Mountains have fascinated man since times immemorial, and mountain climbing is a dangerous sport which is filled with romance and adventure. Only those who have the heroic qualities of mind and heart and are in love with the wild enchanting of the mountains can undertake mountain climbing.
We have had mountaineers conquer the highest and the most difficult peaks. Tensing and Hillary first climbed Mount Everest in 1953 and since then we have had a number of other Indians too attempting to climb it and achieving success. They all testify to the toughness of the sport and the qualities required for a good mountaineer.
A mountaineer must possess the spirit of adventure which keeps him going on and on till he reaches his goal. He must be willing to undertake risks and hardships while climbing narrow edges and steeps hill sides. He must possess extraordinary powers of perseverance to continue in the face of the severest odds. He must also have remarkable powers of endurance. He must also have a keen mind to be able to stay in the right direction for his goal and not move off into the wrong direction. He should know how to handle the special equipment required for mountain climbing.
A mountaineer’s most important equipment is his oxygen mask and oxygen cylinder along with maps and compasses to direct him in the right direction. He must know how to use these as also his axe to cut steps on the ice.
Mountain climbing is beset with difficulties. As one climbs up, the air becomes thinner and breathing becomes difficult. It is then that a steady supply of artificial oxygen is required and should be used by the mountaineer. The weather in the higher reaches is unpredictable. There may be a sudden storm or calm. In stormy weather the winds are so strong that one’s tent may be swept away. It might start snowing while one is going uphill and the mountaineer has to keep going inspite of it. The adventurous mountaineer takes these problems easily in his stride, and his sense of purpose and the goal of reaching the top keep him going. He walks through soft snow in which he may sink knee deep or in ice on which he has to cut steps in order to climb up. He has to keep himself well covered otherwise he is in danger of getting frost bite and that portion of his body is in danger of becoming totally numb or even useless if the blood circulation is not rejuvenated swiftly. Thus while powers of physical endurance are essential, a mountaineer should possess spiritual qualities of steady mind and heart which gives him strong will power and self-belief that he can and will achieve success in his endeavor.
The mountaineer is fully aware of the dangers and risks involved and fearlessly and bravely attempt it knowing full well that he might never return. But it is the thrill of scaling the torturous mountains, the intoxication of reaching the after surmounting the most treacherous of paths and the supreme beauty of the snow covered peaks that makes him climb mountains again and again.
Thus, mountain climbing is one of the most dangerous and challenging of sports. It is a sport only the brave and the hardy and bring out the most heroic and brave qualities of man.