October 3, 1944
To: Principal Percival Davis
Address: Combermere School, Barbados
From: Austin Clarke
Address: St. Matthias, Barbados
Back in September 1944, I was enrolled into Combermere School, into its own ‘L2D’, or ‘Lower Second Form’, and it almost felt (in terms of the emotional environment) like the day I was born. I was enrolled into it with thirty other boys, almost ready to experience something entirely, completely different. Combermere School happened to be located in Barbados, a Caribbean island, and this was also my home country, for all my life. To add on, Barbados happened to be in Central America, to the right of the Americas’ own Mexico, amongst the most popular countries, as well as the NA’s very own third-biggest.
Why was I enrolled? It was because my mother wanted me to. And she could not have been happier for me, as she had just achieved something that was incredibly unexpected, and exceeded the expectations of everyone at our village. It happened to the extent that all the mothers of the village, with a hope for me being successful, cheered me on, told me to accomplish great things at school, said that learning would make me a better man, and, otherwise, simply wished me good luck on my way to school. Their motivation was very much required, and provided me with some optimism.
If one were to ask me how I felt during all of this, I would probably have said that I was very happy. Nervous, tense and stressed, sure, but I was also extremely glad, proud of myself, happy with my mother’s pride for my enrollment, and ready to conquer whatever awaited me. If I did bad enough, I would be a sanitary inspector, and if worse, a ‘book-keeper’ on the sugar plantations. But, doing well would have allowed me to become a civil servant, which had been my dream since childhood. To achieve that dream would have filled me with joy, and that made me more than prepared for Combermere School.
But, what of my mother? She was indeed very happy for me, as I pointed out before, and was prepared as to what she would put in my bag: books, puzzles, compasses, a biscuit tin, a fish sandwich and lemonade. She wanted me to learn all that could be learned, study all that could be studied, and be the best, most well-groomed by in the entire world. And yet… she did not want me to be a civil servant. Rather than letting me achieve my dreams, she would have rather preferred me to become a doctor, the safer, more ‘accepted’ job, than the dangerous sorts, which was in the form of a ‘civil servant’.
So, here I am now, a student in secondary school, writing to you an account regarding my experiences getting prepared for secondary school, to make my mother proud. My mother’s insistence resulted in me getting enrolled into secondary school, with me being very tense and excited, and my mother being happy; she wanted me to be a doctor, whereas I wanted to be a civil servant. I have learnt that, sometimes, experiences do not go the way you want them to go. It is advised that the principal impresses me greatly with this school, so that I do not wish to leave, and I hope that everything in this above account is extremely helpful to the addressee, to further their cause of better education.
Nanga Parbat, also called the King of the Mountains, has the highest rock and ice wall in the world. This Killer Mountain, with its three vast faces and a height of 8126 meters, has been the centre of attention of many climbers for over a hundred years.
A few years ago, I was also one of the many young and ambitious climbers who dreamt of conquering this mighty mountain king. At the age pf twenty, after many fights and much arguing, my family members finally gave into my request to fulfil my dream. However, luck was not on my side for when I reached Base Camp, I was met with relentless weather conditions which were not aat all ideal for climbing a mountain that had claimed so many as its own.
I waited at Base Camp or over two weeks, but the weather just did not seem to lift. My ambition and determination eventually got the better of me and I set out to conquer the Killer Mountain. All went well for a couple of days and my excellent climbing skills helped me ascend up to a height of 6000 meters.
However, that was when the King decided to unleash its wrath. My progress was stopped by fog, drenching snowmelt and avalanches. Seeing that there was no possibility of neither an ascend nor a descend, I dug myself into snow hole with the hope that the weather would soon calm down.
Unfortunately, fate was not on my side and after a few days, I radioed Base Camp and asked Nazir Sabir, President of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, for a rescue helicopter.
While I waited in my snow hole for help to arrive, there was only one thought going through my head, “A lot of ambition is never a pleasant thing”. As I remained trapped for the fifth day, my rations were running dangerously low and I felt as though death was just around the corner. The sound of helicopters disappearing, driven away by the ferocious winds, further dampened my spirits and I felt the need to be back at home, curled up in my mother’s arms, with not a care in the world.
However, on my sixth day of imprisonment, a helicopter with two courageous pilots finally managed to come near my hell hole. Three ropes weighted with rocks dangled from the chopper skids and after much struggle due to the deathly avalanches crashing past us, I finally managed to hook one of the ropes with my axe and attach it to myself.
After a near-death experience, I finally reached safety and was greeted by a few angry and other happy people.
On November 21st of last year, a few colleagues of mine and I decided to climb the Nanga Parbat. Taking risks was one of our favorites because seriously, what is life without a little bit of adventure and risks?
I had gathered some information on Nanga Parbat and I got to find out that it was also known as “the King of the Mountains” due to its vast area; it was at a height of 8126 meter. We, soon, hired a guide to lead us up otherwise we would have been clueless pandas seeking shelter.
The day had come. We were all ready to climb the mountain in the glacial weather; snowflakes clinging to the parched crust of our faces with breezy winds blowing that caused our hair to stand up. My heart beat faster as the moments passed by. We were all packed up in our warmers and gear that was provided, rations full.
The first day had been really tiring. In the distance you could see the clouds covering the horizon. The next couple of days went about as planned: climbing, resting, eating and repeat.
However, one day as we were climbing the humungous white giant, we noticed that flag was drifting towards but as I squinted my eyes to focus, I watched as the pile of snow followed.
Our guide shouted telling us to run but everybody knew there was no escaping this. Soon, the avalanche captured us in its trap, my body going numb in seconds.
I lost contact of my guide and the others so I reached out for the device and tried radioing the Base Camp. I mouthed the words “help” but no sound came out. I tried harder the next time and let out an almost inaudible “help”. I could hear the chaos building on the other end and a few hours later, I suppose, the helicopter could be heard. As they found no sign of our existence due to a thick layer of white sheet plastering us, they left.
There was no hope left in me. I blacked out and when I woke, provisions running low, I tried pulling away at the snow surrounding me. It was petrifying, salty tears running down my frostbitten cheek. But, at the very next moment, the sound of another helicopter filled my ears like music and I radioed them, saying, “I hear you!”
It took a while but they dug me out, rope around my waist and the next thing I knew, I was being pulled up. Heaps of blankets soon covered me. All my other acquaintances made it through the avalanche, luckily. Before long, the pilot flew away from the aftermath of the flurry. A deep sigh of relief escaped my lips as I shivered against the cool atmosphere.
I buried my pick-axe into the heavy white mass of snow with all my might before dragging it out. My breath came out labourious white puffs. My nose was numb and I could not feel my feet. Wiping sweat away from my forehead, I nestled my pick-axe into the icy pit before me once more and dragged it out. There –I had finally finished digging my snow hole. I stumbled into its chilly depths and collapsed, my tense muscles trembling. I rubbed my legs in an attempt to get the circulation flowing. I had made a terribly stupid, impulsive decision and I was now paying the price for it, isolated in the vast, freezing mountain Diamir –the King of Mountains.
I am a well-known, seasoned alpinist from Slovenia. My name is Tomaz Humar. I have had my eyes set on scaling and conquering Diamir, also known as the Nanga Parbat, for a while now; however, when I arrived at the base camp the weather was irregular with threats of blizzards and snowstorms. Embarking on a trip to climb the 26,000 foot mountain in such weather would have been suicidal. Diamir after all does have the tallest rock and ice wall in the world, along with three vast rock faces. It has attracted and ended many climbers before me. I had been biding my time, waiting for the dangerous weather before I set out, but my departure was sped up by another alpinist: the American climber Steve House who, along with his partner, was also determined to reach the summit. In haste, I left early to scale the mountain, even in such life threatening conditions, for I wanted to be the winner in this race; a grave mistake indeed.
I encountered a couple days of good weather and favourable conditions initially. However, soon my thus far successful 6000 metre ascent was hampered by fog, drenching snowmelt and avalanches. I dug myself into a hole and radioed base camp and asked Nazir Sabir, President of the Alpine Club of Pakistan for a rescue helicopter. I waited for quite a few days. The helicopter could not reach me in such harsh conditions. After a few failed rescue attempts, I was sure that there was no hope and that I would surely perish, but then another attempt was made and proved successful. I was safe again. I owe my life to Lieutenant Colonel Rashidullah Baig and Major Khalid Amir Rana, my rescue pilots. Without the brave attempts of Sabir, Colonel Manzoor Hussain and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, I would have surely been a dead man. As for Steve House, he scaled Diamir and returned to Base Camp a month after my rescue, proving that haste is a complete waste, and that slow and steady wins the race. Oh, how I regret my decision now.