With parched lips and blurred vision, Sandhosh Kumar descended Cho Oyu, an 8,201 m tall mountain in Tibet. The euphoria of summiting the sixth largest peak in the world had vanished into thin air — Sandhosh was now thinking only of the steaming cup of tea he knew the Sherpas at the nearest camp had prepared for him. After hauling himself over the last agonising stretch, he discovered that the Sherpas were not at their post; and there was no sight of their magic brew. “I was so disappointed that tears streamed down my cheeks,” recalls Sandhosh.

If he had not thrown away a bottle of water, the young mountaineer would not have been in this pathetic situation. But he was only doing what is expected of a mountaineer. As every gram of weight increases the time taken to complete an expedition, mountaineers try to reduce the load on their backs.

The Cho Oyu expedition took place only a few months ago. Although fresh in his memory, the bone-chilling experience has not deterred Sandhosh from reaching higher. Arrangements to climb the entire distance of Mount Everest are afoot. Part of what spurs him on is a cause. Through the climb, he seeks to highlight child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse.

“The evil is rampant in our country,” says Sandhosh. “I was a bystander when a peer went through sexual abuse. As a child, I did not understand what was being done to the boy. In retrospect, I know.”

His Everest expedition is aimed at garnering support for five NGOs that address the issue — Thulir (Chennai), FACSE (Mumbai), Arpan (Delhi), Enfold (Bangalore) and Rahi (Mumbai).

He has come up with a novel plan to raise funds — for the expedition as well as these organisations. He is meeting with corporates and individuals through a campaign titled “Climb Everest With Me” (climbeverestwithme.com) — he sells space on the banner with 1,500 blocks that he will carry to the summit (see box). In addition, Sandhosh partners with a friend for another campaign against child sexual abuse called “We Are Children”. As November 14 is Children’s Day and November 19, International Day Against Child Abuse, Sandhosh has chosen this time of the year to launch both campaigns.

Twenty-six years old and with a degree in electrical engineering, Sandosh quit his job at Barclay’s Capital (Singapore) to prepare for the Everest expedition; he plans to join an MBA course at Kellogg, Northwestern University in September, 2010.

High-altitude values

He says mountaineering has taught him values that are of immense help at the workplace. “I apply lessons learnt on snow-capped mountains to situations encountered at my desk,” says the youngster, who has done a good part of his schooling in Chennai.

Four years ago, when the mountaineering bug bit him, he did not possess the physical endurance of a climber. “Running two km at a stretch was a big deal.” His first major climb — Mount Rinjani near Bali, Indonesia — was not a spectacular outing. He did not make it to the summit. But it was not the end of his mountaineering ambitions. He began to work on his weaknesses. Through regular running and cycling, he reached the fitness level at which climbers operate.

He has since climbed five massive mountains — Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Africa; Mount Kota Kinabalu (4,095m), the tallest in South-East Asia; Everest Base Camp (5,545m), Mont Blanc (4,410m) and Cho Oyu.

Sandhosh admits to fear when faced with a challenging climb. “It is the fear that pushes me to be better prepared.” And, the moments on the summit are far from heady — in fact, they are anti-climactic. “When you have reached the summit, that’s it. It’s done. There is nothing more to do. I feel the rush much later — when people talk about what I have done and I recollect certain magic moments on the mountain.”

You can accompany Sandhosh Kumar on his trip to the Everest by buying blocks on his banner, each sold at $50 for individuals and $100 for corporates. It will fund Sandhosh’s expedition as well as five NGOs fighting child abuse. For details, visit www.climbeverestwithme.com.