For those who missed PART I, here is the link : https://mystoryasawoman.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/tashi-and-nungshi-part-1/
So, here is how difficult it is to actually prepare for the climb and all the efforts which go into the process.
How do you prepare yourself before the big climb? Is there routines and diet plans that have to be followed?
Nungshi: The seven summits pose extreme challenge both in terms of physical and mental demands. Basic motto we follow before attempting any of these high peaks is ‘preserve energy’. You know we lose energy at rapid rate when climbing in high altitude. For example during Everest attempt, we lost 12 kgs each in two months! In each of the other climbs to we have lost 4-5 kgs. The intervening gap between two climbs has been just about two months, with very little time to recoup and regain some weight. So we have to overcome the twin dilemma of fully preparing physically as well as preserving maximum possible weight. Our father is our manager and coach. He draws out a ‘training and nutrition program’ for us. It includes strength training, aerobic and endurance. All these exercises become progressively strenuous and challenging as the climb gets closer.
Tashi: In addition to solid alpine snow and ice climbing skills, we need strength endurance, high-altitude tolerance, and strong cardiovascular conditioning. Just because we exercise regularly (four to six times per week) does not mean we have the conditioning needed to reach the summit of the coldest continent. Plenty of people who have the endurance to run a marathon fail to summit high-altitude peaks. Pure cardiovascular fitness is simply not enough. We should focus on building physical conditioning necessary to ascend 3,000 feet of elevation on successive days carrying up to 30 pounds. We had usually prioritized our training efforts in the following way:
Climbing conditioning – pack-loaded uphill hiking, walking, and stair climbing
Strength training for the lower body and core
Cardiovascular training, including both aerobic and anaerobic workouts without pack
Weight and flexibility training
Nungshi: Our preparation involves both physical and psychological dimensions. Serious mountain climbing is definitely very demanding. On one hand, it is generally an ‘individual’ and lonely effort (it is you and the mountain!), on the other, there is immense physical pain and impending dangers. Nature is all powerful and this you realize when you are attempting a summit of a high Mountain, and become aware of your vulnerability and insignificance in front of gigantic mountain and imposing mass of snow. A small shake of mountain (avalanche) can easily send you into oblivion. The quietness and remoteness add to the sense of loneliness and fear. There are times when evacuation is not possible and the chances of things going wrong are very high. Likewise, you have to be at your physical best. Our mantra is ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best’. When you have to carry extremely heavy loads over long stretches, gaining altitude, braving strong winds and losing energy rapidly, you cannot afford not to be at your 100% fitness.
Nungshi: Dad is our mentor and coach. While we focus on the actual hard work of physical training, he studies the peculiar requirements of preparing for each peak, makes out our weekly training program and ensures we ‘hit the road’ as per schedule. It involves three aspects: endurance, aerobic and strength training and there is an intelligent mix of varying distances, varying loads and strengthening exercises. It also involves, drawing balance between conserving body weight and doing these rigorous physical workouts. So we also take ‘mass gain’ products off the shelf in market as it is not possible to gain weight rapidly with normal food when we are following such strenuous physical training regimen. Remember we lost 12 kgs each on Everest in 2 months, 6 kgs each in just 2 weeks in Antarctica and likewise on other peaks! The higher we go, the less hungry we feel. On the other hand we burn 5000-8000 calories daily during our climb! All food gets frozen and even if we eat we can only take in about 2000-3000 calories through such efforts. The staple of mountaineers at extreme altitudes is soup of different kinds. And to drink as much water and coke as possible to keep rehydrated. Chocolates too help. On Everest we lost 12 kgs each in 2 months. Some climbers there lost as much as 20-25 kgs!
What has been the scariest experience so far?
Nungshi: Well, quite a few actually. Take Everest. We too fear death and on Everest, we knew that we would encounter bodies of earlier climbers along the way. The worst thing was that while making the summit push, we also had to cross the body of a fellow climber from our own season. It is a strange feeling-few nights before you are together, talking, sharing your dreams and sipping tea, few days later, you see that person lying lifeless on your path. We also lost one of the sherpas of our group even before the final push for the summit. On one of his outings to put the logistics in place on route to the summit, he probably forgot (or ignored) anchoring himself to the fixed rope line to prevent from slipping, lost balance and went few hundred feet into a crevasse. Fleeting thoughts to cross the mind that it could just have been one of us! I think those who make the final attempt to the top are those whose motivation to reach there is stronger than the fear of losing their life or limb. We also saw the loss of complete foot below the ankle of one of our dear friends and fellow climbers, an actor in Nepal film Industry. He developed serious frostbite on the way to the summit. During our climbing season, 16 climbers lost their lives, most of whom we had either met or seen occasionally at the Everest base camp.
Tashi: Well one of the most interesting, freakish and nerve-racking experiences we can think of is that of Indonesia’s highest peak Mt.Carstensz pyramid which is located in a remote island of west Papua. We reached the base camp after a week long trek through rain forests (20hour non-stop rain) and negotiated deep mud pools and mossy tree trunks with an umbrella on one hand and a walking stick on the other. Also, there were some of our enemies who were adamant about leaving us, mosquitos- responsible for 40% of the declined expedition. One night, the two of us decided to eat inside our tent due to heavy rainfall unlike going to kitchen tent for a meal. So we switched on our headlamps and started munching, when all of a sudden hundreds of insects and bugs surrounded our tent looking for a possible inlet. Now u can imagine what the scenario was like. We were damned! But the best part hasn’t been addressed yet. After successfully summiting the peak, following day we had to head back to camp 2. It was three of us, we two and our friend Samina from Pakistan, who had climbed Everest with us last year. On our way back we came across a river with a fast water current (owing to heavy rains that occurred for a week) and there was a log on which we had to cross over, but it was very slippery. Tashi avoided the mossy log, jumped across and managed. Samina imitated tashi’s jump but she slipped and fell into the water. “Ohhhhh my god, Saminnaaaa” we screamed and then Tashi immediately grabbed her by her rucksack and tried pulling her out of it. Samina who was aqua phobic shouted ‘tashiiiinungshiiiiii’ and fell unconscious within seconds. I too jumped flinging my rucksack away and helped tashi pull her out of water. It took us approximately 4 mins to get her out, splash some water on her face and resuscitate her. That day,Tashi and I were left with so many unanswerable questions like,”What would be the consequences if she drowned? What if she never came back? What would the media from our nations portray this as? This is one experience we’ll never forget.
How was that moment when you climbed up to the top of the Mt.Everest?
Tashi: On top of the world! For me it was a spiritual calling and I felt ‘Sagarmatha’ (as Everest is known in Nepali) has blessed me. I felt an amazing sense of fulfilment and pride on behalf of all girls who are denied equal opportunity to realize their full human potential.
Nungshi: Making it in first attempt having overcome close call and a near death experience, I felt like a true champion! I had tears of joy and pride at achieving a historic milestone as the world’s first twins to summit together!