Sherpa frightened me and said, why do you want to die, go back down. But I went ahead without caring for them and finally I was able to hoist the tricolor on the top of Everest. Premlata Agarwal, a housewife and mother of two children, started mountaineering at the age of 37. She is the oldest woman to climb Everest. On 20 May 2011, he set a record for climbing the world’s highest mountain peak at the age of 48. In one of his speeches, he credited his success to his spirit. Excerpts from his speech:
Just like life
Never thought that I would hoist the tricolor on the highest peak of the world. I was busy at home. Then one day I suddenly met Bachendri Pal and my life changed. She is the first Indian woman to climb Everest. In those days I used to take my daughters to a tennis training camp in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. There was a Dalma Hill competition. I took part in this competition just as an amateur. Surprisingly, I got third place in the competition. I went to Bachendri Pal’s office to get her certificate. While meeting him there, I said that I want you to give my daughter training for mountaineering. Bachendriji looked at me and said that why don’t you take this training yourself? My answer was, “How can I climb mountains in this age!”
I went to Dajirling for mountaineering training. Most of the girls at the training institute were between 18 and 25 years old. When I told the trainer that I had come for training, he was shocked. He asked, will you climb mountains at this age? I said, yes, I want to be a mountaineer. He asked me staring from top to bottom, have you ever hiked before? I proudly told her that I had participated in the Dalma Hill competition and that I had finished third. I wanted to show him my certificate, but he cut my point in between and said, Look, this is not Dalma Hill in Jamshedpur. Mountaineering is very difficult work, it is not easy to do all this at this age. I was scared of the trainer’s attitude. I did not tell her that I am married and have two children. I felt that hearing this, he would not involve me in training.
Despite all the difficulties, I started training. All the girls in the training camp were young and I was the eldest, but my spirits were high. It was very hard training, initially it was difficult, but I stood firm. Later I got the title of Best Trainee in that training camp. This success boosted my confidence. It was now believed that Bachendri Pal was right. After training, not only me, but also the trainer and other people were confident that I could climb Everest. My new journey started from here.
I reached Kathmandu to climb Everest. My elder daughter went to leave me there. When we left to go to Everest, Sherpa asked me where did your daughter go? I said she went back, then he started laughing. He said that it seems, your daughter is scared to see the height of Everest. I told her that I am going to climb up, not my daughter. Shockingly, he asked, “Are you not joking, will you go to the top of Everest at this age?” Go back home, eat tea and dumplings, watch TV, what have you come here to do? But I did not get distracted. I told her that I have to climb Everest and I have come with full preparation.
Difficulties during climbing
My health deteriorated during the climb. I got dehydration. Whenever there was a problem, Sherpa used to discourage me instead of helping. When my health deteriorated, he said, “Why have you come here to die, go back, it’s not all about you.” Whenever I needed his encouragement, he would start talking disappointing things. Then I started hiding my problems with him. I was having trouble breathing, but I did not tell him. At that time there were very strong winds, I hurriedly opened my glove. The glove flew by the gust of strong wind, my fingers started turning blue due to the cold. Sherpa saw it, then it flared up again. She almost shouted that I should go back down immediately. But I also told him clearly that I am not going back now. Then I got a woolen glove there. I wore that glove and moved on. Finally I was able to hoist the tricolor on the top.
In the year 2007, I set a new record. I rode a camel for forty days and traveled a long way from Bhuj in Gujarat to the Wagah border in Punjab. I had to travel 60 kilometers every day. This was a difficult goal. Even BSF personnel are unable to travel more than thirty kilometers in a day. My goal is not over yet. I want to hoist the country’s tricolor on all the major mountain peaks of the world and I am sure I will be able to achieve this goal.