Life At Druva

Climbing Everest: The First Steps on the Last Steps of the Journey

Sauraj Jhingan

Druva employee Sauraj Jhingan has been preparing for his Everest climb since the summer of 2014. Finally, he’s put his feet on the path to the top. Come along as he sets his eyes on the summit.

It’s cold, just so cold, and I am exhausted. I blink my eyes, trying to clear my vision, as I stand on a vertical ice wall on the Docrani Glacier, located in the Garhwal Himalayas. I’m standing with just the front two spikes of my crampons buried in the ice, holding my entire weight on this wall, 30 feet above the ground. My arms ache from exhaustion and from muscle fatigue, but I must swing my ice-axe perfectly to bite into the ice in order to pull my body higher. If I fall now, I will drop at least 10 feet before the belay rope arrests my fall. If I fall now, I could get hurt badly. I close my eyes for a moment and rest my head against the cold blue ice. I am so exhausted… And then I fall.

Sauraj Jhingan Everest

I open my eyes and snap out of my reverie. I’m back in the present, sitting in a lovely Tibetan Tea House called Rivendell, located in the middle of a rhododendron forest, in the heart of Nepal’s Khumbu valley, with brilliant snow-capped peaks visible out of the window. It’s April, and I’m on my way to climb Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.

When I tell people I’m climbing Everest, it always brings forth a wide range of reactions. People often ask if I am plagued by moments of doubt. Have you trained enough? Isn’t it too expensive? Do you have enough experience? Wouldn’t you rather do something more useful with your time and money? Have you purchased the right kind of equipment? …And finally, the question of questions: Are you ready?

When faced with these questions, I often recall the memory of the ice wall I faced during my Advanced Mountaineering course.That experience should ideally terrify me, haunt me. But on the contrary, it is a strong reminder of the amount of time and hard work I have invested. I have earned the right to be here. Preparing my mind for this expedition has been one of the toughest and most rewarding experiences of my life. When in doubt, I close my eyes and repeat, “I’m climbing Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.”

The last year has gone by so very fast, with a lot of work to prepare me for the trip. An expedition toStokKangri (6,200meters) in the Ladakh region of India; an expedition to Mt Nun (7,135 meters) in the Zanskar valley, in India’s Ladakh region; Lebouche Peak (6,185meters) in the Khumbu valley in Nepal; a trek on the frozen river of the Ladakh region in the heart of winter, facing sub-zero temperatures; two expedition treks to the Everest Base Camp in Nepal; one exhausting 42-kilometer run in the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon; and finally an A-Grade certification in the Advanced Mountaineering Course (AMC) from the prestigious Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM).

It has not been without sacrifice. In September, 2014, I spent a week on my back, in tremendous pain and agony, undergoing excruciating physiotherapy. Intense workouts, hectic travel, and subsequent expeditions caused a serious injury to my lower vertebrae. Moments of frustration coupled with shooting pain gave me serious doubt as to whether I would walk and run again, let alone climb. But I blinked back my tears of frustration and concentrated on my physiotherapy; I focused all my energy and determination on the prize ahead. “I’m climbing Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.”

I look back on the last year and ask myself if I have prepared enough. The answer is Yes: I have earned the right to be here.“I’m climbing Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.”

It’s time.

We set out on the 17th of March, 2015 for Nepal. Three hectic days in Katmandu were spent in completing the last of the paperwork, such as the payments towards the expedition, filling in documentation, making last minute equipment purchases and travel arrangements, coordinating trekking itineraries and travel schedules, and dispatching equipment and supplies to reach the Base Camp. On the 21st of March, we landed in Lukla along with a group of friends, and commenced our trek up to Everest Base Camp.

Blessed with brilliant weather, we made our way along beautiful forests trails and exquisite snow-capped peaks to reach our camp on the 29th of March. We are the first climbing team on the Khumbu glacier this season, thus making our presence felt. Having touched 5,365 meters above sea level at Base Camp and having ensured our equipment and supplies are well in place, we descended back down to the village of Debouche, back down to the tree line at 3,655 meters for some much-needed rest, relaxation, and introspection.

As I sit in our little lodge, staring out of the window at the majestic Everest massif, with her plume of snow blowing off the summit, I imagine standing on that very summit. I’m filled with awe and wonder. But most of all, I am filled with determination. “I’m climbing Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world.”

Follow along with Sauraj’s Everest journey.