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Read about Girish Kamat and his 16-day trek to the Everest Base Camp, a notable achievement. In this interview with him, we learn about how he got into trekking, his other achievements, his passion and inspiration to try and attempt the Everest Base Camp, and the life lessons he learned on this incredible journey.

Is this your first trek? When did you start? What treks have you done before?

Girish: I have been doing small treks/hiking trails in and around Kuala Lumpur, more as a recreational activity for the past few years. The hikes I have gone on have been around 3–4-hour duration with an elevation between 250 and 500 meters.

In early April 2023, I participated and successfully completed a 100-km race held in Mashobra, a little hill retreat located near Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, India. This race was a long self-supported footrace that took place over two stages/two days. The stunning terrain was a mix of open cultivated fields, rocky mountains, nomadic pastures, old forests, riverbeds, and traditional heritage homes. Competitors were required to pass through up to ten checkpoints throughout the two-day race before crossing the finish line.

Judging from the scale and elevation point of view, I’d have to say that the Everest Base Camp (EBC) was my first trek on that level.

What do you love most about trekking?

The silence (lack of noise) of nature brings with it a calm and peace of mind. Other than the obvious health benefits, trekking helps me reduce the stress of day-to-day life, especially when you immerse yourself in nature and the greenery around you: it transforms you into another world. Away from the concrete jungle we live in, you can hear the sound of birds chirping, leaves rustling, monkeys jumping around on the trees above and the cool breeze flowing. Sometimes you see beautiful waterfalls and sometimes you cross through streams; sometimes you encounter snakes, giant mushrooms and butterflies in spectacular colours. All of these experiences are refreshing, like charging up the body battery.

What inspired you to do this trek to the Himalayas?

One day, after dinner, as I was sitting with some of my trekker friends, this idea of “Let’s do EBC” was suggested by one of them. Intrigued by the idea, the next day I started reading about the trek. I read articles by fellow trekkers of their experiences, describing the immense beauty of the surrounding Sagarmatha National Park, the breath-taking view of four of the highest peaks in the world. I made up my mind then that I wanted to do this trek.

How many days was it? Where did you start? How did you get there? If someone wants to do it, how should they get started?

The entire trek is 16 days, a complete return loop.

There are two base camps on Mount Everest, on opposite sides of the mountains: the South Base Camp is in Nepal at an altitude of 5,364 metres, while the North Base Camp is in China at 5,150 m. I did the South Base Camp. One has to fly to Kathmandu first and from there fly into Lukla Airport, one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Within minutes of landing there, the trek commences along Dudh Kosi River to the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar at 3,867 m, before heading up to Dingboche (4,260 m), Lobuche (4,930 m), Gorakshep (5,140 m) with night stops every day and stops in some places for a couple of days just to get acclimatized with altitude, eventually leading to EBC (5,364 m) on Day 8.

If someone wants to do such a trek, he/she will have to prepare both mentally and physically to undertake multiple days of walking over rugged terrain and at high altitude. The best thing is to start with regular long walks, climbing floors, and hiking.

How many months in advance did you have to prepare for it and what did the preparation involve - physical, mental, etc.?

A trek to the EBC is physically demanding. Regular cardiovascular training, strength training, hiking and trekking in local terrain, and altitude training, if possible, should be part of your preparation for a minimum of 3 months before the trek.

Altitude is by far the most challenging aspect of the trek and that is what makes it more difficult than your average trek of the same length. Acute mountain sickness, due to lack of oxygen resulting in difficulty of breathing and other altitude-related illnesses are a serious risk at the sort of altitudes one encounters on this trek.

In addition to physical training, one needs to also take advice from a Trekking Planner (ideally someone from Nepal), who can help plan the entire trek. One must set realistic expectations and stay positive and motivated throughout the trek.

What was the whole experience like? And what did you feel when you reached the top?

The EBC trek was a once in a lifetime experience and possibly the best one of my life. I have to admit that it was a tough challenge, particularly for me, an amateur trekker. Trekking to the EBC was one of the toughest physical and mental challenges I’ve encountered. But nothing worthwhile is easy and it really was an adventure of a lifetime.

It was a mix of a sense of achievement, relief at the release from self-imposed effort, a range of emotions; a strong feeling of immense pride and privilege to have been permitted to pass among the giants of nature unhindered. Also, a feeling of elation to have witnessed the nobility, strength, and character of the Nepali people, who in spite of the inconceivable privations they endure, and the realization of a small inkling of why people climb mountains.

What are the life lessons from this?

  • Be respectful and humble to the larger life forces : Anyone who has been in the Himalayas knows that “you don’t climb the mountains, the mountains allow you to pass.” However highly you think of yourself, when you stand in the midst of the mighty Himalayas, you are humbled. In the presence of these massive mountains, it is easier to realize the meagreness of our existence in the vast universe and to surrender to the larger life force. The realization quickly dawns that the only thing truly in your control is to take the next step forward, one step at a time.
  • It is not a race : We often forget that our journey is unique to us in every little aspect of our life. No one knows our complete story better than us and similarly we do not know theirs. Our speed is determined by our situations and the choices we make and the same applies to others. Therefore, it is not a race. It never was, and it never will be. So, find your own life rhythm and follow it.
  • It’s all about team work : The mountains are the great levellers. We are all equal in the mountains, no matter what your qualifications, your position, your status in life … here noting matters. We each have our own journeys and the fun is in connecting with each other in a simple non-judgemental manner, bereft of any labels.
  • Be flexible with the goal and plan : It’s a known fact that acute mountain sickness can hit anyone at any time in the high-altitude environment that these treks operate in. For every decision we had to make about this trek, there was a plethora of choices, each with its pros and cons, associated reviews and advice (solicited and unsolicited). Some of the important choices are your team, tour operator, insurance provider, personal training plan, and choice of climbing gear.

Have you planned any other expeditions? When and where?

I plan to go next to Mount Kilimanjaro in the near future. Located in Tanzania, it is Africa’s tallest mountain at about 5,895 m (19,340 feet). It is the largest free-standing mountain rise in the world, meaning it is not part of a mountain range.

Finally, such great journeys are not possible without the unconditional and resolute support from your family, friends, and colleagues. It is their blessing and well wishes that make such impossible tasks a reality.

Girish Kamat is the Country Manager for Thomson Reuters—Legal business in Malaysia. He is responsible for P&L, sales/distribution; the production and acquisition of legal content both in print and digital format; West Law—Sales in Malaysia.

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