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The journey to the "Top of the World" started in 2013 as a call to action on a dream. Easier said than done, the next year and half was spent, realising the enormity of this mammoth project which involved putting away considerable time to gather the finances & equipment, focus on the physically fitness requirements; and all while trying to run a company. The target was the summer of 2015.Our first attempt on Everest in 2015, was curtailed before we could grasp
the magnitude of the mountain…… Mother Nature had other plans! A devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude hit Nepal on the 25 th of April 2015 and triggered an Avalanche at the Everest Base Camp.
The Avalanche least expected, came down from a mountain called Pumori at the rear of Base Camp, tearing through expeditions teams camped on the glacier, leaving a trail of destruction and devastation in its wake. The campsite was gutted, scattering our possessions and equipment across the glacier. Despite minor injuries, fortunately our team was safe, even though 21 people lost their lives at Base Camp that day. Inspired by the Indian Army team, we stayed back to help in the rescue and relief effort to the best of our abilities.
Later when interviewed by the Hindustan Times, we were quoted saying, "Being involved made it seem like our being there wasn't a total waste...there was a purpose. We were able to make a small difference by helping. The Earthquake has shaken us, but not broken us. We will be back again soon.” It took us two years to recover, the biggest hurdle being the finances, as it took approximately 30 lakhs per person to summit Everest.
For the next expedition, seeing the Army in action inspired us, to associate with the Queen Mary’s Technical Institute which was celebrating 100 years of inception, with the intention of raising funds through our summit, for the Pune based NGO that provides vocational training for soldiers left disabled in the line of duty.
This time, our expedition seemed to be moving on track, with us making excellent progress up the mountain.
Unfortunately, this Expedition too had to be aborted, just 800 meters short of the summit due to a sudden onset of high velocity winds and deteriorating weather conditions. Faced with this agonizing choice of risking the team for the glory of the summit, or returning to the safety of Everest Base Camp, we made the hard decision of returning back from Everest, once again.
Going back to Everest was matter of rising up to the challenge and not being overwhelmed by failure. We kept our spirits high and continued with our rigorous physical training schedule. But gathering the finances was becoming increasingly difficult and till December 2017 the prospects of climbing Everest was looking decidedly bleak. As late as end January 2018, we received a lifeline from FORCE MOTORS who agreed to sponsor us, and along with financial support from family, friends & well-wishers, we were once again ready for the trials of our 3 rd Expedition to Everest. The Force Motors Everest Expedition 2018 which was officially launched on the 22 nd of March 2018, having been flagged off at the company headquarters at Akurdi, Pune.
Everest Diary - FORCE MOTOR Everest Expedition 2018: During the course of the 2 months spent during the Everest Expedition, we began to chronicle our experiences through weekly dispatches sent back home. The following are a few excerpts which attempt to capture the journey at different stages of the climb.
Base Camp 5400m / 17700ft: Every expedition starts by paying obeisance to ‘Sagarmatha’ or Chomolungma as Everest is called in Tibet. Our team established Camp at the foot of the Khumbu Ice Fall on the 14 th of April, 2018. The technical aspect of the expedition will soon commence, with the team making forays into the Khumbu icefall and up the mountain to establish higher camps with food, tents and oxygen cylinders.
Khumbu Icefall 5500m-6100m / 1800ft – 20000ft: this huge glacier located on the South Side of Everest, is one of the most unique features when compared to any mountain in the world. Each climb through the Icefall is done with bated breath and a prayer on our lips. Making a good and steady time, we left Base Camp at 4:15am and reached Camp-1 at 9:30 am, thus avoiding passing through the dreaded Khumbu Icefall during the most dangerous time of the day, when the sun is directly overhead.
Teams quietly tiptoe past huge standing Seracs hoping that the slightest whisper will not trigger its collapse while each huge crevasse is quickly crossed with the aid of ladders and ropes. As we reach the top of the Khumbu icefall, the path takes us to the left, just under the Western Shoulder of Everest, where huge hanging glaciers loom precariously above us. Despite being exhausted, our Sherpas urgently usher us past this section, quietly reminding us of the devastating avalanche that took place in 2014 exactly in this zone, sweeping away 16 Sherpas in its wake.
We have moved on higher up the mountain to Camp-2, also referred to as Advance Camp located at a height of 21,500 ft. After a tough day at Camp-1 with heavy snow fall and very poor visibility, we woke up the next day with incredibly clear weather. At this height, you can visibly feel the strain on your senses as every breath is a struggle. As part of our plan, we pushed further up the mountain towards the Lhotse Ice wall, reaching an incredible height of 23,760 ft above sea level, before heavy winds and snowfall, compelled us to turn back to Camp-2 and rest.
Looking at the winds blowing off Everest in the distance at noon on the 17th of May, 2018 as we make our way up to South Col and Camp IV, we began to dread that the weather would turn again for the worst. “Was this to be a repeat of our Everest experience in 2017, where strong winds compelled us to return from South Col and with a heavy heart, we had to make our way back down hoping for another opportunity to climb Everest?"
At this point in time, who knew what the next 24hours would bring?
Resting in our tents, sleep eludes us, each one of us is alone in our thoughts and there is little or no conversation. In a few hours we must gear up for the final push. At this point we are at the edge of the atmosphere the closest a human being can get to space on Earth. We start our ascent at 20.30 hrs on the night of 17 th May 2018. As we climb we can see the head lamp beams of climbers ahead of us that twinkle like a line of glow worms.
Sunrise is surreal it starts with a glow on the horizon on one side of the mountains which gradually develops into a line of light but on the other side of the mountain it is dark and you can still see stars glowing in the night sky. For us this was the most spectacular sight on our assent of Everest. As the sun comes up we reached the South Summit and though at this point you can see your destination there is still the gruelling ridge and Hillary’s Step to cross.
After 10 hours of a gruelling climb in -30 degrees centigrade, we reached the summit of Mount Everest on 18th May at 0617 hrs local Nepal time. People ask us how we felt at that moment in time. “I felt sense of achievement and calm, but at the back of my mind was the thought that our journey was not over. We still had to go all the way down and back home.” It is only after reaching Everest Base Camp when we got back to all the messages of congratulations and celebrations that the impact of the past 5 years sunk in..
Before the 1953, ascent of Everest, the Royal Geographic Society failed in their previous expedition in 1951. At the time Edmond Hillary, famously looked back at the mountain and said, “I will come back and conquer you one day, for as a mountain you can’t grow, but as a person, I can.” These words echoed through the decades to resound as a call to arms, inspiring courage and determination, every time we faltered, allowing us to conquer our very own Everest!