KATHMANDU: When HIV-infected Gopal Shrestha, 56, ascended Mt Everest on May 22, he sighed with relief and a thought enveloped him, “Now that I am here at the top of the world away from those who make me live – my wife, family members, friends, and well-wishers; I am missing all of them. How happy and proud they will feel knowing the feat I have achieved.”
“It was a grueling exercise for me to scale the mountain but I kept going listening to a call exhorting me not to give up. And I didn’t give up, thanks to the blessings of my well-wishers who kept me fired with energy while ascending the Everest”, he shared with Khabarhub.
He said there is nothing impossible in life. “If you wish anything to happen in your life and work hard to achieve the same; you get it for sure,” he said adding that there is no doubt about it. Frankly speaking on the way to the summit, he shuddered whether he would make to the top of Mt. Everest. Though he waited for 7 long years to be at the summit, Shrestha says, “Finally, I am here. I fulfilled my dream.”
According to him, it requires physical strength and mental toughness to climb the mountain. “Others cautioned me against my attempt to ascend the mountain but I continued with the mission and didn’t quit. I proved everybody wrong”, says Shrestha with a sparkle in his eyes.
Gopal Shrestha, however, is not happy with the government as he noticed a rampant scale of mismanagement and dereliction of duty on part of the government authorities. “Nobody is bothered as tourists are stuck on the way to the summit in a traffic jam for hours”, he complains. He waited for two hours in the middle of the climb before he touched the height of the summit from the South Cole.
One has to pay one’s own life along with the fees in monetary terms since the government is not bothered at all for the safety and security of climbers anymore. The South Cole is the sharp-edged col between Mount Everest and Lhotse, the highest and fourth highest mountains in the world, respectively.
The South Col is usually swept by high winds — very dangerous for first-time climbers and untrained enthusiasts climbing the peak. Gopal is very critical of the entire monitoring system as those making money from mountain-tourism are not making efforts to put it in place. “The government must fix the numbers of climbers applying for reaching the summit every year”, he cautions suggesting that the government should regularly clean the Mt Everest to prevent the spread of infection and diseases. “If we neglect the Mount, it will no longer hold any attraction for tourists,” he argues. He found garbage strewed in and around the Mt Everest and especially in CAMP 4 on way to the summit.
Global alert with regard to mismanagement Mt Everest has already been pressed into action by foreign media. “Isn’t it a shame for the government of Nepal? If proper care and attention are not given to Mount Everest, who knows what will happen to our tourism in the coming years?” queries Gopal.
The black rocks of the mountains are exposed without being covered with snow at some of the places, which were not the case before, laments Shrestha. As Nepali citizens are few in numbers compared to foreigners in obtaining the government permits for climbing the mountain, he urges the government to issue more permits to Nepali citizens to climb the Everest. The rescue team should also not make any difference while rescuing the trapped climbers on way to the mountain, suggests Shrestha.
Gopal Shrestha’s climb to the top of Mt Everest is an attempt to spread awareness in the world regarding HIV/AIDS. He is the first Nepali suffering from HIV/AIDS to conquer the peak — the top of the world. He has proved that HIV/AIDS infection is no bar to live the life with joy and full of purpose; even a climb to Mt Everest is worth attempting.
HIV-infected persons are no less determined than any other human beings if an opportunity comes in their ways. They participate in all events of life as other members of society do.
Shrestha, who hails from Pokhara-7, climbed Mt Everest along with the Guinness Record-holder mountaineer Phurba Tenzing Sherpa, who is credited to climb Mt Everest for as many as 14 times. Phurba Tenjing Sherpa is also the managing director of Dreamer Destination Treks and Expedition involved in leading the team of climbers atop Mt Everest.
Gopal praises Sherpa and his team for helping him climb the Mt Everest, without which he would have never made at the top – the summit of Mt Everest. “They are not my guide, they are my god”, expresses his gratitude by eulogizing Dakipa Sherpa, his personal sherpa, who helped Gopal descend from the top down the south col when caught in snow blindness at the top of the world.
“I am in heaven, nowhere to go from here”, Gopal exclaimed with joy as he felt like touching the sky from the summit of Mt. Everest. He concludes, “There is no place to go anymore when you are at the top of the world”.