Rutvik Ved, a traveller, and a mountaineer climbed the peak of Mt. Frey in Sikkim last year. While conversing about it, he states how such climbs can be a far-off dream without the mountaineering courses and the training.
The past few weeks in the travel industry were devoted to the news of the achievements of Indian mountaineers Priyanka Mohite and Baljeet Kaur. While Mohite became the first Indian woman to scale 5 peaks above 8,000 m, Kaur hiked two peaks above the same height in just two weeks, both creating records on their names and becoming an inspiration to other mountaineers. However, what could have backed these achievements is a matter to be taken into cognizance for those who look forward to achieving similar feats. And as crystal clear as it seems, the mountaineering courses and the training come into play.
Tracing down the example of Rutvik Ved, a traveller who summited Mount Frey in 2021 as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, it is definite that even the highest of the peaks that might appear infinite and challenging becomes accessible through the techniques taught in such courses. Motivated by his father to take up adventurous activities, Ved completed an Advanced Mountaineering Course with Grade ‘A’ from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute – one of the four premier institutes offering mountaineering courses.
To give a background, Mount Frey peak, nearly 5830 mt in the western part of Sikkim, lies in the proximity to Mt. Rathong, Mt. Kabru, and Mt. Kothang. It has been named after a mountaineer George Frey who, in an attempt to climb Mt. Kokthang, had fallen from this peak and died. Rutvik Ved, who hails from Mumbai, had developed a fascination of climbing the peak, merely after looking at its picture after pursuing the Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) at Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering in 2018.
Setting sights on his passion, Ved registered for the Mt. Frey summit through HMI that would take participants to the peak in April 2021 as part of the HMI Climbathon under the Mahotsav. A total of 20 participants were trained at the HMI base camp height of 14,600 ft. Mount Frey being a technical attempt with a glacier full of hidden crevasses, it was important for the trainees to learn the “rock, snow and ice techniques” to save themselves from falling into it or rescue after falling. All of it took place over 28 days.
Rutvik Ved and his fellow companions spent those days at the base camp learning about cooking at higher altitudes and faced extreme weather conditions that acclimated their bodies. They also learnt how to select a safe site for camping along with the knowledge of primary medical treatment in case of emergencies. “We were educated about various ‘altitude sicknesses’ and what can be done to avoid or fight it till the medical help is offered,” Ved said while talking about the training.
On April 23, after observing clear weather conditions as compared to the previous days, the team that included trainees, instructors, and sherpas began from the Frey Summit Camp at around 1:15 a.m. Interestingly, a dog had even accompanied the team until here. Even with comparatively better weather, the team faced snow storms, hail storms, and even whiteouts throughout their climb.
The final patch to the summit was a big steep rock wall full of loose rocks capable of major falls. But the participants were already aware of the techniques like ‘self-arrest’ to arrest the slide and avoid the fall. The participants were also taught ‘jumaring’, another skill of ascending the rope that makes climbing safer. It was also due to the training period that had made the team used to walk with the crampons for a better grip on the snow.
One of the most significant parts of the training, i.e. ‘map-reading’, also turned out to be helpful for them right from the beginning of the expedition. As Ved said, “The mountain looked like a big pinnacle and unapproachable from the base camp. But after reading the maps we could understand that it was just a particular side of the mountain that had vertical slopes and sharp ridges formation.”
Moreover, it was only through the same mastery that the team got to know about a glacier present on the other side of the mountain, following which they found an alternative to the route. Although the participants were grouped with HMI instructors and sherpas, Ved said that in the case of white-outs, they knew the route because of the map-reading done before the climb.
Out of 14 participants, that began from the Summit camp, only 9 reached the summit push at different times. Ved was proud to be one among them as he reached at 12:15 p.m. After the triumph and a few clicks, the vital challenge was coming down to the base camp. Climbers set up a ‘rappelling’ base with multiple anchors to descend – another expertise instructed during the tutoring phase. Through ‘belaying’, a technique where the other person supports the person rappelling, the participants easily got down to the base.
It was Ved’s first Himalayan summit push, and he still sounds proud while speaking about it. Another delightful fact for him is that he could make it happen only on vegetarian meals. “People would often tell me to eat non-veg meals to gain mass and energy to be able to mount peaks since I was always a lean personality. But I am glad it never came in between my passion for climbing mountains,” he said.
Even after one year of this victorious summit, Rutvik Ved receives a lot of curiosity about mountaineering courses and the training from people on social media. He always aims to help them out by recounting his anecdotes like this.