How our mountain-climbing adventures began

This is one of the stories in our Story-Gems project, a collection of our experiences with our Guru, Sri Chinmoy. Project homepage »

Aconcagua is the highest mountain in South America

I swam the English Channel swim in 1988. In 1989 we went to a mountain in Argentina called Aconcagua, which is one of the biggest mountains outside of the Himalayas. That started 18 years of high-altitude climbing. For 18 years, I went mountaineering on different places around the world: Alaska, Bolivia, Peru, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and Tibet.

Basically, we worked our way up to climbing bigger and bigger mountains. We would always send a message to Guru through Ashrita about what we wanted to do to find out whether Guru would stand behind it, whether Guru thought it was a good idea or not.


Guru had a system of response that went from “Very good, very good”—that was a good one—to “Let him or let them.” If Guru said that… then that was Guru’s worst response. Guru probably didn't want to tell us too directly and “uninspire” us, but if Guru said “Let him,” that would mean that we would pretty much be on our own. That's how we took it anyway.

But in fact, one time some other disciples wanted to do a very difficult climb in the Himalayan Pakistan, and Guru said, “If they go there, they'll die.”

The town of Huaraz (source: wikimedia using Creative Commons licence)

One of our favourite places to go climbing—and Guru would always approve of it—was Peru. It became our home away from home. There's a town called Huaraz up in the high plains of Peru. We went there 13 different times to climb various peaks.

So up on top of a mountain like that, the ground is absolutely hard. It's totally solid ice, and our tradition was to bury a transcendental photograph on every mountain that we climbed—which is several dozen big mountains. We left photographs, transcendental photographs of Guru sealed in containers on top of all these mountains in places that we thought would never be disturbed.

On this particular mountain, we were searching around, but there was absolutely nowhere to hide anything. We finally examined this crack and pounded ice axes down in there as far as we could go—maybe about two feet—and we managed to put a film in there. This is back in the days of film photos. We had a film container with Guru’s transcendental. Guru used to bless the transcendentals and we would get them directly from Guru before we went. So, we taped up this container and put it down into the ice and covered it up.

These climbs take a lot of money, so the process of climbing is just part of it. I think I spent twelve thousand dollars on that particular climb. And the only reason I say that is because Guru would have to guide me to find work and the means of getting the money together and the training before the climb could even happen.

As I said, we did this for 18 years, so as we kind of climbed up the ladder of difficulty, we got into some pretty hard technical climbing. We wanted to keep going, and I had to keep asking Guru if I could do these harder and harder events.

So my understanding after many years is that in all manifestation projects, the very foremost thing is harmony. We're showing the world how to be harmonious. I read something recently where Guru said that it would be better not to do a thing rather than doing it with disharmony. So Guru really valued harmony, absolute harmony, when we were doing manifestation.

For instance, in the climbing world, sometimes when we would actually see the mountain that we’re proposing to climb, some people would get inspired, some people would get scared. People would not necessarily want to admit what they were feeling, and Guru really expected us to respect and honor everybody's position on that and try to go forward in a meditative way.

I climb up
When I am in perfect harmony
With the world.

Sri Chinmoy 1