“It is only when you reach there that you realise every picture is a National Geographic picture,” says Vishal Gondal of the mighty Everest. The GOQii CEO has just returned from the Everest base camp, his second second big expedition after his 8-day Ladakh trek in 2014. What started off with marathons, soon developed into a passion for trekking, says the head of the fitness company.
Having participated in several short treks across Mumbai, Gondal says the trick likes in preparing yourself mentally than physically. “My first ever trek was a 100 km walk, which had to be completed in about 48 hours. I hardly completed 60 km when I could feel heavy blisters all over my feet. This is when the bell rang, making me realise that any trek requires a great deal of long-term planning,” he says. Talking about how it is different from participating in a marathon, Gondal says, “A trek requires a different mindset. You definitely need to thing long term. I think of my first attempt as a total failure,” he says, adding how minor details like the right shoes and even socks can make a huge difference.
The realisation though seems to have helped Gondal. In the second attempt, he says, I figured out that that preventing injuries was paramount. “Most people who fail during treks are the ones who get injured,” he explains. Perhaps, this was the reason he made sure everybody in his team had 4 litres of water and about a litre of electrolytes while trekking to the Everest base camp from May 1-May 14. Talking about the difficulties with the weather and acclimatisation, he says, “There are two ways to do it - either you go slow and acclimatise or you go high and sleep low.”
Not a lone ranger though, Gondal says, “I’m not the kind who can go solo for 14-15 days in a row. Also, I think a group offers economies of scale.” It’s a good thing then that his wife is also an enthusiast when it comes to trekking. “In fact, we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary at 15,000 feet,” he says, smiling.
How does he keep fit? Gondal says he prefers outdoors to a gym and walks long distances or climbs stairs. “I usually run three days in a week. I don’t prefer gyms as I find them very boring.”
On how his treks help him at work, the CEO says, “If you need ten days to get acclimatised, you won’t take any less. And for that you need to be patient. Not only does it make you humble, it also makes you understand how to adapt to various situations.” Speaking of the Everest trek in this context, he says there were moments when he and others would question the reason behind the entire trip. “There was this point where we had to walk about 200 metres at almost 70 degrees at a height of 15,000 feet. It took us two hours to walk it through. It was a point where most of us were wondering why we chose to do so.”
But the very next instant Gondal adds, “There’s something magnetic about the Himalayas. It kind of pulls you through.” That sounds about true, with the CEO already lining up plans for trekking the terrains of Uttarakhand, Himachal and Bhutan.