Age is just a number – and so is altitude!

When neighbours Rajesh Kakkar (64) and Dilip Naik (59) met at a gurudwara in 2022, they got to chatting – about sports, movies, life, and all in between. Little did they know that this small conversation would lead to a profound experience – of trekking all the way to Everest Base Camp!

The Bollywood movie “Uunchai” had struck a chord with the duo – it featured three friends, all retirees, who tried to complete this iconic trek. In their 60s, both Rajesh and Dilip felt that life had something more to offer, and wanted to take on a worthy challenge, that would take them to the highest mountain in the world. When Dilip brought up the idea to his old college friend Nitin Pimplodkar (59), the fellowship was complete.

However, there was a small hitch in the plan. None of them had done much trekking before.

The Preparation

“Rajesh’s son Kanishk suggested doing something smaller, as a preparation for EBC – so last in 2023 Rajesh and I did Dayara Bugyal (a trek in Uttarakhand), then we started seriously preparing for EBC. After that, whenever I spoke to my friends, and showed pictures of EBC, it left an impression – and after one of these conversations, even Nitin got zapped with the idea, and decided to join us,” said Dilip Naik.

“In the beginning, I didn’t know where to start, but after speaking with Sauraj I got a clearer picture of how to prepare for the trek,” said Nitin Pimplodkar, who would be trekking for the first time on EBC. “At first I started walking 5-6 kilometres, and then 10-12 kilometres everyday, and then I would do incline walking in the gym everyday. I would climb 15 floors everyday, to prepare for the steep trails on the trek”. 

And this preparation allowed them to savour every step of the journey, along the way!

The Trek

“Dilip and I were together the whole time,” says Nitin, “as Rajesh had his son and daughter-in-law. We would cheer each other on! Both of us were last in the group but we went at our own pace, we’d rest, enjoy nature, take photos, and then reach. We were also roommates, so this gave us a good chance to catch up on friends, careers and families, and we enjoyed the entire trek especially because of each other’s support. Both of us had recently retired to somewhere we wanted to test if we still had that physical capability and ability.”

And as every trekker knows, it’s on the tough days that can also be the most rewarding.

“On the section from Gorakhshep (5164m) to Periche (4371m), we were the last in line – most people had reached the tea-house, but we were not even halfway there. Even though it was only lunchtime, the sky was becoming dark and it started snowing,” said Dilip, when asked about the toughest day of the trip. 

“We still had to cover 5-6 kilometres, and we weren’t sure if we would be able to make it! But Samir (the lead guide) told us not to stay in Thukla, to push through; so Dilip, Rajan (the assistant guide) and I went on. It was snowing lightly; on the right hand side, there were tall mountains with snow, on the left side there was a valley without snow, and we were walking between that. And as we kep walking, we started enjoying it! This was the first time I had walked in the snow!” adds Nitin.

The Learnings

And the chance to keep walking, and push through their mental and physical barriers, turned out to be extremely rewarding for the new trekkers.

“We got a chance to explore ourselves,” said Nitin. “It’s more about understanding how small we are in front of nature. Nature is such a big thing that it doesn’t matter. What is the point in hating each other, or fighting each other – those things don’t matter when it comes to nature. Nature gives you a lot of patience. Looking inside, it shows you how to explore new ways of thinking, what you can do, how you can surprise yourself! I never thought I could do that, and take on such a big challenge. But with nature you get a different energy, and you start enjoying being with nature. In the evenings we’d get exhausted – we would think,  where am I, why am I doing this? But in the morning when you get up, you are recharged again. Ready to roll, every day was a new challenge on this EBC trek, and we really enjoyed it.”

So what would the group say to someone on the cusp of signing up for the trek, but who isn’t sure of their physical capabilities?

“Remove your fear and prove yourself. Age is not a bar. It is your mental readiness. Physical readiness you can build – but what you require more is mental readiness. If you’re mentally ready, you can overcome any physical challenge. Most important is good company. If you go alone, then it can be challenging, in company you motivate each other,” said Nitin, rounding off his tale.

“What I would say is – go with professionals who can guide you well, and get you prepared. In terms of what to carry, to train, where to go – all the prep is already done by someone else, and they can help you qualify for this trip. So take good professional help, and go for it!” added Dilip.

Dilip Naik, Rajesh Kakkar, Nitin Pimplodkar and Samir Patham at Everest Base Camp on 1st April, 2024

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