Adventurer-entrepreneur Kavitha Reddy takes the author through the rigours of training for an Everest summit. Extreme environments, and no toilets, over 60 days are just some of the hurdles
With her eyes steadily on Mt Everest, Bangalore-based Kavitha Reddy is slowly gearing up for that ambitious climb to the Roof of The World this 2014, and she hopes to climb it without additional oxygen support. “But the mountain flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world, and the starting point for the Everest trek, is tougher to survive,” Kavitha laughs it off. Kavitha is the founder-director of Basecamp Adventures, a company she started in 2009 that focuses on outbound learning and adventure travel. What started as an interest and hobby during her college days as an NCC cadet, she continued seriously in her later years by taking up rock-climbing and trekking.
“I was not too keen on climbing the Everest a few years ago. It had become the ‘in’ thing and had acquired a tag to itself. Those who’ve climbed it don’t find it superior to other climbs…but still it’s THE Everest,’ shrugs Kavitha. Weight training, running, swimming, yoga, cardio are just some of the preps that have long been in the running for her. “The Everest is a 60 day expedition. It’s not easy. It takes a lot of mental and physical fitness. It’s about a new environment, new food, no comforts, no toilets, unfamiliar people, and change,” she lists out some of the hurdles. Yoga helps your lungs open up and allows for greater oxygen intake in rarefied mountain air, she points out. She also has to make sure she doesn’t lose too much weight now while training, because in the mountains, you tend to drop kilos real fast.
Preparedness in terms of altitude training is crucial. She has scaled several peaks in the Indian and Nepal Himalayas, including some of the most challenging peaks like Mt. Satopanth (7075 meters). The Everest is well over 8,000 metres, so she reasons that she should be altitude fit, considering she’s achieved the 7,000-metre mark. She’s attempted the Everest basecamp about five times already. She is the first mountaineer from Karnataka to climb Mt. Satopanth in 2012 and also the first mountaineer from Karnataka to climb two mountains (Mt. Bhagirathi and Mt. Satopanth) in 2012. She’s aiming for the March-April window, but if that doesn’t materialize, it will be this October, she says. While she’s going independently, she’s looking to link up with other organisations, and friends from other parts of the country; she’s hoping it will be an all-women team. It’s rather difficult, even today, for a woman climber to get sponsorship to cover the Rs. 20-lakh cost for the climb.
“You need to have the right tools,’ stresses Kavitha, for a climb of this magnitude. Over the years she has oftentimes repeated courses so that she refreshes her memory. She’s done her advanced course at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. Over the years she has added on to her skills with a first-aid course from St. John’s Hospital, mountain medicine course through private institutions, has trained with doctors specifically to deal with altitude sickness and cold weather-related injuries.
For 14 years, Kavitha was in marketing and HR, working for the non-banking financial sector, and IT companies, before she was part of two startups. Kavitha was the Co-Founder & Vice President of TeamLease Services Pvt Ltd - India’s largest staffing company. “I was happy doing all that but I was very clear that I would do something different later in my career…that ‘something’ that I’m passionate about, not something 9-to-5. So in a way, starting something like Basecamp Adventures was pre-planned.” This HSR Layout resident, originally hailing from Anekal, has studied in various schools in Bangalore and has done her collegiate education at Vijaya College, NMKRV, and Mount Carmel College.
Started off as an all-women organization by default, Basecamp Adventures has since then tapped in on the trend of adventure holidays to organize short treks, weekend camps and more serious longer trails in the mountains. “There is a lot of enthusiasm now for adventure travel. There is an increase in disposable income, the population has grown younger and people want activities and avenues to spend their weekends in,” says Kavitha of the trend among youngsters to try out adventure activities.
Instances of adventures turning into misadventures have been many. And with memories of the unfortunate death of Bangalore girl Ramya while skydiving in Salem still fresh, the degree of safety offered by Indian adventure organizations is always in doubt. “Accidents sometimes happen because of sheer recklessness,” she admits. But mostly because people and organisations don’t follow safety norms seriously, even though the Government of India strictly has laid them down. “It’s also up to people…if you’re looking for something at a lower cost, you know what you’ll get. When I hire a qualified professional, there is a cost to me and to the customer…” Customers should make detailed enquiries on safety norms before signing up for any adventure activity.