Hemant Gupta – The Road Less Travelled
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Growing up in Kota, Rajasthan, Hemant gave up his love for sports to prepare for the Goliath of all Indian examinations - the IIT JEE. Tireless efforts landed him in the crème de la crème of all Indian Engineering colleges, IIT Bombay.
It was in the liberal and experimental atmosphere of his college days that Hemant reconciled with his childhood love - sports. He became the Sports Secretary of his college and managed numerous sporting events.
Insignificant day to day decisions ends up changing the course of our lives… One such insignificant decision in Hemant’s life was during the 2nd year of his IIT days when following the college trend he registered for the Basic Mountaineering Course in Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering, Manali. This was when he first experienced the magnificence of mountains and the intoxication of adventure sports. A new seed of thought germinated in his head – mountaineering.
Coming back to college Hemant, never thought that this new found love affair with Mountaineering would lead him on an unusual career track. Like his batch mates, he did internships in Germany, traveled across Europe but planned to come back to India and take up a regular job. Later he got placed in Tata Steel, Jamshedpur and it was here that he first came to know about expeditions organized by TSAF for Tata Steel employees. His first expedition with TSAF was to Chamsher Kangri (6622m) where he met India’s first female mountaineer to scale Mt. Everest and TSAF founder, Padma Shri Bachendri Pal. Due to bad weather, although he was unsuccessful at mounting the summit, he was in complete awe of the accompanying TSAF members and Bachendri Ma’am who despite the bad weather and difficult terrain made it to the top. It was here that he first realized that mountaineering demanded more mental strength than physical strength.
Fuelled by this experience, Hemant immersed himself in learning more about Mountaineering and its history through books like Into thin air by Jon Krakauer and Annapoorna by Maurice Herzog among many others. In the 2013 Uttarakhand floods, Hemant devotedly volunteered with the TATA emergency team for relief actions. He trekked to remote villages in hard terrains of the region to rescue people and provide them with life supplies. Working alongside the indomitable Bachendri Pal in Uttarakhand, he realized he had found his calling. Later that year, he joined TSAF as Manager Operations. Taking this final leap away from conventional careers he marched ahead on the unbeaten path of adventure sports in India.
Hemant became responsible for extending TSAF outreach, introducing new courses for the foundation and also designing expeditions for TSAF. The same year he went to National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the USA for a 3-month training in the ultimate wilderness. This training alongside US Marines gave him an opportunity to push himself mentally and physically like never before.
In 2015 Hemant attempted to scale Mt Everest but had to return from Camp 2 following the tragic Earthquake in Nepal which leads to an avalanche, killing 18 people at Everest Base Camp (EBC) and more than 9000 people overall. On his return, he scaled other challenging peaks like Mt Aconcagua (Argentina), Mt. Bhagirathi II, Mt Labuche, Mt Island peak, Mt Kanamo Mt Rudragaira among many others
In 2017, Hemant was prepping himself to attempt Mt Everest again. He knew it was now or never. To acclimatize with the inhospitable condition he stayed at the base camp for a month. While on the way to Camp 3 from Camp 2 he heard that the last batch of mountaineers had to return back due to bad weather, harsh winds, torn tents, and frostbites. He remained resolute and continued the expedition despite the severe hindrances. In camp 3 (23,625ft) to his shock, his oxygen cylinder stopped working and his glasses started getting fogged with his breath.
At such a crucial point he decided to return was not an option. He wore smaller glasses and walked at lesser speed to save oxygen. He reached Camp 4 (26,085 ft) popularly called the Death Zone, in a state of nausea and sleep deprivation. Fixing the rotator of his cylinder he decided to leave for the summit the same night. When in this camp he heard people around him mentioning Everest, the enormity of his adventure hit him. He was after all, on the greatest adventure of his life.
It snowed all night till he reached the South Summit and Hillary step. When he finally reached the summit he found his head bowing to the ground in silent gratitude. He had made it to the top of the King of all Mountains, one of Nature’s greatest challenges to mankind, Mt Everest.
From registering for the Basic Mountaineering Course to taking up a job with TSAF, from attending the Outdoor Leadership Course in the USA to climbing exciting peaks across the world, Hemant has the confidence to challenge himself on new adventures every single step of the way. Looking back at all his adventures in the past few years, Hemant feels it was the trust he had in his own abilities and an insatiable hunger for adventure that helped him leave a comfortable, stable and well-paying job to follow his heart and pursue the life of his dreams.
The source of all his extraordinary achievement can still be traced to that one tendency of taking
the road less traveled.