Hoping to inspire the youth from his hometown, former Brookdale resident, Merven Paliam, 40, recently embarked on an expedition and summited a mountain called Stok Kangri in the Himalayas, which is higher than Kilimanjaro and any mountain in Europe.

Speaking to The Phoenix Tabloid, Paliam who now resides in Gauteng, said that it had been his lifelong dream to summit a mountain above 6000m.

“Stok Kangri, at 6153m above sea level, is higher than Mt Kilimanjaro, higher than any mountain in Europe and higher than 98 percent of all South and North American peaks. I wanted to challenge myself and test my limitations, hence I chose Stok Kangri, which is rated at 70 percent more difficult than Mt Kilimanjaro,” said Paliam.

In preparation for this gruelling challenge, Paliam exercised four times a week, ran an average of 50km a week and engaged in weekend trail runs and hikes. “One needs to be able to run 10km in 55 minutes or less as one of the qualifiers. On my last week prior to this expedition, I ran 108km in a single week.

“This is to build cardiovascular endurance which is of utmost importance at high altitude where the oxygen levels are less than 50 percent,” said Paliam. “It was a 10-day expedition. The first two days was in the town of Leh doing local acclimatization hikes and training. The next seven days was on the mountain itself, broken down into three camps of different altitudes. Summit night was the toughest experience of my life, it was a nine-hour ascent, we reached the summit at 7:02am in minus 22 degrees celsius conditions.
“The descent was equally tough, as the snow started to melt and crevices in the glacier started to open up. It took us another six-hours to descend.

“I had a 60lt backpack, in which I kept my technical clothing, medical kit and specialised gears such as crampons,” he added. Last year, Paliam undertook a few high altitude climbs and treks in the Himalayas reaching an altitude of 5025m on the Western Peak of Mount Shiviling and a solo summit of Chandrashila peak at 4090m. He said from this particular challenge, he learnt to never give up and believe in yourself. “We are stronger than we think. We started day one of this expedition as a team of eight but I was the only one that managed to reach the summit from my team, which was more due to self-belief and mental toughness.

“My advice to anyone who wants to climb one day is to go for it, prepare for it both physically and mentally. It’s not the mountain we conquer but ourselves- Sir Edmund Hillary,” added Paliam.