Into thin air: An Everest ascent without oxygen

Having climbed the peak twice,Dharamshaktu sets himself a tougher challenge.

Written by Jonathan Selvaraj | New Delhi | Published: March 22, 2012 2:39:14 am

Loveraj Singh Dharmshaktu’s eyes crinkle with excitement ahead of what will be his fourth expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest. While the 39-year-old BSF inspector has reached the summit twice,he has planned a stiffer challenge for himself this time around — he plans to make the ascent without the aid of bottled oxygen. “I wanted to test the limit to which I could push myself. I have climbed up to 26000 feet without oxygen and so I am confident I will be able to make the ascent,” says Dharmshaktu who will be embark on the challenge on March 24.

For someone who grew up in the village of Munshyari,Uttarakhand,in the foothills of the Himalayas,climbing was always going to be a passion. “The most important of the mountains were the Panchchulli which are a group of five,6300 to 6900m tall peaks. In the winters when there would be heavy snowfall,it would appear that the mountain was shrouded in smoke. My father would tell me that it was the gods in the mountain who were performing puja. Later on,I learnt that it was the blizzards that gave the effect of billowing smoke,but it was that childhood desire to find out for myself and see the gods doing their puja which motivated me to climb mountains,” he says.

Dharmshaktu began his mountaineering career at age 17 with a climb of the 6600m Nanda Kot peak,and ever since he has climbed over 38 peaks including the highly technical climb of the Kanchenjunga. Everest,though,remains the ultimate challenge especially without supplemental oxgen. Most climbers move from base camp to the four higher ones en route the Everest peak,stopping to acclimatise at each. “Because I will be without oxygen,I will not be able to rest at camp 4. That camp is at 26000 feet and is called the death zone. You can only stay at that level for a day or so without oxygen. Your blood begins to thicken and your body is unable to digest any food you eat. You become irritable and slow in making decisions. To avoid all of that,I will have to continue climbing from Camp 3 right to the summit,” he says.

And while he has reached the peak twice before,he insists that nothing can be taken for granted. “You have to respect the mountain because at any point of time it can become very dangerous. I climbed the mountain twice but I have also had to turn back once. In 2001,the weather changed suddenly in a couple of hours. I still pushed on,but got caught in a rockslide that injured my hand,” he said.

For the challenge,Dharmshaktu has been training for the last eight months. He has climbed mountains across the world and will draw confidence from that. To boost his stamina he regularly runs 20 and 25km races while controlling his breathing. In addition he says he has fashioned an exercise routine for himself on days he has to turn up for work. “My office is at the BSF camp in Chhawla while my home is in Paschim Puri in West Delhi. I always take the bus a few stops away from my house,get off much before office and run the remaining distance. This way I run around 9-10 km every working day,” he says.

And while Dharmshaktu is confident of overcoming Everest,there is one mountain,not remotely as challenging,that he is eager to climb. It is Panchchulli— the five peaks of his childhood. “I have had a couple of opportunities to attempt a climb but it never worked out. It is definitely something I plan to do in the future,” he smiles.

For all the latest Delhi News, download Indian Express App