Fireside chat with Kieren D’Souza
I can assure you one thing, for all the budding mountaineers and adventure enthusiasts out there, this fireside chat will rekindle all those lurking spirits in your bodies that always aim to reach the farthest summits and the remotest parts on earth.
So, we caught up with Kieren D’Souza and had a detailed conversation on how he is trying to change the adventure sports landscape in India. Born in Bilaspur, Kieren has made quite a name for himself as an ultramarathon runner and endurance athlete apart from being an avid mountaineer and adventure enthusiast.
In 2016, he achieved the rare feat of being the first Indian to qualify and finish the Spartathlon - a 246 km race held annually from Athens to Sparta in Greece. Kieren, then aged 23, became one of the 29 athletes worldwide below the age of 25 who had finished the race. He completed the race in a little above 33 hours.
In the following fireside chat, he narrates his journey and what drives him.
1. What would you say inspired you to take up mountaineering, from a hobby to a sphere of life now?
I think it began when I was growing up and read books on mountaineering. That instilled in me a passion that I nurture till date. The grand adventures mentioned in the books of Jon Krakauer, Heinrich Harrer, Walter Bonatti, and so many more have inspired me to be what I am today and helped me live a life of adventure myself.
2. Can you please tell us about your first mountaineering expedition?
Probably my first major experience in the mountains was doing a Basic Mountaineering Course (BMC) from the Atal Vihari Vajpaee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports (ABVIMAS), Manali, back in 2009. But the first major mountain I climbed was during a speed mountaineering attempt at Mt. Friendship. Although it is an extremely popular peak for trekkers and climbers, attempting it in one push from the Mall Road in Manali and finishing the entire adventure - returning to the Mall Road in less than 12 hours was definitely an experience I cherish and probably cannot live again in this lifetime!
3. Out of all the treks and climbs, which one have you found to be the toughest in your lifetime and why?
This is honestly extremely hard to answer. Things are always tough at the moment and in hindsight, they become tougher when there are several thoughts to reflect upon. The toughest climbs are usually those that are coming up because of the fact that the preparation I do for months in the buildup is always hard work. Although it is something that I truly enjoy.
4. How do you generally prepare yourself before any mission?
I train a lot with running - that is what I spend maximum hours doing. The 100 km race at Mont Blanc and the Salomon Bhatti Lakes 160 km race early in my career put more focus and motivation in me to train a lot. Though I do a decent amount of rock climbing, sport climbing, ice climbing in the winters, and constantly work on the technical side of the sport too, running is my go-to game before any adventure.
5. What are some of the challenges you have faced while mountaineering? How would you advise prospective adventurers to stay fit throughout their journey?
The biggest challenge I face in mountaineering is getting to the mountain in the first place. Then comes bigger challenges of raising money for the expedition, educating, generating interest in every project and so on. For certain projects, this takes years with extremely little support, which often leads me not being able to execute the climb.
We all live through different experiences, and the fitness and preparation for a mountaineering project is something that I control and find a lot more comfortable and achievable.
For others, when it comes to fitness, I would suggest focusing on consistency. It takes years to build good fitness, and one can never have enough of it.
6. Which is the next adventure/expedition you wish to embark on and why?
While there are a few in the pipeline, one that I am currently working towards is a speed attempt on a 7000 meters peak. While I could not make it happen in May 2021 on Mount Trishul, I plan on making another attempt next summer. At the moment though, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to represent India at the Trail World Championships 2022.
As told to Gourab Majumder, freelance content developer and adventure writer with Reccy.
Speed climbing is an extremely challenging sport and if you have been already motivated by one of the most daring mountaineers and adventure enthusiasts - Kieren D’Souza’s pursuits, you should read about someone of our kind. The stories of those like us who have already stepped on the challenge and ‘crossed the line’ will push you to find your own adventure.