Sky touching mountains, rocky terrains and volatile weather may not be an ideal trip for most of the people but for Rizza Alee it’s just another day in the business.
An adventurer, snowboarder, biker, mountaineer and photographer Rizza has several feathers in his cap. Hailing from Magam, Budgam, he was always inspired by peaks.
Having faced bullying at school for being different, he has been struggling with mental health challenges since and found an escape to nature through adventurous climbing treks in the Himalayas that prepared him for his Everest expedition at the age of 18.
He went to Manali, Rajasthan to pursue some mountaineering courses. He climbed many peaks and many alpine lakes of Kashmir which are also up to 4000 meters. One among the peaks is Stok Kangri (6,153 metres (20,187 ft)) which is the highest peak in Ladakh. 21 year old Rizza is also a global Ambassador for international athletic brands: Scott Sports India, Suunto India and SunGod United Kingdom.
Rizza said, “Nature has always provided me with the overwhelming feeling of peace and reflective silence to be able to hear the voice inside. I believe that our inner voice is the voice of God whispering gently to guide us through our life's purpose but we don't make enough time to listen to it.”
He spends most of his time in the lap of the giant mountains. The recently done expedition was his journey from Magam, Budgam to Turtuk- the last northern village of India on his cycle.
He is currently in production of his new documentary film, Road to Turtuk with an American director, set to be released in Winter 2023. The film follows his 637 km bike ride on the highest altitude road on the planet to India's northernmost remote village, Turtuk.
Amid sandstorm, landslide and other unstable weather conditions, he cycled for 14-13 hours per day covering an average distance of 220kms.
He said, “Last week I pedaled the highest altitude road on the planet on a grueling three day bike ride. I went through spectacular mountain passes and glaciers in the Himalayas and experienced extreme weather conditions and challenging roads stopping along the way to meet inspiring young men and women creating a positive impact in their local communities.”
In 2019, he became the youngest Kashmiri, who attempted to climb Mount Everest and was part of the tragic 2019 expedition to Mount Everest that resulted in eleven deaths due to over-trafficking. His photo from this expedition went viral gaining worldwide attention to the issue of overcrowding on Everest and became one of the most-seen images of Everest in history.
Like any other climber, it was his dream to climb Everest which is considered as one of the toughest expeditions in the world. The reason is the uncertainty of weather conditions. It takes almost 60-70 days to climb Everest which demands physical and mental strengths.
On Everest, one of the toughest parts is Khumbu icefalls, a river of ice, a kilometer or so, is normally crossed during the night or early morning with climbers putting headlamps on their helmets.
Normally the route is crossed between 3 am and 5 am, the time when the ice blocks and the hanging glaciers are stable and avalanche risks are low. During the day as the sun warms the mountains, the hanging glaciers begin to melt and ice starts to crumble causing avalanche risk. Hence, making it dangerous.
In 2019, there were around thousands of climbers including sherpas on the Everest which is the highest record in the history, there were around 300 climbers climbing on a single rope. The climber had to wait for 20-25 minutes after moving a few steps forward which caused the exhaustion of the oxygen cylinders of many climbers and sherpas.
When Rizza was some distance away from summiting Everest, his oxygen regulator went off and he couldn’t move forward with no oxygen supply. He had to make a tough decision in order to save his life which was to turn around.
“I made a decision to save my life. I believe that if I had been stupid enough to chase the summit, I would have killed myself like other people did. There is no regret but a lot of hopefulness and positivity. I continue getting messages from people and that keeps me going and inspires me. Unless Everest calls me, I am not going to plan it,” he said.
He also made a documentary film about Everest - The Mountain that Changed My Life because that's what it literally did to him. His life has been very full and active since his Everest expedition. The documentary has been viewed by over 4.2 million people on YouTube to date. He was also featured as the main subject for a CNA-produced documentary about Everest which recently aired on National Geographic India called, ‘A Deadly Ascent.’
For his finest skills at photography and cinematography, he was honored as a Google Map Top Photographer of 2021 achieving over 1.5 million views of his photos. He co-produced and co-directed a new documentary film for Al Jazeera called, Kashmir: Skiing in a conflict zone that was aired in May 2022.
“As in life itself, the journey is spectacular but filled with unbelievable challenges and dangers. There are no words to describe the majesty of the world's highest mountains when you are so close to the stars that you feel you can almost touch them. The harsh and extreme conditions, coupled with the spectacle of nature remind you of our insignificance as humans and allow you to connect with a deep sense of humility and gratitude for being alive,” he said.
In future he wants to continue merging his passion for nature, adventure and storytelling through a number of projects that include making documentary films about his intending adventures around the world, and actively promoting his social issue platforms on mental health wellness and environmental conservation.
“I'm so fortunate to be able to tell my story through film, public speaking engagements which included a recent TedX NIT Srinagar talk, high schools and universities. I have numerous projects in development for the future so there's no time to take a break and slow down. We live in challenging times all over the planet and this is the time to roll up our sleeves and become very involved in every aspect of community-building, and taking special care of our human family and our earthly home,” he added.
He focuses his content production for his sponsors based on the natural beauty, culture, and people of Kashmir in order to keep Kashmir's presence very visible and relevant on the global map. He said, “We need more people to know of our existence and come and visit our part of the world known as paradise on earth.”