Sheetal Raj, Uttarakhand’s youngest woman to scale Mt Everest

Dehradun: Jun 03, 2019. The youngest woman from Uttarakhand to scale Mount Kanchenjunga, 24-year-old Sheetal Raj from Pithoragarh has now become the youngest woman from the state to climb the highest peak in the world, the Mount Everest. Raj achieved this feat on on May 16.

“Finally all the training that I had been undergoing for so many years has fructified. I have achieved all that I dreamt of since childhood,” said Raj.

In 2016, the young mountaineer had sought three years’ time from her parents to allow her to follow her passion of mountaineering as they were initially not supportive of her choice. Sheetal hails from a small village Salmoda of a remote hilly district of the country. Her father is a taxi driver and mother a homemaker.

“I had asked for three years, and I am glad I could prove myself to the world and my family in these years,” said Raj. She scaled Mt Kanchenjunga in 2018.

Her proud father Umashankar Raj, praising his daughter’s achievement said, “In this small village like ours, when Sheetal was born, it was not celebrated much because she was a girl. But her aunts always told me that this girl would make us all proud one day. Today is that day.”

Speaking about how she got into the field of mountaineering, Sheetal said, “I was not always drawn towards being a mountaineer, but during my training treks at National Cadet Corps it felt very homely, like how I used to climb mountains and go to jungles with my mother for collecting firewood when I was a child. That followed a line of courses and expeditions; basic, advance, extensive.” She completed her basic course in mountaineering Himalayan Mountaineering Institute Darjeeling, and advanced course from Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports, Pahalgam.

In 2017 December, Raj climbed three unnamed and unclimbed peaks of height 6,025m, 6,125m and 6,120m in Ladakh as part of her pre-Everest training expedition. She underwent another Pre-Everest Expedition training at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation this year in the Ladakh region.

“Temperatures went as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius in Ladakh during my training. Training in such conditions prepared me very well for Everest,” said Raj.

Speaking about her future plan, Raj said that she wants to organise one all women expedition every year to promote awareness about the field of mountaineering among women of hilly areas and how they can benefit from this field. She plans to cover all the Himalayan states for these expeditions.

“When I was climbing Mt Everest, I saw hardly 10% of mountaineers were women. It is not like women cannot climb peaks, but they are not given the opportunity. I plan to organise all women expeditions now. Each one has something to learn from these expeditions,” said Raj. She feels that by conducting such expeditions, women and locals will also get employment opportunities. Her initial focus is to cover peaks of Uttarakhand and give boost to tourism opportunities in the state.

Raj will start working on selecting women and training them for the expeditions from next week.

She also wants to climb the seven highest summits and the 14 summits (peaks with height of 8,000m and above) in the world. “I will continue my attempts to make world records just like I became the youngest woman to scale Mt Kanchenjunga in 2018,” said Raj.

Source: Hindustan Times