Meet Parth Upadhyaya: the youngster who’s all set for the big climb to Everest

The 23-year-old Parth Upadhyaya came hitting my thoughts with his fundraising campaign in ketto, for the upcoming Eco Everest Expedition 2019. Parth, is planning to climb the Mount Everest, supporting a great cause called #ClimbForGood. Parth aims to help underprivileged kids taking them for trips and introduce them the beauty of nature through his fundraising platform. Mountaineering is a very expensive sport and the expedition to Everest costs Rs 30 lakh rupees which is almost 43,000 USD. Out of which, Parth is now short of Rs 12 lakh rupees with just 40 days for the big climb. Born and brought up in Mumbai, Parth Upadhyaya is now working as a Trek Leader in an adventure company named Darkgreen Adventures. He organizes and leads treks around Maharashtra, backpacking trips in the Himalayas, Bhutan and in the south. The young mountaineer is in talks with Arya Aravind, about his dreams and offers tips for other enthusiasts…

What inspired you to become a mountaineer? Can you tell us about your first ever mountain climb?

My journey with the mountains started very randomly. I was watching the news one evening at the age of 16 and the news was about a 16 year old kid from Noida who had climbed Everest. The way he was describing the view caught my imagination and I thought of doing a trek myself. The first trek I did was to Mount Kalsubai in Maharashtra and I saw the sun rising from the summit and I knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. It was more of a homecoming feeling for me.

How do you prepare yourself for the mission Mt Everest?

To reach to the top of the world, you need to build a top of the world mind and body. Ever since that first hike in the Sahyadri’s, the seed for the dream of climbing Everest had been sown. I knew the journey would be long and difficult. Over the years, I went about doing the required mountaineering courses, I climbed a few peaks in the Himalayas to gain some experience trying to understand the mountains. I decided to attempt Everest in 2019 two years ago and my specific preparations have started from then.

I took a house in the Sahyadri hills for better access to the hills for training. Every day I wake up at 3:30 am and begin my day with Pranayama and meditation. At around 5 am I leave my house for either a long hike or a run to build up my cardiovascular endurance. In the evening I go to the gym for strength training and cross fit session and after coming back home I do 30 minutes of recovery workout and stretching. This is followed by a very strict and specific diet plan. It takes a lot of mental strength and clarity of purpose to be able to follow this gruesome routine day after day. There are times I want to hit snooze and sleep but I ask myself ‘How bad do you want Everest?’ and there is no sleeping then.

It’s obvious that it takes great mental strength to do what you’re doing. Is there any specific training that you do in this regard or is just something that you think you have naturally?

Well, I practice a lot of meditation because absolute clarity and calmness within is needed to prepare and attempt something like Everest. Apart from this whenever I am training am training the mental growth automatically happens parallelly. For example, when you don’t want to wake up early in the winter mornings and you push yourself and wake up anyway or while you are are training, you push yourself through those last miles or the last few repetitions. It’s more mental than physical and in moments like these you understand and start getting grip over your mind.

Out of all the climbs you have undertaken till date, which would you say was the toughest one and why?

There’s a very famous mountain in Ladakh called Stok Kangri, which was the first peak I have ever climbed. Over the years I went about climbing it multiple times and I decided to attempt it solo in July 2017. On the summit push, I was hit by sudden altitude sickness and my health deteriorated very quickly. I was at 19,000 feet, middle of the night all alone. There’s a section on the mountain just 200 feet below the summit called the shoulder. I arrived there somehow and just fainted. My body gave away. I gained consciousness in some time. I had no idea where I was. I could not move, I could not speak and I could not even think clearly.

Eventually I realised where I was and what was happening to me and I knew I had to go down immediately or else its the end of me. I could not get up so I started crawling. Few hours into my descent, I found a comfortable rock and I got signal in my cell phone. I called home. Mother answered the phone and I started crying. I told her about my situation, that I could not even walk and I said ‘I am not coming home this time’. She dropped the phone I believe. Dad picked up the phone and told me that you owe us the effort of at least trying and not giving up! That did give me a boost from within. I don’t remember most of the descent because I was so disorientated the whole time but I do remember arriving at the base camp after 10 hours of descent and just falling like a dead rock because I knew there are people around who could help me somehow and I had done all I could.

Are you ever scared when you’re on a climb? How do you tackle that fear?

I am never scared while climbing. It is the most natural state of existence for me. When I am in the mountains, I am not thinking anything else, I have no bad feelings and this is the reason why I climb. I achieve absolute freedom from thoughts and emotions and rise to much greater possibilities.

What are some of your top tips for efficient packing?

The biggest mistake people do is over packing and holding on to this stupid belief that ‘Oh we might need this, might as well carry it’. NO. That’s not how it works. There should be no room for ‘might’ involved and if there is, that means the research and planning is hollow. The first task is to exactly understand and plan what you REALLY need according to the task ahead because everything is to be carried on our backs and as one goes higher in to the altitude, everything just feels heavier. I really believe understanding in and out and smart planning is the key.

What would be your top gear recommendations?

Each gear, no matter how small it is, has equal importance for a successful expedition. But if I have to give priority and I personally put the most focus and money on the shoes, the rucksack and sleeping bag. Good shoes and rucksack makes the hike better and a good sleeping bag makes your sleep and recovery better.

What advice would you give to one of your peers who want to take up mountaineering?

If a non athletic below average student like me could make a way to sustain a living and an amazing life in Mountaineering, anybody can. The only thing to realize is that the real mountain is within you! Once you really want to do it, you’ll find your way around all the stupid excuses. Give your 100 per cent involvement to the mountains and experience the magic of the mountains loving you back in ways you can’t imagine.