Published: 17th March 2020
Meet Vaibhav Aiwale, an engineer from Mumbai who has scaled lofty peaks to hoist chains of the Indian flag
Vaibhav Aiwale, a 36-year-old chemical engineer from Mumbai, tells us about his passion for mountaineering and why he would continue with it
"The mountains are calling and I must go" – John Muir, Naturalist
This 36-year-old chemical engineer from Mumbai did exactly that. Born and brought up in Maharashtra's Wadegaon, Vaibhav Aiwale tells us that he is a mountaineer by choice and an engineer by chance. The passionate adventurist and mountaineering enthusiast already has two records to his credit — one in the India Book of Records and another in the Asia Book of Record for hoisting the most number of Indian flags atop the highest peaks of Europe and Africa. "Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing, author Barry Finlay had once said. This is what inspires me the most. I had set out on my first trek at Rajmachi Fort in Lonavala, Maharashtra, in the year 2000. After gaining confidence there, I kept exploring other peaks, mountains and adventures. Iran was where I had completed my first international trek and since then, there has been no looking back," says Vaibhav.
So, what inspired him to venture out in the unknown? "The King of the Maratha Empire Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj is an inspiration for me, my real hero. I have always been passionate about climbing mountains, the mere adrenaline rush that you feel after achieving such a feat is incomparable. I wish to continue the same despite having a regular job," he adds. What you may have noticed by now is that Vaibhav doesn't just climb lofty peaks but hoists a chain of our country's national flags there, which is quite a rare occurrence. He tells us that is where his engineering skills also come to play. "Around the world, mountaineering is a popular sport and people try different ways to reach their goals. It was quite an impromptu plan but on the occasion of our 72nd Independence Day, I thought to hoist a 72-feet flag at Mount Kilimanjaro. But the task is quite challenging due to heavy winds at such a high altitude. I realised it would be easier to hoist a chain of flags — 72 Indian flags. That's when I began designing the flag chain in which I have kept a space of about 1 cm between the flags for the high-speed winds to pass through and not tear them apart. That's where my engineering skills came in handy," he explains.
This year on August 15, Vaibhav is planning to create another record in the Australian continent at Mount Kosciusko by hoisting 74 flags. What stands out in all of Vaibhav's expeditions is that he has a specific cause that he advocates and promotes each time he sets out to conquer a summit. This time, he will promote the global cause of 'save the environment and discard plastic'. "Attaching a cause to my expeditions has always been a thing, it feels like I am not only doing this for my own satisfaction but to help promote a larger cause. I am going to hoist a flag chain made of 74 Indian flags on the occasion of 74th Independence Day this year," says Vaibhav.
Speaking about how a typical expedition feels like for this 36-year-old, he says, "I look forward to new challenges, memories I will be making and brand new experiences during the journey. We typically wake up early and eat a filling breakfast. Then comes the packing, followed by reaching the campsite. If we walk for a day, we can cover almost 15 kilometres. While returning, we have to observe the easy routes and rest spots. The day ends with dinner and a discussion on the next day's plan." Finally, he tells us what he feels about the scenario of mountaineering adventure sports in our country and, if given a chance, how he would like to promote it. "I think nowadays, everyone wants to climb a peak without proper guidance, that's why accidents have increased in number. I would like to highlight the point that one should not challenge nature, rather respect it. It’s always difficult to predict what will happen on top of a mountain or while climbing. I would request everyone that before they plan any adventure sports/mountaineering expeditions, they should have detailed knowledge about it," he explains.
A mountaineer's fitness regime:
- It is necessary to maintain one's fitness for expeditions. Vaibhav exercises every day and walks at least 15-20 kilometres per day
- Avoid junk food
- Vaibhav also does two treks a month to keep himself on his feet
Vaibhav also suggests that mountaineering adventure sports can be promoted in schools as extra-curricular activities, such as artificial walls for rock climbing, cash/trophy rewards for children who take up these activities and win accolades at competitions. About having joined a basic mountaineering course at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, Vaibhav says with conviction, "It will help me to be technically and theoretically stronger and will boost my confidence to climb more mountains."