Dean Maher recently stood on the top of Everest having planned to do it a year later and changing plans. It marked the culmination of some extreme fitness training,
- Climbed Everest as a vegan with all vegan gear and clothing
- Summitted some of the highest peaks
- Experienced in extreme trekking routes
The summiting of Everest is one of the greatest achievement in mountaineering, and was part of Dean’s fourth trip to the Himalayas. He’s previously climbed Himlung Himal (7,126m), Imja Tse (Island Peak, 6189 m) and Lobuche East (6119m). He’s also trekked the 3 Passes, Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Base Camp.
Dean had been vegan for four years before ascending Everest, having made the change in 2015. It’s a strongly held belief that influences his choices when buying climbing gear, household products and of course food. It lead him to seek out products that were not routinely available.
“With a lot of the equipment it’s fairly easy to find stuff off the shelf” Dean told Great Vegan Athletes shortly after the Everest mission. “Things like thermals, socks, jackets, etc are all readily available. The biggest problem was sourcing a synthetic summit suit and mittens without leather palms or filled with down. Save the Duck came to the rescue with the suit and my friend Kuntal Joisher supplied me with some synthetic mittens made in Kathmandu.”
Kuntal is a fellow vegan climber who finished his second ascent of Everest around the same time – his second as a dietary vegan and first using only vegan equipment. Dean was helped by Kuntal in finding some of the products and the two met shortly before the Everest ascent.
Dean’s personal journey to veganism started in Vietnam in 2015.
“I first started to question my habits when I was in Vietnam” he says. “I was riding a motorbike and pulled up next to a man also on a motorbike but it’s had a cage on the back stuffed full of dogs, and I mean stuffed full! I was absolutely fuming. How can someone do that to these animals, doesn’t he know how amazing dogs are?
“I was shaking with anger as I pulled away but a short time later I pulled up next to another bike. Same setup but the cage was stuffed full of chickens. I looked at the chickens and thought, ‘OK these animals are in the same situation, destined for the same fate and suffering just as much as the dogs but I feel differently to when I saw the dogs’.
“I pulled away and carried on with my travelling but ever since that moment my mind began to open and question exactly why I felt differently. After that my good friend Dannii recommended that I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. After I read it I remember sitting up in bed and thought ‘OK, I have to see this with my own eyes’ so I watched Earthlings straight away.
“It’s time to take responsibility for our actions and make choices that align with our very own beliefs. If I can summit the highest mountain in the world without using a single animal product then you can make some simple changes in your day to day life.“
“After I watched that I have myself two options, either continue to eat meat and stop calling myself an animal lover or stop eating meat and continue to call myself an animal lover… I chose the latter.
Unfortunately it took me two years to become vegan but it’s something I will never turn my back on now.”
Now Dean eats a lot of variety, although bananas, peanut butter and berries are a big part of his diet. It enables him to complete the conditioning necessary for tough assignments like mountaineering.
“With mountaineering there’s no one way that people train” he explains.” I personally adopt a mixture of trail running (with hills), interval training, weight training, backpack training (30kg ascending 1,400m) and also do regular stretching and meditation.”
As in many areas of society, mountaineering has not fully accepted veganism yet.
“It’s not normally a problem. A lot of athletes these days are aware that people can thrive on a vegan diet and know many accomplished vegan athletes. There was a few people on my Everest trip that needed bit of convincing but once they saw my capabilities they became inquisitive of my vegan lifestyle which I then gladly answered questions about.”
Climbing Everest is a triumph many would not contemplate, and one that many aspire to but never accomplish, However, Dean doesn’t see it as his greatest accomplishment.
“My dream has never been to climb Everest, my dream is to somehow have some kind of impact in reducing the amount of animal cruelty in this world. I want to show that being vegan has no limitations and that there is absolutely no place for animal cruelty in this modern world. There are incredible vegan alternatives to not only the food we eat but the clothes we wear, the products we put on our skin and everything else in between. By reaching the top of Mount Everest I hope I have done that!”
“We all claim to be against animal cruelty. Yet every single animal product we buy intrinsically involves the killing and exploitation of the innocent and vulnerable beings that we so adamantly claim to care about. If you buy, they die.
“It’s time to take responsibility for our actions and make choices that align with our very own beliefs. If I can summit the highest mountain in the world without using a single animal product then you can make some simple changes in your day to day life. GO VEGAN. For yourself, for the planet, for the animals “