In April 2021, Ramesh Balasubramanian and his ten-year-old daughter Vedikka took up the challenge of trekking to Everest Base Camp – something that is on the bucket-list of many travelers no doubt!
At an elevation of 17,600 feet, Everest Base Camp is one of the most popular and challenging trekking routes in the Himalayas – a difficult journey for adults let alone young children. The father-daughter duo started the trek from Lukla, hiking all the way to the Base Camp and back – a journey of 125 km up and down.
Innovation Nation: Welcome Ramesh. Could you start by telling us how you prepared for such a difficult challenge?
Ramesh Balasubramanian: Yes, sure. Let me start with this: a trekker’s dream can only be fulfilled by reaching the summit. My daughter and I planned this trip, as we wanted to celebrate Vedikka’s tenth birthday. Together, we spent almost eight months walking a distance of 12 km per day, working through a lot of energy exercises and following a very strict diet.
However, the true foundational component of our preparation was our perseverance and determination to make it – this was a key factor that needed to be strengthened before we could even think about embarking on the journey.
The COVID uncertainty was challenging, as I was worried whether we would be able to complete the trip from a logistical point of view. We also spoke to a few people we knew who had completed this trek to gain more insight, which was very helpful. This was our first big trip together, so we wanted everything to run as smoothly as possible.
Could you give us an account of your trek to Base Camp?
Yes, absolutely. We started our journey by flying from Delhi to Kathmandu, and then on to Lukla airport – one of the scariest airports in the world – where we began the 12-day trek. Although the flight was turbulent, we had a beautiful view of the natural landscape from our windows.
From there, it was an easy six-hour trek to Phakding at 2,610 meters (7250 ft). We sauntered through the hanging bridges and reached our destination for the day. Each day we aimed to start as early as 7am and call it a day by 4pm.
On the second and third day we had to acclimatize to the altitude, so we stayed at Namche Bazar – a place with a very cheerful atmosphere, buzzing with local produce. We feasted on brownies and coca cola, which are considered a luxury in the area. The first point at which we saw Mount Everest was somewhere between Namche Bazaar and Dingboche. Just to be able to see with our eyes where we were headed was incredibly motivating. We also crossed the famous Hillary Bridge, which was a really exciting experience.
We made it to Deboche at 3,820 meters (12,532 ft) on day four. There, we had the pleasure of meeting an elderly man whose ancestors built and maintained a path spanning three kilometers to ease the hiker’s journey. We also visited the monasteries there – a vivid yet calming experience. That night was the first night we slept in our sleeping bags.
We had to acclimatize again on day five and six at Dingboche at 4,410 meters (14,468 ft). After a short trek, we were offered hot chocolate and played a game of Jenga, followed by a dance party against the snowy backdrop. The trip was getting more thrilling by the day!
We reached Lobuche at 4,960 meters (16,272 ft) on day seven after a very steep hike through areas with no vegetation, decreased levels of oxygen (due to the altitude), and a temperature as low as minus eight degrees. Thankfully, we ate a warm meal of Dal Bhat – a delicious Nepalese dish of rice, lentils, and spicy vegetables – which kept us going.
Despite the odds, at each new elevation point, we were very focused and determined to reach Base Camp.
It must’ve been a very emotional moment reaching Base Camp on the eighth day. How did you and your daughter feel?
We were exhausted and simultaneously ecstatic. At 18,000 feet, the temperature was -12 and it was very windy – thankfully our boots saved us from catching frostbite! We pushed past our fears every step of the way and understood exactly what Sir Edmund Hillary meant when he remarked: “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
Climbing to the top demands vigor and tenacity, which comes with adequate physical training and breathing exercises. The altitudes are challenging which is why good hydration and nutrition are paramount. Vedikka and I acted as pillars of strength for each other, keeping a positive mindset throughout, and ultimately proved to ourselves that although the trek was not plain sailing, we made it!
At Base Camp, we had a 20-minute break. In awe we surveyed the breathtaking landscape and spectacular scenes. The first thing we did was to thank our guides – the Sherpas that had been with us from day one, helping to organize our accommodation and guiding us on the journey. They were the ones to really motivate us throughout. We were also congratulated by a group of fellow trekkers, who were preparing for an ascent on the summit of Mount Everest. It was a completely overwhelming and emotional experience.
After this short refuel, it was time to set foot on our journey downwards, back to Lukla.
Did you pick up any lessons from this expedition that you can apply to your work at Capgemini?
Definitely. Our organizational skills and the way we set goals are extremely important. With highly challenging expeditions like this one as with complex business endeavors, it is imperative to know your goal and what you want to achieve.
Having a positive frame of mind, thinking differently – outside the box, taking measured risks, and being creative are some key components we should all try to apply in the workplace. You have to be prepared to take calculated risks if you want to meet your objectives.
For me the word “impossible” doesn’t exist. When I apply my lessons to the workforce, I tell my teams that if you’re clear in your goals and you do everything it takes to achieve that goal, nothing is impossible.
I hope more of us can take up such inspiring challenges in the future. Thank you, Ramesh.
Thank you, my pleasure.
Ramesh Balasubramanian provides advice to clients on how to set up operations/delivery teams and drives transformation initiatives through creating roadmaps to reimagine change management.