While going through your social media feed, you might have come across this bizarre viral photograph that shows a long queue of climbers at the peak of Mount Everest. This picture, as funny as it was to some, was also a point of discussion around the safety of the climbers. But, there is only so much one can tell from a photo. Aditya Gupta, a Delhi-based businessman, who happened to climb the Everest on the same day, recalls his horrific experience.
He says, “When you’re into trekking and mountaineering, Everest becomes the ultimate prize. This year I turned 50 and so I thought I should give it another shot.” But, nothing had prepared Gupta for the horror that was ahead. Taking from his experience, he says, “Everest is Everest, so a bit of risk always comes along. But when people die, we assume it was the mountain that killed them. The fact, however, is that you can always prepare for the mountain risk. It is the human risk, which comes from other climbers, agencies, and sherpas, that is disturbing.”
“The average cost of an Everest summit is about ₹30 lakh. Out of that, ₹10 lakh goes to the Nepalese government, and they do nothing to curb the number of permits. There aren’t enough sherpas and agencies, and the existing services are lacking. Most of the sherpas are inexperienced, pushy and awfully rude. They make $5,000 to $10,000 in a single trip that lasts five to six weeks, and know that people will keep pouring in every year as there is only one Everest,” he elaborates.
Gupta says climbers need to prepare their minds more than their body: “I summited on May 22nd, around 7am, which was a little before the total crazy traffic happened. Spending extra time on the mountain saps you of energy as you’re fighting the bitter cold. A big part of your defence is that you keep moving; even insulation won’t save you on Everest. Also, you only carry a fixed amount of oxygen. I kept reducing the flow of oxygen in my cylinder so that it doesn’t finish on my way back. I met a girl whose oxygen had depleted almost 10-12 hours before she could complete the trip and her sherpa was missing, too. There is no place for heroism when you’re at the Everest. So you can’t offer up oxygen, which is critical for you, or try to save others.”
He suggests a complete restructuring of the existing system in place. “The Nepalese government needs to restructure the system. I do not mind paying a little more, if it means proper agencies, and sherpas taking care of climbers. The window for climbing opens for a few days, and they too aren’t always safe. So, more than anyone else, climbers need to be aware of what they’re attempting; what the scale of it is,” he ends.
Mount Everest adventure ka Olympic hai
Main adventure ki khiladi hoon,” says Haryana Police sub-inspector Anita Kundu, who is scaling heights, quite literally. She conquered the Everest for the third time on May 21, this year. She had earlier scaled it from the China side in May 2017 and from the Nepal side in May 2013. But this time around, Kundu led a 14-member team, comprising climbers from the US, the UK, and China.
Kundu, 30, says, “Taking the team and bringing them back safely was an experience of a lifetime for me. Earlier, I used to go as a climber, this time I was a leader. Mount Everest adventure ka Olympic hai!”
This girl from Haryana fought an early marriage to become a mountaineer, and is shouldering her family’s responsibility today. “I’m from a farmer family, and wanted to become a boxer and win an Olympic medal. But that didn’t materialise as, when I was 13, my father died. Us sapne pe break sa lag gaya (That dream met with a roadblock). Everyone wanted to get me married but I put my foot down! Haryana mein pressure hota hai, ladki ne virodh kar diya toh bahut badi baat ho jaati hai (It’s a big deal in Haryana if a girl raises her voice to counter the society),” recalls Kundu.
She wishes to keep her love for thrill alive, and says, “Adventure is no mean feat. There are challenges at every step… earthquakes and storms. Prakriti apna roop dikhaati hai toh kisi ko bhi nahin dekhti (When Nature unleashes itself, it doesn’t spare anyone). My experiences from the last summits kept me safe. One has to keep themselves motivated and active at all times.” And to keep herself inspired, Kundu turned to poetry by late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Kumar Vishvas. “Jab bhi koi samasya aati thi, main unko yaad karke apne aap ko motivate karti rehti thi,” she says.
Mention how a recent picture of a queue of climbers near the mountain top shocked many and Kundu says, “Yeh Nepal government ki sabse badi galti hai, anubhavheen logon ko permit diya (It’s Nepal government’s biggest mistake; inexperienced climbers were given a permit). They became a threat to the experienced climbers, too. Some people had no rhythm in walking and weren’t aware of their capacity to climb. Itni thand mein aap ruk gaye to ruk gaye (If you stop walking in such cold weather, you’re stuck).”
First Published: Jun 12, 2019 10:07 IST