Mountaineering, Fitness and Living the Life – My Point of View

September 24, 2019

“The greatest danger in life is not to embark on the adventure” – George Leigh Mallory

Being a medical oncologist (cancer specialist) by profession, the biggest regret most of my patients face is that they haven’t been able to lead their personal lives well enough. Everyone’s life has three components: professional life, family life and personal life. The current generation spends most of their personal lives on a phone, just browsing. It’s best to devote your personal time to painting, singing, or whatever you want to do outdoors. For me, this “time for me” is about trekking, mountaineering or just being in good shape. So when someone asked me to write an article for the Fit India movement, I said why not.

For me, being in good shape has never meant going to the gym. Instead, it involved activities like horseback riding (thought to me by Avinand Achanahally from Mangaluru Riding Academy), swimming (learned by Pundalik from the MCC pool) and surfing (learned by Dhruvin Jasani of the Stoked Surfers’ Club). But the best thing I’ve learned, personally, is rock climbing (learned from Shekar Babu, Mount Everest climber and winner of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award) which requires a lot of physical fitness. Preparation for any high altitude mountain begins with cycling around 50-100 km, running 10-30 km and walking stairs from 3 months before departure. We usually walk stairs with an ankle weight of 2 kg and a 20 kg backpack, 200 floors (2000 steps) at least twice a week.

The largest tricolor on Mount Elbrus

Summit of Mount Elbrus

Sunrise below us at Mount Kilimanjaro

Near the top of Mount Kilimanjaro

Somewhere near the top of Stok Kangri

Learn my climbing basics

Ready for the next mountain

With this training, I was able to climb two of the seven highest peaks (the highest mountain on each continent). At Mount Elbrus, which is the highest mountain in Europe (5642 meters = 18,510 feet), was able to fly the largest Indian flag with the members of the team. We have requested that this achievement be listed in the Limca Book of Records, Indian Records and High End World Records. Even the view from the summit of Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters = 19,341 feet) which is Africa’s tallest mountain is a moment to be cherished for a lifetime. We stand above the clouds and watch the sun rise below us. How many times in a lifetime would this be possible?

But mountains are not just peaks. It’s about snow, bad weather, rains, leeches, climbing partners, cooking, bonding and life to the max. It’s about enjoying the trip, not just the destination. Mountaineering in Mangaluru is usually done with the Western Ghats. This was introduced to me by Dinesh Holla about 20 years ago. After exploring most of the Western Ghats, I then explored waterfalls, rock climbing, bouldering and finally high altitude snow filled mountains. My first snow trek was in Stok Kangri (6153 meters = 20,500 feet) facing a temperature as low as -20c due to bad weather.

Being a doctor has seen medical emergencies when people are not well acclimated to high altitude, including pulmonary edema and high altitude brain disease. It has nothing to do with age or fitness, but depends on how quickly you climb and your attitude to return if things go wrong. With the right summit attitude being optional and returning home safely the priority, any high altitude mountain can be attempted with ease. Many ask us why you climb mountains, because it is an expensive business. My gentleman would respond to that by saying, “Why are you paying money and going to the movies?” It’s about doing the things you love in life ”. However, my mountaineering trip does not end there, I would like to climb all seven peaks, go rock climbing in Yosemite Valley and someday open a climbing institute in Mangaluru.

In our life, the first 2-3 decades are devoted to training for our professional life. But when we really have the time to do what we want, we run right behind the money. Having a good balance between professional, family and personal life gives meaning to life. After all, we have around 50 weekends a year and around 1,500 to 2,000 weekends in a lifetime, make sure it’s filled with the memories you cherish the most.

Life is living.

“One day your life will pass before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching ”- Gerard Way.