Mountaineering women of Bengaluru

Mountaineering women of Bengaluru

Middle-age and older women have taken a liking to the adventure sport in recent years

Corporate employee-turned-fitness coach Gayatri plans to climb Mt Everest soon.

Neither age nor gender is a barrier for many women in Bengaluru, who have selected mountaineering as their choice of adventure sport.

Gayatri Mohanty, 39, traded her corporate job for a career in fitness coaching and she is now preparing to climb Mt Everest one day. “The goal is to climb all seven summits someday. I would like to climb the Everest, so I have started preparing by climbing some of the smaller peaks across the world,” she says.

Gayatri has recently returned from her trip to Mt Elbrus, the highest and most prominent peak in Europe. “It was a very different experience because mountaineering is tough. You have to be prepared for several challenges related to the weather. But despite how challenging the experience was, I’m grateful for it because it has broadened my perspective of how I see life,” she says.

Gayatri will soon be leading a team to Africa to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the continent. “Mountaineering has shown me what I’m capable of. Plus, the kind of (adrenaline) rush you get, it makes you keep coming back for more (sic),” she adds.

Smitha Srinivasan agrees with Gayatri. The 45-year-old was introduced to the sport by her parents. She says, “Once you get past the initial hesitancy of the risks involved, there’s an exhilarating rush and it’s like you’ve been bitten by the bug. This does not just apply to me. I’ve noticed this among a lot of people I’ve met, who want to keep trekking and climbing.”

She believes as more people are becoming aware of the joys of mountain climbing, more women are showing interest in it, despite challenges.

Bangalore Mountaineering Club, Indiranagar, has also seen a steady rise among women climbers since the pandemic. “We have had enrollments from more young women for mountaineering trips since we opened up, post the lockdowns. More women have been showing interest in mountaineering,” a representative of the organisation tells Metrolife.

Age no bar

Despite the risks, Asha Sudhakar, 68, embraced a life of adventure and continues to go on expeditions on a regular basis. “I don’t climb tough peaks anymore, like how I did back in the day. Now, I stick to moderately difficult treks and after few years I might move on to simpler and easier treks. But as long as my body allows me, I will continue trekking and climbing,” she tells Metrolife.

Vasumathi Srinivasan, under the Karnataka Mountaineering Association, has been leading mountaineering and trekking trips for decades. At 67, she is one of the most senior woman mountaineers in Karnataka. She has returned from a trek to the Great Lakes of Kashmir recently and is prepping to lead a team to another trek to the Darwa Pass.

She has made it a point to organise treks and encourage more older women to give climbing and mountaineering a try.

“There are a lot of challenges when it comes to (leading) an older group. Before every trip involving senior citizens, I get a lot of warnings to be more careful. But it’s all worth it for how happy each and every one feels at the end of the trek,” she adds.

‘Woman face many hurdles’

Smitha believes living in a patriarchal society, no matter their age, women often have to seek permission from a male family member before they decide to take up the challenge.

“Also, due to the society we’re brought up in, we often put the needs of our family before we do something we like. To become a mountaineer, this is one hurdle that a woman needs to overcome,” she adds. Gayatri too found that women climbers often have to overcome many hurdles that their male counterparts don’t need to deal with. “An added responsibility is of a family, which you have to temporarily let go while you’re going to the mountains. This is often frowned upon in our society,” she says.

She adds that complete support from the family is required to be able to become a successful mountaineer. “Climbing a mountain is a complete mind game. Along with your body, you also need to fully prepare your brain. To face the challenges on the mountain, your mental health needs to be very good, and for this, I believe full support of the family is crucial,” she says.

‘Need to stay fit all year round’

To become a successful mountaineer, it is not enough to train just for few months before the trip, says Gayatri. “It is important to remain fit and active throughout the year, only then will you be able to face all the challenges up on a mountain,” she adds.Vasumathi follows the same principle. “I go for walks and jogs. I cycle, play squash, do yoga and do everything I can to stay fit. The goal is to stay active throughout the year,” she says.

During the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, a little extra effort was required to stick to this goal. “But I ensured I went cycling and did yoga every day. I urged all the other ladies to also do the same so that once we got back to climbing, we don’t feel any strain on our body,” she adds. 

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