to and from Delhi are scheduled to accommodate the rest of the planet, so the airport is still bustling around midnight, with international flights coming and going all night long.
Hilaree and Margaret, now waiting for us in customs, left from Seattle the day after the city's biggest earthquake in 50 years. We held our collective breath waiting for the Seattle airport to reopen, which it did, and we are thrilled to finally be here, and are totally exhilarated by our upcoming mission.
We're supposed to stay in Delhi one night and leave for Manali the following morning. Unfortunately, trying to stick to a schedule is our first mistake. Alison and I are missing our luggage, and get only a veiled promise that it might come on the flight tomorrow evening and that maybe they can get a courier to send it on to us.
The details of traveling to Manali, our staging town northeast of Delhi in the Indian Himalaya, are further complicated given the amount of equipment we're carrying. We've got our skis, our clothes, and all of our gear including a tent, our packs, and enough food for 11 days. This is one case in which traveling en masse is actually easier and cheaper.
We debate every possible travel scenario until almost sunrise, opt to leave for Manali at first light, and hope for the best with the luggage. We grab three restless hours of sleep and head to the train station for a three-hour ride out of Delhi, after which we meet a taxi for our ten-hour trip north to Manali.
From Manali, our expedition will really begin. We have two weeks to head into the mountains and take on Hanuman Tiba. The train station is where we really feel that we've hit India. Early morning light filters through the dusty air and sounds and smells penetrate all of the senses. People are selling, begging, sleeping, and living in the train station, and the filth isn't easy to grow accustomed to. Piling up with nowhere to go, the foulness sinks into itself eventually only to be replaced by more of the same. Needless to say, this group of four tall and clean western women draws stares from all sides as we board the early-morning train.
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