By : Profectus Magazine / 15 Oct 2021 / Pride of the nation / Unsung Heroes
Some childhood experiences are so fascinating that one may paint their whole life by them. From trekking on fort Ajinkyatara with her uncle to becoming the first Indian woman to climb the toughest mountain in the world, Priyanka Mohite is an inspiration to all the upcoming mountaineers.
Born in Satara, Maharashtra, Priyanka Mohite is the first Indian woman to climb Mt. Annapurna as well as Mt. Makalu. Having a master's degree in Bio-Technology from Mumbai University, Mohite is currently working as a research associate at Sygene International in Bangalore.
Till date, Priyanka has scaled four 8-thousandar mountains, but her journey started a very long ago. Living in Satara, her uncle used to take Priyanka and her cousins for a trek on Ajinkyatara fort every weekend and see Satara from the starry sky. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was always an inspiration to Mohite as her uncle used to initially tell her stories about Maharaj on the fort Ajinkyatara and later started taking them to different forts in state. Learning history while sitting on the specific fort seems like a dream of every history buff, while it kept inspiring Priyanka to keep climbing.
After 2 3 years, her uncle suggested they should go for professional trekking as they lacked a bit of discipline, and would learn about how to walk and climb in nature. Priyanka tells us, after completing her 12th she came to know about Krushna Patil who became the youngest girl to climb Mt. Everest at the age of 19. This made her curious about the Himalayan range and wanted to do something great there. As a result she joined Sahayadri trekking led by Baghel sir, he encouraged her to climb the Himalayas, as he saw the potential in Priyanka as she didn’t have any height fear and even started rock climbing. As Priyanka used to learn Bharatanatyam back then, her mother wasn’t so happy about her dream of Ice-mountaineering and wanted her to complete classical dancing instead. But later she came around and Priyanka did the basic as well as the advanced mountaineering course.
Every mountaineer’s ultimate goal is to climb Mt. Everest, but then 21-year-old Priyanka did it in her initial phase of mountaineering and thus became second Maharashtrian to scale the world’s highest peak. Being the youngest member of the expedition, she was quite pampered while returning from Everest. Sitting in the Khumbu Ice-fall disconnected from the outer world, she had just one question in mind, what’s next? When Priyanka finally had contacted her dad, she knew already knew the answer. It was just one word- ‘Lhotse’.
Priyanka isn’t just the first Indian woman to scale Mt. Annapurna, but also is the first youngest Indian woman to scale Mt. Lhotse(World’s Fourth Tallest Mountain) and the very first Indian woman to scale Mt. Makalu the fifth tallest mountain in the world. There’s no Indian female mountaineer who had even tried scaling Mt Annapurna which is one of the toughest mountain to scale in the world which has the highest fatality rate. When Mohite reached the top, she was just overwhelmed for being on the world’s deadliest mountain, thought of being the first Indian to do so didn’t even crossed her conscious. Her second feeling was to get down safely. Mohite successfully climbed Annapurna in her second attempt. Her only thought how happy and proud her parents would be.
When asked her an unforgettable moment during her journey up Mt Annapurna, Priyanka shared that while climbing up from camp 2 to camp 3, which is one of the toughest climbing zone. Her expedition came across a huge avalanche within the valley. The thought of being stuck in such a huge avalanche would be with her lifelong.
Talking about expeditions in Everest and mountains like Makalu, Annapurna. Mohite says Everest is a fixed-line, it has a fix route because of the Sherpa’s. But Annapurna and Makalu are very difficult, very few people can climb them. The whole expedition is only for 60 70 people, for Annapurna credit she’ll like to give it to Sherpa because knowing the condition of snow ice it was very difficult to fix ropes. Due to them, it was possible. Mohite climbs with La Pa Sherpa and Minma Darji Sherpa. They have a company named Pioneer Adventure limited, it is her 3 expedition with them. She first climbed Lhotse with them, second Makalu and third Annapurna.
Doing such adventures needs lots of motivation, and Priyanka names her motivation as our Indian Tricolor. Nothing motivates her more than seeing the tricolor on the top of the world. Along with the tricolor, Mohite carries a portrait of her dog Aishu, who died about 8 years before her Everest selection. During her school and college times, she spent almost eleven years with Aishu. Her death left Priyanka traumatized, while her dad convinced that Aishu would be much proud of her if she continued her expeditions.
Priyanka dreams of climbing all the 8 thousanders peaks. There are 14 8-thousand meters peaks in the world, of which 5 are in Pakistan. Where Indian mountaineers aren’t allowed, so there are 9 mountains she wants to climb in which 4 are done and 5 to go.
Mohite has been awarded the highest honorary in Maharashtra, the Shiv Chhatrapati Maharashtra State Adventure Award. Rather than the award, Priyanka didn’t get any kind of other recognition from the state government. Despite the COVID situation, Priyanka scaled Mt Annapurna, but she didn’t get enough recognition from the government. Many mountaineers in India can do very well, but governments don’t support them to the core. As mountain expeditions are quite expensive(in lakh) most mountaineers don’t get sponsors and aren’t able to climb.
For these 8 thousanders, Priyanka also needed sponsors some people helped her despite the COVID situation. Bengal government every year selects some people and gives them five lakh rupees for their expedition. It depends from the government to government, like the Haryana government is giving good jobs, but the Maharashtra government isn’t.
When she approached for sponsorship people used to tell her different stories, like what they’ll do because few people know about the right meaning of climbing and adventure sports. Slowly people are understanding the meaning and importance of climbing but now during the COVID phase no one is ready to sponsor and most of the economy is on a halt. The company where she works, their Biology head alone sponsored her expedition to Mt Annapurna around an amount of 12 to 14 lakh. He had also sponsored her for Mt Makalu.
Priyanka says that government as well the people of India should take interest in other sports rather than cricket. She believes that these are established sports, they should support the sports which are evolving in the country. Only few people know about mountaineering but gradually it will be an established sport so why not support it from the start point. Cricket doesn’t currently need much, but the amount of finance and support it get should be distributed in different surviving sports.
People keep messaging her saying that they want to climb and it must’ve been easy for her as she has already scaled Everest. Well, it isn’t said Priyanka, she suggests that if they are interested in mountaineering there are few institutions which provide courses, one should go there and check that which altitude fits you, what preparation you would have to do. It will clarify everything, if you’re fit enough to carry 12 kgs to 7000 mts.
Being a mountaineer isn’t easy as it sounds, one doesn’t know what’s next? When will the next avalanche come or a crivas will open? We have respect for mountaineers like Priyanka Mohite and wish they get all the recognition they deserve.
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