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What it Took to Climb Mount Everest: Late Savita Kanswal Conferred Tenzing Award

Savita Kanswal was killed in a massive avalanche in Draupadi's Danda-2 mountain peak in Uttarakhand in October 2022.

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Edited By :Padmashree Pande

(The following is The Quint's interview with mountaineer Savita Kanswal in July 2022 soon after she became the first Indian woman to climb Mount Everest and Mount Makalu in a span of 16 days. Kanswal was killed in a massive avalanche in Draupadi's Danda-2 mountain peak in Uttarakhand on 4 October 2022. On 9 January 2024, President Droupadi Murmu honoured her posthumously with Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award 2022. Her father, Radhe Shyam Kanswal, accepted the award on behalf of his daughter.)

“It has been a dream (to climb the Mount Everest) since I started mountaineering, and when that dream came true, I became very emotional. There were tears streaming down my eyes,” says Savita Kanswal days after she summited the world's highest mountain.

But that's not all. She summited Mount Everest and Mount Makalu in a gap of 16 days, becoming the first Indian woman to do so.

Back in Delhi, the 25-year-old speaks about the mountain of challenges that she has had to face – first as a woman, and then as she scaled the highest peak in the world.

Her love for climbing can be traced back to her school days, where she would have to climb up four kilometres to go to school from her home in Maneri, Uttarakhand.

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'Climbing Mt Everest Has Many Risks'

Savita summited Mount Everest in four rotations, as most mountaineers do. Since the human body is not built to stay at such high temperatures, Savita explains what it takes to acclimatise at -45 degree Celsius temperature, and 8,000 metres above sea level.

After passing all these hurdles, she stumbled upon on on the last leg of her climb. She started feeling numb and her head was spinning. Recalling the ordeal, she says,

When I checked my oxygen mask, I realised that it was not working. Then, I told my sherpa that my mask was not working."
Savita Kanswal

Her sherpa gave her his own mask, and instead of giving up, they kept going. It was getting more difficult, but they eventually met someone who had a spare mask.

When she finally made it, she was overcome with emotion. “It is breathtaking. I can say that it is like heaven,” she says.

As a Woman Mountaineer, Savita is No Stranger To Challenges

Her journey has been full of setbacks, but Savita firmly believed that she could overcome them. It was an uphill task to explain her dreams and ambitions to her parents. Those in her village only instigated them further.

In the meantime, she would take up part-time jobs to fund her training costs until she became a full-time trainer at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering.

With every small success, she noticed a change in the behaviours of her family as well as others in her hometown.

When I was in Delhi for a flag-off event, my father had said, "I always wanted a son. But today I am very happy that I have a daughter who has made us proud." Then, I felt that no matter what I have achieved, I have been able to change my parents' mentality.
Savita Kanswal

When The Quint spoke to Savita’s parents earlier, they said that Savita’s success has not only changed their mentality, but also the minds of others in their village.

Now, her message for other girls who are on a similar journey is loud and clear-

I would like to tell girls, do not listen to society. Do what you must do. When they see your success, that same society will applaud you.
Savita Kanswal

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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