‘Climbing Mt Everest is like winning a battle’

Eak Raj Bastola

June 29, 2019


‘Climbing Mt Everest is like winning a battle’
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KATHMANDU: Lila Bahadur Basnet, 37, set a new record of climbing the Mt Everest just in 5 days, less than a week time well within 7 days. He booked an air-ticket to fly to Lukla from Kathmandu on May 18, 7 AM and reached the summit on 22 May 2019 at 6 AM.

He had set a target for himself to create a world record for climbing the world’s highest peak – Mt Everest within a week counted from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, the day of departure from here and coming back after achieving the feat. Basnet said he had taken 10-day permission to scale Mt Everest and touch the summit while the government of Nepal grants permission of 45-60 days to others for attempting the climb.

Basnet had chosen a theme for his mountaineering expedition to make it a historical and memorable feat for all to see in time to come. The theme he chose was a mission in itself for socially transforming Nepal — ‘End discrimination in all its forms: social, religious and racial’. All fired up from inside, external hurdles and barriers didn’t matter much for him. Overcoming all of them and facing all the challenges that could have deterred others, he reached the top of the world early in the morning seeing the Sun rising from a close quarter just in front of him, taking his glory along with sparkles of violet rays throughout the world.

It was his fifth successful attempt when he stood on the summit of Mt Everest embracing the world from there. His other four attempts which successfully culminated into reaching the top were made in years 2007, 2008, 2009 from Nepal and in the year 2011 from Tibet. Though he made an attempt to climb Mt Everest in 2017, he couldn’t reach beyond a point of South Col below the summit point.

Lila Bahadur Basnet is a mountain man as he has spent a long 20 years in trekking. It was the year 2005 when he got the first chance to feel the ambiance of the mountain and its environment that he always held within him in great awe and respect — the Mt Everest. He was working as a helper (a kitchen boy) then in a tour company used to organize trekking for tourists.

As he had already climbed the Mt Everest for four times, Basnet desired to achieve something new and then a thought hit him ‘why not do it in the shortest possible span of time’. He yelled out of joy and thrill, “Yes, I will climb the Mt Everest within a week time.” It was 2014. He set out to achieve the feat in that year but was forced to abandon it half way because the avalanche hit the Mt. Everest on 18 April, 2014. The avalanche — the Khumbu Icefall killed 16 Sherpas. He returned Kathmandu without realizing his ‘dream’ of reaching to the top of Mt Everest within the shortest possible time.

Next year once again in 2015, he was forced to retreat from his plan due to divine intervention like before. Unlike avalanche, this time it was an earthquake jolted Nepal in April 2015. The quake was followed by an avalanche sliding from Pumori to the Base Camp. At least twenty-two people were killed and that portended the ominous events in store forcing him to retreat from the adventurous undertaking. It was his grits and determination that never let him live with the spirit of defeat, he rose up once again to reach at the top of Mt Everest in the year 2019 and he made it successfully for all of us to see his feat of touching the summit for the fifth time. Well! Howsoever rosy it feels to succeed but behind it lies the thorns of bitter experience too.

Basnet had his share of disappointments this time while he was scaling the Mt Everest. After he was unable to arrange for all the gears and gadgets used by mountaineers through the agency of Summit Treks, he looked for other tour company as he had to obtain the ‘mountaineering permit’ to scale the peak from the government. Seven Summit Treks Pvt. Ltd got the permit issued for him by getting approval from the government to scale the Everest within a week.

The other essential services which mountaineers must have were not provided by the company even after charging fees for all those, complains Basnet adding further, “Seven Summit Treks lacked professional approach and there was total mismanagement in organizing the trek and mountaineering expedition. One Mingma Sherpa working with the company failed to supply all the mountaineering gears and other related equipment when he needed them at the base camp (on or before 18th May).”

At the last hour, one of his friends Pemba Norbu Sherpa came forward to equip him with all the required gears and gadgets useful for mountaineering. Mountaineers start in the night (no later than 2 AM at all) from Base Camp but the night was spoiled by the mismanagement of the tour company Basnet had hired and it was only at 10.30 AM next day he started to reach the summit with a first step forward.

He went on all hungry till South Col. as the company had not arranged for it. “We have to go to Base Camp for taking the food,”, came the answer after an inquiry was made. It was a real dampener on the fired up spirit but Basnet refused to cow down in face of adversity. He told the Khabarhub that tents erected by the company was overcrowded and there was no space for him to sit there for a while to take enough rest.

Actually, the tour company, which he had hired was grossly negligent and hardly cared to pass on the correct information from one end to another. For example, officials of the tour company didn’t verify anything they spoke. There was no contact with base camp through radio communication for instant verification of what was being said. For example, even though there were food and enough space in the tent, he was misled by the company saying that there was neither food nor enough space in the tent at the base camp. Later on he was told the truth by Tashi Sherpa that there was ample amount of food and enough shelter in the tent at the base camp. A feeling of betrayal instantly struck Basnet. Only solace he got was from ‘K-2 Summit Treks & Expedition’ who provided him both food and shelter which seemed like ambrosia being given to a dying person in order to make him survive.

The company had provided him only 3 cylinders of Oxygen from Camp 2. However, despite all these, there were moments of smile and happiness. He found a great friend Pemba Dorje Sherpa who rode high and arranged a friend to take the photos of Basnet while he was standing at the summit. Though Pemba had descended to a fair distance down from the summit but accompanied Basnet knowing that he was a solo climber. Pemba’s gesture touched him making a philosopher out of him: “Not all the people in the world are money-minded, there are finest of the souls on this earth like Pemba Dorje Sherpa who keep the faith in humanity alive.”

“I had already inhaled a bottle of oxygen in South Col and was left with only 2 bottles of it. Since I was stuck in the traffic jam, those bottles of oxygen too got finished in continuous inhalation. I feared to have asphyxiation at the summit but luckily Pemba rescued me from falling sleep by supplying extra bottles of oxygen as a result of which everything went fine even on the summit,” Lila Bahadur reminisces adding further, “What a nightmarish experience it is when death stares at your face and you have nobody to contact.

“As there was no radio communication with me I couldn’t contact anybody for extra bottles of oxygen. I shouted to my fullest lung capacity, called out Pemba and he heard my shout only to push himself further to hand me over with bottles of oxygen. It was a God’s hand working through his hand,” he shared. Basnet shows caution, “If you don’t have enough oxygen while scaling the mountain, you tend to sleep which disturbs the mountaineering as it is a long way to gap. I was determined to push ahead and go further up towards the summit. So, I preferred to have extra oxygen from Pemba and continued my journey from South Col without any sleep. If I had extra bottles of oxygen, I too had saved the life of at least two climbers whom I saw in acute distress.”

“Now that I am proud of what I have achieved as being the summiteer to make it in shortest possible time — less than a week, it dawns on me that I have returned safely from fiercely fought battle,” said he. Oh, really! Climbing the Mt Everest is like fighting a battle. A soldier marches towards a front line of a battle and just then all the thoughts regarding his own safety and his family’s security bite him down but he stands up again to attend the call of his higher duty. He continues, “I also felt the same way as I thought if I had died during my expedition, what would have happened to my two sons? I was feeling emotional as I had lost my father when I was a small boy.” He explains with sigh of relief: “What a great feeling it is when you unite with your family after such an arduous expedition!”

With a feat accomplished in the year 2019, Basnet is up again with another plan to be executed next year in 2020 — to climb the Mt Everest for 4 times in a season. The climb next year is not for making personal records but for reaching out to humanity by extending helping hand in whatever way one can.

How life has taken a huge turn now! Basnet started as a porter when he ventured out in the world to earn the livelihood. He was not educated and there was no other way to survive in this world except to be with the mountains. He used to carry ‘bag’ for other climbers. A ‘bag’ in mountain trekking weighs 15 kg and a porter receives US $ 80 to carry it from Base Camp to Camp II. Similarly, a porter earns US $ 150 in a day for carrying a bag weighing 8 – 10 kg from Camp II to South Col.

Wages (for potters) are, in fact, negotiated by the tour and trekking agencies in a lump sum amount (say US $ 2000 + the extra summit bonus) which is further distributed amongst them – the potters.  Higher up one climbs on the Mt Everest less supply of oxygen is available. Potter needs to carry sufficient number of oxygen cylinders (at least 7 in number) from South Col to Summit.

Will he allow his sons to opt for the ‘job’ he is in? He hastily answers, “No way, as I remained ‘unschooled’ while growing up, I started as a porter and now I am mountaineer myself. It demands a lot of physical training and mental prowess to survive as a guide in mountaineering sports. I want my sons to be highly educated so that they can choose some other profession which makes them live comfortably.”

What is about preserving the mountain environment? Basnet stresses on cleaning the trash and garbage there scattered all around: abandoned tents, food packs and human fossils and whatnot. Mountains are our pride and we must preserve them.


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