I’m Neelima Pudota and I’m a mountaineer. Now I am writing this blog not as a mountaineer but as a traveler. I want to share a different perspective about the mountains. By choosing to write as a traveler, I’m choosing to go back to the roots of my passion – my love for nature, a sense of belongingness to nature and a deep urge to be with nature always. Here is my journey to Sagarmatha.
Journey to Sagarmatha or Mount Everest
Learning by Walking
I discovered my love for nature when I traveled a lot as a child along with my parents. My parent’s idea of travel was just a vacation – a de-stressor from the monotony of life. My mother planned our vacation and my father would add a little workout to it. He would make us walk for hours! Walking was my Father’s favorite way of exploring places. Walking in crowded cities was my favorite activity. However, I soon discovered I lost the track of time walking in the green spaces and amidst the tranquility of nature. I pushed my limits effortlessly by walking or hiking to access some very fascinating places. As my parents grew older, I realized our list of destinations was growing apart. 2008 was the last time I traveled with my parents.
Falling in love with Mountains
In the September of 2008, we traveled to Sikkim. I instantly fell in love with India’s tallest Mountain – Mt. Kanchenjunga (8586 Meters). My parents were ecstatic over viewing it from a long distance. I, on the other hand, was so captured by the beauty of it that I wanted to touch it! Looking it from a long distance was akin watching it on the National Geographic or Discovery. Ever since that trip, I’ve embarked on many solo travels – deep into nature. My bucket list of places grew closer to nature from rivers, valleys, waterfalls, hills, oceans, silent beaches, glaciers and much more.
Getting to know Sagarmatha or Mount Everest
This urge to be closer to nature took me to the Everest Base Camp Trek in April 2015. This was a dream that I had postponed for 5 years by that time. I trained for a little over 6 months for it while juggling with my corporate job. The trek was breathtaking with the world’s most panoramic views and the journey was exciting right from Kathmandu in Nepal. Every day and every moment spent at this trek will be treasured for a lifetime.
It was here that nature has taught me lessons for the rest of my life. I learned how to push myself, overcome fear, staying strong, never quit & accept failures. I walked towards my favorite deity. Yes, Mount Everest – mighty mountain standing in front of me has become my deity. Everest pulled me towards it with such magnetic force that many times I overtook good trekkers and mountaineers on my way! I’ve started believing in the many mysteries of Mountains on this journey. I started believing in Sagarmatha – as the Nepalese call the Mount Everest.
Everest Base Camp to Everest!
Sagarmatha also showed me a different side of her. The mountains decided to swing like a pendulum in all its violence on April 25th, 2015. A devastating earthquake of magnitude 7.9 Richer decided to hit Nepal. Many more aftershocks and landslides later, we found our way back to the Lukla Airport where the Indian Army rescued us.
On the way back from the mountains, my interactions with the many mountaineers gave wings to a new dream in me – To Summit the Everest! With the new found respect I had for my new life post-earthquake, I did not want to wait for years to realize this dream. I worked on my Sponsorship for the huge expenses involved. I started focussing on rigorous training, nutrition, and everything so I could be back in the arms of Sagarmatha. Significant changes that took place in my life and lifestyle included quitting my corporate job, changing my food habits and some strenuous physical training. I saw myself again at the Everest on April 18, 2016.
Climbing the Sagarmatha
I chose to Summit the Everest from the tougher side – North Col in China. I reached its base camp located at 5150 meters to start our journey upwards. We were at the Everest for more than a month. We were doing our acclimatization rounds from the base camp to the higher level camps, pushing our limits every day with our body and minds.
It was the first time I slept at 6845 Mtrs. This means less than 40% Oxygen and -12 degree Celsius inside the tent!. Every step beyond that height was my first step in that altitude. Any slip would prove Fatal. I would look at the mighty Sagarmatha in front of me and pray every day. I felt grateful she chose me for this journey. Days I had to survive with the lack of oxygen, food, and water haunted me to quit! The brain and the body simply did not want to work without the oxygen. Weeks of seeing white snow, blue sky, and gray rocks in contrast to the beautiful colors of nature would make me feel depressed. A small avalanche, a crevasse, an unbalanced terrain when mixed with fear would mean death. You have to be aware and alert all the time- you have no choice.
The months of discipline in eating habits have to be abandoned for survival. You have to eat what you get- even if it means yak meat or beef. You have to drink what is available – boil the ice from the glacier and have it hot. What kept me alive throughout was the love I felt for Sagarmatha. She was pulling me closer to her with a force greater than any words can describe.
We heard about deaths in the base camp, on the Everest from both the sides i.e. Nepal and China, on nearby mountains like SishaPangma and Cho-Oyu. We knew some of our own friends are trapped, We made our summit attempts crossing many dead bodies on our way. There were times when I was terrified of the dead bodies and the deadly terrain.
My Sherpas were equally afraid of Everest even after climbing it multiple times. In spite of the signs my Sherpa showed of hallucinations and fear of death, I continued my journey upwards with my Sherpa. It was nothing but my love for the Everest that kept me going. Days of not having enough food and water did not matter to me anymore as I felt Sagarmatha pulling me closer. Do not mistake it for my Summit Fever because I did choose to return at 8650mtrs. My Sherpa gave in. I know I would be back there – all I need is a call from Sagarmatha, once again.
Sometimes our heroes may go weak, but it should not be mistaken for quitting. It is a game we play against nature in pursuit of getting closer to the very nature. The Journey towards the top of the world has been more fruitful than the destination. The Months of training, discipline, focus and making the impossible become true were the many things that flashed in front of me on the day of May 21st, 2016. This was the day I looked around and found almost the entire world under me covered with clouds. Only a few 8000+ meters peaks found their way above the clouds. I think they looked at me with pride. Yes! I stood above them and was greeting them Good Morning.
Moment of Glory
The bright blue light of the full moon that showed me the way to the top is now beginning to change its color to a golden yellow with the sunrise. The golden yellow rays of sun in all its glory greeted me with such warmth that it seemed like the sun was hosting me on the Everest. Words can flow like a poem to express the overwhelming feeling that day. I was standing at a place where so few humans have stood before. I looked at the curve of the world with Sun and Moon on my either side. Today, when I rethink of the days I have been on Everest, all the struggles, sacrifices, pain and tears fade away in comparison to the warmth I received from the Sagarmatha.
Memories of the nights of sleeplessness – looking at the mighty stars and constellations with the chilling winds singing lullabies chase me to a peaceful sleep now.
My Journey from a Traveler to a Mountaineer is a story of what exploring can get you into! It’s a story of a traveler gone wild for her love of nature. It’s a story of a woman who believed she could dream beyond imagination and make it possible. My impossibility and my love- both were Everest. I am proud I won over the impossibility to meet my love.
Find Your Everest
How I made it and my story as a Mountaineer and a Woman towards this journey will come in my upcoming book- “Find Your Everest”.
I wish each one of you find your own Everest – whatever that means to you- your dream, your love or your impossibility.
Thank you, Neelima for sharing this Incredible experience of climbing the Sagarmatha or Mount Everest with the readers of IndiTales. We wish you all the best for your upcoming book and future expeditions.
Read about other inspiring travelers on IndiTales: