I lugged my heavy bags to the meeting point to meet up with the rest of the team. I could see we are all ready to search where no recent man has gone before. Before moving off, we had a mandatory run through of our checklist just in case we forgot to bring any important items. Since I was the only primary scholar in the team, I brought along some ancient translation text which might come in handy at the cave site and different maps of the area. I also contributed forty scholarly resources and ten medical resources for the expedition.
Once I was done checking my bag, I went over to Chogyam Dorje to collect some bandage from him so that I could heal minor injuries that the team might sustain while on the journey, this would help him reduce his workload as climbing up a mountain is hard enough already. From a distance, I could see that Karim brought a group of Sherpas from a neighboring village to help us with the climb. The Sherpa that came were all good at climbing that they would be a huge asset to the team. Many of the farmers brought barley for the trip as it is good for our bodies at high elevation. Some of the farmers brought yaks so that they are able to pull the carts loaded with our heavy equipment. Tenzin brought along ice axes for the climb up the mountain. It is one of the most important equipment to have on the expedition. Not long after we finished doing our final checks, Chodak the hunter joined us. He was a seasoned explorer in that area so he pack light and only what was essential. He said that the cave was called Mustang cave. Before leaving, the ritualist did a smoke ritual for us so that we would be protected in our journey, the artists prepared a mandala and released some prayer flags.
We loaded all the heavy equipment onto the cart and started the expedition. Chodak warned us that the journey will take seven days and it would take a lot out of you. Once we entered the forests, much of the path was covered with collapsed and thick vegetation. We had to bash through the vegetation by cutting it down and going round anything that was too thick to cut. We gathered some fire wood from the vegetation that we cut so that we can use it to make fire in the cave. Fire would be useful to us as it would provide us with heat and a light source when we explored the cave. The forest reminded me of my journey to the cave earlier to seek shelter from the hail storm.
After two whole days of trekking through the dense forest, I could finally see the end of the forest. Once we were out, we found a clearing and sat down to take a break. We set up base came and started packing all the equipment we needed for the climb. As we were doing that, the ritualist was busy setting up a smoke ritual to protect all of us during the climb. Karim instructed the Sherpas to start climbing the mountain side so that they can attach the climbing rope from the top of the mountain. The Sherpas were experienced climbers and they knew how to get around tricky situations.
As the temperature dropped, we all went back to our tents to have a rest before we start our climb the next day. The ritualist and the Sherpas were outside though. She was still conducting the smoke ritual while the Sherpas were relentless. They were climbing through the night and I could hear rocks falling with each step they took. I was back in my tent doing some last minute reading of ancient texts to brush up on my translation. I also decided to bring some of the important texts about ancient cave layout along with me as I hope that people in the past would use the same layouts.
By midday the next day, the Sherpas reached the top of the mountain and they started anchoring the ropes to the top of the mountain. Our group members all met to receive a final briefing from Chodak about the terrain and the dangers of climbing. But one of the ritualist stayed behind so that she can continue the smoke ritual.
Soon we started our climb. We were all given ice axes and crampons so that we can get a grip better grip on the ice. As we started climbing, the ritualist released prayer flags to protect us on our climb. With every puncture caused by the ice axe on the ice, I had a very uneasy feeling even though there were safety ropes attached to us. A feeling as though the whole ice sheet would break off and take us with it. We were fighting with the cold, strong wind and our fear of heights. We rested for the night at a plateau. We set our tents and build a fire. We also used the pulleys that the Sherpas secured at the top of the mountain to slowly pull our belongings up to the plateau. While we were having our dinner, Chodak told us that this was the halfway point and we are almost there. Chogyam Dorje went around asking if anyone needed medical assistance. We were told that we would carry on when the sun rises.
By midnight the third day, we were finally at the cave entrance. We were so excited by it that we were unaffected by our fatigue. We went in and started to build a fire. We used that fire as light and split up into teams to explore the cave. We saw at the entrance of the cave that there was a perfectly mummified remains of a monk that was meditating there. We were all shocked at how well it was preserved. As my team was exploring the cave, we heard a scream coming from the other end of the cave. We ran over towards the sound and saw that Pasang found a room filled with texts and Buddhist paintings. The artists took a closer look at the paintings and found that it was a different way of drawing. Something that has not been seen in a long time. I was reading some of the texts and I believed that it is something that we never I have never read before either. But I heard some rumors about it. The scriptures were called Padasambhava. However I was not certain about it so we decided to bring back some of the texts to the new library that is being built for interpretation. After a day’s worth of exploring, we came to a common agreement that the cave was used as a refuge, burial and document storage. We packed our stuff and started heading home.