One is always cautious of the bursting-with-conqueror-energy, influencer types. You know from a distance how hollow human achievements can be. How those unbelievable conquests of the harshest climates, the highest mountains and the most treacherous roads can actually turn out to be carefully choreographed acts of a big stage production. If you form such easy impressions about Aditya Gupta, you'll find yourself in the middle of a huge surprise.
A little while ago, the entrepreneur scaled Mount Everest at the age of 50. We caught up with the charismatic gentleman to quiz him about the journey and a book that he has now penned to formulate seven learnings from his climb of the world's highest mountain, called 7 Lessons from Everest. The proceeds from the book's sales are now being directed towards COVID-19 relief, and Mr Gupta intends to raise Rs 1 crore for the cause.
As I earlier said, it is easy to form impressions based on prejudice but Gupta is sure to dispel them all. Talk about climbing Everest at 50 and he provides the simplest breakdown of the process, busting our grand and fantastical notions of adventure. "Just see the number of people who run marathons now - just see the number of sporting events that take place now… there’s a lot more consciousness of fitness and activity," he says.
"As far as I’m concerned, God has been thankful to me. I do keep fit—I am not an extraordinary sportsperson or anything, but for my lifestyle, I do keep fitter than most people and I enjoy it. It keeps me energetic. My line of work—I am a manufacturer/exporter—requires that we better be in good shape. The love for nature and exploration is absolutely integral to what life means to me. And frankly when I am there the whole environment energises me. When you love something we have all felt that the energy levels naturally go up. Climbing Mt everest is not something you just do as a chore. It's not like chadhna hai toh chalo chadh jaate hain," he adds, stressing on the importance of preparation and realistic goal-setting.
His book, 7 Lessons from Everest, is a something of a keepsake that you can keep going back to for inspiration. A handsome coffee-table book with over 200 pages full of pictures and snippets from Gupta's journey, the book reached us only after our conversation with the man. Naturally, we were led to wonder if the seven lessons therein were intended to serve as the axioms of Sun Tzu's Art of War, albeit for the modern adventurer who has a steady day-job or a demanding business to run.
"When I was there, I didn’t have any ideas to write a book. This was a book that was created from my reflections of what had happened during that journey. It is an art of dealing with challenges, daring to take on such challenges. This was because for someone as ordinary as me to go to Mt Everest, does require a great degree of madness, but in these situations, one has to be very clear about the fact that it is something that you should be that invested in," he explains how the book came about.
"So, for me, Everest is a metaphor. This means that not every such goal may ask for your life but it will ask for a substantial amount of sacrifice. The point is that in your context, if the goal is something like climbing Everest for a 50-year-old chap, businessperson kind of guy," says Gupta, whose first Everest attempt was made in 2014, when he was accompanied by his teenaged children.
"And it is a very long expedition. It takes close to two months--it’s not like a week-long trek. It’s a very tough situation; the regular life is staying in that nylon tent with minus 20-25 being the temperature for a month-and-a-half. You have to be really committed to this whole idea. And that is why the first time people go to Khumbu Icefall, despite having prepared and having got there, having saved money—the first time they go to Khumbu Icefall and back to basecamp, 15-20 percent people go back home. All of these events give an observant climber like me a perspective that I wanted to pen down, for preserving it for posterity and then eventually sharing it," Gupta shares.
In most of the coverage about his journey, the focus has pretty much his ascent of the mountain at the age of 50. And one does wonder—what was the preparation like? Gupta says, "You have to be prepared to die for it; there’s a good chance that you may not come back. So, yes, I did prepare for it. I decided to go to the Everest about a year and nine months in advance—and I took it very seriously."
"And the physical part of the preparation is I think the easiest part. Besides my usual routine, I did have some extra training. I did, for the first time in my life, consult a nutritionist in order to get better. They would also guide me on what food I should eat and carry there. I have also been doing weights in order to prepare, around 8-9kg. Preparation is also one of the lessons in my book and a major lesson in life—that without preparation you can’t accomplish anything," he says. For the rest, we suggest getting a copy of your own.