Priyanka Mohite, a 26-year-old mountaineer, last month climbed the world’s fifth highest peak, Mt. Makalu in Mahalangur Himalayas, 19 km southeast of Mt. Everest. This Satara-based enthusiast also managed to scale Mt. Lhotse, which is the fourth highest mountain in the world, in May 2018. In 2013, she became the youngest girl from Maharashtra to have conquered Mt. Everest, and only the third youngest Indian to do so.
SheThePeople.TV catches up with the mountaineer to know the highs and lows about every climb. Excerpts from the interview.
You have scaled some of world’s highest peaks. What personal reason has inspired your mountaineering stint?
I used to go with cousins and my uncle for trekking. Coming from Satara (city of hills which is in Maharashtra), since childhood I had started exploring the hills in my area and then when I was in 7th class I started trekking with a professional group. Later, I kept following my interest in rock climbing and after my 12th board exam a basic mountaineering course in 2010 from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering set the road clear for me. The passion grew and later I even finished an advance mountaineering course in 2012.
How did the first climb feel like?
I climbed my first mountain in advance mountaineering course in 2012 which was Mt. Bandarpoonch, which is at a height of 6200m. It was amazing and a satisfying climb.
You also became the youngest climber from the state and the third youngest Indian to scale Mt. Everest. Who helped you in your journey so far?
Credit goes to my parents who supported me from the beginning. I climbed Mt. Everest under the leadership of Col Neeraj Rana. Anand Shinde (Mumbai police, mountaineer) Hrishikesh Yadav (mountaineer) gave me a lot of guidance. Sherpa Temba Bhote deserves a special mention here because I summited Mt. Everest with him. Last, but not the least, my coach Ramchandra Shreshta, who trained me before I attempted to climb Mt. Everest.
How did your life change with mountaineering?
Every mountain teaches me a lot. The basic things I’ve learnt are discipline, time management, risk management, team spirit, dedication, being humble, so many things which I apply in my day-to-day life too.
How is the mountaineering scene in India for women according to you? We don’t see many women taking up this thrilling career?
Now-a-days women climb and we slay at it too. In small cities people are not aware about mountaineering and on top of that they lack family support. For it to be taken up as a career you need physical fitness as well as financial support too. Climbing above 8000m takes lot of money. Today, even for me it’s hard to get by sometimes.
What are your favourite places as a mountaineer?
Sahyadri mountain range in Maharashtra (which is energy for me)
And, of course, the Himalayas (Himachal, Uttarakhand, Nepal, Darjeeling)
Could you briefly tell us about your goals and upcoming tours?
There are fourteen 8000m mountains in the world. I have already climbed Mt. Everest, Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Makalu. The remaining is in my bucket-list but my next climb will be Mt. Kanchenjunga.
Any future plans for young girls who are enthusiastic about mountaineering?
I want to give adventure related training and want to lead expedition with young girls.
What was the reaction of the society when you started mountaineering and how did you face the criticism?
Lot of criticism came my way when I started climbing and more so before Mt. Everest, but then my family always supported me so I was always positive about my passion.
What inspires you every day?
Everyone who is doing something good, something exciting in their lives and even struggling and taking it positively, and moving forward in life, inspires me. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj inspires me a lot and gives me energy to continue with my passion.
What is your message to young girls?
Just be you and work hard. Work hard in silence; let your success make the noise.
Each climb demands something from you and if you feel short of something, you are most likely to face injuries. Your take
Yes, I have faced so many difficulties to get sponsorship for my climb. I am still short of three lakhs to pay my agency for the recent climb of Mt. Makalu. They will give my certificate when I submit the full amount. So, you can imagine how hard it is to go on and still feel positive. While climbing 8000m, it’s a little difficult without oxygen, but thankfully no injuries have happened till date.
How can we inspire more women to take up mountaineering?
We have to make them aware about climbing with safety. I have seen many people who only decide on summiting for the glamour but they should enjoy the climb too. For me summiting is just half way. Coming down safely is success. And, that’s the important part of it. We need to guide everyone who aspires this in life.
Share your strategies and insights before making that climb?
Every day I train myself. Discuss with Serpa, Col Rana and my dad. The height inspires me and I think about the thrill all the way to the summit and then descending.
Lack of support from people is a major concern. Tell us your story.
I get no support from the government. Earlier too, I had applied to the Maharashtra government to fund my required amount for the climb but no such luck.
Also climbing is a male-dominated field, I have always been subjected to a lot of unwanted criticism. I think the discrimination has something to do with my gender. Girls are always expected to stay at home, or work at a job less risky. In such a scenario, if I am daring to climb better than men, in this profession I am defying the odds, challenging everyday challenges, then I must be passionate about what I do, right.
I have earned many firsts till now and don’t want to do a single mistake, so I just want to get my confidence and gain more knowledge. I hope to pave the way for future women mountaineers.
Feature Image Credit: Priyanka Mohite