With three sustainable lifestyle brands credited to his name (The Rug Republic, Sharda Exports, and The Furniture Republic), 50-year-old entrepreneur Aditya Gupta decided to add another feat to his kitty before entering into his second phase of life: scaling Mount Everest. An adventurer at heart, this TEDx speaker shed his inhibitions, successfully embarked on a mission, and came out a renewed person—each of which have been encapsulated in his new book, 7 Lessons from Everest. The intrepid adventurer tells us more. By Bayar Jain
T+L India: Tell us about your latest book, 7 Lessons from Everest.
Aditya Gupta: Mt. Everest is a great teacher and my book is about the lessons the highest peak in the world taught me. These seven lessons are not just about mountaineering, but applicable to everyday life and even business aspects. It is a photo essay presented in the form of a coffee table book. The idea is two-fold: first, to share the exhilarating experience of climbing Mt.Everest; and second, to outline the lessons it teaches. These are profound but simple lessons, and when internalised in the context of an expedition like Mt. Everest, they get tattooed to your mind.
7 Lessons from Everest is an attempt to preserve the experience and learnings for eternity. Mt.Everest is a metaphor for any serious challenge or project one takes up in life. This book is not about the beauty or dangers of Mt.Everest, nor does it stop at talking about the adventure of scaling the summit. The high-quality experiential photo essays in the book are like reality TV because no editing has been done to images to add drama. With 350 stunning images spread over 250 pages, the book makes for a captivating read.
T+L India: What motivated you to climb Mt. Everest?
Aditya Gupta: During my college days at IIT Roorkee, I joined a mountaineering club named Himalayan Explorer Club and began enjoying trekking. In 1987, I went to Pindari Glacier for my first expedition. Since then, I’ve taken a liking to adventurous trips. In 1991, I even did a course in mountaineering. Going on serious expeditions became my comfort zone. The final frontier of this hobby was to climb Mount Everest.
Every mountaineer is charmed by Everest and at some point, we all have to believe that we can climb it. In 2008-09, during a Brahmaputra rafting expedition, my friends prodded me to try climbing the Everest. I thought to myself, ‘Why not?’
T+L India: Mountaineering requires immense preparation—physically, mentally, and emotionally. How did you train yourself?
Aditya Gupta: While I have always been regular with exercise, mountaineering requires another level of preparation. I consulted a nutritionist for eating better; and trained hard for nine months, during which I increased my cardio capacity, strengthened my back and legs, and lost around 12 kilograms. I would run with a rucksack on my back and weights tied to my legs to condition my body to take the extra strain.
Mental and emotional preparation is a lifelong practice in the works. For Everest, it required experiential learning and observing oneself for mental tenacity. It is hard to simulate or imagine the kind of pressure situations one has to deal with—one cannot ‘prepare’ for situations like falling into a crevasse or running out of oxygen at 8,000 metres. So training the mind involves, in my opinion, exposing the mind to situations you wish to be trained for.
T+L India: What were some challenges you had to overcome during your trek?
Aditya Gupta: The biggest challenge was endurance and tenacity. The Everest expedition is nearly two months long, and daily life at the Everest Base Camp can drain you. You see people’s most unrefined forms as it is not possible to fake it on an expedition like Everest—and it’s not pretty! Then there is fear and threat of grave injury or death; you are climbing past dead bodies! The physical part of the climb is just table stakes. The real Everest to climb is in the mind.
T+L India: How would you describe the view from atop Mt. Everest?
Aditya Gupta: Nothing exceptional to be honest. Other summit tops have similar views. However, just knowing that you’re on top of the world makes all the difference.
T+L India: What has been your biggest learning from scaling the big mountain?
Aditya Gupta: Using the power of focus while expecting to deal with the unexpected, and moving one step at a time while being friends with fear can help you achieve anything. Everest is just a metaphor for anything challenging that one decides to achieve. If an ordinary person like me can climb Everest, anyone can do anything—that’s the biggest learning.
T+L India: Everest aside, which other mountain has been a tough trek for you?
Aditya Gupta: Mamostong Kangri (7,650 metres) in Eastern Karakoram was a good lesson. I did not make it to the top as the weather turned bad once we reached the last camp. It stayed that way for two days. I had to retreat so supplies could be conserved for senior members who wished to stay longer to make the mission a success.
Managing all mountains is the same. One has to be comfortable with the mountain’s rigours, and not be too bothered by risk and lack of comforts. The experience has to be enjoyed for what it offers and not be bemoaned for what it doesn’t.
T+L India: How will your book help in providing COVID-19 relief?
Aditya Gupta: The book aims at raising INR 1 crore for CRY (Child Rights and You) to meet its requirements to ensure care, protection and education to children amidst these trying times. Donors can directly transfer the money to CRY using the links available on the book’s official website. Moreover, every time someone donates INR 4,000 or more to CRY, The Rug Republic [Gupta’s sustainable homegrown decor brand] will send the person the coffee table book as a gesture of appreciation.
But not just that. The seven lessons are applicable to any tough situation in life, including COVID-19.
T+L India: What’s next for you as a mountaineer?
Aditya Gupta: I would describe myself as an adventurer and explorer rather than a mountaineer. I do a variety of adventure trips—like rafting expeditions, climbs, horseback traverse, and scuba diving—to remote locations all over the globe. This year, we were to go to Peru for a climb.
T+L India: If you had to scale the mountain again, what would you do differently this time?
Aditya Gupta: I would use a different agency and Sherpas. I will also try to see if a friend can come along. Everest is a long expedition of nearly two months. It helps to have some company besides the new friends we make there. Things can get quite intense, and trust levels have to be very, very high.
T+L India: Pollution has increasingly become a major concern at Mt. Everest. Any tips on how to prevent this?
Aditya Gupta: Nepal government has taken good steps, and things are effective to a large extent. They collect USD 200 (approximately INR 15,500) for common facilities, including waste disposal. I personally found people to conscious and positive. There is also a minimum weight of trash that has to be brought down by all the teams.
There is a lot of misinformation about what happens there. The daily urban life of anyone on Everest is much more harmful to the planet.
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