This taxi driver's daughter became world's youngest to scale KanchenjungaLast updated on Aug 06, 2018, 01:37 pm
This 22-year-old from Uttarakhand had the most overwhelming experience in her life two months back: she scaled the world's third highest mountain,Kanchenjunga.
What makes her achievement even more worthy is that she is the youngest in the world to reach the summit.
Meet Sheetal Raj, daughter of a taxi driver, who made it possible out of pure love for the mountains.
Her affair with the mountains started in her childhood
Sheetal doesn't belong to an illustrious family, but rather a financially struggling one.
Her father is no ex-defence man and her mother is a home-maker.
She grew up in a village near the irresistibly-beautiful Pithoragarh.
During her childhood itself, she fell in love with the mountains when she accompanied her mother to jungles while looking for wood.
"The silence was very peaceful," she said.
She lied to her parents about her first mountain expedition
However, like most love-stories, this too faced parents' resistance.
But she trudged ahead when she got her first chance to scale a mountain as an NCC cadet in 2014.
She went on the expedition by lying to her parents, telling them it was a normal college trip.
"When I returned, I got bashed," she smilingly shared, adding it took persistent cajoling to convince them.
She was exemplary, yet wasn't chosen for Mt. Everest mission
Within a year, Sheetal completed a basic mountaineering course from Darjeeling's Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, where she scaled peaks like Rinok, Mount Trishul, etc.
In a batch comprising 150 girls, she came in top 15, who cleared every expedition assigned.
Yet, she wasn't selected for a Mount Everest mission.
"The news shook me completely," she shared. She dropped out of college and went into depression.
IMF sent her to ONGC-organized expeditions, where she got recognized
In the meantime, she applied to Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), the apex body for organizing mountaineering expeditions.
IMF President Colonel (Retd) HS Chauhan realized Sheetal's mountaineering skills are getting affected due to her financial disposition.
So for recognition, he sent her to an ONGC-organized expedition to Satopanth Glacier.
Her efforts were duly recognized and her name got recommended and accepted for ONGC's Kanchenjunga expedition.
On May 12, Sheetal's team tried to scale Kanchenjunga
The expedition was flagged off by Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in April this year.
The 15 members were divided into two teams, which also comprised four-five ONGC officials.
They started their trek from Hapur Khola to reach their base camp, which took them 15 days, narrated Sheetal.
On May 12, Sheetal's team tried to scale the summit for the first time.
'We suddenly heard a loud explosion, ground started trembling'
After crossing Camps 1 and 2, when the team reached Camp 3, "we suddenly heard a loud explosion and the ground beneath our feet started trembling," Sheetal recalled.
It was an avalanche!
The weather turned bad and Sheetal's team leader suggested dropping the idea of scaling the summit.
"I was crushed. Coming so close, I did not want to lose this opportunity," Sheetal said.
On May 21, 'it felt like I was home'
Within six days, the weather improved and Sheetal's team again set off from their base camp.
By May 20, they crossed all the four camps and started their ascent to reach the summit by 7PM.
After crossing several hurdles, Sheetal finally touched the summit at 3.30AM (May 21).
"It felt like I was home," she recalled.