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'Standing on top of Mt Everest was my life's best moment'

K Sivakumar, havildhar attached to the Madras Regimental Centre in Wellington, is the first person in Tamil Nadu to have climbed the Mount Everest as part of an army mountaineering expedition this May. He is presently posted at II Madras in Sikkim. On his first visit, after the expedition, to his home town Lovedale near Ooty, K Sivakumar talks to TOI's Shantha Thiagaragan on his inspiration and challenges faced in climbing Mount Everest.

What gave you the inspiration to climb Mount Everest? I joined the army in 2001. In 2004, I was sent to Mountaineering Training School in Gulmarg, Kashmir, for six months training. I passed out with 80 per cent score in the training. Initially, I drew inspiration from other army personnel in the training. But my motivation was heightened when I got posted at the same training school as my instructor for four years. During those years, I got the chance to climb six peaks in Ladak, Utharanjal and Himalaya while training army students.

Have you attempted to climb the Everest before?
Yes. In November 2014, a team of army personnel had planned to scale Mount Everest to celebrate fifty years of climbing the mountain by the army. But unfortunately, the expedition was cancelled midway due to an earth quake on April 25, 2015. The Nepal government had also cancelled permission to access the Everest. During that time 18 people died and around 60 were injured.

How do you handle the disappointment?
The experience only gave me more courage and hope. In November 2015, a team of 30 members were sent for training in army camps in New Delhi for two months. Out of the 30 people, two seven-member teams were selected to climb Mount Everest. I was fortunate to have been chosen. We reached Kathmandu on March 30 and on April 5 we started our Everest expedition.

How did you manage the low oxygen level and rations on your expedition?
As the oxygen level is very low after 7000 meters, we could not eat but we needed energy. Part of our ration included energy bars and drinks which helped us get through the expedition. The oxygen was part of our mountaineering costume. It took us 25 days to reach Mount Everest and return to Kathmandu.

How did you feel when you reached the highest peak? On May 19, after crossing several army base camps, we reached the very top of the mountain. Words cannot express how I felt when I reached the peak. I just could not believe I had actually climbed the Everest. It took several days for the achievement to sink in. Standing there at the top was the best moment of my life. We stayed there for 20 minutes to take pictures and videos as evidences.

Did you ever think that one day you would climb Mount Everest?
I was an athlete when I was in school. However, mountaineering never crossed my mind. Only after joining the army, I developed a passion for mountaineering. If not for the army and support from my family, I could not have achieved this goal.

How does it feel to return home after scaling the highest mountain?
It is very refreshing to return home and spend time with family. 

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