While most of us crave to feel ‘on top of the world’, here’s someone who has been there, done that. An exclusive by celebrated Indian-mountaineer, Premlata Agarwal
I have scaled many peaks and I have come to understand that each peak is a challenge in itself. A mountain of lesser height can be more arduous than the mighty Mount Everest—the highest point on the earth. While chasing my Seven Summit mission, after successfully scaling Mount Kilimanjaro in South Africa, Mount Everest in Asia and Mount Aconcagua in South America, the fourth peak to climb, Mount McKinley in North America, gave me a jolt. I failed to reach the top of the peak by just 900ft! Effectively scaling the three peaks filled me with the arrogance of accepting the future challenges as just a matter of time. But McKinley broke all my illusions. I felt shattered and at one point, the thought of exiting the mission crossed my mind.
However, I recomposed myself and continued with the remaining peaks with renewed focus and energy, only to return to McKinley after conquering three peaks in Europe, Australasia and Antarctica. The only one left to be conquered was Mount McKinley, the peak that stood above the rest. Again, it was not an easy climb. The snow blizzard and extreme cold condition had me on the verge of hopelessness but, I did not give up. My determination in spite of the hostile predicament ultimately saw me to the peak! My spirit soared. My body and mind were one. I had attained that unique joy and the ethereal bliss of having scaled the Seven Continental Summits and that too as the oldest Indian woman mountaineer. Yes, it was a Zen moment and the spirits cannot be explained in mere words.
Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world that I ever climbed, but I must tell you that there is a distinction between ‘highest’ and ‘tallest’ peaks. The highest mountain is determined by measuring a mountain’s highest point above sea level. The tallest mountain is measured from base to summit. Using that measurement, Mount McKinley is taller than Mount Everest. McKinley rises about 18,000ft (5,500m) from its base, which is a greater vertical rise than Mount Everest’s 12,000ft rise (3,700m) from its base at 17,000ft (5,200m).
I witnessed creation in its entire glory. The feel can only be treasured in my mind, heart and soul by another person who has actually been there. It cannot be defined, it needs the will to dare and experience the joy of attainment.
Every expedition to me is a pursuit of dreams and I try to convert them into realities– a reality to inspire and cherish. It certainly heightens my happiness
“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves,” said Sir Edmund Hillary. Going by his words, I never tried to conquer any mountain. I just climb or scale them. I started taking mountaineering lessons at the age of 35 and my journey of scaling peaks began with a trek to the Dalma Hill top (3,400ft) a small hill on the outskirts of Jamshedpur city. I still continue to regularly climb peaks. The spirit to face and overcome exhausting and risky ascent routes gives me the sense of immense joy and satisfaction. But, I must add that the happiest moments in my life came much before the mountaineering laurels. The most blissful moments for me were when my daughters were born. The happiness of motherhood is superior to any other fulfilment for any women. Today, they are the ones who inspire and egg me on, and boost my spirit of adventure to master the major challenges of daunting heights.
“I witnessed creation in its entire glory. The feel can only be treasured in my mind, heart and soul by a person who has actually been there. It cannot be defined, it needs the will to dare and experience the joy of attainment.”
As told to Anita Aikara