“Not all adventurers are born equal” – Cathy O’Dowd
Twenty years ago, I left a lucrative career with a fast growing pharmaceutical company with the singular thought of living a life of adventure, of climbing unknown mountains, of discovering glaciers, of traveling to distant lands and making friends with complete strangers.
However utopian this may have sounded at the outset, the simple realization that I had only one life to live and therefore, I must love the life I live, convinced me to quit the job where I had been doing well for eight years, so that I could live the life I love.
From then on, I have lived my life on full compass, embracing the inevitability of financial insecurity on one hand, and the pure joy of living a life of adventure on the other.
Born in a country with no apparent history and culture of seeking adventure as a sport, as a lifestyle, and even more rarely as a philosophy, I knew I was starting with huge disadvantage.
I always looked at it this way - there are many routes up a mountain, but I should be taking a comparatively challenging one as a value addition to the whole process. Perhaps something of a purist’s approach to life’s challenges helped me stay positive.
A life of adventure, like a few other noble pursuits, requires a long and devoted apprenticeship, physical, as well as philosophical. While it is true that not all adventurers are born equal but this reality should not stop them from trying.
We should not, for a moment, stop believing that we too can savour world class adventure, be it in alpinism or in any other manifestation of an adventure pursuit. Each and every adventurer can influence the world for the better, like ripples in a tranquil pond, or worse, like a tsunami which is why it is imperative for adventurers to season themselves before embarking on the dreamy adventure life.
Nanda Devi East (7434m) Expedition 2014
In June-July, 2014, a small, lightweight and semi-alpine style expedition succeeded in climbing Nanda Devi East (7434m) in the Kumaun Himalaya, India. On 3 July, 2014, summit was reached by 4 members of the team.
2014 was the 75th anniversary of the first ascent of this mountain by a Polish team consisting of alpinists Janusz Klarner, Jakub Bujak, Adam Karpinski, Sherpa Dawa Tsering, Dr. JR Foy (British), liaison officer Major S.Blake and Stefan Bernadzikiewicz. The 1939 Polish team had reached the summit on 2 July.
In May 2013, I had attempted to climb Nanda Devi East with a group of fellow Indian climbers. 4 days of non-stop snowfall resulted in limited climbing days and that in turn caused shortage of food and fuel.
Despite these limiting factors, we made good progress on the mountain and even could manage one summit attempt from a camp at around 6600m. But during the summit attempt, extremely high wind above 6900m and poor gear conditions of the team added to the agony.
I decided to turn back from below the summit pyramid, putting safety of the team first. This failure inspired my desire to come back to Nanda Devi East and the 2014 expedition was conceived.
Route & Conditions:
Beyond BC, the team ferried load for a few days to the foot of Longstaff’s col and established an Advanced Base Camp (4750m). Above ABC, another camp (Intermediate Camp 5000m) was established on a rock step on the lower slopes of the Longstaff’s Col.
This Intermediate Camp (5000m) was established in an aim to shorten the 1100m plus climb from ABC to Nanda Devi Khal and the idea proved to be very helpful. From the Intermediate Camp (5000m), Longstaff’s Col (5910m) was climbed in only 5 hours and Camp I was made.
Ahead of Longstaff’s Col, 3 more camps were established respectively in altitudes 6100m (Camp II), 6400m (Camp III) and 6800m (Camp IV). In total we put 4 camps on the south ridge.
Compared to our attempt in 2013, we found the entire south ridge almost devoid of snow this year. We were stuck in our Camp III (6400m) for 2 extra nights due to bad weather and this in turn resulted in a lot new powder snow on the summit pyramid, making our summit day a slow and struggling affair.
George Rodway (USA), Thendup Sherpa (India), Anindya Mukherjee (India), Temba Sherpa (High Altitude Supporter), Dup Tsering (High Altitude Supporter), Lhakpa Sherpa (Base Camp Cook) and Himanshu Pandey (Liaison Officer)
Being a small team and a low budget expedition, we carried a limited amount of static rope to fix. We fixed our ropes en route Longstaff’s Col from Intermediate Camp and on the Pinnacles. Above and beyond the pinnacles, we re-fixed old rope that we found on the mountain itself, in sections. We did load ferries of hardware and food up to Camp II and ascended the rest of the ridge in ‘carry, camp and climb’ style.
Thendup Sherpa, Anindya Mukherjee, Temba Sherpa and Dup Tsering successfully summited the peak on 3 July 2014. This is the 8th ascent of the peak after 1939 (Polish), 1951 (French), 1975 (Indo-French), 1976 (Indo-Japanese), 1981 (Indian Army), 1994 (British) and 1995 (International Army-HIMEX).
Time to reconnect
“In his 1955 book, The Lakers: The Adventures of the First Tourists, Norman Nicholson argues that the industrial revolution brought about a fundamental rupture in man’s relationship with the natural world and he suggests that in one way or another we have been trying to get back to nature ever since. Nicholson describes three post-industrial ‘cults of nature-the Picturesque, the Romantic and the Athletic’ which are all symptoms of our society’s problematic separation from the natural environment.“
The Himalayas, with their vast expanse and permanence, remain an important symbol for the highest ideals within our imagination. We need to overcome the centuries’ old pang of remorse in our search for a life of security and excess over a life of simplicity and adventure.
Perhaps one day, everyone will embark on a rich and solitary journey of self-discovery, a path of true adventure, be it mountain climbing, cycling, or any other adventure. We have a long road ahead of us but I’m optimistic about the future looking at the boom in the cycling industry during the pandemic.
Stay safe & adventure on!
About the Author
An active mountaineer and adventurer with a penchant for exploration, Anindya Mukherjee has been on 55 mountaineering expeditions across the Indian Himalaya (including mountains like Kamet, Shivling, Satopanth and Nanda Devi East).
When he is not finding an entrance to an unknown glacier, Anindya Mukherjee enjoys climbing lightweight and in alpine style. Outside of Himalaya, he was seen racing on Elbrus (2008), cycling across Africa (2012 & 2017) and documenting an unknown mountain range in China (2015).
Anindya has also climbed and trekked in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Greenland, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Cascades (USA), Northern Ireland, and in the Swiss and French Alps. He received the inaugural Jagdish Nanavati Award for Excellence in Mountaineering (2012) for the first ascent of Zemu Gap from South from the Himalayan Club and writes regularly of his adventures in Indian magazines, newspapers and in mountaineering journal.