Mount Kailash & Lake Manasarovar (Tibet): A trip to the lake of blessings and up the mountain was a 20-day expedition into an unknown world. There were no maps, no roads and no direction. The only thing you counted on was your driver and his knowledge. We got stuck in sand dunes, pulled the jeep over big flowing rivers with ropes and made it to base camp. Then the Parikarma, which is the circumambulation of the natural shrines present there, was a blessing and privilege to be in the presence of the creator.
Aconcagua (Argentina): Climbing the highest mountain in South America was just an incredible experience. Located in the Andes mountain range, it just has the most amazing beauty and rock formation.
Kilimanjaro & Meru (Tanzania): Meru is the fifth highest mountain in Africa, but the real thrill was climbing Kilimanjaro. I was lucky to make it to the summit of the highest mountain in Africa and watched the melting glacier, which will sadly be gone in a few years. My guide had initially refused to take me to the highest point of the mountain due to my age as he was convinced I would die, but I wanted to see the glacier and persuaded him.
Elbrus (Russia): The highest mountain in Europe has two peaks known as the Twin Sisters. The challenge was to cross over one and get to the taller summit. The base camp is on the glacier and the barrels we slept in is something I will never forget. People there were very nice and knew how to party. After climbing the challenging summit we celebrated and if I remember, got through like 20 bottles of vodka.
Everest base camp (Nepal): My first attempt to climb the highest mountain in the world became an adventure in itself. First, I had to survive a flight in a small plane from one of the most dangerous airports in the world and then after arriving at the base camp, an earthquake hit Nepal. I am lucky to be alive and will never forget the two days sleeping on the ice outside, as the town of Namche Bazaar became suddenly empty. I vowed that I would return and did.
Everest (again): When I returned a year later to climb the highest mountain in the world, the damage from the earthquake was still there. Those in the town of Namche Bazaar were shocked to see I had returned and told me nobody comes back to the place where they almost died. Well, I am different and made it to the highest base camp in the world.
Carstensz Pyramid (Indonesia) & Mount Kosciuszko (Australia): The plan was to make an ascent to the highest mountain in Indonesia and Australia. Carstensz Pyramid is located on an island 100 years behind civilisation, where we met people living in huts with animals and no chimneys for smoke. We were unable to start the climb as fierce local tribes had started fighting and waited for four days to be rescued by the army, and back to the airport. Then, five days into the Australia climb, we reluctantly stopped due to bad weather. Both turned into unexpected adventures.
Carstensz Pyramid (again): I was determined to return for a second attempt. I hired a guide and paid for the helicopter to the base camp to avoid trouble with the tribes. It was supposed to be a two-person expedition, but one day before the start an earthquake hit Indonesia and the second guy didn’t show up. His cancellation meant I got stuck, but I refused to go back. My guide bribed army personnel and smuggled me through a gold mine in the jeep to get on the side of the mountain, away from tribes. We then tracked back to the base camp, but got sick walking in the rain and ice storm. Luckily, I made it to the base camp and got a helicopter ride back to town, leaving the mountain unconquered.
Grand Canyon hike from rim to rim (USA): It was a seven-day expedition to the bottom of the canyon and up to the Colorado River. I had a dip in the ice-cold water and enjoyed the magnificent view of the rock formation. It was unforgettable!
Let Us Walk Program: My latest adventure is another journey altogether. I have started a programme to organise walks for seniors outdoors and indoors in winter, to promote an active lifestyle. It is magical to see people come together and enjoy walks. If you are reading this and have seniors in your family, disconnect from technology and take walks with them, getting lost in conversations and nature.
Mithan Kansal (a.k.a. Mountain Man) is a father of three, grandfather of six, avid mountaineer, volunteer, and philanthropist.