“Like life, the mountain tests you again and again. You have to keep going on, climbing higher and higher, until you reach the top. This is what mountaineering has taught me, and so every peak is a challenge that I face with determination,’’ smiles Rajeev Saumitra, who at the age of 41, scaled the world’s highest peak Mount Everest.
The mountaineer has now established a foundation to encourage mountaineering among students and sportspersons. A passionate climber, Saumitra says mountains have beckoned him since childhood.
“In Jharkhand, I climbed hills which were the toughest, finding new ways, and also encouraging my friends to join in on Sundays. Once you start, there is no stopping, for it sets you free.”
Recalling one of the most memorable moments while climbing, Saumitra says as he climbed the Mount Everest and reached the South Summit, he thought that this was it. “I was on top of the world. But then I saw another peak, at an eighty degree angle, and felt it’s too tough to climb. But when I reached the top, I looked down and realised it was easy, and that’s the feeling that has made me never give up.”
Every time Saumitra has achieved success, be it hoisting India’s tricolour at Antarctica’s highest peak Mount Vinson, scaling Europe’s highest peak Mount Albrus, ‘Mount Kilimanjaro. the journey has taught him something invaluable, he says.
And this is what Saumitra, wants to share with students from the city and region, as part of the ‘Learn Mountaineering’ foundation and campaign.
“The idea is to encourage and impart mountaineering skills among the youth, and support those who do not have the funds to pursue mountaineering, which is an expensive sport,’’ he says.
Saumitra was inspired to begin this initiative when his son Harshit at the age of five years and 11 months in October 2014, scaled the Everest base camp and Kalapathar setting a new world record. The campaign is focused on providing education, support, better health and mountaineering training to students and sportsmen, as Saumitra believes mountaineering is the best way to get closer to nature.
“I started mountaineering late in life, as earlier I could not afford the equipment. Discipline, determination, a positive outlook and a healthy lifestyle are some of the prerequisites for the sport,’’ he adds.
A geography teacher, training comes naturally to Saumitra, as he understands the needs of different students, also providing financial support for the education of visually impaired and physically challenged students. Children, he believes, are better mountaineers than adults.
“It gives me great pleasure to see them climbing mountains. This is an expensive sport and as compared to other countries, we do not get much support from the government for it. I feel some experience of mountaineering and disaster management can really help in many situations, and am doing my bit in that directiion” says Saumitra.