Rajasekar Pachai gives more weightage to mental than physical fitness when it comes to finishing on top of the Himalayas. He should know, he summitted the peak, which most only dream of, in less than a year of it popping into his head as an idea.
On May 19, 27-year-old Rajasekar, Kutti to his family and friends, became the first person from fishing village Kovalam in Tamil Nadu to climb Mount Everest. ”I cannot explain the feeling of standing there. It felt like I was on top the world, everything was so far away and everything was white. I was crying and I didn’t realise it for some time. That moment was worth all the challenges that I faced,” said Rajasekar.
The biggest challenge was the extreme cold, said Rajasekar. ”It touched -40 on Everest. I did expose myself to the harsh winters of the Himalayas during training. But that was nothing, temperature in Manali dipped to -10 at most. It was so bone chilling that I don’t think I could ever get used to it. It was so difficult to even sleep in the tent, despite all the gear that we had,” added Rajasekar.
But if one thing Rajasekar had in abundance, it was determination. “And I was not afraid of hard work,” he added.
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He said the idea to climb the Everest came in August last year. “My friends and I were sweeping all the competitions organised at Surf Fest in Kovalam. But some people were dismissing our hard-won moments as something that we were born into since we all belonged to fishermen community. I wanted to prove them wrong by participating in a sport that had nothing to do with the sea.” Once he decided on mountain climbing, Rajasekar did not waste any time. He started his very basic mountain climbing training in the hills of Tirusulem. ”Strapping on weights, I walked up and down, doing daily 5-8 km. Once I got the hang of it, and managed to find sponsors for my trek, in October I moved to the Himalayas. We hired a Sherpa and I started with Yunam peak. Once that done, I went to Nepal and climbed four peaks there. In January, I trained myself walking in the snow in Manali. My sherpa also taught me a lot of surviving skills. Finally, on April 20, I was ready for Lobuche peak. It was the qualifier for the Mount Everest climb. On May 16, we started from the base camp,” said Rajasekar.
Never once did he question whether he would be able to summit or not, said Rajasekar. “It was just a question of time. Initially, I thought it might take two and half years or so. But once I started, I realised that I could get around to it in a year,” said Rajasekar.
Rajasekar said he was always drawn to physically challenging sports. “I was four times national champion at warrior obstacle race,” he added.
But mountain climbing was a different ball game altogether, he said. “There were many moments that I wanted to come back. Especially, when I came across dead bodies, nameless fear gripped me. But mentally I was stronger than I thought I was. I was able to push myself,” said Rajasekar.
Recalling a fellow American climber who was physically in far better shape than him, Rajasekar said, “But he could not do it because he started asking ‘can I’. Once you start asking questions like that, you are done. It is possible to succeed only when you are extremely focused on climbing, with not even an inch of doubt,” said Rajasekar.