How Satish Gogineni climbed Everest and Lhotse in a 96-hour push
It’s impossible to know you’ll climb a mountain like Everest (8,849 meters) before you actually do so—there are so many variables, like weather, the condition of the route, your health and response to the altitude, and objective hazards like serac falls and avalanches. But as he acclimated on the hike in to Everest Basecamp in spring 2022, Satish Gogineni, a vice president at Bank of America, felt optimistic. A diehard runner since 2007 who has raced in 14 major marathons and two 50 K races as well as a climber since 2013, Satish had taken his impressive aerobic-endurance foundation and enhanced it further during his time working with Uphill Athlete’s (UA’s) Mark Postle. And now his training was paying off—big time.
After a rest day on the hike in to Everest, Satish, who was part of a Pioneer Expeditions trip to Everest and Lhotse, climbed from Dingboche (4,400 meters) to the top of Nagarjuna peak (5,100 meters) and back in lightning-fast time. “When I came back down, the Sherpa was surprised that I was able to go up and come back down in two hours, and he said, ‘You’re definitely going to summit,’” recalls Satish.
On May 16 at 5 a.m. Satish stood on top of Everest, proving the prediction correct; on May 17 at 12:30 a.m., he summited neighboring Lhotse (8,516 meters), having pushed to the top of the two 8,000-meter giants in 96 hours from basecamp, tagging both summits within 20 hours. Minus his oxygen regulator freezing up just above the Hillary Step, causing a tense five minutes while he climbed up to his guide, Pasang Sherpa, who was able to restore the flow of oxygen, the climbs came off without a hitch. In fact, says Satish, he felt like he could have kept going, and would have gladly continued from Lhotse on the traverse to Nuptse if he’d had a permit for the third peak.
Originally from Hyderabad, India, with his 8,000-meter climbs in May Satish set a new speed record for an Indian mountaineer to tag the two summits—not surprising, given his nearly two decades as a hardcore runner. Though Satish was not particularly athletic as a youth, he and his brother played cricket, among other sports. When he moved to the United States in 2004 and began to dabble in collegiate sports, Satish realized he wasn’t fast, and so took up running to improve his speed. Today it’s his foundational exercise, and he runs six to eight miles every morning before work, putting in longer runs on the weekends. (When he isn’t in mountaineering-training mode, Satish aims for 60-mile weeks to prep for ultra-marathons.)
Satish found climbing in 2013 during a trip up Mount Whitney with a friend. He has since gone on to climb Orizaba and Iztacchíhuatl in Mexico; mounts Shasta, Hood, and Rainier in the Pacific Northwest; Denali in Alaska; and Aconcagua in Argentina. In fact, he makes a point of re-climbing Whitney, Shasta, Hood, and Rainier every year during his climbing season (March through July) just to be back on his favorite peaks and touch base with his alpine fitness and skills.
Satish climbed Denali with three friends in June 2021, then Aconcagua solo in January 2022. Back in Mendoza, Argentina, a few days later Satish reached out to Postle to get his/Uphill Athlete’s opinion on whether he might be ready for an attempt at Everest. “I didn’t want to be a liability for anyone while on the mountain, so knowing that many athletes aspiring to climb Everest work with Uphill, I reached out to see how my climbing résumé compared to theirs,” he says. Satish was familiar with UA through podcasts and the “How to climb Denali” video, and had read the book Training for the Uphill Athlete to self-coach for Denali and Aconcagua. But he’d never been formally coached before. This would be a first.
Postle, knowing that Satish already had a solid endurance base, put the training focus on strength and agility. The two stayed in touch to track progress via the Training Peaks app, text messages, and the occasional phone call.
Each week, Satish put in two days of strength training plus one hour of endurance work at his aerobic threshold (Zone 2), two days of local hikes or aerobic-threshold runs, one day of weighted intensity work—maximal uphill effort sustained for one hour straight—and one day of hiking six to eight hours while carrying 20 percent of his body weight. “The focus was to keep me outside on my feet as long as possible. All of this was to train me for big days on the mountain,” says Satish.
During this time, he also moved from the Bay Area to Boulder, Colorado, where he could work with the Alpine Training Center and its coach/owner Connie Sciolino. For the big uphill days, Satish would climb Bear Peak above Boulder, a six-mile roundtrip with nearly 3,000 feet of gain. Or he’d go down to the infamous Incline hike in Manitou Springs, Colorado, which gains 2,020 feet at a grade of 41 to 68 percent as it tackles 2,744 steps beelining directly up the lower flanks of Pike’s Peak. For elevation work, his peak of choice was Quandary Peak (14,271 feet), an easy-to-reach Fourteener in Summit County.
Given his busy schedule and demanding job in finance, Satish liked the structure UA provided. “It was helpful for me that Mark was telling me what to do,” he says. “I didn’t have to think, Am I overdoing it or am I underdoing it? Is my training adequate for me to go climb Everest? Mark took all that stress away. It gave me a peace of mind.” Having a structured training plan also helped Satish stave off injury.
He also says he learned to be patient and to trust the process. For example, on his marathon-training runs, Satish usually runs a 7:30–7:45 per-mile pace, but Postle urged him to shave 60 to 90 seconds off that time to train his aerobic threshold, an adjustment that took some months. And while he was initially skeptical about carrying heavy loads—heavier than he’d actually be carrying on the Everest—on his hikes, Satish began to see gains there too. “Every week when my load increased and I was going faster, it just helped me get stronger,” he says. “I’d go back to Mark and ask for more workouts—‘I’ve been doing those things, but I feel like I can add on more.’” Leading into his time training with UA, Satish had been recovering from three hand surgeries, severe back issues, and—like so many of us—the depression and isolation of the COVID pandemic. As he began to see his fitness increase, his mental health improved as well.
“I was happy to get any time in the outdoors,” he says.
Satish also incorporates yoga and Pilates into his training regimen, and has been practicing yoga on and off since 2016. He uses both practices as a way to complement and cool down from the heavy-impact sports of running and mountaineering, and cites a few benefits of each: “1) Being flexible. 2) Focusing on the breath 3) Helps me be mentally and emotionally strong.” On a big, high-stakes climb like Denali or Everest, it’s important to remain present, to pay attention to each footfall and to the ever-changing mountain environment. “[Yoga and Pilates] help me calm down, they help me with breathing, they help me focus,” Satish says—the perfect counterpart to the physical training he did with UA.
Satish has many great memories from his time on Everest and Lhotse. Perhaps his favorite spot was the Balcony, at around 8,400 meters en route to Everest’s South Summit. He reached the aerie around 2 a.m. on summit day, and from there could see Makalu lit by a full moon, with an electrical storm flashing in the sky behind. He also has fond memories of the South Summit, which he reached just as dawn cracked its bright yellow line across the horizon, casting Everest’s shadow onto the mountains below and framing the brilliant-white moon. “Everything else was just far, far lower than you,” says Satish. “You’re talking about these big 8,000-meter peaks just hundreds of meters below you. It was a pretty amazing feeling.”
As he stood there taking in the view, Satish looked ahead to the final stretch of ridge—the Cornice Traverse and Hillary Step below the true summit. “I was like, ‘I really wish this was longer,’ because I was really enjoying that face,” he says. “I was enjoying the suffering, but also enjoying the views around me to the point that I wanted to just keep going. “
“I’m very much in favor of Uphill Athlete and the influence they had on my training,” he says.