When was the last time you heard of someone scaling a mountain peak without their goggles? Well, we have a story for you — and that, not of a novice but a veteran climber — reminding us that even veterans in a field are capable of mistakes although they find their way out of situations using their experiences.
Everest climber Romil Barthwal, who was a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army, has been undertaking mountaineering expeditions for the last 23 years. Till date, he has completed more than 25 such expeditions. So also, forgetting his goggles and still jetting off on an expedition stands out as a strange story just as it remains an admittedly strange experience for the climber.
Romil, who according to his profile in one of the professional networking sites is also a paratrooper, marathoner, super-randonneur and adventurer, was leading a 12-member team last week that was scaling the 17,348-ft Mt Friendship Peak located in the Pir Panjal Range in Himachal Pradesh.
Wearing crampons, climbing boots, safety harness, down jackets, gloves, headlights, etc., the team started the expedition at 2 a.m. However, at around 6:30 a.m., just when the sun’s rays began piercing through the mountains, Romil started experiencing the symptoms of snow blindness. It was then he realised that he forgot to wear his UV-protected mountain goggles.
For the unversed, snow blindness is a temporary discomfort in the eye when one is exposed to too much of the sun’s ultraviolet light especially at such altitudes. However, the condition is usually not serious and heals on its own in some days
“I was shocked upon remembering that I’d forgotten my goggles. It was frosty, and the temperature was around minus 20 degrees. It was also still dark, but my eyes had started to swell and it was feeling sore and painful, and my eyelids were twitching,” recounts Romil of the experience.
How important are goggles during a mountain expedition? Goggles are very important because since nothing is visible at such high altitudes, goggles have a calming effect and help in that the eyes don’t feel the strain. Simply put, goggles protect our vision,” says Romil Barthwal, who quit the Indian Army last year to pursue his dreams of leading mountaineering expeditions. “But if you’re lucky, the weather Gods may help you.”
In safe hands
Even as he was coming to terms about how an Everest climber as experienced as him could make such a big blunder, the going had started getting tougher as the day progressed. Romil was already struggling and pushing hard with each step in the early morning fog.