‘Mountaineering is a battle against nature’

Scaling heights: Colonel Ranveer Jamwal (centre) and Umesh Zirpe at Mumbai Press Club on Monday.

Scaling heights: Colonel Ranveer Jamwal (centre) and Umesh Zirpe at Mumbai Press Club on Monday.  

Veterans discuss civilian, military perspectives of the sport

Soldier and veteran mountaineer Colonel Ranveer Jamwal on Monday said while those on the sidelines like to refer to mountaineering expeditions as ‘conquests’ for lack of a better word, he would describe them as battles for survival against nature itself.

Col. Jamwal and Umesh Zirpe, an avid mountaineer, were addressing media at the Mumbai Press Club on Monday to discuss the civilian and military perspectives of mountaineering.

Col. Jamwal said most deaths during mountaineering expeditions occur due to human error. “Knowledge of basic survival skills comes with experience. One can not become a mountaineer just by undergoing a crash course offered by commercial companies. For example, one needs to be anchored firmly to the ground when at the peak of a mountain. There are high chances of people slipping off once they reach the peak. I have seen it happen. I have my military training and passion to thank for my success,” he said.

Speaking about the feasibility of retrieving the bodies of mountaineers who lost their lives during expeditions, Col. Jamwal said, “Statistically there are more than 50 bodies still on the Everest, but practically speaking it is all economics that works out there. Recovering a body will cost ₹10-₹15 lakh, as it takes three to four Sherpas, who each charges ₹3-4 lakh. Also, there are no volunteers to bring the bodies downhill.”

He also referred to the difference in approach of various cultures when it comes to mountaineers who die on expeditions. “In India, the State governments help get a body down but in many foreign countries, they believe that if a passionate mountaineer loses his life there, his body belongs to the mountains,” Col. Jamwal said.

Mr. Zirpe, a tax consultant, led India’s largest civilian expedition to Mt. Everest last year. He said mountaineering is a way of life and one can start it at any age and stage of life, if they have the passion for it.

Mr. Zirpe spoke about the criteria one has to fulfil before being eligible to scale a mountain, “There is not much competition in mountaineering as compared to other adventure sports. It is better to try climbing onto high altitudes after the age of 10 because it takes awhile to get your body adapted to higher altitudes.”

Col. Jamwal, however, spoke against the commercialisation of mountaineering and said one has to have patience and go through rigorous training in order to finally be able to trek to high altitudes and scale mountains like Everest.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:49:39 PM |

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