Life At Druva

Why Everest? Because It’s There.

Sauraj Jhingan, Druva’s Human Resources Manager in India, is preparing to climb Everest – and not metaphorically. What could possibly motivate someone to endure such harsh conditions? He explains why mountain climbing has become a passion.

I stumble forward on exhausted legs, sinking two feet into thick snow as I pull myself up on a frozen rope, hanging precariously over a bottomless ice crevasse. I look up: The sky shows billions of stars. It’s beautiful!

I struggle to locate my watch, which means pulling back several layers of clothes. It is -27 degrees Celsius, after all. I had started my ascent for the summit of Mera Peak at 11:30 pm, and now, after 3½ hours, the cold is seeping into my hands and feet. By now, nightmares of frozen limbs and frostbite are beginning to haunt me; I have to make an exceptional effort to suppress my fears. My only source of comfort is the light from the torch that’s strapped to my helmet, illuminating the path ahead of me. I’m now wondering, “Why am I doing this?”

The light changes; dawn is approaching. It brings with it the hope that I might actually start to feel warm again. The sun rises; it illuminates an exquisite white world, casting a spotlight on the summit that now seems within arm’s reach. It rejuvenates me, and I steadily make my way over the last ice wall and scramble to the top, falling exhausted at the summit.

At 21,000 feet above sea level, the mighty Himalayas extend for miles below me. My fatigue is washed away as I stand on top of this mountain, laughing with a mix of excitement and exhaustion, knowing that with sheer force of will, I conquered this summit. This is why I do this!

I feel a presence behind me, and turn around slowly. I am instantly overwhelmed by the most breathtaking sight. Casting a shadow across my mountain, is Mt. Everest, towering another 8,000 vertical feet above me, humbling me by its sheer charisma. Mt. Everest…! The name just says it all.

. . .

Sauraj_IMG_2798Seven years have passed since I attained my first summit, when I climbed Mera Peak. Since then, without fail, every year, I have found my heart being drawn back to the mountains.

Many people experience spirituality in temples and churches; but for me, it has always been while climbing a mountain. Ever since the day when I stared up at those steep ridges and lofting peaks of the highest mountain in the world on my way to Everest base camp, I knew I would attempt to climb it one day.

All the years spent conquering the mountains of the Great Himalayas, all those times of sub-zero temperatures when it hurt to even breathe, those many moments when I wondered why I actually spent a hard-earned vacation subjecting my body to such extreme situations – they have all been merely my subconscious attempt to prepare myself for the ultimate challenge: To climb the highest mountain in the world.

It wouldn’t come easy. My endeavor to scale and summit Mt Everest in 2015 would entail being away from family and friends for approximately six months. That’s what’s required for the preparation climbs and the final climb to the summit; it meant taking a leave of absence from Druva in order to follow my dream. In addition, I and my climbing partner Samir will be living in one of the most inhospitable environments known to man: a glacier, surrounded by broken rock and debris, with the constant fear of avalanches. Day temperatures will be 5 degrees Celsius; night temperatures usually hover around -20 degrees.

If all this is not challenging enough, the atmospheric oxygen content decreases with every meter of altitude gained. Without bottled oxygen, we slowly but surely experience oxygen starvation, leading to hypoxia.

With this herculean challenge in mind, my desire to climb Mt Everest is not so much that it is the ultimate challenge, but because I strongly believe I am capable of taking on this challenge. I remember reading the biography of Sir George Mallory, the first climber to attempt climbing Everest in 1923. His most famous response, when asked why he wanted to climb Everest was, “Because it’s there!”