G V Joshi
On May 23, 2013, ace woman mountaineer Ms Premlata Agrawal of Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, became the first Indian female mountaineer to conquer the seven summits of the world.
She accomplished this amazing feat at the age of 50. On that day, the Indian female climber marked her imprint atop Alaska’s McKinley Peak and planted the Indian Tri-colour after achieving her dream of scaling the seven continental peaks.
She also became one the oldest women in the world to conquer all the seven summits.
The seven peaks and their heights in metres(m) conquerred by Premlata are, McKinely (6,194m), Mount Elbrus(5,642m), Everest (8,848m), Kilimanjaro (5,895m), Aconcagua (6,961 m), Vinson Massif (4,892m) and Carstensz Pyramid (4885m).
On her return to India, on Friday 31, May 2013, she was felicitated for this momentous achievement in New Delhi. In her words, ‘’I am extremely proud to have accomplished this achievement on behalf of my country and all the women who live here with courage and determination. This experience has again taught me that if you have the will and focus, no matter where you come from, you can conquer the world.”
She has planted atop each of the seven continental peaks, an Indian Tri-colour with the pride of being an Indian woman. Her earlier feats in mountaineering, have earned her a listing in the Limca Book of Records. For her achievements in mountaineering, she was awarded the “Padma Shri” in 2013 by the Government of India.
Born in 1963, the unassuming homemaker worked towards her love for mountains, starting at the age of 35 when she undertook the Dalma (hill) trek in 1998. Very soon, she discovered her passion for climbing.
What started off as an adventure in 2000 in the form of a hill climbing competition in Jamshedpur, ended at the altitude of about 8848 m on Everest in 2011 followed by climbing the seventh summit at 6, 194m on Mt McKinley in Alska, North America in 2013.
Subsequently she was trained and mentored by Ms Bachendri Pal, the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest in 1984. Ms Pal, currently the chief of Tata Steel Adventure Foundation, played a key role in encouraging Premlata to be able to achieve success through rigorous training and mental coaching.
The climber who completes this challenge of conquering all the seven summits is considered to be a member of the ‘Hall of Fame’ for mountaineers.
She is sponsored by Tata Steel, which has supported her with a sponsorship of Rs 80 lakh to climb the summits.
Born and brought up in Jharkhand, Premlata’s father Ramawatar Garg is a businessman. She is married to Vimal agarwal, a senior journalist.
The couple has two daughters, one of whom is married. She is also the first woman from the Marwari community to scale Everest earlier and now the seven summits.
Presently she is a homemaker and lives in Jugsalai Township, of Jamshedpur in East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, well-known for Tata Steel and Tata Trucks.
One each of the seven continents, there is one peak that stands above the rest. The Seven summits present different challenges that have to be overcome with extreme and testing fortitude.
Summiting all of them is regarded as one of the world’s biggest mountaineering challenge. Seven Summits is the dream of all climbers, but only a select few have succeeded. Premlata now proudly belonghs to this group.
To date, there were approximately 300 climbers who have stood on the tops of the seven summits successfully.
The first person to sucessfully climb the “Seven Summits”- the highest peaks on all seven tontinents was Richard Bass in 1985. Patrick Morrow of Canada, who climbed the last peak on August 5, 1986, followed him.
Junko Tabei, the first Japanese woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, is also the first woman to achieve the Seven Summits in 1992.
Going into her seventies now, she continues to climb mountains. Which are the seven summits or peaks? Mountaineers differ on what they call “seven summits”. The mountaineer Richard Bass came up with his list of seven summits called “the Bass list” which included the following mountains in it: Mount Kosciuszko-2 228 m, Vinson Massif-4, Mount Elbrouz-5, 642m, Kilimanjaro-5, 896m, Mt McKinely 6, 194m, Aconcagua 6,962 m and Mount Everest -8 848m.
The first person to complete Seven Summits without the use of supplemental oxygen on Mount Everest is Reinhold Messner. In 1986, he made its own list which included the Puncak Jaya (same as Carstensz Pyramid) rather than mount Kosciuszko in Austraqlia.
The Messner list is as follows. Pyramid Carstensz 4885m, Vinson Massif-4, 892m, Mount Elbrouz-5, 642m, Kilimanjaro -5, 896 m, Mt McKinley 6, 194 m, Aconcagua-6, 962 m, Mount Everest-8, 848m.
Although there is no official list of the seven summits most climbers go by the “Bass” or “Messner” list.
However, some climbers going for seven summits climb in fact eight mountains to be cautious.
Johnny Collinson of Snowbird, Utah, and aged 17 years, and 296 days old only became the youngest to climb seven summits, with the “Messner list” officially. Between 2002 and 2007, Christian Stangl, Austrian climber completed the seven summits with “Messner list”. The oldest person to complete the seven summits with the “Messner list” is Ramon Blanco of the Spain; he was 73 years and 357 days old.
The youngest to complete the seven summits to the help of the “bass list” is Samantha Larson from USA; she was aged 18 years and 221 days.
In May 2002, Susan Ershler and her husband, Phil, became the first married couple to climb the “seven summits” together.
What next for Premalata? In her words, “My most cherished desire is to help Indian women come out of their routine household chores and instill in them the indefatigable spirit of adventure.”