Septuagenarian conquers Everest base camp

Harnath, 76, managed to do it with a group of men 30 years younger

November 01, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 05:41 am IST - Vijayawada:

Harnath Tipirineni (Right) and Phani Bhandreddi who trekked to Everest base camp. —Photo: V. Raju

Harnath Tipirineni (Right) and Phani Bhandreddi who trekked to Everest base camp. —Photo: V. Raju

A majority of the people in the country do not even live to see the age. The life expectancy of the average Indian is 66. Retired surgeon and emergency medicine specialist Harnath Tipirineni is 76 but fit as a fiddle.

As a lover of mountainous regions, he has gone trekking to Adi Kailash, the Pindari glacier and Mansarovar and Mount Kailash when he was much younger. Dr Harnath began his adventures only after retirement.

In his latest adventure, Dr Harnath graduated from trekking to mountaineering. Even young and athletic men find the climb to the Everest base camp a formidable task, but Dr Harnath managed to do it along with a group of men 30 years younger.

Everest base camp is a term used to describe two base camps on opposite sides of the mountain peak. South Base Camp is in Nepal at an altitude of 5,364 m (17,598 ft) and North Base Camp is in Tibet at 5,150 m (16,900 ft). Dr Harnath and businessman from Vijayawada Phani Bandreddi went to the South Base Camp.

The Everest Base Camp is seen by amateur mountaineers as the first step to the seven summits. The altitude of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and one of the Seven Summits is just 5,895 m (19,341 ft.) which is just 500 m higher than Everest Base Camp. For all purposes, amateur mountaineering ends with the Everest Base Camp. Only professional climbers go further.

“Actually there is nothing at this ‘erstwhile’ Everest Base Camp which was destroyed in the recent earthquake that wreaked havoc in Nepal,” Dr Harnath said.

A huge avalanche completely destroyed it. “While the regular mountaineers have moved to a place which was a few hundred feet lower, amateur mountaineers continue to see this spot as a goal and climb up to it for the thrill of it,” Mr Phani said.

Mountaineering even to places like the Everest Base Camp is highly risky. Loose boulders often roll down the slopes and to be hit by one can be fatal. Dr Harnath had to be doubly cautious because at his age he could not find any company to provide him insurance. “If one gets injured in the mountains, the only way to get back is to be air-lifted. So I wanted insurance, but nobody would give it to me,” Dr Harnath said.

After doing schooling in his village, Pasumarru in Krishna district, he went to Andhra Loyola college and studied medicine in Visakhapatnam and Kolkata. Now he spends three or four months in India and the rest of the year in Chicago where he retired. Because of his double specialisation, he worked in the team of doctors who attended on King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for nearly a decade.

“We passed several young IT professionals who were struggling on the way to Base Camp. I encouraged several of them who wanted to turn back showing them Dr Harnath,” Mr Phani said.

Even young and athletic men find the climb to the Everest Base Camp a formidable task, but Dr Harnath,76, managed to do it along with a group of men 30 years younger

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