By Sauraj Jhingan
After the 2015 Everest avalanche experience where we had a narrow and lucky escape with our lives, we started getting a lot of invitations for motivational talks to share our experiences about the climb and the survival after the tragedy took place . One of our favorite parts during these sessions is putting across to the audience the question . . . . . . . ‘ What’s your Everest? ‘
In simple words we used to ask people what’s that one Goal you have, for which you are willing to give up everything and work tirelessly for years to achieve it . Not to our surprise, only a few had an answer . For us , I think we are among those lucky few not only to realize our dream, but also get an opportunity to try and pursue it . Often at the end of the talk , we would conclude by telling the audience that for us , our Goal or our Everest is actually reaching the ‘Summit of Everest ‘ !!
However , what makes it so tough , so enticing and challenging that only 4469 people till date have been able to reach the Summit of Everest , a number even less then people who have won Olympic Gold medals and why is that it’s more often than not it is used as Metaphor for comparing things almost impossible to do or achieve . With having invested over 3 years in trying to achieve this dream and cumulatively over 6 between me and Samir ; in our experience here are some of things which make it so challenging and different from any other task one takes at hand –
The Science behind the climb :
Climbing Everest is no less than a space mission with NASA and involves the most detailed planning for reaching the Summit at 29,050 feet , a height where Human body was never designed to reach , only commercial planes were. To begin with , A climber starts his journey from Lukla at 9000 feet and in about 9 days makes it to the Everest Base camp at about 18000 feet, covering roughly 9000 feet in 9 days with two days of rest and acclimatization days in between . At the Everest base camp, the oxygen levels are about 50% of what we breathe at home normally , so In order to get used to the thin air or ‘acclimatize ‘ to that altitude and air pressure one rests for about 3-4 days before moving forward . Once comfortable at Base camp , a push to Camp – 1 is made through the Khumbu Ice-fall , which typically takes about 8-9 hrs of vigorous climbing through one of the most treacherous and deadly routes available to a climber . The team then spends a night at camp – 1 which has even further less oxygen levels to offer and before the exhaustion levels reach a breaking point , the team descends to Base camp to again and rest and recuperate. After a couple of days of rest , the cycle is repeated , but this time to Camp – 2 . With the help of Sherpa’s , loads ( food , oxygen and tents) are ferried up and the climbers then ascend to camp – 2 to spend a night and acclimatize , Some teams even try and spend two nights at camp -2 to get their bodies better acclimatized to the altitude before descending to Base camp again to rest .
This process is called ‘rotations’ as one keeps going back and forth on the mountain hoping to be able to get used to the conditions. The final rotation is then done to camp -3 and the same sequence is followed to C-1 , C-2 before reaching camp 3 . Spending a night at C-3 can be quite painful as one reaches an altitude of 23000 feet and most climbers use supplementary oxygen here during the night before descending to Base camp again . Climbers never climb up to camp 4 to acclimatize as the human body can never adapt to those conditions . It is often referred to as the ‘Death Zone ‘ and is located at 25000 feet . It’s only during the final summit push that one spends a few hours at Camp 4 , before heading for the Summit push.
Well if the rotations weren’t as complicated, the final summit push adds to the complexity as it is dictated by the weather conditions and not when a team is ready. When the jet streams are at its lowest and the weather conditions are most favorable to climb ( which is usually third week of May ) , the climbers plan their ascent to the summit . They usually start 3 days in advance of the planned summit date and following the sequences of the same camps , reach camp 4 and then towards the Summit . An average climber takes about 18 hours from Camp 4 to the summit and back and all above 25000 feet burning about 18000 calories during the final climb.
The Financial Goals :
Climbing Everest is an extremely expensive process and we have spoken and published quite a bit of material on this topic . But just to summarize the numbers , we had spent about $ 100,000/ – on our 2015 attempt ( about 65 lacs ) and now need to cough up another $ 75000 ( about 50 lacs ) as our Climbing permits which are worth $ 11,000 each are valid till May 31st , 2017 .
The financial requirements does make it V challenging to try and fulfil this goal , however with the right set of network and more importantly loving friends and family , we have been able to more or less gather these funds for the second time and are in a comfortable position now to say that the expedition is on !
Physical and Mental Shape –
Needless to say that one needs to be at their physical and Mental best . The long duration of the expedition ( about 70 days ) makes it extremely important that not only the body has enough endurance to stay over 18000 feet and constant subzero temperatures for over two months , but also that one is mentally committed and strong to fight each day and go through the expedition.
I and Samir have been tirelessly training now for months together to ensure we are at our best when we start the expedition. With climbs like – Elbrus in Russia (July 2016) , Stok kangri in leh ( Sept 2016) , the Chaddar trek ( Feb 2017 ) and over a dozen high altitude climbs in last 3 years we feel confident that we are prepared now to take this big step .
For those of you who would like to follow our climb and know where we are at what stage , here are some timelines to give you a rough idea . We plan to be in Kathmandu on March 27th and with 4 days in hand for preparation of equipment and paper work , we plan to fly to Lukla on April 2nd and start our 10 day trek to Base camp . We will be reaching Base camp around April 11 and will then head back towards Island peak (6150 mts ) . We plan to climb Island peak as an acclimatision and prep climb to Everest between the 12th and 15th April and should finally occupy Base camp by the 16th April . Once settled down and well rested , we will start our rotations to higher camps between around April 20th and if all goes well , should be able to finish our Camp 3 rotation by May 10th. We then wait for the perfect weather window and hopefully on a less crowded Day somewhere between May 18 and May 25th will try and push for the Summit .
To Summarize , with now exactly 3 weeks to go before we leave for our ambitious climb , I can humbly say that we have been able to raise 90% of the funds required and are every Grateful to all of you to believe in us and contribute to our cause . Given our training schedule we would say we are reasonably fit to give this a good shot , have been able to finalize a good team of Sherpa’s to help us during the climb . All in all, are excited and anxious for this journey to start and will keep you guys updated on our progress !