No mountain high...

Against all odds

No mountain high...

It was around 11 in the morning on May 21, when 25-year-old Arunima Sinha, a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Ambedkar Nagar district, set her foot on the 8,848-metre-high Mount Everest, as a member of the Eco Everest Expedition, and created history.

She became the first female amputee from India to have climbed the world’s highest mountain peak.

No one would have thought that a girl, who had found herself on a hospital bed in a pool of blood, after being thrown out of a speeding train while resisting a robbery just two years ago, could ever achieve such a feat.

But for Arunima, it was now a thing of past. Although tired, the joy of conquering Everest was palpable on the face of former national-level volleyball player, when she narrated her journey to the world’s highest peak.

Arunima said that she had made up her mind to scale Mount Everest while she was lying on that hospital bed. “I contacted Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to have climbed Mount Everest, from the hospital bed,” she said. Arunima was asked to meet Bachendri after being discharged from the hospital, and she knew that her dream was going to come true.

The task was huge and she realised it the moment she started her training in March 2012 at Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. Being an amputee, she had to face a lot of difficulties initially. “My fellow trainees would complete the climb quicker than me.

But that only pushed me to work harder, and soon I left them behind. I had an artificial leg and that created problems. It used to bleed often, while the right leg had swollen. I had stopped looking at it. But during this trying time, it was Bachendri Pal, who would always encourage me,” she said.

Despite training hard, Arunima was not certain of her success initially. “But as I walked towards the summit, the confidence returned,” she said.

Her journey to the peak began on March 31, and it lasted for 52 days. “The entire journey was full of thrill and excitement, and of course, pain and exhaustion,” she remarked.
Though climbing the Mount Everest is a challenge for anyone who attempts it, for someone who had an artificial leg, it was more difficult, she averred.

Getting acclimatised was another problem that she had to face. “If the climber doesn’t get acclimatised, she will have to suffer severe headaches and will simply find herself unable to do anything,” she pointed out.

The most difficult part was climbing what is known as the ‘Death Zone’. “Every step ahead was fraught with risks. Any slip would have resulted in certain death. I also saw the dead bodies of some mountaineers lying on the ice. On some occasions, I had to climb continuously for 26 hours at a stretch. I saw Mount Everest from the South Summit.

I was running short of oxygen also. Someone suggested that I should call off the mission and return, but I chose to go ahead. And at 10.55 am on May 21, I was where I always wanted to be — on the world’s highest peak in the world,” she said, narrating her experience.

She said that she faced more problems while coming down from the peak. Her prosthetic leg had started giving her trouble. Sometimes it would slip off because of the sweat and blood. Apart from this, she also had blisters on her legs.

“You need to have more control when you come down. If you are not careful, it may prove fatal. And since I had an artificial leg, I had to be more careful, or else I would have fallen to my death,” she said.

Before climbing Everest, Arunima had also climbed the 6,622-metre-high Langsar Peak in Laddakh. She accomplished the feat last year. “That climb gave  me a lot of confidence for my Everest mission,” she said.

Arunima has a message for the youth — “If you have a dream, then you should  make all efforts to realise it.” She now wants to set up a sports academy to train  budding athletes and sportspersons.

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