#Personal Stories

How 50-year-old Asthmatic Me Climbed The Himalayan Slopes

Anupma Diddi
Have you heard a Mountain call out to you? I have. I’m irresistibly drawn to ranges in the distance; looking in their direction hoping against hope that I can run up the top. But then as the massive masterpiece of nature recedes into nothingness, all that is left is a deep sigh. A sigh that painfully reminds me of the difficulty I’d face if I went uphill. My Asthma would flare up, and the lungs would threaten to rip apart as I would struggle to get the oxygen into each alveolus.

Thanks to social media I would see friends who went mountain climbing and experienced what I had only read in textbooks while teaching teenagers. In particular, the story of Alison Hargreaves stuck – I could feel the attraction she had for the mountains, even I did, but my love was buried under congestion, cough and conflict.

Thankfully, true love surpasses all, and my love for the peaks overcame my limitation. It gave me the conviction and courage to do what I wanted to. I decided to gift myself a golden birthday present: Stand atop a Himalayan peak.

I’d already started working on my breathing- inhaling-exhaling deep and long enough for the mucus to get dislodged and had started running short distances to strengthen and clean out my lungs. I needed clear lungs to climb mountains.

To begin with, running was a nightmare. I couldn’t run even 50 meters without doubling overdue to breathlessness. Despite everything I could finally run a kilometer without stopping, then 5 KM, then 10 KM, then 21KM, and finally the coveted 42 KM Marathon. Of these, 2 Runs the Satara Hill Run and the Tiger Hill Run in Lonavala enthused me the most. Every curve I rounded brought into a view so glorious, so grand that I would forget I was in a running event and stop to stare. The inclines were absolute killers but the end was rewarding indeed as I was on the podium for my age category, in Lonavala. In a nutshell, the mountains had embraced me and emboldened me. I was ready for the Himalayas!

Every curve I rounded brought into a view so glorious, so grand that I would forget I was in a running event and stop to stare.

A friend who had noticed my running stories on social media invited me to join her close group of mountaineering enthusiasts who were headed for Sandakphu, a popular tourist point, 3,636 meters high, in the eastern Himalayan range. It was to be a two-day climb starting from Singhalila Park in Dhotrey. Just as luck would have it despite all preparations, I faced challenges. Mild Altitude sickness followed by acidity triggered by asthma. Anyway, I continued climbing, wheezing at my tortoise pace, sandwiched between the experienced mountain trekkers and the absolute first-timer.

These proved to be memorable moments of solitude. In the cloudy weather, the mist was quite like the ghost movies, so I made short videos to overcome the sudden anxiety pang, chatted with the rhododendrons, even with the lichens – apologising for grounding them in my homemade garam-masala 😊 I was happy in the mountains. I was happy that my lungs could keep asthma at bay.

Suggested Reading:

Five Mountaineers Who Made Expeditions Count In 2021

It was destiny that for the 6 days that we were out there, not one day did we get to see the Mighty Mt. Everest but it was also destiny that 5o year old Asthmatic me, did climb the Himalayan slopes. I did reach the 3636 Mts high Sandakphu peak and saw the sunrise to add an ethereal glow to the ‘Sleeping Budha’ who smiled at me, wishing me more such ascents. Happy 50th Year to me!

Let’s all of us wish ourselves joyous and rejuvenating success stories.

Anupma Diddi is the Training Head- B2B, at LetsEduvate (A Part of Orchids The International school). The views are the author’s own.