In May 2022, Prakriti Varshney became the first female Indian vegan (possibly the first female vegan worldwide) to successfully scale Mount Everest. She has since scaled three of the highest mountains in Africa, and aims to climb nine more in various countries this year.
Twenty-six year old Prakriti had been vegan for more than five years before starting this climb. She originally embraced the vegan lifestyle after learning about the impact of the dairy industry on the environment and the animals themselves. She volunteers with an animal rescue nonprofit and uses social media to encourage people to take care of animals. She brought her sustainability concerns with her during her Everest expedition by being very conscious of what she left behind on the mountain. She was shocked by the amount of garbage left behind by other climbers.
For several years now, Kuntal Joisher, a 35 year old software programmer from Los Angeles, has been trying to become the first vegan climber to conquer Mount Everest. His goal is to not only prove the physical power behind a plant-based diet, but also to represent the billions of animals slaughtered each year for food and clothing. “As an ethical vegan for over 12 years, I want to inspire others to learn about vegan lifestyles,” he says. Such a journey not only includes fueling his body with plant-based food to the summit, but also using animal-friendly gear in the process.
In April 2014, after years of training, Joisher finally found himself at Everest base camp but an avalanche cut short his plans. Joisher, undeterred, vowed to return stronger and more prepared. Just over a year later, on April 25, the man on a mission of compassion once again found himself at base camp in the midst of another disaster. “The ground started shaking, I could feel it. I tried to tell everyone what I had just felt. Everyone dismissed me. And then the ground started shaking harder. This time everyone took notice. I shouted, ‘Earthquake!’ as we all exited the tent. The entire ground was shaking like I’d never felt before. We turned around to find ourselves face to face with a huge white cloud, possibly the largest thing I had ever seen in my life, approaching us at an unreal speed.” Fortunately, he survived.
Despite being involved in yet another tragic climbing season on Everest, Joisher vows that he will return again to finally realize his dream. “I will come back to the expedition next year.” We can all admire his determination and courage, and hope that we can report back with the news that the first vegan has just summited Mount Everest. Hang in there, Kuntal. We’re all rooting for you!