Thursday, February 15, 2018

Step by Step Guide to Summit

This post derives out of a brief conversation I had with a young woman from the audience of young global leaders that I was addressing somewhere in Eastern Europe. After my keynote, when I was interacting with the audience, this attractive young woman cornered me with her smile and laid out her thoughts.

‘Satya,’ she ululated, ‘your talks and words and your life is really inspiring and I totally get your concept of anything is possible no matter what, but I could only understand this at an intellectual level. Not at the practical know-how, how to do it level. A step by step guide in the correct sequence of action that would get anyone to reach a goal.’

For some reason unknown that evening’s conversation came around today on this Valentine Day and I decided to give wings to a young woman’s query several years back. Here’s to you my young unknown lady and to the rest of you out there seeking answers to this secret, which if you ponder adequately, isn’t one at all.  

So let me first begin by laying down the 12 commandments for achieving goals. These are absolute unarguable fundamental laws of life in relation to achieving your dreams and goals.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Never Ending Journeys

It was a hard fought summit. I was only a step below the needle point. And I stopped. No human had stepped upon this summit before though many had tried, few even perished in the attempt. It had taken my team over four weeks of sheer hell to reach where we were. As usual I was leading the pack of the first summit team. Frozen walls of ice, tumbled down into oblivion all around us. They were so steep that I could lean out and see all the way to the bottom of the wall around 1600m below. I had been dreaming of this summit for many years, since I had first set my eyes upon it from a neighbouring summit. Since then I had been dreaming that one day I would step upon the crown of this majestic peak, spearing into the blue sky like a silent sentinel. Yet I stopped only a step below.

I didn’t wish to go any further. I didn’t wish to step upon this elusive summit, of which I have been dreaming for so many years. It was strange. All my anxiety, excitement, agony, everything suddenly evaporated at that moment. Suddenly, with no apparent reason, I had no more desire to be the first human to be there. I wanted to retreat and go down. I relayed my decision to my second in command who stood few meters below me. He gasped and gaped. He presumed I must have completely lost my mind. I told him to continue with the rest of the three climbers and get the summit shots, while I would abseil down by myself. My team created history and those who stood atop received the highest accolades in the climbing world. I was only mentioned as the leader of this pioneering expedition.

For many years thereafter I myself couldn’t explain the rationality of it all. Why would I, right at the verge of success and glory, would give it up and go down peacefully. It never bothered me thereafter that I allowed personal success to literally slip through my fingers. I had reached a place where no human had reached before and I was at peace with that, having satisfied my own sense of accomplishments and I didn’t wish to go any further, not even one step that would take me to the very summit. It’s akin to running a marathon in record time and then just one step before the finishing tape, to stop and retreat allowing others to go ahead. Totally insane, everybody opined of that day. People always knew that I was crazy but they all said that on that day I actually lost it.

For long I didn’t try to analyze my action or tried to recall what thoughts did actually go through my mind at that moment. Just allowed it to blend into the history of my climbing career. Just like any other climb, with seemingly little to ponder about. As a matter of fact, even today as I am writing about that day, I can’t find a reason for my actions. But someone I spoke to today, triggered this thought.

And today, after a gap of nearly 20 years I can only theorize some rationality, for I am sure there was one as I know that I hadn’t lost it though I continue to be as crazy as I always was.

Firstly, I feel that right at that point, suddenly the mountain spoke to me and asked me to go down; she said: this far and no more for you. You must go down. Others can continue. And as always I obeyed the mountain without hesitation. I descended. Why would the mountain do that I have no idea, since the day was glorious, weather perfect and there were no objective hazards at all. In fact on that day and the next, everyone who summitted, came back without any problems at all.

Secondly I think since for me the destination (the true summit) wasn’t prized at all as I prized the journey, and what a journey it had been. I had nearly cracked my skull and broken my neck in a crazy 30 m fall pendulum during this expedition. And right from the word go we have had crazy conditions. Crevasses, avalanches, ice falls, collapsing seracs, falling ice and rocks, poor mixed conditions, incessant snow and zero visibility and the unrelenting slope of ice and rock, you name it, this climb had it. So I guess by the time I reached there, my desire had been quenched and I sought nothing further.

Finally at a very fundamental level, I think I didn’t wish to complete this journey by actually stepping upon the summit. When I am asked (and I am asked often) which has been my most challenging and memorable climbs, I always mention the ones where I failed (in a normal manner of speaking) to summit. To me these climbs are still incomplete journeys and hence more exciting as I do not know nor can I tell with certainty how they would have ended had I continued. It is the element of unknown and a journey that is incomplete, therefore offering me infinite possibilities to ponder, which makes it more memorable. So was the case with this climb. Since I would never return to this mountain, it would always remain incomplete and an enigma.

In a manner of speaking this climb hasn’t ended for me yet and I would continue to climb it all my life. Since the question will always remain, what if! Now if that isn’t a good reason to not climb a mountain then what else it could it be.

Call me crazy or insane I have my own reasons to do or not to do something. But my highest quest has always been a never ending journey, where I am always reaching nearer and nearer yet never quite reaching.

Happy climbing and never ending journeys my friends! 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Lost in Scotland

It was the international winter climbing meet in Scotland in early Feb, few days before my birthday. I had landed in Glasgow, where I was representing India for the meet. They invited the top two ice climbers from each country’s climbing federation. We were housed in a beautiful manor of stone and woods with all modern creature comforts; that we welcomed after a hard long day of harsh climbing. The climbing mostly occurred around Ben Nevis National Park and the primary ridge of Cairngorms.

In winters, Scotland is truly a mad crazy ice climbing paradise or hell depending upon your attitude. Scottish winter climbing grades are still highly revered and can only be applied to Scotland winter conditions since these are so specific and specialized. I was a real bad ass climber in those days, hanging from the edge of my fingers type and took rather masochistic pleasure of attempting to kill myself in the most challenging manner. That I didn't succeed proves that I wasn’t good enough.

During the week long meet, one day I decided to venture alone beyond the designated climbing area in search of something unknown. Predictably I hadn't told anyone where I was off to. I had a friend’s car, 4x4 with chain traction tyres. And with some food and my ice tools I took off into the mountains. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Summing Up 2017

 I know I am guilty of not summing up the year 2016 and some of you might have missed that annual ritual in my blog so here I am back to sum up 2017.

As always I would begin with some interesting statistics and then go on to some elaborations.

Countries visited (in chronological order) – Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Norway, Greece, Germany, Nepal, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Slovenia, Italy, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Total 17 countries including 3 first time (Montenegro, Kosovo, Laos), which has now taken the number of countries visited to 178. This leaves me around 18 more to chalk up during the rest of my life.  Unless UN adds more recognized nations to its list.

Total distance covered (approximately) – I travelled to three continents, crossing the Atlantic and several seas couple of times, and as per my guesstimate during 2017 I had covered around 148,000.00 km. Of this, around 100,000.00 by air, 40,000.00 by road and water, and 8000.00 on foot. I spent total 271 days outside of India and of the 94 days in India, only 22 days when I wasn’t on the road. And these 22 days were spread through several cities and towns.

Physical extremities - highest point – just above Balcony on Everest south side at 8250m, while the lowest must be somewhere underwater in the Aegean Sea.

January 1st 2017 I was upon a mountain that is the highest in the world when measured from Earth’s Centre, namely Chimborazo in Ecuador. It was my third ascent of this peak. From there several other high mountains including Everest saw my presence. Aberration to my choice of places to visit happened towards the end of the year when I took an impromptu flight into Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. What exactly was I doing there beats me except I know for sure that I was gorging full time on mangoes and exotic fruits while gulping in staggering number of temples and religious sites in all shapes and sizes.

As always the year was full of adventures of body, mind and soul and I met and shared my life with hundreds of people from around the globe that I crossed paths with at places where neither of us were meant to be, yet there we were. Memorable among them, an old Finnish man with severe gout relaxing by the Sea upon a deserted island, a middle aged Swiss Lady in search of her ideal man, a young girl bereaving the loss of her soul mate, a monk with FB account full of beautiful girlfriends, a French lady sketching the magnificent sunset upon Mekong while her partner patiently holding her parasol, an old German lady capturing her trip through watercolours, while a young Spanish maid looking for an escape from her life. I found generosity and kindness everywhere, all doors opened to me and never was I shunned or hated or turned away. If we are willing to open our soul to others that’s exactly what we would receive in return, I learned this lesson once again.

There were lives and deaths too. Three of my climbing friends departed mortality doing exactly what they loved doing while two became proud parents. I continued to spread my message on dissolving boundaries of body and mind in order to accept and understand each other through our differences and not live in fear or hatred of the unknown. I told stories and hearkened more, I stopped and paused often too, pondering and just learning to be in the being. I continued to read and passing from one book to another, always leaving one behind from where I picked a new one.

I finally accepted that to learn some form of musical instrument I must seek one that is easy and compact to carry and my ambition of becoming a piano or harp or saxophone virtuoso was as imbecile as impractical. My piano teacher suggested harmonica and so I now have a harmonica, I also have a pack of card (though I don’t play cards), which is the same thing more or less. Both of which are easily carried in person no matter where I go.

I also sent inquiries of my first inspirational book to several international book agents and publishers. Needless to say they all declined, either I wasn’t good enough or they weren’t interested in this genre. Friends suggested self publishing in Kindle, yet I tarry. Let’s see what happens in this regard in 2018.

I began the year being 4 kilos underweight, then gained some before Everest, plummeting again abysmally upon the mountain and finishing the year at exactly where I was at the beginning. Remarkable what a diet of fruits, salads and brisk walking can achieve.

I am slowly coming to terms in accepting my mother’s physical absence; time is indeed the healer, even though her memories are becoming stronger. I talk about her to everyone more, keeping her alive through my words and passing it to others. I regret less now about the fact that I didn’t spend enough time with her, having accepted that I always did my best under the circumstances. Regret is never the solution, rejoicing is. I rejoiced more this year that I was born to her and that I am whatever I am is due to her guidance and lessons.

I tried to become a better version of me, and know for certain that best is yet to come and never will. Yet we must continue to strive upwards and onwards.

Was the year meaningful, some might inquire... as meaningful as the word is, it was a year, a collection of 365 days and 31,536,000 seconds give and take a few. If you want, you can find some meaning within this time span while my Zen mind has taught me to be without being. Hence if there was a meaning then it is still out there somewhere while I am just being be.

Not all stories can be told, not because some are not worth telling, but because there are simply too many to be told and not enough time to relate and hear. The stories that came out of 2017 might or might not be ever told but they remain the foundation upon which I shall build 2018. And thus from one year to another life will and must go on. 

I would like to conclude 2017 by expressing my deepest gratitude and love to each one of you who showed me the way through your kindness, love and words and actions. To you, my friends, I offer my stories weaved out of my memories of this year and the ones gone by while the New Year and the ones to follow hold promise of untold wealth and priceless memories.

Never forget to breathe, to hydrate and to slow down and to look within where all answers lie waiting to be found. 

And as always I will see you on Top!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Ramble through Kosovo - Trail Via Dinarica

I am curious to visit and experience new places, especially those that are labelled difficult to reach, hostile (geographically) and otherwise out of main touristic destinations. Since Kosovo declared her independence in 2008, and formed itself as the youngest and newest European nation, it has been on my travel wish list. Formerly considered a war torn and ravaged nation, it is presently a haven of peace and tranquillity. Finally this year, during my European trip, I decided impromptu to dip into this small nation of wonders. Needless to say, I am primarily attracted to the natural bounties, mainly mountains and forests, of a nation. Other attractions like culture, history, craft, museums, and any kind of manmade structures, aren’t that high on my list. Though I like unplanned trips, which takes twists and turns according to my impulses, it never hurts to do a bit of research, especially when Uncle Google is so accommodating. And during this research I came across an absolute gem called ‘Via Dinarica’ of which, I am ashamed to admit, I had no clue.

At 1260km, stretching from the highlands of Slovenia in the north, sweeping south and as well as east and west, through Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, finally tapering off into the accursed mountains of Northern Albania; it is one of the longest mountain hiking trails in the world. As I dived deeper into this trail descriptions and reports, I also realized much to my relief and amusement that unbeknownst, I had already completed large swaths of this trail during my earlier trips to other countries that share this trail. So I decided that it was time for me to complete the 130km (approx) Kosovo section of Via Dinarica. Though there are couple of excellent websites about Via Dinarica, I was finding it hard to find any concrete details about this trail, regarding exact starting points, places to camp, resources along the way. I wouldn’t bother about these details if I wasn’t constrained by time, but this time I was as my visa duration was coming to its natural conclusion. With my Schengen Visa, I could stay in Kosovo for 15 days, which I figured was enough for me to not only complete the trail Via Dinarica but also to plunge at few other places in Kosovo.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Climbing Formula

Once an aspiring mountaineer asked, how to climb a mountain, and I replied, by climbing it. And then the other day someone asked, how to realize our dreams, and I replied, by realizing it. There are no secrets to climbing or achieving anything in life; we simply have to do it, convert our ideas, thoughts, and dreams into action. There is no substitute for hard work. No matter how amazing our ideas and dreams might be, they will remain mere ideas and dreams unless we get up one day and take action to make them really happen.

Newton proclaimed: every action has an opposite and equal reaction. Our life is nothing but a series of actions and reactions. Even when we do not act, there is a reaction, non-action reaction is non-achievement. I wish we could climb a mountain just by dreaming of it, or contemplation, or mere planning. I remember once during a rather precarious and difficult section of a climb, my partner asked me, how she could climb through this pitch. My answer was simple: climb in any way that you possibly can. I didn’t tell her of any techniques or didn’t offer her any extra equipment or anchors, but I asked her to dig deep inside of her, deeper than ever before and to come out with something that she had never done before. And she climbed through the section eventually.

One of the greatest and influential books, that has been ever penned, Geeta, which is supposedly a long sermon delivered by Lord Krishna to the warrior prince Arjun during an epic battle thousands of years ago, says that only through action or through the Laws of Karma (action) can we achieve anything. We must always do our duty, our Karma, our action. Without action nothing would ever happen.

Based upon the Laws of Karma here is my formula for climbing any mountain or overcoming any hurdles in life. I call it the 7 Steps Formula –

Step 1 – Take the first step. This would start your climb. This is the most important step of all, without which you would never leave ground.

Step 2 – Take the next step and then another and then more. Just keep going. Never stop or give up till you have given your best shot to the climb. And if you stop before the place where you wanted to climb, ask yourself have you given everything that you could under the circumstances and now you must go down! If the honest answer is ‘yes’ then go down certainly. But if there’s even an iota of self-doubt then continue with the next step.

Step 3 – dig in hard and don’t budge no matter much opposition or challenges come your way

Step 4 – always remember that reaching the top is only half of the climb, often the easier half. Conserve your energy for the return; don’t get so exhausted that you have nothing left for the return journey. Don’t go so far that you cannot return.

Step 5 – cater for emergencies and unexpected obstacles because they are bound to happen. Instead of getting worried or frustrated when things don’t go as per plan, just face it with whatever you have. Remember that nothing lasts forever and whatever it is however bad it may be will also not last forever.

Step 6 – prepare as much as you can for the climb. Train the hardest, make yourself as well equipped and knowledgeable as you possibly can, and then train some more. There is no upper limit to training. General Patton said it best: the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. The more you train before the real climb, more are the chances of reaching the top.

Step 7 – keep going even when you feel that you can’t take another step. No matter how tired or exhausted you are, you can always take a step, perhaps a tiny one but a step nevertheless. The only way you cannot take the next step is if you are dead. Remember when you decide to give up; you might just be one step below the summit, so take that step.

Now the obvious question that may arise is why only 7 steps; aren’t there any more steps! Certainly there are many more steps but these 7 are the fundamental ones, all the others are derivatives or follow ups or repetitions. Moreover I restricted my climbs to only 7 steps because once I read somewhere that the human mind cannot grasp a formula if it involves more than 7 steps and neither can the human body sustain more complexity beyond 7.

Happy climbing! 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Life Above All

No mountain, not even Everest, is worth dying for and there’s no triumph upon the summit of any mountain, however easy or hard fought the summit might be. There’s only exhaustion, trepidation, some amount of bewilderment and perhaps a sense of relief. Most summits are desolate, hostile and unfit for human existence. There’s no pot of gold, no glory, no treasure anywhere on these lofty places where we stay only few minutes after having struggled through weeks and in some cases months of inhuman conditions. Why do this, again and again, is the purpose of the climb to summit, how sometimes we forego all caution and put our very lives at stake to claim that momentary glow of being at the summit, throwing all cautions to wind. How does one single step become more important than anything else we have or love including our lives? And upon no mountain is this more evident than Everest.

When we are too focussed on success or reaching the summit, we often do not enjoy the climb, cursing every moment of the endeavour. We lose patience, ability to weigh risk versus gain; our intent becomes an all consuming drive to reach the goal. The greatest loss indeed is the experience of the journey, every moment of the climb that teaches us something sublime and unique. We forget to pause and stare and look around and miss out the subtle beauty and small success that we achieve with each single step. What is most important is to do our best, yet not to kill ourselves in the process. Nothing is more beautiful than life itself. We should push our limits certainly yet understand how far it can be pushed before we go over the edge. It’s like blowing a balloon to the maximum but not bursting it in the process.

It is that tiny threshold between life and death where we reach upon our quest where we must understand and be able to differentiate on which side of the threshold we are. Most of the times that threshold will actually take us to the summit, but at times due to circumstances beyond our control that threshold will paralyze and grip us at a level less than where we wish to be.

The question is how far we should go before we realize that we have gone far enough! And that we should turn around and go home before it is too late. In the mountains I use my gut feelings, my instincts and my intuition that has been honed over 40 years of climbing and exploring some of the most dangerous and hostile natural elements. And most importantly I feel that we all must have a good reason to come back safe, a motivation that is bigger than life itself and self-preservation, which will push us towards safety when things are falling apart.

I personally couldn’t care less if I died or survived over all these years, yet what always brought me back, even from the brink of oblivion was the thought of my mother waiting for me back home. I could die happily if she wasn’t around. My self-preservation purely for myself wasn’t strong enough. So when my mother passed away last year in June, I kind of wondered what would happen when I am in a dangerous spot next. Many of my friends urged me to be extra careful in the mountains and some advised that I should find a new motivation to live. I have always been careful since I value life yet I must admit that I have now found the ‘motivation’ to keep coming back.

Having lived on the edge all my life, at the brink of death I have realized again and again that there’s nothing above life. I cherish life more because I realize how quickly and unexpectedly it could end.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Stepping to Success

Someone I know, who had enough time and focus, once decided to count the number of steps it takes from the time one starts walking from Lukla, climbs to the top of Mt Everest and then walks back to Lukla to catch the return flight to Kathmandu. On an average this entire journey takes 45 days, give or take few. When my friend shared his idea to me of counting his steps, I took it as a joke. It seemed absolutely impossible to me that someone could do it, even keep a track of steps, especially when gasping for breath above Camp 2 walking into thin air and then into the death zone. It takes all energy and focus to just breathe and climb and keep our sanity, who could keep counting steps! But then my friend did it. He counted each and every step, irrespective of the length, or speed, or place. He counted even the steps he took from his tent each day to go to the toilet and back, or to the dining tent and back. He counted the steps that ferried him to his other friend’s camps or for the holy ceremonies that Sherpas offered to the mountain. If he stirred as much as one step out of his tent or sleeping bag, he counted. And each day he maintained a diary of the steps taken for the day. And for the counting he didn’t use any modern fitness band or pedometer. He simply relied on the most accurate and reliable step counter designed by nature; his own head. So as he walked along side, he would keep muttering to himself the steps. It was amazing his focus, determination and perseverance into recording something that seemed ridiculous at the time he did it.

We climbed all the way to the top and returned to Lukla. Out came his calculator and he totalled the steps that he had taken during all the 48 days. The sum total came to a staggering value of 999,689 nearly a million steps at an average of 20,800 steps each day. When he triumphantly showed me his discovery, grinning like an overfed baby baboon, I wondered if this has any significance at all other than the ‘wow’ factor that it takes nearly a million steps to climb Everest and return, walking to and back all the way from Lukla. I patted his back, congratulated him on his earth shattering discovery that would now change the course of history and Everest climbing. And once I bid him goodbye at Kathmandu I forgot all about it. I think he tried to publish his finding in couple of climbing journals but wasn’t taken seriously. People were more interested in his experience of climbing than counting the steps. Soon his discovery dropped below the radar and the world at large forgot about it.

As a motivational speaker and life coach, I often talk about achieving big goals with small steps and illustrate how important each of our steps are, no matter how big or small, the only way to reach the top of any mountain or life is to take one step at a time. If we think of the entirety of our endeavour it could look daunting and impossible but the moment we break down the climb into each of its individual steps and then focus on each of the tiny steps and start taking them one by one, one after another, we see that the task or the climb doesn’t seem so daunting anymore. Climbing Everest could be difficult but taking one little step isn’t. And that’s the key to success in anything that we wish to achieve in life or upon a mountain. I have used this methodology countless times while training or guiding and leading people up on challenging climbs or in corporate offices or in academic institutions and in life coaching. This formula has never failed. Breakdown everything into its tiniest manageable steps and then just take them one after another and sooner or later you would be on the top.

As I was talking about this step by step formula to a friend recently, I suddenly recalled my crazy friend, who many years back had counted the steps to Everest. I searched for our old correspondence on the subject and discovered the exact number of days we had spent and the number of steps my friend had taken and recorded and realized that I must have taken a similar number of steps as I was with him most of the time. Suddenly the figures hit me like thunderbolt. And I understood the significance of this momentous discovery and how well it fits into my formula for stepping towards success. My friend wasn’t crazy at all; in fact he was a pioneer. He was applying my formula towards a practical outcome. If I was theorizing he was proving.

So I sat down and jotted down the days that a typical Everest expedition member goes through. She lands at Lukla, then walks to the Everest BC in about 7 or 8 days, and then spends the next 30 to 35 days to reach the summit and return to BC. Another 3 to 5 days to walk back to Lukla. The trail from Lukla meanders through lower Khumbu valley of green paddy fields along rushing gurgling gorges and finally into the high alpine zone of rock, glaciers and some of the world’s highest peaks. The trail to BC is arduous and after that the route is suicidal through the infamous Khumbu Icefall, leading into the Western cwm, snaking its way across and up through sheer rocky-icy Lhotse face, over yellow band and Geneva Spur to the South Col. From there the climber makes a beeline along the ridge to the Balcony, South Summit, Hillary Steps and eventually collapsing upon the summit of Everest; the highest geographical spot on our planet. Those attempting for the first time have absolutely no idea what they would endure on their journey to the top of the world and that they would need to take nearly a million steps in doing so.

Now imagine if my friend, who counted his steps, had taken even one step wrong; where he might have ended then! The tiny hop he made while alighting the plane at Lukla or the one he took to climb up to the restaurant to take his tea, or the one he extended while clicking the morning sun. The most insignificant and basic of steps that he took, which I wouldn’t even consider steps to climb Everest, which anyone takes every day of our lives, which we don’t think has any relevance to our summit; yet if he had taken even one single of those steps wrong then he wouldn’t be on top of Everest. I am working on a retrospective theory here: to see the path from the end of the road. When we reach the end of our journey and achieve our goal, we can look back and justify each and every one of our steps and actions, and realize that yes each one of them were necessary for us to be where we find ourselves today at this moment.

My friend’s step counting enterprise serves as a sobering thought that there’s no short cut to success, we have to work hard and consistently and keep stepping in the right direction, no matter even if we have to take a million steps. Like someone said once that the journey of a million miles must start with one single tiny step.

No matter how far or how big or how seemingly impossible your goal is, please take that first step and then follow it with the second then third and so on and so forth. Million steps will take you to the top of Everest, imagine where you could be if you never stop stepping. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SWEAT to Climb

Few weeks back I received a mail from a young climber, who has just started setting her eyes upon the lofty peaks around the world, pondering if she could actually climb anything in the world. I guess she found in me a climber old and bold enough to have climbed and not climbed many mountains, who might offer her some insights into the insane world of mountains and climbing. She asked very briefly: the secret of climbing any mountain in the world.

Before I replied back to her, I really gave this short question a long overdue thought. We all climb all the time but seldom do we pause to wonder what the secret of climbing successfully is. Why are some climbers more worthy than others? What makes a successful climb? And here I mean reaching the top or ending the desired line or route till the top as success and not merely making a bold attempt. I analyzed and dissected many of my iconic climbs, both successful and abortive attempts to compare what made the difference between the two. And now I have the answer and here is my point of view to ‘Secret to Climbing’. And the secret is very simple.

It is sweat. I mean precisely the acronym SWEAT

Skill – first and foremost we need adequate skill, expertise, experience, technical knowledge and physical fitness to succeed.

Weather – we need the ideal weather conditions to climb. Though I have climbed through atrocious weather as many of us do to the top but weather plays most of the times the ultimate deciding factor whether we summit a peak or not. And this is one factor that is least predictable and utterly uncontrollable.

Equipment – we need the right kind and quantity of equipment to succeed. We must have the right kind of gear for the right kind of climbing goals. And upon high mountains we got to be precise. Nothing more, nothing less; exactly what we need.

Attitude – you could have everything but if you don’t have the right attitude, mental setup then you are sure to fail. We need mental resilience, a happy and positive attitude and a never say die attitude to succeed. This is more important when we climb as a team, then we got to pick up our team mates carefully to see that the group mental dynamics are in sync with the objectives of the climb.

Time – we got to cater for the right amount of time we are going to spend on a climb. We can’t rush a mountain. For this we need patience, which is part of attitude and we need the climber’s cool headedness and his ability to do nothing when nothing can be done. Many good expeditions had to be called off since they didn’t cater for time. Along with the duration timing of the climb is paramount. Every mountain, each climb has a best and worst time to climb. Go for the ideal window and for the ideal duration.

Now as I analyzed and reached my above conclusion I realized that to succeed in anything in life, we can actually apply this SWEAT formula, modifying a bit according to the desired field where we wish to succeed. Thereby my lifelong belief that mountains have all the answers no matter what your question is; is once again proved correct.
I have been sweating all my life my friends and I intend continuing to do so. Nothing in the world can compare to the intensity with which you live when freezing to death hanging from the edge of a sheer ice wall in death zone, when sweats turn to ice and every breath we inhale actually tells us what life is all about.

So SWEAT it, climb it. Happy sweating! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Risk or Not to

Earlier this week a friend died in a climbing accident. He wasn’t just another regular bloke hanging off vertical walls. He was a master of his game, as badass as they come, yet he died. His safety system had perhaps failed or perhaps the rock upon which he rested came off. We would never know; he was climbing free-solo, risking his life to a level unacceptable to most. It’s the level where there is absolutely no room for error, subjective or objective. It doesn’t matter whether you failed or the mountain failed; ultimately it’s the climber who is lying dead at the bottom. And this incident jolted me out of a falsified dream I have been living through most of my adult life. It wasn’t his death that did this but the possibility that if he hadn’t died; then what?

I am a firm believer of destiny in matter of death. It is already destined by some divine power or yet unexplained scientific phenomenon that our time and date of death is fixed and nothing can change it. What isn’t determined though is the methodology and location; which we can influence by our actions through life. I don’t mind dying at all, either today, tomorrow or in the next twenty years. And if I die upon a mountain then that would be my absolute achievement in a self-fulfilling prophecy. What I do mind though that I am involved in a major accident and I don’t die. What if that day is not my destiny to die, yet I am involved in such a major accident that paralyzes me for the rest of my life or bereft me of any body part, vision, or any major functional organ; or leaves me brain dead. A sorry pitiable vegetable of human form dependent upon others for even a tiny bit of sustenance. Now that’s the kind of life I am absolutely not ready to accept.

Death is destined, accidents are not.