Akash Jindal, a student of DCAC is a mountaineer, and an entrepreneur, working passionately for Viral Hepatitis awareness. In a recent conversation with DU Beat, he talks about the mountains he has climbed, his non-profitable work and the next big thing in his life- climbing Mt. Everest.
Q. Let’s start by talking about the mountains that you have surmounted, your brainchild Mission Outdoors and recent work related to Viral Hepatitis awareness.
I have been climbing since I was 16. It’s been more than six years now, and I’ve come a long way. It all started with a training camp called Basic Mountaineering Camp in Himalayas. Ever since, I have climbed many peaks between 17,000ft and 21,000ft of varied conditions, technical pitches and altitude. Most of the climbs in India have been in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh and outside, I have climbed some of the highest mountains in Europe, Australia and Iran for which I hold some records.
After graduating from DCAC, I joined a friend who I had met a few years ago to start Mission Outdoors. Our company is a bit different from other adventure travel outfits as our products range from backpacking in Australia to skydiving in Russia to climbing Kilimanjaro. As of today we have had operations in Russia, Nepal, Australia and Tanzania and its growing ever since.
I’ve been campaigning passionately for Viral Hepatitis patients as I was tested positive recently, but it was all a hoax. I do it because initial few Hepatitis tests can be misleading and I wish to make the society aware about it.
Q. Do you have an inherent passion for mountaineering? Or was it a certain someone or an incident that inspired you to climb mountains at a young age?
Honestly, I wasn’t athletic naturally and I trained myself with grit and determination. I was an average kid in sports back in school. It was only in class 11, I started browsing the internet about adventure sports and I stumbled upon Kayaking, but unfortunately the seats were already booked. Then I was suggested by the same school if I would be keen on doing a basic mountaineering course offered by them. It was a blessing in disguise. The course was not even close to what I had presumed it to be, it was a hardcore climbing camp of 26 days training on rock, snow and ice which culminated with climbing a 17,000ft peak and a written test. Clearly, I picked up this sport as fish to water and there has been no looking back. What followed was an advanced course in mountaineering and expeditions.
Q. Out of all the mountains that you have climbed, which one would be your absolute favourite? Are there any particular reasons for it?
It’s really hard to filter out one as there are so many unique experiences. But to pick the most beautiful and equally hard climb, it would a 20,000ft mountain in Himachal Pradesh, Deo Tibba. We did this expedition in 2013 and it was particularly very hard as there had been a cloud burst and tragedy in Badrinath. It was a special climb because despite facing setbacks, even before the start of the climb, we were tagged as crazy and stupid people trying to kill ourselves. We came back victorious and satisfied that with calculated risks, some goals are worthwhile. Apart from this, the trek to the base of Deo Tibba is a visual treat, it’s through meadows, beautiful valleys and equally serene rivers where one can find sheep, wild horses, and if lucky, even encounter a bear.
Q. The world recently saw the release of Everest and how debilitating it can be. And yet, there you are, ready to take this challenge. So how are you preparing for climbing the Everest?
I always had Everest in mind, After my basic mountaineering course, I knew I had to try this sometime in my life but I was patient to not hurry it up. Everest is different from other climbs, it’s really really high. One needs to be in his prime shape not just physically but also mentally. Many people think that climbing requires lots of physical endurance and skills, there’s no doubt about that. But one thing which most people miss is the mental endurance. I have personally witnessed many times when my body had given up, but it was my mind that pulled me up and still pushing me higher.
Everest is possibly the greatest test of human potential and I want to take this challenge, it’s going to be fun and thrilling. Regardless of the end result, I believe we should push ourselves to the extreme to see how far we can go. We should just be true to our dreams.
Q. Set aside mountaineering for a while, what kind of places other than mountains, do you like to travel to? Which are some places that would take the first few spots in your wishlist?
My two recent climbs have been to Russia and Iran in August and September, respectively. Not only did I climb the highest mountain and volcano of these two countries, but I also travelled as far and wide as I could. Iran was such a dream vacation, I was hosted by acquaintances who treated me like a family. I went for skydiving, bicycling, and beach and got to understand their culture, food and history. What we hear on TV is just 10% of the real thing. We need to go and see it for ourselves to understand how wrong we are about some places. During my travels, I like to experience things like a local, not like staying in a hotel and get into the “hop- on hop-off” city experience.
Q. Why are you campaigning vehemently for Viral Hepatitis patients? Is there a particular incident behind it?
A few months back, I was in the process of obtaining visa to Iran. The prerequisite was to get a few medical tests done amongst which were Hepatitis B & C. I was (wrongly) tested positive. Needless to say, I was devastated. During that hour long drive back home from the lab, I kept wondering how my life would change, for worse, and in just a couple months time. The more I read and researched about it, the scarier it became. Apparently this virus can stay dormant inside a host body for 20 years, and just one day, out of nowhere, decides to pop out and infect you.
I pulled a few strings; spoke to a doctor friend who recommended a couple of confirmatory tests. I chose another lab this time around. Though I’d been anxious, it still came as a surprise to me that I tested negative I went for another series of tests, and I tested negative again!
I posted about this on Facebook to let people know, and what followed was a call from a friend whose uncle was also tested positive and was never suggested for any confirmatory tests. Clearly, there was very little awareness in the society. It was then that I spoke with one the organisations which works in the healthcare sector. Having received their support, I was all geared to do my bit to create as much awareness as I could.
Q. Delhi University has its share of students interested in adventure sports, mountaineering to be precise. Any word of advice you’d like to tell them?
We are privileged to be studying in DU and staying in Delhi. There are so many weekend trips to the mountains that can be done solo or without any prior experience. We are lucky to be situated so close to the Himalayas, an overnight bus journey will take you to the footsteps of the Himalayas.
Back in my college years, I worked with the university officials to build a climbing wall at University stadium, its taking time, but I am pretty sure someday it will come up.
Finally, if someone wants to venture into this, then it can only happen when you have the courage to take that first step. We need to believe in what we are and what we love doing. 20s is the age of exploring yourself, we shouldn’t focus on settling. Settling is saturation and we are too young for that. I just hope that everyone gives at least one try to their dream without fear of failure or doubt and see how easy it was to follow what drives us.
Image Credits- Akash Jindal