Mount Kaaf

  • 10 Nov - 16 Nov, 2018
  • Nadeem Alam
  • Fiction

He thought it to be a silence before storm. The path was all covered in snow. Anatoly took less than three hours to reach his first destination. He sat there and took rest for half an hour before proceeding to check point number 2 which was on a spur below the top of the mountain. It was roughly 2200 meters of steep climb and Anatoly had worked out the time required to reach there as four hours. It was tougher than his expectations. The wind had started blowing. Sky got covered with the clouds and stars disappeared. He had a flash light in his helmet which was good enough to show him the route ahead. He had carried sufficient stock of batteries to last for two weeks. He was also carrying enough rope to leave at check points for his return downwards which is always difficult than climbing up the cliffs. After some detouring and slips, Anatoly reached his second destination after five hours of rigorous climb. He then pitched his tent on the spur and went to sleep without even removing his protective gear.

Weather was getting normal again and his satellite phone was working perfectly.

He was in constant touch with Eddy who was keeping the Russian media informed about Anatoly’s progress. Media was giving it the front page coverage. His first attempt was also covered by media and everyone was worried when he lost his communication. Expecting the worse, Eddy had planned a rescue mission but soon thereafter Anatoly had contacted Eddy from airport. Press was accordingly informed that Anatoly is all right and that his mission was aborted due to bad weather. Anatoly intentionally did not mention his encounter with the injured fairy as he himself was not sure about it. He needed something more than a broken feather to prove his claim. This time he was fully equipped and determined to back his story with concrete evidence.

Anatoly woke up after another six hours of sleep which was good enough to refresh him. He took few sips of energy drink and ate a chocolate bar. He then packed his small bag and started his climb for check point number 3, which was on top of the Mount Kaaf. It was only 700 meters from his present position but was more challenging climb than the first two check points. Anatoly left his tent and other stuff at check point 2 since his plan was to return to this point after reaching the top. The route to top was full of crevices. He had to strictly follow the markings on the GPS and lay a rope line from point 2 to point 1 for his safe return.

Anatoly started his final climb at 4 pm. Weather was still friendly with temperature touching minus 32 Celsius. The distance to top of the mountain was not much yet Anatoly had to traverse around a bit to avoid crevices. It took him more than two hours to finally reach to the horizon which he had been watching from the base camp. He plugged one long nail hard on top and hung the sling down. He stood up and was amazed to find the continuous terrain of mountains till he could see in the star light. Finland was on his north and northwest, and this mountain range went deep into the country. Stars were shining bright and he could see the northern lights dancing vividly in the northern hemisphere towards the Finnish border. It was a breathtaking scene and Anatoly was mesmerised with beauty of the night. He had climbed many mountains and scaled many peaks but he never did so in the darkness. It was an astounding experience for him. Anatoly had simply forgotten the purpose of his mission which was to find the fairies. He sat there for an hour, took pictures, made videos and sent these to Eddy through his satellite phone. He laughed at himself for even have thought of the existence of fairies. He packed everything and started his journey back. He went to the place where he had tied his rope but could not find anything. He replaced battery of his helmet light and again searched the complete area. The rope was nowhere to be found. He had to descend Mount Kaaf without any support.

“Couldn’t find my rope. Going down without it.”

This was the last message Eddy received from Anatoly and then there was complete silence for next seven days.

“I am alive and well.”

That was the first message Eddy received from Anatoly after seven days. By this time, Anatoly had already prepared a rescue party and reached Murmansk through a chartered flight. The sun was still set and the temperature in town was minus 25 degrees Celsius. Eddy had paid a hefty amount to hire a jet and couple of mountaineers. He did not let the press know about the missing Anatoly otherwise his rescue mission would have got into jeopardy. He quietly managed everything with the money Anatoly had left with him. The pilot was a dare devil and an old war veteran. They reached St. Petersburg on the third day of the last message of Anatoly. The weather ahead was stormy and unfit for air travel. They were forced to stay in St. Petersburg for another two days. It was on sixth day of the start of their mission that the pilot found a good weather-break and flew to Murmansk. The Murmansk airport was not ready to receive them due to snow covered runway and lack of lights for night landing. Eddy was though very persuasive. He offered an amount which Alexander could not refuse. Alexander and his partner spent next eight hours in clearing a lane of runway and then they lighted it up. The pilot was a thorough professional. They landed smoothly but the jet started skidding just when the pilot applied the air breaks. They were very lucky as it stopped before hitting anything astride the runway. Eddy left the pilot at the airport, hired the Alexander’s truck and took the rescue party with him to the hotel. They entered the ghost town at 10 pm and were able to locate the hotel and then the empty room of Anatoly. They ignited the fire and then decided to take rest before starting their rescue mission the next day.

The next morning, they started preparing for the hike to the Kaaf and were ready to move in two hours. Eddy insisted on going with the team but they refused to take him along as Eddy had no training or experience of mountain climbing. The team left at 9 am and Eddy sat behind in the Anatoly’s room with very little hope of Anatoly’s survival. It was 5 pm when Eddy was just playing with his satellite phone that he received the first message from Anatoly after seven days of his disappearance:

“I am alive and well.”

Eddy took a sigh of relief. It brought a deep smile on his face. He then contacted and informed the rescue team who decided to continue the hike and meet Anatoly in the midway. Anatoly was also informed about this plan by Eddy. Anatoly started the return journey and eventually met the rescue team in midway as per the plan. Two days later, they all reached back in Murmansk safe and sound. Eddy had prepared hot food for them, which they consumed, took rest for next few hours and then reached the airport where their jet was parked. On insistence of Anatoly they had also taken along old Victor with them. Victor did not resist much. He was still wearing the snow suit of Anatoly’s father. By this time, the jet had been pulled to the right place. It was refuelled and ready to depart on half hour notice.

Eddy tried couple of times to ask Anatoly as to what had happened to him but Anatoly did not talk much. After reaching the airport, they waited for the weather to improve and then they flew straight to Moscow. It was a nonstop five hours flight and Anatoly did not utter a single word throughout the flight. Eddy was too curious to inquire from Anatoly about what happened during seven days but remained quiet. He wanted to give some space to Anatoly and knew that Anatoly will talk himself when he felt the time is right.

It was their third day in Moscow, when Eddy knocked on the door of Anatoly’s apartment. After few knocks, the door was opened and Eddy followed Anatoly into the kitchen. They both sat on the stools and drank coffee. Eddy was now frustrated with the quietness of his friend so he tried to cheer him up. He narrated couple of old vodka jokes but Anatoly did not budge.

The press and media also got the lead and were calling Anatoly round the clock. His cellphone was off and he did not open door for anyone except Eddy. Anatoly knew that nobody would believe him. He had returned from an unreal world. He would be called a liar and a cheat and he did not want to destroy his own reputation. But what to do? He had spent seven days of his life in a world full of mysteries and fantasies. He had met creatures which had never imagined could even exist. He met and fell in love with a fairy and that was not the end of it. He wanted to tell his story but would the world believe him or call him a swindler. His story would have been totally different if Eva had come with him. She had promised him to come to his world but she never turned up at the given place at the given time. He had waited for her till the last second of the closing of portal. She did not come. After reaching his base camp he started wondering that did this world really exist? It did exist for him as he had no other explanation for his last seven days. So he thought it better to remain quiet and let the reality dawn on him at its own pace. He decided to wait for the Eva to come to his world or remain quiet forever.