Deeya Bajaj, who with her father Ajeet Bajaj made a record of sorts becoming a first father-daughter duo in India to scale Mt. Everest, speaks to Chandigarh Newsline.
How did you get interested in mountaineering?
I have been going for hikes ever since I was young because my father was the first Indian to ski to the North and the South Poles. He was awarded the Padma Shri for this. Because of this, mountaineering has always been a big part of my life. My father is my inspiration and guide, and our family has always been very supportive. My father and I mostly climb together. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a family that always encouraged me to follow my dreams regardless my gender.
How many peaks have you climbed so far? Which ones to plan to scale in the future?
I have scaled six of the Seven Summits (highest mountains of each of the seven continents). I am only left with Denali in North America, which I am planning to attempt next month.
What kind of challenges did you face while climbing Mount Everest? Did you feel like giving up at any moment?
The biggest challenge other than cold is the altitude. The altitude makes things difficult as beyond a certain point you do not feel like eating, you can barely sleep but despite everything you have to climb for hours on end. Everything becomes challenging when your body becomes extremely weak.
What kind of training does a person need if she/he wants to go mountain-climbing?
It depends on the difficulty level, but I would recommend a basic course in mountaineering. Build your skill levels with smaller climbs and then move towards doing bigger climbs.
How expensive is mountaineering as a hobby/passion?
The Seven Summits, including Mt. Everest in Nepal, Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mt. Vinson Masiff in Antarctica, Aconcagua in South America, Denali in North America, Carstsensz in Oceania, Elbrus in Europe are especially very expensive. This is because of the type of logistics support you need. If you are climbing a peak in India, it will usually be cheaper than trying to do something similar abroad. Mountaineering, regardless of the location, is expensive but it is highly specialised.
Do you think it should be encouraged or do you think the sudden glut of hobbyists in this area is ruining the mountains? For instance, litter has become a mammoth problem on the mountain trails. What can be done to deal with it?
I think mountaineering should be encouraged even for people who are just starting out. Everyone can learn a lot and have an incredible time outdoors. But what I think is very important for everyone is that they should do it in a very conscious manner and be careful about the impact that they have on environment. Train hard before the expedition and do not think that it is something you will wake up and do the next day. It should be done in a safe and sustainable manner without trashing the environment.
Litter has become a big problem because people who are going out are not being educated. It is not their fault, I think lot of companies that are taking them out should make bigger efforts to talk to them about the impact that they are having on the environment. Not going out is not the solution, the solution is to be good when you are going out. I think there are lot of groups and inpiduals who have launched clean-up drives on mountains.
What according to you are the challenges young women face in India in pursuing their dreams?
I think young women in India are not often encouraged in the same manner as men by their families. I feel very fortunate to have parents who have always supported me and strongly encouraged me to do what I wanted to do regardless of my gender. The other challenges that women face are their own inhibitions.
Any message you want to give to the families and young women of the country?
I guess the biggest message I have is that girls can even do more if their families support them rather than dragging them down. All families should support and encourage girls in following their dreams.