Tashi and Nungshi Malik aim to become the first twins to scale the highest mountain peaks of every continent. Through their mountaineering, they want to spread support for the girl child
They started small, initially climbing some of the lower mountains of the Gangotri region. However, in no time, they were looking for bigger challenges. And on May 19, 2013, at 7.30 a.m., they reached the peak of the greatest mountain of them all, Mount Everest. And it was there, as they literally sat on top of the world and looked down on creation, that the Malik twins decided their adventure wasn’t going to end there. They had already become the first twins to climb the Everest. Now, they would become the first twins to defeat all the even peaks — the highest mountains of every continent.
“It all started in 2009, when we were finishing our Class 12 exams. Initially, it was purely for recreational purposes. Little did we know that this was a passion that was waiting to grow in us,” says Nungshi. “We love the combination of mental and physical challenge that climbing a mountain has,” adds Tashi.
The sisters acknowledge that one of the reasons why they have mountaineering in their blood is because of their hometown, Dehradun, which is located right at the foot of the western Himalayas. “Another reason is probably the fact that our dad is in the Army. He was posted at a lot of hill stations in the Himalayas, and as kids, we did little treks. The fact that we grew up as good athletes has also helped,” says Tashi.
The sisters, recently back from Argentina after conquering Mount Aconcagua, which at 6961 metres is the tallest peak in South America, are looking forward to their next trip this month which will be to conquer the Puncak Jaya, which in Indonesia stands at 4884 metres and is considered the tallest peak in Oceania (the Australian continent). However, for them, conquering the ‘seven summits’, as they are called, is no mere exercise.
“Through our mountaineering, we want to spread support for the girl child and awareness of her exploitation,” says Tashi. Nungshi explains, “Mountaineering is a male-dominated sport, and thus, when our peers see us, we get a lot of respect, because we could do all that they could. In fact, many people called the two of us Rajdhani and Shatabdi because of our utter focus on reaching our target. We want to tell the world that just like we can compete will men in a life-and-death sport like mountaineering and come on top, so can any girl.”
The sisters have conquered the peaks of four continents — Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. Now they are off to Indonesia, and later in May, they plan to climb Mount McKinley in the U.S. In September will come the final one, and the most dangerous. Naturally, it is the one that they are looking forward to the most — Mount Vinson in Antarctica, which stands at 4892 metres.
“On every climb that we make, we lose an average of 4-5 kilos because of our rigorous schedule,” explains Nungshi. “On our Everest climb, we lost 12 kilos! But Mount Vinson, the climb alone we estimate will take two months.” Tashi adds, “It is important to have a good diet and to hydrate ourselves at all times. Conserving energy is also important — after a certain altitude, even cooking causes one to lose a lot of energy. However in Antarctica, there is no base camp to return to, unlike the other peaks.”
The twins acknowledge that they have their differences, but say that is what keeps them going. “Our differences are why we are such good friends,” says Nungshi. “We are the best of friends and we know that we can trust each other. Yes, we worry about each other, especially when we are climbing mountains, but we know that in the other, we have a friend for life.”
Tashi adds, “It is life or death in the mountains, and every decision can be a crucial one. Thus you need someone you can unflinchingly trust, and in Nungshi, I have just that.”