PETALING JAYA: Avalanche survivor T Ravichandran, who lost eight fingers to frostbite while climbing Everest, intends to proudly wave the Jalur Gemilang flag at the summit of all the world’s tallest mountains.
It would not matter if the mountain was steep or if he had to squeeze between narrow crevices, he told FMT. He will not forget to carry the Malaysian flag with him.
“When I am at the base camp for 45 to 60 days, the first thing we put on our tent is the Jalur Gemilang. It is about pride for our country,” he said.
He hopes the government will recognise his contributions to the nation and would call on him to say a few words on Merdeka.
Born and raised in a small village in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan, Ravichandran said he was very physically active and spent most of his days playing football, hoping to become a professional player.
However, those dreams were squashed as he got older and became less in favour among Malaysian football leagues which preferred younger players.
He said he still had tons of energy left and wanted to channel it into something exciting and challenging. His choice: mountaineering.
Ravichandran became known as “Ravi Everest” after climbing the highest mountain in the world twice, in 2006 and 2007. In May this year, he did it a third time, and hopes to make another go, without oxygen tanks.
He was left with only two thumbs after conquering Everest for the first time in 2006 when he was exposed to temperatures as low as minus-50 degrees Celsius.
He said he did not know he had frostbite until he began his descent and found it difficult to hold the rope.
Three or four months after his return to Malaysia “I started breaking and removing my fingers”, he said. “The first one was quite scary but after that, the others were quite easy.”
“It has made me a stronger person. Now I know how to remove fingers,” he quipped, adding that he has become more resilient since then.
Ravichandran continued climbing several other 8,000m-high peaks, but in 2012 he experienced a near-death experience while climbing Mount Manaslu in Nepal, the world’s eighth-highest mountain.
At 4am, an avalanche rolled over his camp.
“You’re sleeping and then you get hit, thrown out, tents broken, cold, and people screaming for help…it was very scary,” he said solemnly, adding that 13 lives were lost that day.
“Most of the deaths were in Camp 3 because blue ice fell and cut them into pieces. We were lucky because we were hit by soft snow.”
After deciding to abandon the climb, Ravichandran recounted silently descending the mountain and reflecting on the events that occurred.
He took a hiatus for almost two years before getting back into mountaineering but even then there were times when he would be reminded of that horrific day.
Despite these challenges, Ravichandran has no intention of slowing down and hopes to climb the world’s tallest 14 peaks by 2025.
His most recent achievement was climbing K2 in Pakistan, the second highest peak, which proved to be his most gruelling climb.
“K2 was very tough. (It is) difficult to compare with Everest. Now Everest is doable and very easy,” he said.
What advice would he give fellow mountaineers who were not as successful, or to those facing challenges in general? “Don’t let failure define you,” he said.
“If we keep focusing on our failures, we are going to feel negative about ourselves. So, always focus on your successes,” he said.