They said that they were a group of mountaineers. Except for the leader of this group, Dayan Sameera, every other member resembled the typical young adult who really doesn’t care much about environment and stuff like that.
How awfully deceiving looks can be! Dayan heads these mountaineers who belong to a group called Summit Madness. When talking to them, I realized that the relationship they have with mountains is akin to the relationship sun worshippers have with the sun; inseparable. They climb regularly, love this kind of adventure and were more than willing to share their experiences in an interview with Weekend Nation.
It was a cool morning, and we met at Coffee Bean, a popular hangout joint in Colombo 7. They had chosen the rooftop where we would be the least disturbed by aggressive motorists who were tooting horns, revving their engines and trying to outsmart each other while on their way to work. How different mountaineering is! Dayan said that in mountain climbing the word competition has no place. “It’s about sharing knowledge and encouraging each other as we make the climb. It’s about challenging yourself and not others,” he began.
Now this group has a goal which is fully organized with planning. The planning comes easy to them as they are highly qualified people in professional fields. Their goal is to climb mount Everest in December just one week from now.
In this group attemting to climb Mount Everst upto base camp from December 3rd, Dayan was the boss, the leader or in their words guide. When he spoke the others listened. “I was a member of the Nalanda College Mountain Climbing Club and did the Himalayan Expedition in 2004,” he said. According to him, a person interested in mountaineering can obtain a classroom education on the subject at a place like either the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute or Nepalese Institute of Mountaineering. “Trekking along with knowledgeable climbers and gaining a hands-on experience on the subject is also a great way to explore this activity called mountain climbing. I recommend both,” he added.
Mountain climbing is now topical in this island nation after Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala reached the summit of Mount Everest in May this year and created a sensation.
My gaze shifted to some of the pretty ladies who were seated along with the men. Why would such pretty ladies be involved in such a risky thing as mountaineering? Thilina, a fitness fanatic, spoke on behalf of his fellow female climbers seated prettily at the interview. “Jayanthi changed the landscape on the topic where women are involved in mountain climbing by climbing Everest,” he said. Dayan added to this. “A lot of convincing is needed because there is a risk factor involved. But when females are involved in mountain climbing they can be helpful in promoting this activity because the society tends to listen to what a woman has to say,” he said.
A certain investment is needed to be made before you are ready to begin. According to Dayan, one needs a proper backpack, trekking boots or shoes, a special watch, trekking poles, survey maps and certain medicinal matter like water purification tablets.
Some of the popular trekking sites in Sri Lanka are Lakegala, Kirigalpoththa, Alagalla and the Knuckles.
As we talked, several cups of coffees arrived on the table. The little ice cubes in the plastic cups took something away from the texture of the coffee. Someone in the group said that they had experiences where they went without food and water during a climb. Their talk was more exciting than this coffee. I kept the coffee on the table and returned to the conversation.
Dayan said that Sri Lankans don’t have much advantage when mountaineering because most climbers are from the city. He said that these climbers can’t stay there up in the mountains for long because the air there is thin. “A climber is advised to take a complete break from climbing if he has climbed 2,500-3,000 metres in a day for health reasons,” he explained.
There is a tendency for mountaineers to experience a thing called Acute Mountain Sickness. According to Dayan, the symptoms experienced range from headache to mild depression. “There are times when mountaineers start getting hysterical. They have to be mentally comforted. There are times when someone remains with them while the others move on,” Dayan said.
The situations one faces while on a mountain can change from black to white. Senpathi Jayawickreme, Financial Advisor, my contact in this group, has loads to tell. “Instinct works well for us when what we learned from the book doesn’t help much,”
Varuni, an architect, said that architecture and mountaineering share a common trait; the focus on every detail. “Mountaineering enhances me physically and mentally,” she said.
I was by now imagining myself being on a mountain. Those thoughts were refreshing, but hot sun rays were soon raising the temperature around us. It was time to say goodbye to these young adults who were so friendly, full of compassion and buzzing with energy.
Pics by Chamila Karunaratne