It was my first expedition. It was Mt. Stok Kangri. The highest peak in the Ladakh range of mountains. The height- 6123 meters which is 20,182 feet. We had an extraordinary start to the expedition. No flight delays, all weather clear, we had all the equipment, great food supplies and a marvellous chef who would cook for us and carry our luggage.
After 6 tiring days of trekking, we had reached the Summit camp. The last camp. It was something around sixteen thousand feet high and we had more four thousand feet to climb. In just one night.
The weather was worsening with time. After two long days of weather clearing and accommodation and acclimatisation at the camp, it was time to go for what we had come all the way. The Summit.
In mountains, you have to start climbing in the midnight just because the it is cold and the snow is not slippery and before afternoon you reach back the summit camp.
So, as the per the plan, my Dad woke me up at 12 in the night. Our chef had prepared some kind of noodles (they were healthy and the need for the hour). We were moving in the camp with our headlight on. We could not know what the temperature was, but surely it was below minus ten Degree Celsius because our thermometers could not show us temperature below ten degrees. We gulped the food, packed our bags and moved out of the camp.
With our headlights aiming to the ground, we started moving to the summit. After around an hour of moving through the harsh wind and the bitter cold, one of our members gave up, claiming to have a disease from his childhood, which was now about to kill him. Fifteen minutes were not over, and another one of us gave up out of altitude sickness. Out of a group of seven, only five were left now.
A few minutes later, I saw a person, doing push ups and jumping jacks to keep himself warm. I gave him a bottle of warm water and moved on focussing on the way which my small head-torch was showing me.
After four hours of creepy walk, we reached a glacier, indicating we had reached the deadliest part of the mountain. My guide told me seat myself down slowly, on the glacier, take my crampons out and wear them. When I was trying to do this with minimal movement, two people passed by me, of whom, one was some European and the other was a local guide comforting him on his back because the European was hard hit by altitude sickness and was vomiting.
The deadliest part, which was a seventy-degree steep slope, completely filled with snow and ice challenged our endurance and energy levels. We had to walk on that creepy slope for around two hours just after we were done with the glacier. Our leader was constantly reminding us to drink plenty of water and breathe deep, because the oxygen level had reduced to fifty percent. Half the oxygen and a big mountain to climb.
After an hour of walking on the slope, I turned around to check how far my Dad had moved and I saw something super beautiful. The sun was rising behind another mountain and the sky was completely painted with orange and yellow colours. The ‘Aha’ movement of my life.
The pace of our team had reduced to one baby-step every two seconds as our bodies were surely not built for fifty percent oxygen and minus ten degrees with harsh wind. After a climb of around seven hours, we had reached the ridge. The width ofthe ridge was not more than one metre. To both sides of the ridge was a fall of a minimum five-thousand feet. One wrong step, and we were dead.
At the beginning of the ridge, my mind had given up thinking this was the summit. It felt like the end. My body had stopped supporting me. My Dad reached to me and said something to me which I could not hear because of the harsh wind. The leader took a long rope out of his sack and tied it around my waist and tapping the rope, he said, ”This is gonna keep you safe.”
I listened to my Dad and the leader but even when my body had stopped supporting me, the leader told us to move.
The length of the ridge was around five-hundred metres. With no doubt and thought in mind, we kept moving. After fifteen minutes, out of energy, I was sleeping on the snow and the leader was pulling me with the other part of the rope, tied on his waist. He was literally dragging me and when I got back to my senses, I put a wrong step and almost fell down. The leader pulled me up and my life was saved. Thank God for the Rope (and the leader).
After this adventurous journey, we reached the summit. There was just our team. No one else. We could not stay there for more than twenty minutes because of the low oxygen levels. We were there for only twenty-seven minutes, to be precise.
As we headed back to the camp, the weather worsened, provoking us to move quickly or fall off the ridge. Back on the slope, the rising sun had melted the snow making the way down slippery. We could not come down easily, so we decided to sledge (because we had no energy in us and this was to use the steepness of the slope) all the way down out of the energy.
We reached the camp and the leader was talking on the phone, back to my city. And tired, I was laying down on a stone beside him and he said,”Tanish, congratulations.” Thinking we had achieved the same I congratulated him back but he said, ”You have done an extraordinary feat.” With curious eyes, I asked, him what was it and he continued, ”You are the youngest to have climbed the mountain. You have set a world record.”
I was super excited after knowing this and returned to the camp. The people in the camp were very happy, people were coming to me and clicking photographs with me and a local person told me that, with us, twenty-eight people had left the camp to climb the mountain and only six made it to the top, out of which, five of them was our team.
The people in the camp were very happy, some were not very happy. The Indians there baked a cake at the summit camp – at sixteen thousand feet and we had a nice celebration. I was widely popular all over India and the news. A few days later I received a letter from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation that I had officially set the world record.
I was widely awarded. I was in almost all kind of newspaper circulating around Maharashtra and also in some which were read all over India. Newspaper agencies of the National Dailies were calling to know about my experience. News channels were Interviewing me.
The next expedition was actually one of the best but I had lost my humility. This time I was working for the next Asian record and I did it. I did set another record which had changed my life. I became more egoistic with time.
Then the next expedition was Mt. Kilimanjaro. No records. Actually I had a member younger than me in my team. It really killed me, from the inside. I was feeling ashamed at Kilimanjaro.
The same happened to me on the journey to Mt. Everest Base Camp but an incident did strike me and changed my life. I met a person on the way to the base camp. His name is John. He is a super motivated person, wanting to conquer and do everything. He is from Canada. He is very huge. Might be 6′5’. He was super motivated to climb and is paralysed. He has only one leg and one arm. The other were just mechanical. While I was with him I the camp, I was asking him his life story and amidst all this, he said something very wisely, “Son, all this is the result of what I’ve done all my life. I do not care if I reach the base camp, but I love to climb. And I love doing it. So even the absence of an arm and leg cannot stop me and also you. Love the process. The results are chasing you. Always.”
That night I realised, I had climbed Stok because I loved to climb. And not because I wanted that world record. And I have to make this applicable in any part of life. I realised that the real joy is not in the result, but in the process. The real joy, is not in making money, but is in building your business and adding value to your customers. Just imagine what would you do, even if you had enough money to live, if your boss does not pay you. Now imagine the same in the context of your favourite sport. You have all the money you need to live. It would be okay for you to not get paid for playing a World Cup final. Or whatever.
I used to tell people about the reason to climb as the fame, but John had changed my answer. He changed it to the love of climbing and exploring.
Look, money, fame, certificates, degrees, grades, all are results. And you just cannot control them. Take charge of what you can control– the process. The process is the most important thing. Tell me how would you react if I play the videogame or the sports game on your behalf and give you the best result. You would of course spit on me, because you love the process; You don’t love the feeling of having a fullstomach, you love eating. Having a full stomach is a result of eating. Money is the result of the actions you take concerned with your business or job. A good scorecard is the result of how you play. Do not go to the college for the sheet of paper with a stamp – The Degree. Go because you love to learn.Reaching the summit is the result of climbing the mountain. The number of followers you have on social media is the result of value you add to their life. If a painter, in front of the easel, thinks of at what price will his painting be sold, he won’t be able to focus on painting. A good relationship is the result of loving your partner. Just love. And keep loving.
The emerald is beautiful. It is just the way it is. It loves to shine. Let it. It does not shine for your appreciation. Does its beauty reduce if it is not appreciated?
If you observe, the most successful people are the one who are constantly loving the process and not the one who are chasing the result. Success in terms of a well ordered and peaceful and calm life – The type of life they love.
Love the process. The results chase you.