Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Kenton Cool's Mt Everest

Before I write about the book I would like to share my experience with mountains. When I was in school, I lived in a place called Aizawl in North East Part Of India for two years with my family. Aizawl is situated 1,132 meters above sea level. So, I grew up watching mountains around me though they were small mountains. I also learned that life is difficult for people who actually "live" there. Visiting a place for few weeks or months for trips and living in a place for 2 years is completely two different things. If I missed school bus ( which I often did) I had to climb around 200 staircases to reach school. 

The most unimaginable thing that I remember from those days is "water". We didn't have tap in our quarter ( I heard that they have it now) and per day we used to get only 3 barrels of water. Every day at  4 am water van would come and fill our barrels and if you don't wake up on time to signal them to stop then you will find your house floating in water in the morning. There was no bell to signal, we had to scream at the top of our voice "STOP" until they hear our voices. They had to travel around 4-5 hours (one way) to bring water from the nearby river. so we used to get muddy river water for our daily uses including bathing and cooking.  And some days If water van didn't come then we had to manage without water. When I look back now I wonder how we lived there for 2 years. But still we loved the place. Aizawl is beautiful and untouched by the tourist industry as you need special permit even to visit the place. 

Though I've never climbed any mountain in my life but I appreciate the beauty that nature gift us. The highest altitude I had ever visited was Gurudonmagar Lake in, 2005/06.  It  is located at an altitude of 17,800 ft but I had only covered around 100m approx by foot and rest was covered by a hired car. Though the experience was nothing sort of climbing Mt Everest but being a non climber and knowing that I will never climb Everest made it special for me. 

I  had been blessed with the view of snow capped mountain and frozen Gurudomagar Lake in Sikkim. Though the way to Gurudonmagar lake was not covered in snow. Its more like passing dessert on both sides. It was one of the most wonderful drive in my life. I had covered that 100 meters in Jeans and hired boots from a local shop and after reaching the top I started showing the signs of altitude sickness. I had headache and was feeling very tired just walking those few steps and my nose was running badly like someone had opened the tap. I was so naive that I didn't know these minor illness could be fatal in mountains. 

Everyone around me was so excited to see the beauty in front of them but at the same time they looked nervous and I couldn't understand why. I didn't undergo any sort of training or physical fitness before the trip even though my uncle had insisted on that. Going there was a choice which not many had undertaken that day but my uncle took the decision for me and I am thankful for that. Otherwise, I would have missed the golden chance to romance nature. 

I am not a climber but my uncle is very passionate about trekking, birds and wild animals. He always tried to inspire me as soon as I was old enough to spell the word trekking. But Unfortunately, I never understood his love for mountains when I was young. His mountain stories bored me like everyone else and I often runaway when he would call me to watch a wonderful documentary at  Nat Geo or Discovery channel on mountains with him. 

So, he planned a trip as soon as I was at the age to climb or at least ready to take basic preparations with minor climbs and that's how Gurudomangar Lake happend. How I wish that I took it more seriously rather than treating  it as mere Sightseeing trip . But somehow that trip changed something inside me. At least, I started to appreciate the beauty of nature and when in 2007 I was in university I started planning about a serious trek with one of my classmate who walk slower than tortoise till today. But somehow climbing never happened for me but now and then I get the chance to appreciate the mighty mountains in India from the safest distance. 

Finally, back to book and Mt Everest. The 1996 disaster in Mt Everest caught my attention just few years back and since then I started digging about the great mountain. Media raised questions about the morality of climbers for leaving their fellow climbers alone to die. I was  aghast. I wondered how can they ? But going into little depth recently my observation says that media's concern could be for two reasons. First, They were naive like me and completely unaware about mountaineering and the risks involve in such high altitude. Second, they wanted to sensationalize the news for TRPs. 

After Eat Pray Love I got so intrigued about mountains especially Mt Everest and K2 that I started collecting books on them from the library. And that's when I picked up a book called One Man's Everest By Kent Cool. 

The man in the book cover look more like a NASA scientist than a climber to me. Kenton cool is an English Mountaineer whose achievements are super cool just like his surname. He is the first man to tweet from top of the Mt Everest in 2010. Till now, he had summited Mt Everest 11 times and wish for more. He had also led Sir Ranulph Fiennes in 2008 and 09. Also, In 2013, Mr cool summited The Triple Crown with Dorje (sherpa) without returning to base camp. 

Kenton Cool: leading an ascent of Annapurna III in 2003 (left)
Image Source: 1

The first thing you'll notice when you open the book is the map of Mt Everest. It was very helpful and one of the best for the layman like me. I googled for the better map but this one helped me more to understand the territory. And In my opinion when you write about any place or mountains showing a map to your readers is must. 

His mountaineering journey is amazing and inspiring. Even his completely shattered  ankles couldn't stop him from climbing his dream. Not once but many times. What I loved about him is he shows love and equal amount of respect to his Sherpa. Sherpa are the unsung heroes who never get their due credits from their client but cool has given fair amount of coverage to them on his book. His writing is very engaging and by the time I reached Mt Everest (page no 116) through his words I was literally holding my breath and my heart was beating fast. I felt like I was on Mt Everest and had crossed turnaround time. 

I found answers that I was looking for, from this book. Like, why Mt Everest when it is so dangerous ? And why they often don't turnaround on time or why the expert mountaineers push themselves even in unfavorable conditions.  Kenton Cool is often criticized by his fellow climbers for making climbing his profession. And he had explained his point of view in this book and I completely agree with that. Whats wrong If somebody is earning from what he or she loves to do ? Aren't we all look for a job that doesn't feel like a job? Then why make climbers feel guilty about it. That's not fair to them. Also, in a dangerous summit like Mt Everest you need professional or  to help you and if they've to think about job back home then there will no professional guide to help us in our journey. 

In the end he gives glimpse of his dreams to his readers which I understand is both exciting and sad for him and his family. I wish all the best to him for his future journeys to mountains and pray to God for his safety and his family's peace. Also, I hope he will give us another book after coming back. 

Overall, I really enjoyed summiting Mt Everest (a dream) with Kenton cool through his book One Man's Everest and recommend it to all. 

Few phrases from the book:- 

  1. "No one can ever tame Everest. She will bite and hard.
  2. "Climbing brings people together with a common goal. Its a place where everybody's equal , where everybody has the same aim: to summit and get back down . Everest doesn't know whether you're a student or you earn a million pounds a year, you're just another person to Everest, and that's what I love."
  3. "To climb like I had done since my university days requires a strange detachment - something akin to going to war, I guess: the notion that its the guy next to you that's going to die, not you. Its a strange, illogical belief in your own specialness."
  4. "The media often slams these wannabe climbers, citing that they pay their way to the top. Well perhaps they do; but they still have to step out and do it - no amount of money will help you make that psychological move."
  5. "It has been such a magical day, you know; the summit is nothing."
  6. "I always find the solution is at the bottom of a glass", as Guy Willett, my partner in Dream Guides, famously said once in Chamonix."But its just a question of finding which glass it's at the bottom of". 

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