Asthmatic Bengal mountaineer attempts to complete explorer’s ‘grand slam’
Having already scaled highest peaks in six continents, the 34-year-old techie left Kolkata for Antarctica on Thursday on a two-month expedition.Updated: Nov 30, 2017 16:23 IST
In March 2016 when his oxygen mask malfunctioned barely 15 minutes away from Mount Everest’s summit, leaving him gasping for breath for almost 30 minutes, the childhood horror of asthma attacks returned to haunt him.
That was the first time he was not carrying his inhalers during an expedition.
Luckily, the oxygen mask started functioning on its own. After the successful climb, Satyarup Siddhanta came back with the belief than he has conquered asthma as well.
On Thursday, the 34-year-old techie, having scaled highest peaks in six continents, left Kolkata for Antarctica on a two-month expedition.
He hopes to scale Mt. Vinson around December 13/14 and then start for South Pole for skiing the last degree – from 89 degree to 90 degree – a distance of about 60 nautical miles that is expected to take about 10 days.
“It will be a superhuman feat for an asthmatic to scale the seven summits. Climbing Mt Everest for an asthmatic is itself considered a rare feat,” said Rudra Prasad Halder, who scaled Everest in 2016.
Apart from Mt Everest, Siddhanta scaled Mt. Aconcagua in South America, Mt. Denali in North America, Mt. Elbrus and Mont Blanc in Europe, Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and Carstensz Pyramid and Mt Kosciuszko in Oceania.
Reaching the highest peaks in each continents (seven summits) and North and South Pole is considered as an explorer’s ‘grand slam’.
He’ll reach Chile in early January. There he aims to climb Ojos del Salado, world’s highest active volcano (6887 m / 22,595 ft), probably as only the second Indian, after Malli Mastan Babu.
He plans to finish the trip with an ascent to mountain Tres Cruces to pay tribute to Mastan Babu, the first south Asian to climb Seven Summits (2006). Babu died in 2015 during an expedition to Tres Cruces Sur summit (6,749 m) due to bad weather.
“During my school days, when friends were all playing cricket or football or competing in other sports, my place was always in the gallery,” he recalled.
The turning point was 2001, his first year in college.
“I had an asthma attack on the road and was doubly shocked to find I had left my inhaler home. It was then I promised myself to reduce my inhaler dependency,” said Siddhanta, narrating his journey from an asthmatic kid to a Mountaineer.
He started breathing exercise and joined swimming. By 2008, he would rarely require the inhaler. That year when his colleagues in a Bengaluru tech firm revealed their plan of trekking Parvathamalai in Tamil Nadu, Siddhanta concealed to the team about being an asthma patient and joined them.
“I carried the inhaler along but I did not require it during the trip. Whenever I had breathing problems, I tried to relax and overcome it with breathing exercises. That trekking boosted my confidence and another successful trek to Everest base camp in 2010, fueled my dream of being on top of the world,” he said at his south Kolkata apartment before leaving for his next challenge.
After a basic mountaineering course in Darjeeling in 2011, his journey for Seven Summits started in 2012 with a successful climb of Kilimanjaro. The higher he scaled, the bigger became his dreams.
All these adventures, of course, come at a cost. “The two-month-long trip of Antarctica and Chile will cost about Rs 7 million,” he said. Though supported by sponsorships, he had to take hefty loans for earlier trips and works in two tech firms in shifts to repay the debt.
Prior to the Antarctica tour, Siddhanta started auctioning his trophies and mementoes to raise funds. But his friends intervened and raised nearly Rs 1 million from crowd funding.