Head for heights: Susen Mahto with mentor Bachendri Pal at the TSAF office in Jamshedpur on Tuesday. Picture by Bhola Prasad
He’s a modest 45-year-old family man with three daughters staying on the outskirts of Jamshedpur. But ask him about his day job and your eyes will widen. And ask him about his ambition and your jaw will drop.
Susen Mahto, one of the 10-odd climbing instructors at Tata Steel Adventure Foundation (TSAF), will head off for the Everest this April.
Ace mountaineer Bachendri Pal, who heads the TSAF, saw the spark in him to conquer Everest. “I have confidence in Mahto’s abilities as a climber. I recommended him (Mahto) as he is cut out for the task. I wish him a successful expedition,” Bachendri said.
Otherwise, the resident of Paharpur village in adjoining Seraikela-Kharsawan, who bikes 25km everyday to Jamshedpur and back home, seems to be a picture of reticence.
But ask him his plans and the steely determination shines through.
“Well, it’s a tough task but I’m confident about myself. My vast experience as a climber will come handy during the Everest expedition. I’m flying to Kathmandu on March 28. The actual hard work is between now and then,” Mahto told The Telegraph.
He also thanked Bachendri for convincing Tata Steel to sponsor his entry in the Everest mission.
“She’s an inspiration to generations of climbers. I have to prove her faith in me is with reason,” he said.
There’s someone else he is inspired by — Lucknow girl Arunima Sinha who lost a leg in a train accident and took up mountaineering to prove to the world that handicap is only in the mind. She is in the Everest team too.
“I will leave for TSAF’s outdoor programme in Uttar Kashi and then go to Delhi from where we leave for Kathmandu,” he added.
Mahto has done basic and advance mountaineering courses from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (Uttar Kashi) in 2002 and 2004. He’s also picked up rigours of search and rescue and climbing instruction methodology from the same institute in 2006 and 2007.
He’s climbing various peaks, including Darwa Top (13,500ft) and Surya Top (13,000ft) in Garhwal Himalayas while assisting TSAF’s outdoor leadership programmes since 2002. He’s also one of the select few climbers who scaled the tough Chamser Kangri (21,725ft) in 2012.
Asked for fitness tips, he replied “running”. “I run everyday in my village. And yes, my stints in local and outstation leadership programmes have helped me a lot as far as stamina building goes. I’m focussed,” he added.
If successful, Mahto will join Everest conquerors Padma Shri Premlata Agarwal and Rajendra Pal Singh as icons for middle-age health and verve. Instead of battling apple and pear shaped bodies and midlife stress, they are setting the tallest benchmarks possible for fitness.
So far, four climbers have aced the Everest — Premlata, Rajendra as well as the much younger Meghlal Mahto and Binita Soren.