A Hike Among the Clouds: My Journey to the Everest Base Camp
by Pallav Sarma
As an asthmatic, sickly kid growing up, it suffices to say that scaling the Himalayas was never on my bucket list But as we all know, things in life rarely turn out as planned. So, when the opportunity arose sometime last year, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and signed up for the Everest Base Camp trek along with a group of my batchmates and friends from ISM. While this trip on its own is an experience of a lifetime, supporting visually impaired Bikram Jyoti Das on his quest of EBC made it far more fulfilling. I am very happy that I played a small part in this journey with him. This narrative will hopefully provide you an insightful glimpse into this amazing adventure.
So, a little bit how I came to know Bikram. Coincidentally, both I and Bikram are from Guwahati, in fact both are from the same neighborhood called Kamakhya Gate, although we never met each other as kids. We met almost 2 decades back when we joined Indian School of Mines as fresh graduates. Although we were in different departments, there being only a handful of Assamese guys in ISM, we came to know each other well. We used to usually travel together from ISM to Guwahati and shared a few interesting adventures on those trips After ISM, we went our separate ways, but kept in touch. I went for higher studies to the US while he joined a mining company. We met each other a couple of times in Guwahati since then, and life was going on as usual for him until 2013, when it was turned upside down after a mining accident that rendered him blind. But he did not let this set back take over his life. How he got his life back on track and beyond in just incredible and an amazing story. So, when our ISM group of friends started to plan this Everest Base Camp trip last year and learning that Bikram wanted to take on the challenge, I thought it was a good opportunity not only to join an incredible adventure, but also support him on this endeavor.
Among the 10 or 12 that initially signed up, it was clear that Bikram was the one most dedicated to train properly, taking long hikes regularly and testing his limits. In his own words “he didn’t want us to fail because of him”, which shows the kind of person he is. Ultimately 6 of us made it to Kathmandu mid-October, and after some last-minute gear shopping for the trip, we started our journey to Lukla, the starting point of the trek. While I with another friend took a helicopter to Lukla and made it quite early, others took the flight which was delayed due to multiple reasons. Unfortunately, Bikram was on the flight, so they got a very late start to the trek, and reached Phadking, the first stop on the trek, very late in the evening. Even though it was a very long and hard day for Bikram, it was good to see that he was in very good spirits and ready for the next day.
For the next nine days, as we went slowly but surely towards our destination, never did I hear Bikram complain once, even though at times, particularly in the last few days, I could visibly see how tired he was. This trek to EBC at 17598 ft at well below freezing temperatures, with 50% oxygen and over treacherous terrain was difficult even for seeing people like us, it is hard to understand how difficult this is for someone like Bikram without experiencing it firsthand with him. The last few days was mostly scrambling though rocks, and we could see his ankles twisting every few steps, even though the guides were doing their best to support him. Finally, on Oct 26th, on a very beautiful sunny day, we made it to base camp from Gorakchep, the last stop on the route. I had made it to base camp a little earlier before Bikram, and as I was resting, I remember Bikram slowly climbing over the last hill, with a look of triumph and relief, realizing that he had achieved something only a few have achieved before him. Hats off to him for his persistence and perseverance in completing this incredibly hard challenge. I believe this is only the beginning of many new adventures for Bikram and wish him all the success.
Pallav Sarma (PE, 2000) is Co-Founder and CTO at Tachyus, a technology startup helping energy companies accelerate digital transformation for energy sustainability. Before Tachyus, he worked for Chevron and Schlumberger. He lives in Danville, California, and loves being active, particularly hiking and playing badminton and poker. He also loves world music and likes playing the guitar. He had a PhD from Stanford University in Energy Resources Engineering.