Ever upward

by August 3, 2019 0 comments

Ever upward

From an asthmatic sickly boy, the journey to becoming a Guinness world record holder in mountaineering was riddled with hurdles but Satyarup Siddhanta refused to give up, says Sakshi Sharma

A journey from being an asthmatic kid, who could barely run 100 metres, to being the youngest Guinness world record holder for climbing the seven summits and seven volcanic summits, Satyarup Siddhanta has fought against all the odds and made India proud by inspiring young talent.

But Satyarup knows how to crawl out from the depths. While climbing the Everest, which he considers his most challenging expedition, he fell into a  deep crevice after a snowbridge broke enroute to camp. He was stuck in the middle and it was so deep that he could not see its bottom. But he was lucky enough to be alive and tell the tale.

He says, “On my death bed, I won’t remember how much bank balance I have or what contract I won or lost.” Rather, he wants to feel content that he touched lives. But to battle the odds, tough conditions and extreme weather needs a special kind of motivation. He says, “Every step that I put on the high altitude, fills me up with gratitude. It’s like a miracle, as I never thought I could climb any mountain. The joy in surpassing my own limits, breaking the barriers and shattering the self limiting belief makes me feel unstoppable.” He realised human potential is unfathomable and the discovery of this strength served as the greatest motivation for him.

Adventurous since childhood, Satyarup says, “I never dreamt of mountaineering, but I was always adventurous in my thought process. I used to read a lot of  novels and imagine that I am the central character. People often saw me on the treetop or climbing on the parapets or the boundary walls.”

Sharing about his initial years, he says, “Because my college was in the Himalayas, I had intense asthma attacks because of the high altitude.” The turning point came when he had an asthma attack and had forgotten the inhaler in his room. He says, “I was rolling on the ground to breathe and get some oxygen. I tried everything possible to regularise my breath but nothing worked. After 10 minutes, it automatically became normal.” This incident changed Satyarup’s life. He became contemplative and saw the incident through a broader perspective. He realised how dependent he was on his inhaler and wanted to get rid of that helplessness for which he started training his body by eating food that he was allergic to.

It was when he joined a job at Bengaluru in 2005 that the seeds of mountaineering were sowed. His boss showed him his trekking pictures at Parvathamalai hill which gave him an insight into the world he was not aware of. He says, “For a moment I was shocked because I always used to think that treks were possible only in foreign countries because the adventure novels that I read were mostly set abroad. I asked my boss if I could also do this, and he counter questioned, ‘if I can why can’t you?’” This excited him to the core but he knew that it would not be easy for him on account of his asthma. But, he decided to chase his dreams and went on a trek to Parvathamalai hills. He says, “When I reached the top, I not only had the joy of climbing the hill but also of the fact that I didn’t use the inhaler during the whole journey. I felt liberated. That moment instilled confidence in me and I realised that I could achieve all my dreams if I am dedicated.”

Since then there has been no looking back. Satyarup decided to fight with his problems and fulfill his wildest imagination. He says, “Every weekend, people saw me on the Western Ghats trekking, diving and skydiving. I never thought that I would become a mountaineer.” Things took a 360 degree turn in 2010 when he went for the Everest base camp trek in Nepal. He says, “The highest mountain stood there casting a spell on me. I did not know what mountaineering was, I just knew it is yet another mountain, a little high but I could definitely do it. So, I promised Everest that I am going to come back.” But, he soon realised that mountaineering was not like normal trekking and was a different game altogether. But he clung on to his dream and started preparing for it.

He then went to Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and came to know about the concept of seven summits. (The 7 summits represent the highest point on each of the seven continents). Satyarup says, “I was blown away by the idea and started dreaming about it. But, soon realised that I didn’t have money for climbing even one and here I am thinking about seven mountains.”

Talking about the challenges of his journey he says, “ I went to Mt Denali, the highest mountain of North America in Alaska, unsupported and unguided because of its heavy cost.” But the good part was that he completed the journey and this boosted his confidence for Everest. But financial constraints held him back, so he collected funds  from  his college, friends, parents and crowdfunding. But in 2015, there was an earthquake in Nepal which killed more than 10,000 people and all expeditions were closed. Talking about the tough time he says, “I lost my four friends, I was shattered. Our dreams were crushed but I did not lose hope. I held together all the broken pieces of my dreams and started rebuilding it.”

Mountaineering involves challenges in all aspects, be it physical, mental or financial. A mountaineer should be strong enough to combat these in order to turn their dream into a reality. Satyarup says, “You have to be mentally very strong because it’s not easy to see someone falling from the cliff in front of your eyes but then you have to walk ahead without feeling anything. This needs a lot of guts.” One needs to be patient in order to handle the uncertainties. Talking about the financial challenges, he says, “I had to leave my job because there was no policy for such long leaves in my office. So, I had to choose between Everest and my job and I chose the former because I had no idea whether I would come back from the climb or not. I thought there was no point bothering about the job? The Everest climb cost `20-25 lakh and Antarctica `76 lakh.” He has run up a loan of 45 lakh for which he works at two jobs — morning and evening — to pay his EMIs. Therefore, he is trying to get the government’s support. He feels that India is not mature enough about mountaineering. He says, “There are consistent efforts to encourage sports which has shown results as we have been breaking records. My request is to extend this to mountaineering as well.” He hopes that the government understands his situation and reverts with a positive response.

“It will be a failure on part of our country if the potential and passion of mountaineers is held back because of financial constraints. I could have used this money to buy a house or a car and lead a settled life but I wanted to make my country proud. Nobody asked me to, but I felt an urge to be instrumental,” adds he. He repeatedly urges the government to support mountaineers who silently bring glory to the country but are suffering terribly.

Writer: Sakshi Sharma

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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