His mountain-high calling

  • Harini Sriram, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 01, 2014 12:09 IST

Satyarup Siddhanta is a self-confessed child of the mountains. Be it his annual vacations to Darjeeling as a kid or his college days in Sikkim, he grew up admist mountains. But it was in Bengaluru, far away from his home turf, that his sojourn with the hills finally began. “Even as a kid I was fascinated with mountaineering,” he says, “Ironically I was an asthma patient and could not climb mountains despite being so close to them. I had to undergo intensive treatment for over five years until I was cured completely.”

By then, Siddhanta had moved to Bengaluru to take up a job as a software engineer in a US-based manufacturing company. “I was looking for some adventure and decided to go trekking around Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. I joined the Bangalore Mountaineering Club as part of which I trained in horse-riding, trekked to Nandi Hills (near Mysore) and went on weekend treks to places in the vicinity. It gave me confidence,” he says. But the turning point happened when he undertook a trek to the Everest base camp sometime in 2010. “It was my first high-altitude trek and it was mind-boggling to say the least. The experience convinced me that I should take up mountaineering more seriously and scale the Everest,” he shares.

While he was doing his research on Everest, Siddhanta thought about climbing the highest mountains in each of the seven continents. Consumed by his mission to scale all seven summits, he decided to prepare and undergo formal training. In 2011, he took up a basic course in mountaineering from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI), Darjeeling. The month-long course covers both theoretical and practical aspects of mountaineering including trekking, snow craft, ice craft and rock craft training (www.hmi-darjeeling.com).

After this course, Siddhanta started off his journey by leading a team of mountaineers to Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, in 2012. After the successful trek to the ­summit and back, he followed it up with treks to Mt Elbrus (highest peak in Europe), Mt Aconcagua (highest peak in South America) and Mt Denali (highest peak in North America). Consequently, he was left with three more peaks — Mt Kosciuszko (highest peak in Australia), Mt Vinson Massif (highest peak in Antarctica) and of course, Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world.

“I will be scaling the Australian summit in November this year; however, I’m most excited about Everest, which I plan to scale in March next year. I’m still looking for ways to fund it,” he adds.

Siddhanta says that fitness is crucial to mountaineering. He runs 14km every day and also undergoes cross-fit training (a combination of different fitness regimes) besides cycling, swimming, etc.

“Being a Bengali, I have a sweet tooth! But I start my diet two to three months prior to my climb. I avoid sweets during that period. The best diet in such times is proteins and carbohydrates in moderation. One must include a lot of fruits in one’s daily diet and go on shorter treks,” he advises.

Scaling peaks is no doubt a risky task and Siddhanta has had some near-death experiences too, like in Mt Denali when they were stuck due to a blizzard.

“The visibility was poor and I almost fell off a ridge but was rescued by my fellow mountaineers. I came down with a first-level frost bite that took two weeks to recover. Every such incident has been a learning experience. You need to be physically fit to carry your own loads (with food supplies, etc), and always study the weather. The good part is that every mountain makes you stronger,” he says.

It is important to undergo formal training if you are passionate about mountaineering, as it can save your life, he says. “Remember to never challenge nature; you cannot really ‘conquer’ a peak, so do not be over-confident. The mountains will always be there; so just enjoy the journey,” he advises, before signing off.

Remember to never challenge nature; you cannot really ‘conquer’ a peak, so do not be over-confident. The mountains will always be there; so just enjoy the journey
--- Satyarup Siddhanta

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