Having joined us for three trips over the last year, Eshan Kali is a face some of our community will have come to recognise. We sat down to discuss how he fell in love with the outdoors, his developing relationship with the sea and planning mountain clean-ups around Everest’s base camps.
Eshan Kali: The Mountaineer
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your story, what's got you to where you are today?
I'm from Nepal. I like to call it the ‘lap of gods’ in the Himalayas. Growing up in the mountains, if you’re talking about ‘the outdoors’ and my life now, I was always there. I was part of it, just not realising. I remember as a kid, I would see outdoor enthusiasts, hikers and trekkers, coming through. And I’m like, “what are you guys doing here? There’s nothing here!”
My dad was in the Gurkha in the British regiment, so I was always away from my parents, and grew up with my grandparents. I went to uni here in the UK, doing fashion design. So I was very much into high fashion, luxury fashion, and I really enjoyed it. It was as contrasted as it could be with the outdoors.
That is quite a contrast. Seeing where you are now as an experienced outdoorsman, do you remember the point when this all changed for you?
Yes. The turning point was for me in 2016. I was back home from Uni and with no training, my cousin and I lied to our parents and went mountain biking on the Annapurna circuit. We were going up to Tilicho Lake, one of the highest lakes in the world, and I got altitude sickness. I was up for 30 hours, I had full on palpitations, breathing heavy, face swollen and everything. When I started to feel a bit better, my cousin was like, ok now we’re going to go all the way downhill in four days.
Seeing this landscape back, it was this whole different feeling. It was such a turning point in my life. The place where I was born actually gave me a purpose. I like to call it pursuing growth through discomfort.
What’s the most memorable trip that you've ever taken? Can you pick one out?
That’s like asking “describe beauty”, right? One thing comes to mind… it was more of an act, more of a situation. I was in Scotland, wanting to climb Mount Sullivan. I got there and it was a bit late, so I decided to pitch my tent, and plan in the morning. I woke up around two in the morning, and the water had come into the tent and gone in my sleeping bag!
I always tell my friends, when you're in those crazy moments, and things are going against you, you either can become the best version of yourself or the worst. I could tell I was already panicking, wondering if I should call 999. But in my head I’m like, “you always tell your friends; be the best or the worst. So what are you going to do?”
So I rinsed out my sleeping bag and socks, put the jetboil on and started drying my shoes inside out. Then I decided to just go out for a bit. And once you're out, that's it, the fear element is gone. Okay, it's raining and it's night but it’ll be morning in a few hours. Then as soon as you see the first light, the boost within yourself is amazing.
You've been on a few shoots with us now, so how has your relationship with the sea developed in that time?
That first shoot we did last year in Scotland really made a big difference. Being from the mountains I only saw the ocean when I was 18 years old. Also, being in that fashion crowd environment, I only saw the sea as a leisure thing, and only for lazy people.
We were in a bothy in the highlands, it was already 10pm at night, and someone says, “Oh, we forgot to shoot the sea element!” The Scottish Sea at 10pm at night… Everyone else surfs or is from Cornwall and they love the sea, and I remember asking the photographer, “do I have to get in!?” In a way it was good because it was work. And if it’s work, you have to get it done. So we went down and had a dip and it was great! For me it was like when I went for my first climb, that's the feeling I got.
So have you taken that on as something that you do now?
Yeah, 100%. In February, I was in the Isle of Portland doing some rock climbing and swimming in three or four degrees water. It was amazing.
To finish up, what is your next big adventure?
We're aiming to go to Everest region. I've never been, just out of respect, but I want to go and do a mountain cleaning project in the base camp of Mount Baruntse. There are a lot of tents and oxygen cylinders that have been left; often the weather closes in and it's life or death. So we're getting to the base camp, and from there we're going to be going out cleaning up. The idea is to maybe go further up with the Sherpas, if it's more hikeable and not too technical, and try and clean up whatever we can as we go.
I’ve always had this thing; I have to respect nature for what it's given me.