Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Everest

Watched Everest for umpteen time today. Can’t recall if I have already done the review years back!

managed to get this original pic of the team.

The indomitable nature of human spirit never seems to stop avowing me. What is even the reason to make it to the top? As the climbers say, it is there and that is good enough for them. I have heard of logjam in Everest ascent and every picture that shows the littering and overwhelming human presence in the Himalayan peaks always kind of wears me down. Yet as I said, the very endurance capacity in us humans is admirable and this is something that makes me think is what helped us evolve as the no.1 in bio-chain or food chain on planet Earth topping all other living organisms. This is how the human race crossed continents and is set to conquer space. So may be this is good.

From previous productions on Himalayan peak ascents, I understand that Mt Everest could be the world’s summit yet it’s not something unattainable. With ropes pitched virtually to the top on pre-determined and handpicked routes, Everest could be within reach of any aspiring decent climber. For most parts, the ascent also seems more slopey over 90 degree vertical even if the landscape is interspersed with ice shelfs and gulfs and deep drops into gorges. Avalanches can happen anytime and storms can brew and blow over by the minute. Even in summers, climbers have to wait for opening up of a precious rare window with favourable climate when they have to factor in their ascent. There are climbers with oxygen support and then there are those who resist oxygen assistance. Frost bites and hyperthermia, disorientation and snow blindness are just a few of the manifestations of the high altitude sickness associated with high mountain trekking and summiting snowy peaks. Statistics as reported in the film reveal that one out of four perish in scaling Everest. Brings to my mind Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Paths of Glory’ that is on George Mallory who could have been the first to make it to the Everest summit but who died on descent. I loved this book but I would have wanted to remind Archer that many, many Sherpas of Nepal have been doing this for centuries, millennia without glory. The arrogance of these thickheaded men! I do read this old man but he gloats too much!

Back to the pic, I want to say this about the guide or leader of one of the expedition teams Rob who lost his life in the Everest turning back on the Hillary steps to get back at the summit for the sake of Doug who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. The humane gesture cost this great man his life with his unborn daughter Sarah (born 1996), being carried by his wife Jan. Rob, you should never have done this to your family man. But you are such a wonderful soul that every time I see this pic, I think you are lying still up there, closest to Lord Shiva. And you died doing what you loved the most and hearing words of love from your wife. As for Beck, another drain on energies. This kind of guys must abstain from ambitious mountaineering because they can slow others down. A good climber could end up paying the highest price of losing his/her life thanks to these thoughtless careless guys who want to scale the Everest when they may not be totally fit. Ok, agreed I am the last person who must be saying this totally unfit! And after viewing Meru, I have to rethink those words of mine, sure. But sometimes when there is loss of life, it makes one wonder whether it is all worth it. My heart goes out the Japanese woman climber Yasuka , is it. And Harold. In case of Harold, being a seasoned climber, he is still going ahead with his Delhi Belly well aware of the disastrous consequences should something go wrong. What is the point in his entire team making it to the Everest summit. I think, Harold invited death virtually. Doug loosening himself out of grip is unpardonable and virtually delayed/led Rob to his untimely demise.

How can a picture on Everest leave one with so much emotion!!! I ended up crying for Rob and Jan and Sarah as usual. Good to see young Sarah all grown up and beautiful. Yet her dad was snatched from her cruelly for no fault of hers.

I think this particular picture portrays human greed (by way of Doug and Beck), humanity (by way of Rob) and thriving human spirit by way of all other mountaineers who scaled Everest that day. The Everest is THE insurmountable task and doing it must be lifechanging. I have watched many movies on trekking and scaling peaks around the world, but every time I see such a picture I am thoroughly moved. I am grateful that God at least gave me enough stamina to climb Tirumala on foot in an younger age!!! That’s the maximum I could manage and I wouldn’t want to test it again though I guess I can do it again with bulging knees even now (and then rest for a week with unbearable joint pain)! The thing is we must know, upto what point we can stretch our energies.

While watching K2, I recall the frame where they showed literally mounds of human poop frozen in snow. And the littering these climbers leave behind. That is something extremely sad. I think simultaneously the Himalayan peaks also need to be cleaned up. The warming up of Himalayas and the melting of glaciers can adversely affect the climate, ecology and bio-diversity in Nepal and India. I wonder whether these guys would be littering so much the Alps where there are stringent regulations. I know, because I have been to the top (on rail only)! You are not cleaning up behind you because a third world nation cannot afford to keep checking on you in those high altitudes – and is this fair and square. This is what I would like to make as my final comment on Everest hopefuls. Do clean up the Himalayan peaks on your ascent and descent. You have done enough environmental damage already warming up our snowcapped peaks and melting our pristine glaciers. As much as I admire the human spirit in you guys, the Everest and other peaks of Himalaya will be better off without you. If you can help it, DON’T SET YOUR FOOT ON EVEREST OR MERU OR ANY HIMALAYAN MOUNTAIN PEAK, Bye.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: Meru (documentary)

Watched yet another fascinating trekking documentary close on heels of 14 peaks: Meru. Meru for a change lies outside the Tibet-Nepal-Pakistan triangle. Meru is the sacred Himalayan peak of India, considered the dwelling abode of our Mother Goddess Parvathi. In fact, the peak is believed to be the very embodiment of Shakthi. Unconquerable over even Mt Everest or K2 given its steep granite wall ascent. Some of us have ‘Meru’ (scale model) in our Puja. Meru with Sri Chakra are two symbols associated with Devi worship. So that must explain what Meru is to Hindus. But the climbing crew from the US seem to have respect for the Hindu sentiments as they revere our holy relics and pay their obeisance prior to the ascent. Not only is the mount Meru impressive; so is also the indomitable spirit of the climbers Jimmy Chin and Renan lead by their mentor Conrad who has been on successful expeditions to Mt Everest. It takes more than a couple of attempts for Conrad for his luck to work out when it comes to Meru. A seasoned climber, he’s climbed with the best crews. Climbing Meru is different because, unlike Nepal India has no Sherpas to act as guides and/or porters, bred into the mountaineering profession by tradition. The climbers needed to carry kilos of their own gear or equipment plus food and oxygen. From observing expeditions to Mt Everest, it is impossible to miss how in every step a mountaineer is aided by the sherpas be it with load carrying or roping tight knots or pitching tents. Easiest ascent routes are picked and the queues could be longest to the summit! Mt Everest is that very crowded! No helping hand out there in Meru. I loved the cool hanging tent pitched midway to ascent, off the sheer granite cliff that offered no foothold for the final 3000 foot. The crew were holed up here hundreds of meters suspended in midair during their first climb for days. After the failed attempt, on return to America, Chin and Renon meet with debilitating skiing accidents. Renan is immobilized and chained to hospital bed for months. He makes a terrific comeback with his recovery and workout even as Chin survives an accident himself! With Chin, Renan goes for the summit yet again and it is admirable that team leader Conrad pins complete faith on their sincere and combined efforts. Charming to see the wandering cows and monkeys in Indian Himalaya alongside rivers (Bhagirathi?) and Chai shops and blaring horns. Its one exhilarating feeling as the trio scale the summit the second time – even for the viewers. They are the first in history to scale Mount Meru. What a treat to watch. It does ache my heart when someone lays a foot on Meru – me being ardent Shakthi worshiper. Who says Gods are all from Middle east. Our Hindu Gods descended down the Himalayas. I am sure Conrad, Jimmy Chin and Renan will agree.

Posted in Pictures Foreign

Review: 14 Peaks (documentary)

First of all hats off to Nirmal Purja (Nims) and his Project Possible Nepali team for having scaled the 14 eight thousanders in record 6 months and 6 days. As Nims himself says, he is undoubtedly the Usain Bolt of the eight thousanders! By eight thousander, we refer here to mountain peak over 8000 meters in altitude. The said 14 peaks lie in Nepal, Pakistan and Tibet (under Chinese control). Refreshing watch for someone like me who reveres nature and wildlife. Informative and inspiring, to say the least. As an Indian citizen, as a Hindu, i am extremely proud of my Nepali brother Nims. Yes of course Nims, you are spot on! World would have celebrated with such a fanfare, had it been someone from the west who had achieved this Himalayan feat (literally). But it is okay. Take heart that, some of us like me wouldn’t in a million years believe that it was Edmund Hillary who scaled the Everest first. Thousands of brave and unsung heroes, the Nepali sherpas would have done that centuries before. Their victories were just not documented. And yes, every Sherpa goes by a name. It is insulting to refer to these tough-made men as mere Sherpas. The Gorkhas of Nepal are very respected in India. Their tribe has thinned out now, but even today, lakhs of Nepalis work in India including in my hometown Chennai making life easy for us. We wouldn’t trust any other, believe me and we would like to see the back of Bangladeshis from our soil (although I must not talk politics here). With Nepalis I have this soul connection. The sight of bindhi in Nepali women in middle east is hearty. I never miss an opportunity to chat them up. Have had the chance to chat up even a Bhutanese woman. Your world record matters that much Nims. You have not made just Nepal proud, you have made us Indians proud as well. We never see Nepalis as any different.

Coming to the picture, it is crisp and neat, but I wish it is far more elaborate with further reels from the summits of the Himalayan peaks. The film runs for under two hours. Is it possible to lengthen it by any means with some extra footage. This is one damn well made real life story. It underscores the fitness criteria and also the unmitigable human spirit that is possible to nourish and sustain that saw Nims scale the harshest peaks on earth in such a brief interval of time. Human body is capable of such an exertion. Faced with adverse economic, climatic and political conditions, the Project Possible team still weathered the storm in their own way never turning back from their goals and never stopping to believe in themselves.

I was particularly impressed by the K2 conquest. I have watched quite a few films on this one but they are all still reenactments of real life incidents or figments of someone’s imagination (like the Cliff Hanger for instance). I have also watched others like the Everest, K2 etc., but watching the drama unfold in K2 in this one was interesting. What a trendsetter and a leader all the way is our Nims! We need young men like him to lead our masses from the front!

Had it not been for the delay in acquiring the Chinese permit for scaling the last of the 14 in Tibet, Nims and his team would have made it in under 6 months. As such Nims has shattered 6 world mountaineering records on which note the film closes.

The 14 looming eight thousanders are:

From the Nepali side: The Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Mt Everest, Lhotse and Makalu.

From the Pakistani side: The Nangaparbat, Gasherbrum 1 (G1), Gasherbrum 2 G2), K2 and Broad Peak.

From the Tibetan side: Cho Oyu, Manaslu and Shishapangma.

Savoured every single moment of watching this outstanding flick. God bless Nepal and God bless the Himalaya. And God please liberate Tibet from China!

The snowy vistas are intimidating and the avalanches are unpredictable. The drops from the chasms and clefts have our jaws dropped! The bottleneck on K2 gave me goosebumps from here! To say HACE or the High Altitude Cerebral Edema is scary is understatement of the year. Nims with his exceptionally courageous Nepali mountaineer team comprising Mingma David Sherpa and Geljian Sherpa among others took calculated risks. Bravo! Well done team! Perhaps Lord Pashupathinath wanted Nims and his Project Possible to do this for Nepal! You must let nobody steal your thunder Nims! You did right! Go on and on and leave no stone unturned in your wake, lots of love and respects and cheers & best wishes from India Project Possible guys! Sky is your limit!