Kieren D’Souza is tired. Only a few days ago, he finished a gruelling 5,289-metre trail run on the Pir Panjal mountain range in Himachal Pradesh. While most climbers take around six days to scale ‘Friendship Peak’, Kieren did it in just under 12 hours.
The 27-year-old followed the global trend in mountaineering and trail runs, where the emphasis is on recording fast times.
After securing permission from the local police and government officials, he began the trek from Dhundi. The scheduled start time of 1 a.m. was delayed by a few minutes, as a couple of uninvited, inebriated guests crashed the party. “The two men were wondering why there were people with cameras around in the middle of the night,” Kieren explained.
Once the trail run began, Kieren eased through the initial stages, aided by good weather and low inclines. At around the 4,000m mark was when he was forced to slow down. Sub-zero temperatures and chilly winds made for a punishing combination. Kieren had to change out of his running gear - a thin water-proof jacket, shorts and gloves - to protective mountaineering clothes. “My hands started to swell; I was really struggling. I had to take help from my friends in the production house who were doing the video shoot. They helped me put on my boots and pants,” Kieren said.
Approaching dawn, Kieren was dehydrated and sleepy, but most crucially, he managed to keep his mind sharp. “One wrong step could result in a 1km free fall. You also had to watch for dangerous crevasses,” Kieren said.
Taking a slow and steady approach, Kieren finally made it to the peak. The exhilaration he felt was short-lived, as he had to gear up for the arduous descent. Due to the steep decline, Kieren could not walk down in normal fashion. He had to ‘down climb’ - similar to the technique used to come down a ladder.
Kieren was soon running on fumes. Pure instinct took over, with Kieren stumbling through the final stretch. He nevertheless got the job done - a feat of human endeavour and mental toughness. “The accepted norm may be to climb a mountain in 10 days, but that’s not the only way. One must think out of the box - set new challenges and overcome them,” Kieren said.
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