Above14000ft and My Story
Over the years many people who have done trips with us have often wanted to know what my story was and how Above14000ft came to be. I feel anyone who goes out into the wild to pursues adventures eventually comes back home and has stories to share. Here is mine...
Hi my name is kaushal desai and I am the owner and founder of Above14000ft. In the mid 90’s when I was still in my early 20's I decided to take a sabbatical from my corporate software job. Fresh from a mountaineering course I wanted to be able to do more climbs explore the Himalayas and pursue adventures. So I quit my job and decided to go visit a friend who lived in Zanskar.
In the 90’s Zanskar was a remote exotic land deep in the Himalayas. A land that not only had big mountains and rugged landscapes but also had a lot of cultural and spiritual history to it. Not having too much mountaineering experience I tried to learn the ways of the land by travelling and living with local Zanskari horsemen and nomads. Slowly as I learnt the ways of these mountains I started to make small beginnings and climbing easy 5000 and 6000 m peaks. In the early years there were definitely more failures than success. There were also very limited resources with knowledge and gear availability.
My bible back then was Mountaineering Freedom of the Hills, my gear stash came from army surplus stores in Leh and Kargil that sold used army gear. I often found inspiration in the writings of Khalil Gibran, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Walter Bonnati, Gaston Rebuffat, Eric Shipton, Bill Tilman, Herman Bhul, Reinhold Messner, Jerzy Kukuczka, Fred Becky, Youn Chouinard, Tom Frost etc…
Being ingenious and resourceful were skills I was always good at and I improvised a lot. I spent my early years doing many hikes and climbs around Zanskar, KIshtwar and Manali. Slowly in a couple of years as I got better I also had started working with trekking and climbing groups that came into the Zanskar valley.
Climbing groups were my favourite as it allowed me to meet and spend time with climbers from different countries. Some climbers seeing my enthusiasm allowed me to go on climbs with them on their trips. My interactions with these climbers and doing some climbs in this manner with other more experienced mountaineers gave me more insight and learning into the world of mountaineering. Slowly with a lot of practise my skills got better and my confidence grew. I started experimenting with more harder climbs. Sometimes I would climb with a few local friends or other times did solo forays.
I often worked all summer and did personal climbs in autumn and early spring. I started getting better and was able to put up some new climbs on peaks around the Zanskar, Kishtwar, Miyar, Manali and the East Karakoram.
Then around 1999 a friend invited me to work at the mountaineering institute in Manali teaching climbing courses and also helping them setup their web and internet systems. I decided it was time for a change in scenery and moved to Manali. That winter I also did a few skiing courses and started to pick up skiing. Then in 2001 I did some Liaison Officer work with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. This turned out be a good break for me. I got to meet and work with climbers like Kei Tanaguchi, Thomas and Alex Huber, Fred Becky and a lot of climbers from all over the world.
I was always the curious kinds and had a friendly and pleasing personality which allowed me to make friends easily. I would help out with their climbing work, help them with load ferrying etc. My attitude and my easy manner often led to climbers inviting me to join their climbing teams on the climbs. In this way I kept learning and absorbing as much as I could from all kinds of climbers and I kept getting really good at various aspects of technical climbing. Looking back these were such amazing and fun times.
Slowly with the years my reputation grew as not just a mountaineer but also as some one who was very intricately familiar with the Indian Himalayas. It was only a matter of time before climbing parties arriving in India started connecting with me for information and help with permit bookings, organising transport to and from various road heads, help with organising base camp, kitchen staff, horses, porters etc for climbs across the Indian Himalayas. A lot of climbing groups liked working with me as I was also a climber and could relate to their mindsets and their needs.
My intricate knowledge about valleys like the Miyar and Kishtwar helped open up these areas to early explorations and climbing for climbers like Massimo Marcheggiani, Mick Fowler etc. Soon the demand for my services grew and before I realised I was in business. Finally in 2003 I setup a company of my own and founded Above14000ft. The idea was to work with mountaineering expeditions and help them with organising their adventures across the Indian Himalayas.
In my free time I could still continued to pursue my climbing objectives and also got better Skiing and started to enjoy the winter scape Ski Touring.
In the Summer of 2006 I met a friend who introduced me to paragliding and gave me my first tandem joy ride. I loved my first flight so much that I soon started to learn how to fly. Paragliding opened up a whole new world for me and I soon got quite serious with my flying.
In the mean time Above14000ft started getting bigger and I started adding other activities and tours to our offerings. I started to also offer Trekking, Cycling, Ski Tours and Mountaineering Courses. As the business grew my team of Guides, Cooks, Camp Helpers, Porters, Horsemen and 4X4 drivers also grew all over the Indian Himalayas.
By 2010 I was already creating a fusion of adventures by mixing Trekking, Climbing, Ski Touring and Paragliding and pushing my personal and professional boundaries by offering tours all across the Himalayan states of Himachal, Zanskar, Ladakh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim.
Looking back over the last 25 years I have managed to have some awesome adventures and create an amazing way of life. I have also made thousands of friends all over the world. I feel happy to have stayed true to my roots and continue to enjoy the outdoor though hiking, climbing, skiing and paragliding. I still love to accompany groups into the field and to help people discover the Himalayas and many other wild and unexplored places all over the world.