A video of Joisher gasping for breath in the avalanche has gone viral on YouTube.
Joisher, who was born in India into a vegetarian family, said he became a passionate “in-your-face” vegan in 2002 after he came to work in Los Angeles. But he wanted to convert the world, too. And what better way to do it than from the top of the world?
Joisher said that, until now, there has been only one vegan on top of the world, but he climbed from Tibet, not Nepal.
“A typical mountaineer’s diet is considered to be cheese, beef, dried meat, but I wanted to prove just the opposite,” Joisher said. “I changed not only the food I ate while climbing but also the mountaineer’s gear.”
Joisher spent a lot of time briefing the Nepalese kitchen staff who travelled with him in the expedition, and cut out cream from soup, milk from oatmeal, cheese from pasta and butter from cinnamon rolls. He got so tired of explaining the ills of factory farming to the Sherpa cooks that he just told them he had an allergy that could impede his climb. They got it immediately, he said.
He then jettisoned his leather boots and gloves and bought synthetic, non-down pants, caps and sleeping bags.
But there was one item he could not replace with vegan-friendly material — the full-body, down-filled suit that mountaineers wear on summit day on Mount Everest. He wrote frantic Facebook messages to six companies who manufacture mountain suits. Four replied saying they do not have any plan to make a synthetic substitute. He wrote to dozens of influential vegans in the West and asked them to weigh in.
“Imagine if you summited holding a vegan flag, wearing a down-filled suit,” he said.
He even thought of tearing up his synthetic sleeping bag and wearing it on summit day as a body suit. “But what if I died on Mount Everest wearing it. That would be such a bad publicity for the vegan cause,” Joisher said.
When the avalanche destroyed much of the base camp and killed climbers and sherpas, Joisher’s team decided to call off his mission to summit the world’s tallest peak.
“I will come back to the expedition next year,” he said. “That gives me more time to search for a practical, vegan-friendly suit for Everest summit day.”