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Mumbai climber becomes first vegan to summit Everest on two routes

Three years ago, Joisher said, he had reached the summit from the Nepalese (south) side. “But I was wearing animal leather and I decided I would do this again as a complete vegan — which includes all clothing and gear.”

mumbai Updated: Jun 24, 2019 08:28 IST
Yesha Kotak
Yesha Kotak
Hindustan Times
Everest vegan,Vegan climber,Mount Everest
Kuntal Joisher, the vegan climber to summit mount Everest twice, at his home in Ghatkopar.(Aalok Soni/HT)

As 39-year-old Kuntal Joisher from Mumbai summited Mount Everest on May 23 from the Tibetian (north) side, he achieved his goal of becoming the first vegan to climb the mountain from both possible routes.

“Joisher is indeed the first vegan to have summited Everest. It is not just his diet, but he didn’t even use clothes made of animal skin. Usually, when we use the gears to climb mountains, it is made of geese skin, but even by looking at his pictures, one can figure out thy his gear is made of synthetic material,” said Umesh Zirpe, founder of Giripremi Institute of Mountaineering.

Three years ago, Joisher said, he had reached the summit from the Nepalese (south) side. “But I was wearing animal leather and I decided I would do this again as a complete vegan — which includes all clothing and gear.”

Joisher, who lives in Ghatkopar, said he found his love for mountaineering ten years ago when he trekked up Hatu Peak in Himachal Pradesh with his wife, Deepti, to fulfil her wish of seeing snow. “After that day, my husband has dedicated his life to trekking and Everest,” said Deepti, a social worker.

But funding his trips were always a problem. Joisher said every time he planned a Mount Everest expedition, he would tap every possible source — from his company to crowdfunding to his brother — to get the required $35,000 (approximately ₹24 lakh).

Joisher said he had avoided near-death experiences twice on his way to Everest’s summit. In 2014, his expedition was cancelled after 16 sherpas were killed in an avalanche. The next year, as he was about to start his climb from the base camp, an earthquake rocked Nepal. His team was not hit by an avalanche but found themselves in knee-deep snow.

“I found it very difficult to breathe but a co-trekker helped out,” he said. Despite friends and family advising him not to return to Everest, he did not pay heed to it. Joisher said he decided to make his subsequent ascents on a vegan diet, to prove that it could sustain people in the harshest of climates.

In 2016, Maria Strydom, an Australian who wanted to prove “vegans can do anything”, died of altitude sickness while descending Everest. “I learnt how to cook my own food with help from the sherpas,” Joisher, who has been vegan since 2002, said. “I also carried packed foods such as a ready-to-mix poha or powders which would substitute for meals”

His greatest support during all of his expeditions, he said, was his sherpa, Mingma Tenzi.

First Published: Jun 24, 2019 00:01 IST