Himalayan Ranger: Senthilkumar Rajendran, PGDIM 2009

Great things are done when men and mountains meet. – “Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records.”

What happens when a group of spirited individuals from the IIM alumni community comes together with the mission of capturing Mt.Everest base camp? Toughest challenges and steepest journeys bring in the best in individuals and the team.

We are a team of nine people (Athul Viswam, Jeevan Nagaraj, Apaka Pavan, Surmai Jain,(PGP 20-22) Narendra Patel & Jayachandran (PGPEM 20-22) Senthilkumar Rajendran (PGP 08-10), Venkatachalam Ayyar (PGP 87-89 ) from IIM Bangalore & Shiva (PGPM 20-22) IIM Trichy who decided to go on an expedition and got together to reach Mt.Everest base camp. Why do we do it? Well – for someone who applies intelligence & is interested in getting tangible benefits, it can improve stamina and endurance as well as muscle strength. In addition, all the reaching and stretching improve flexibility and agility. Getting out and about in the outdoors, walking to reach the place you wish to climb, is also good aerobic exercise. For someone who is experiential in the life process, it is “Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit lies the answer to the mystery of why we climb.”

Mountaineering or Mountain climbing is one of the riskiest and most extreme sports branded by the more cautious as reckless behaviour, but for someone who is seeking truth, it’s the best way to understand how fragile and uncertain life can be and how we live on the edge by the comfort and blessing of mother nature.

Learning, Growth,  Change & Achievement always happen outside the comfort zone Mt.Sagarmatha aka Mt.Everest is the aspiration, dream destination and goal for many to reach across the world. The Journey is definitely not an easy one and involves a high level of both emotional & physical endurance. There are many who wish and few who will stay put to reach the summit and return back,

The Journey also teaches us how important it is that we practice a healthy and spirited life. A visit to the neighbouring Irish Pub at Namche bazaar and a monastery on the way at Tengboche shows diversity yet makes you humble in the journey.

We also had the opportunity of visiting the coffee shop at the highest altitude (Cafe 4410). It was run by a family of four (Father, 2 sisters & a brother) who have shown character and courage by not moving out of this simple village in search of a better life but to make sure that they stay back in their hometown to build something meaningful & outlasting their lifetime. They have been at this high altitude location which is generally below -5 degrees Celsius for more than 3 decades and never forgot to smile while serving.

As we moved higher and higher in altitude, our breathing became tougher because of the lack of oxygen (less than 45%) but the mountains and sunshine became more and more beautiful. It’s hard to capture all of it on camera and is completely experiential. For those who have visited mountains, the lust ( I call this a lust because how much ever you have, you still will pursue more of it) can only keep going up and for those who have not been to mountains they are missing a significant part of their life.

The day we reached the summit is one of the most memorable days of our lives; we were all pumped up with energy and not even a sign of tiredness. We were running, dancing, taking pictures, videos and of course thanking nature with tears by the side of our eyes on making it to the top. There is a spirit of oneness with everyone who reached to top, the differences in nationality, gender, language & ethnicity got bleaker and it was each other helping each other to make the celebration at its best. High altitude summit also brings in adverse weather which doesn’t let us to stay longer and to start the dissent as early as possible. We were fortunate to have a shining sun and favourable weather to make the most of the opportunity and to celebrate.

Life narrows to a few moments which take your breath away & i can say without any doubt that being on Mount Everest base camp summit is definitely one of them & the Lesson learnt in this summit is when life offers you Mountain, just put on your boots and start Hiking.

Our sincere gratitude to IIM Bangalore Alumni association for bringing us all together, though we were from various batches and team Chal Kabira for executing it seamlessly.

“There is no happiness for him who does not travel, the fortune of him who is sitting, sits; it rises when he rises; it sleeps when he sleeps; it moves when he moves. Therefore, wander!” – Rig Veda

– Senthilkumar Rajendran

The write-up was a contribution by Mr. Senthil, but as I read through the article, I couldn’t help wondering how do people get into such extreme sports and the zest that drives them. I was determined that there was more to it.

I approached Mr. Senthil to share his two cents on some of his experiences and what makes mountaineering to him as special as it is. In a exclusive interview with an expert Himalayan Ranger, Mountaineer Mr. SenthilKumar

How did you get into mountaineering?

Mountains have always fascinated me right from my childhood and I have never left any chance when it comes to climbing peaks. I started with the Western Ghats but the beauty of Majestic Himalayas overwhelmed me when I travelled to Kashmir in 1999. Though trekking was not allowed then J&K, Himachal Pradesh & Uttrakhand had enough to fulfill this Himalayan lust. It started with simple treks and now towards high altitude mountaineering.

How many (mountain) climbs/treks have you made so far? What has been the most memorable experience?

I have done more than 12 treks so far and of the mountains, I climbed I would say Lamkhaga, Pinparvati (In india) and EBC in Nepal are challenging and equally beautiful too. Lamkhaga trek starts with Baspa Valley in Himachal which is the last village on the Indian border and ends at Gangotri in Uttarakhand, while Pin Parvati starts from Kheer Ganga in Himachal and ends in  Kaza (Spiti valley) which is the last village and Indian border too.

The most Memorable experience is, of course, visiting Kailash Manasarovar, that too on a Buddha Poornima day in the month of May. It’s a spiritual and overwhelming experience to watch the Kailash & Manasarovar in the moonlight with few people and in complete silence.

What is it about mountaineering that you like most?

Mountaineering is the closest that you can come to the truth. We all live in closed walls with a protected feel and telling ourselves that our lives are certain and secured. But the truth is life is fragile and uncertain and is at the mercy of nature. Nature can make or break your journey in mountaineering and make us realise that individual will, though significant, is only a small part in the journey. This makes one humble and stay grounded. To climb the mountain and reach the summit, a will is important but that’s possible only with nature’s hand in it. You also live in nature, sleep in tents and stay in close proximity to earth and drink water from fresh streams which recharges your system and makes you feel more alive.

Any learning from your climbing experience?

“You get lost to find yourself “is the best quote I can correlate to this question. Though you have a team of people accompanying you on this journey, Most of the time you are with your own self and nature when you are in the mountains, which makes you think and contemplate about things you think and what matters and brings joy. This question keeps coming back with different intensities as you climb each time with one of the answers being mountaineering itself.

What’s the next adventure?

My next trek would be either Auden col in India or Annapurna Base camp in Nepal. Siachel is one on my wish list too but since it’s a Military post, it requires getting approvals and permits. I wish I get to that peak which would be a pride to me personally as a citizen of India.

Your two cents for someone who wants to try their hand at mountain climbing – (some do’s & don’ts)-

Dos

  • Eat a lot of Carbs & Drink a lot of water and keep yourself hydrated and nourished to continue the journey seamlessly
  • Make sure you take one step at a time and do it consistently to enjoy the journey and destination equally than trying to move fast by rushing and burning out soon.

Don’ts

  • Avoid Alcohol totally. Some get carried away to celebrate on reaching the summit to have alcohol only to realise that the return journey can get completely unpleasant because of dehydration and Nausea.
  • Leave no Trails and do not litter the area and tell a tale marks

Challenges about mountaineering –

Challenges in Mountaineering can be on 3 dimensions Physical / Emotional and resilience or on handling adversity.

Physical endurance follows mental toughness and as the saying goes once the mind decides the body will follow. A high-altitude trek definitely requires preparation to enjoy the journey and to make it happen.

Emotional endurance is what people generally don’t pay attention to especially if it’s a long trek (More than a week). One will stay away from their family, friends and their loved ones. What may go wrong and what can happen is a thought which may often worry people and sometimes shows up in their energy and intake of diet which eventually shows in the journey and their experience of it.

Sometimes the plan can get completely changed or postponed because of weather not supporting, sometimes it may be health or sometimes it can be illness of team member, though mental toughness to finish the journey is appreciated it also needs resilience to stay open and deal with the uncertainty the way it turns out than pushing forward and make the journey unworthy.