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On the top of the world
- Steel city mom oldest Indian woman to scale Everest

Jamshedpur, May 20: An enviable height of determination and a small tip from dad today made Premlata Agarwal the oldest Indian woman to ever conquer the Everest.

The 45-year-old Jugsalai homemaker and mother of two daughters, who was part of a 22-member eco-Everest expedition team, touched the summit at 9.35am also to become the first woman from Jharkhand to scale the 29,029ft peak.

Guided by Asian Trekking Agency, the organisers of the expedition, the team took the extremely windy and greatly challenging South Col (Camp 4 at 26,000ft) route from Nepal side at 11pm yesterday.

The multinational trekking team led by Steven Sherpa Dawa dared an overnight trek to climb the summit.

The Indian contingent, besides Premlata, comprised Sunita Singh, Narendar Singh, Pawan Grewal, Sushma and Vikas Kaushik. Ace climbers Rodrigo Raineri of Brazil and David Liano of Mexico accompanied them.

The summit climb was tentatively scheduled for May 13, but heavy snowfall and gale winds forced the team to abandon plans near Camp 4 (26,000ft) a day earlier and take the descent route to base camp (18,000ft).

But the daredevils didn’t give up. Premlata perhaps remembered an oft-repeated lesson from her businessman father Ramawtar Garg. “Never reverse a decision. Good or bad, stick to it,” the septuagenarian had always told her.

On May 16, the team once again trekked to Camp 2 (22,000ft) and then to Camp 3 (23,000ft) a day later. Camp 4 was conquered on May 18. A day’s rest and the mountain maiden, who had to opt for artificial oxygen at Camp 3 during their earlier quest on May 7, was ready to romance the Everest at sunrise.

“Premlata has achieved a tremendous feat. It is a big step towards my vision of empowering women. I always had great faith and confidence in her skills as a mountaineer. I congratulate her on her achievement,” Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to scale the Everest and Tata Steel’s chief of adventure programmes, told The Telegraph from Uttarkashi.

Premlata’s family members, husband Vimal in particular, were too thrilled for words to describe her phenomenal achievement. “It was an extraordinary decision (to scale the Everest) taken by an extraordinary woman. I cannot say how proud I am,” Vimal, a senior journalist, said.

Tata Steel vice-president Sanjiv Paul echoed him. “This is a proud moment for all of us. I extend my heartiest congratulations to Premlata for having achieved this feat and also to Bachendri Pal for having trained and supported her all the way.”

In March, Premlata, Sunita and Narendra along with their surefooted Sherpas had flown to Lukla for a pre-Everest climb on Island Peak (20,600 ft) as part of a mandatory acclimatisation programme.

The homemaker has proved her mettle as an adventure junkie on several occasions. She participated in Tata Steel Adventure Foundation expeditions to Island Peak in Nepal in 2004, the Karakoram Pass (18,300 ft) and Mt Stok Kangri (20,150ft) in 2006, the First Indian Women’s Thar Desert Expedition in 2007, which involved a 40-day camel safari from Bhuj in Gujarat to the Wagah border in Punjab. Her achievements have already found her a place in the Limca Book of Records.

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