KATHMANDU: His dream was of imposing height — to scale the highest mountain in the world and set a new world record by becoming the oldest man on the top of Mt Everest. But fate had something else in store for him.
Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay (82), a former minister, died today while returning from Camp 1 to the Everest Base Camp, at the height of 6,350 metres. Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation Section Officer Tilak Pandey, who has been deployed as communication officer at the Base Camp, said Upadhyay died while returning to the Base Camp from Camp 1. Nepal Mountaineering Association president Zimba Zangbu Sherpa too confirmed the incident and said, “He suffered altitude sickness that led to his death.” According to Pandey, rescue team could not be sent to the area due to heavy snowfall since early morning. “We have received information that Upadhyay died due to shortage of oxygen and high blood pressure. His body will be brought to the Base Camp on Tuesday morning and then will be sent to the Capital,” said Pandey. However, the exact cause of the death is not clear yet, Pandey said quoting the guides.
It was the height of courage though when Upadhyay made up his mind to attempt the highest mountain in the world in a bid to, what he called, ‘prove that even elderly people are capable of climbing mountains’. “Mountaineering is often associated with physical strength but one has to be mentally strong,” Upadhyay had said before flying to base camp for acclimatisation on April 18. The octogenarian had spoken his mind then, but his body refused to oblige and he succumbed to weather adversities. He was part of Senior Citizens’ Mount Everest Expedition. He was accompanied by five guides and Sherpas to the base camp.
When he had first announced his wish to climb Mt Everest, there were quite a few who bought the idea, some even laughed it off saying it was just a velleity. But he meant it and as part of preparations, he had climbed 6,467-metre Mera Peak and 6,160-metre Island Peak, popularly known as trekkers’ peaks, in the Everest region some years ago. He had also undergone the training regime. Had Upadhyay succeeded in making his dream come true, he would have surpassed the world record of Min Bahadur Sherchan, who scaled the peak at the age of 76 in 2008.
A well-known politician, Upadhyay was born in Banares in India. He joined the Indian National Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.
He joined the Communist Party of Nepal in 1950 but later joined the Panchayat politics.
He also served as Nepal’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1972 to 1978 and became minister for foreign affairs from 1986 to 1990.