In a candid chat, Vamini reveals about going to and being greatful to make it alive from Everest, the challenges she faced and near-death experiences.
Climbing the Everest is something that one does not decide in a day and say, “I will reach the top of Mount Everest, today.” One needs to plan a way in advance to even think about climbing Everest. The height of Mount Everest is 8,848m making it the tallest peak in the world. To climb the peak, the stamina to sustain those conditions is also needed.
Apart from will, one would have to undergo intensive training which includes running for about four to five hours on a treadmill and living under simulated conditions. Vamini Sethi, a corporate executive had the same dream of reaching the top.
Vamini was not a mountaineer from the start. She adds that she was a mountain biker. She apparently got injured in one of the mountain races three years ago and bike-riding had to come to a stop. From being a very active person to suddenly being an inactive one was boring for her. Luckily life had other plans for her. She details, “I got the opportunity with the Indian army to go to the Siachen glacier. It was a month-long expedition.” It was at this glacier trip of hers that triggered her hunger to climb the Everest as she heard so many anecdotes from the army jawans.
She later goes on to reveal the challenges she had to undergo in order to pursue her dream, she says, “Time was the biggest constraint because Everest is not something you can decide and go. It requires a lot of training, a lot of time to climb it because it is a two-month expedition and with that it requires a lot of money.” She further adds that the whole process summed up to `40 lakh.
The greatest challenge she says was to manage the work-life balance. “For me I had to cut-off everything. I stopped going to parties, I stopped meeting my friends because the only time I was left after work is something that I had as the training that I need for Everest, one cannot wind up in two hours,” she reveals.
Apparently, for a very long time she did not tell her family that she wanted to climb the highest peak in the world explaining that it was a tedious thing to keep in mind the mortality rates while climbing Everest. She then adds, “Ultimately, they kind of agreed to it because they could see me being happy in what I want to do.”
Interestingly before climbing the highest peak in the world, Vamini climbed many other peaks around the world to acclimatise her. She started with the Kanamo peak, moving on to Kilimanjaro in Africa. She attempted all the four peaks prior to this one successfully.
Despite her rigorous efforts to reach the top, she could not do so as there was an anticipation of inclement weather. The decision was made to go back. She was gutted that she could not reach the top of Everest. “It was very disappointing at that point in time because we turned back due to the anticipation of bad weather. The weather wasn’t really bad at that point of time. Now when you’re already at 8300 m, roughly 500 meters away from your summit, you could see your destination right in front of you.”
But despite initial disappointment, there was a huge learning curve. She elaborates, “There was so much at stake for me; my two years of training, my lifetime dream and about Rs 40 lakh and so many other things that I had done for this climb, all of this was at stake but against what?” She threw light upon the scenario if she had continued on despite the inclement weather, she was putting her life at stake.
“The gamble was between my life against everything else. I knew if I don’t come back, there are a lot of people who are dependent on me and were waiting for me to come back”, she recalls.
She then adds, “I was not ready to give up my life and we must only take risk as much as we can afford to lose.”
She narrates the experience of coming back home from her climb, she caught up with a guy at the airport who asked her if she had reached the top, she in a sort-of complaining manner said that she did not reach the top. The guy then hands her a list containing two names who passed away while attempting to climb the summit this year. At the end of this anecdote says, “It’s better to go walk back home rather than going back in a coffin.”
She also raised Rs 10 lakh for contribution to rehabilitate 100 women who were victins of trafficking. She says, “As a woman, I thought why don’t I pick up a cause which would give life to women who have been rescued.”