What worse than getting lost? Getting lost on the way to Mount Everest. And that’s exactly what happened to 16-year-old Shivangi Pathak, who dropped her radio transceiver during the trek, unable to contact anyone about her whereabouts.
Fate, however, had something else in store for the plucky teenager. After 10 interminably long hours, her family in Hisar (Haryana), who’d been waiting with bated breath, received a message that Pathak had reached the summit – and was now the youngest Indian woman to scale the highest peak of the Himalayas.
“We were extremely worried about her safety. The entire family prayed for hours for her safety without eating or drinking,” Pathak’s mother Aarti, 42, says. “It was after a really long ordeal. I cannot describe in words what it felt like to hear this news. We are so proud of her. She achieved what she was determined to.”
It’s hard to believe that this harrowing yet triumphant journey that Pathak embarked upon on May 15, started with a joke.
“We heard that an Everest summiter (Mamta Sodha) was appointed the Deputy Superintendent of Police. I joked that Shivangi should do something as big so she gets a similar job,” Aarti says.
Once the seed was planted in Pathak’s mind, there was no turning back. In fact, when she saw a video of Arunima Sinha, the first Indian amputee to climb the peak, it only pushed her further in that direction. Inspired by her, in November 2016, Pathak decided to climb the Everest.
She trained for over a year, for six to seven hours daily. One training session included a 10-km run, weight lifting and skipping. Pathak was also made to run with a backpack of 20 kgs on her shoulders. “At times, she would tie ankle weights and run. When tired, she put them on her wrist,” says her 27-year-old trainer, Rinku Pannu.
Pannu was a taskmaster, Pathak says. “She criticised me for being “too stylish”, that I looked as though I was there for a fashion show and not a training session. I had long hair back then and I was overweight.”
It hurt, but Pathak was determined. She chopped off her long locks and worked out to get into shape for her difficult goal. “She is my guru. She encouraged me to do it. I am immensely grateful to her,” says Pathak, who had to forego school to prepare for her climb.
On April 1, she landed in Nepal. From there, she trekked up to the base camp where she reached by April 5 and had to acclimatise herself for two weeks before beginning her mission on May 10. “The route was incredibly slippery. And a storm hit the range a day before I reached the summit,” Pathak recalls. “The ice on the way was very hard. It wouldn’t break. Stepping on it would make us slip. I also fell sick but I refused to give up,” she adds, thanking her guide, Ang Temba Sherpa, who was with her throughout the journey. “He was like god for me on that journey. He treated me like a younger sister, didn’t let me miss my family.”
On May 15, at 8.21am, Pathak finally made it. “The first person on my mind was my mother. I desperately wanted to hug her at that moment,” says the teenager, who then hoisted the national flag at the summit. “It was a moment of pride, not just for me but for many girls in Haryana and in the country. Girls can do anything. They just have to have faith and determination,” she added, thanking her parents for their support.
So what’s next on her plate? Climbing the highest summits of the rest of the continents before she turns 18. “Seven summits before 18,” Pathak says.
Mudita G (IANS)