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From the rail tracks to Everest, life has come a full circle

Uthra Ganesan
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Two months ago, when Arunima Sinha announced in the presence of a handful of people that she was going to scale Mount Everest, there were not too many takers for her resolve.

An amputee who took four months to get used to her prosthetic leg, she was aiming to become the first disabled Indian and the world’s first woman amputee to achieve the feat.

On Thursday, Arunima’s journey to prove the naysayers wrong was complete as the 24-year-old shared her experiences of successfully climbing the world’s highest peak on May 21. “It is true that a lot more people are climbing the peak now but that doesn’t make the effort any less. Instead, it is a tribute to people from ages 18-80 that they have the passion to scale Mount Everest. The climb is as tough as ever,” she said.

Despite having trained at the Tata Steel Adventure Foundation under Bachendri Pal for a year-and-a-half, the climb up the 29,029-foot peak was an ordeal for Arunima, more so since she had to make sure that her artificial leg held up under the extreme conditions.

At one point during the climb, a block of ice broke off three feet ahead of the group. “It was a moment to pause and realise what we were up against. Had we been a little quicker we would have been on the block and fallen to death miles below. But then, these are things that make Mt. Everest the challenge it is,” she said.

“Because of the constant body heat and the extreme temperatures, my artificial leg became loose when we stopped at The Balcony (a small icy platform at 27,600 feet) on our way down. It was windy and I couldn’t remove my gloves to fix it because that would result in frostbite. From there I dragged myself to the rocky face of the mountain before I could correct the leg. When I removed it to check, there were blisters and bleeding. But even that pain could not take away the feeling of exhilaration I felt on reaching the top,” Arunima added.

Arunima acclimatised for the climb by first scaling the 20,070-foot high Summit Island Peak. “That was far more tough because Island Peak is actually a rocky block of ice that is almost vertical. It is difficult to get a toe-hold on it and climb all the way up. But it was excellent preparation for Mt. Everest,” she said.

Along with Susen Mahto, another climber from TSAF, the 52-day expedition from the base to the top and back has given Arunima renewed confidence in living life on her own terms. It has also reinforced her faith in humankind. “I was thrown off a moving train for resisting chain-snatchers. From the tracks to the summit, life has come a full circle. Nima Kancha, the Sherpa who was with me all the time, was a big help and motivator if at any time I felt down. Even though I used to start earlier than the rest and was much slower because of my leg, he supported me all through. Without him and the entire team of climbers in our batch, it would have been an impossible task. You cannot face up to nature in such conditions all on your own,” she said.

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