Peak performance Supermom wins Seven Summit title

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By JAYESH THAKER
  • Published 1.06.13
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And she has done it!

Jamshedpur supermom Premlata Agarwal has become the first Indian woman to ace the seven continental peaks with her recent conquest of Mount McKinley in Alaska, US, paying a fitting tribute to 60 years of the first Everest expedition.

The 49-year-old homemaker from Jugsalai reached her final summit at 20,320ft at 7pm on May 23 after an arduous trek of 19 days. McKinley — better known as Denali or the high one in indigenous Athabaskan languages — is the third most prominent peak in the world after Mt Everest and Mt Aconcagua (South America), which have already bowed to Premlata’s amazing determination.

Besides carving a niche for herself in history by climbing all the Seven Summits, she is also the first Indian woman atop the highest peak of North America.

“I feel proud to be an Indian and a woman. I am thankful to Chaibasa’s Nandlal Rungta for sponsoring my expedition to Denali. Without his support, I would have never annexed this challenging summit,” said the oldest Indian woman to ever conquer the Everest.

Premlata also thanked Tata Steel managing director H.M. Nerurkar and her mentor, Everester Bachendri Pal, for their encouragement. The steel major had sponsored her earlier expeditions, including one to McKinley in June last year. But, bad weather at Denali came a cropper.

Recounting the experience of her second expedition to McKinley over phone from Delhi, Premlata said: “We started from the high camp (17,200ft) at 8am on May 23. The weather was worsening. The temperature had dipped to minus 45 degrees. It was a very challenging trek to the top, but I am extremely happy to have finally made it.”

She added that the descent was equally difficult. “We left the peak late in the evening and arrived at high camp around 1am the following day.”

Padma Shri awardee Premlata recalled how her four-member team was grounded at Camp 3 (14,200ft) for 10 days due to high wind.

“We had lost all hopes of going any further. The temperature was 40 degrees below freezing point and the wind blew at 90kmph. Many climbers had to abandon trek,” Premlata said after she was felicitated by Jamshedpur MP Ajoy Kumar in the national capital on Friday.

As if it was god’s will, the weather improved soon. “And, we made a steady ascent.”

The gutsy climber had wrested Everest (29,029ft), Aconcagua (22,841ft) Kilimanjaro (19,341ft), Elbrus (18,510ft), Vinson Massif (16,050ft) and Carstensz Pyramid (16,024ft) before wrapping it off with Denali.

Tata Steel Adventure Foundation secretary P.P. Kapadia congratulated Premlata from Jamshedpur. “It is a great news. We knew she will not miss Denali this time,” he said.

Besides the homemaker-turned-climber, Kerala’s Malli Mastan Babu is the only other Indian to have bagged the Seven Summit title.

Maharashtra’s Krushnaa Patil faltered in her attempt to complete the climb chain over two years ago.